My depression was a reaction to losing my health, my partner, my home and my work life. Fair enough, and true enough, at one level.
But I’ve been reading up on psychoanalysis recently, and a possible psychoanalytic interpretation is this:
To lose belief in a world which is just – a world in which you get what you deserve – would be too frightening (it’s very important, this, and we will come back to it later). So instead I chose to believe that I had not been good, and thus that I deserved the punishment I had been given. This is a classic depressive position. It leaves your beliefs intact; you merely have to sacrifice your sense of self worth. (Bye!)
Did I really believe this? Certainly not consciously. I do remember feeling a lot of loss, frustration and despair. I remember looking in the mirror (crying, of course, out-of-control crying, but even that seemed an inadequate expression of the screaming inside of me) and thinking: how did this all happen to me?
So, yeah, I was sad and I was sad that I’d been made sad. My best take on my depression is that it was down to a loss of belief in a just, safe world and in my ability to control that world, if that’s not too much of a compromise position.
I don’t want to gloss over the depression, although that’s not what this post was supposed to be about. I will say three things on the subject: first, it was extremely unpleasant. Second, due to the severe state of my ME, it had excellent source material with which to work: the dark thoughts seemed very real. Finally, I don’t think you can solve a mental health problem simply and neatly and never worry about it again. Those types of feelings tend to return whenever my health worsens, and it’s a case of remaining watchful without getting stressed or anxious about it, that wonderful trap which besets the over-thinker.
(Another aside, following a twitter discussion: it may also be that the misfiring biology behind ME/CFS helps to create some of these issues – perhaps I overthink because I have ME! Some people with ME report experiencing the physical symptoms of anxiety without the emotion behind it, which may be the sympathetic nervous system in overdrive; although naturally we also sometimes experience both emotion and physical manifestation. I’ve also noticed that on the first day of a bad relapse I always get a drastic change in mood that feels ‘chemical’, in the same way that PMT does.)
Anyway, good news: I was lucky enough to be depressed for a relatively short time. I came to see what was wrong with me – it took a while because I was convinced that my feelings were a completely normal reaction to being dumped whilst horribly ill, which of course they were, in a sense – but with the help of my loved ones I realised that I was clinically depressed.
The GP was great, we found some drugs that worked, and in tandem I tried to change my patterns of thinking – as we have already established, I’m nothing if not a trier. And here’s where I’ve ended up as far as belief systems go: bad things happen and that is OK. Lots of good things happen too. (Hurrah!)
None of what happened to me is my fault. All of it is really bloody bad luck, although I am well aware that plenty of shitty things happen to other people. Bad things happen, and that is OK; good things happen too.
As if to illustrate the point, there is bad news here, too, as well as good. The bad news is that we haven’t even got to the worst part of the blame game yet. And that, my friends, we shall discuss in Part Three.
To be continued. Obviously.