For most of my life, I have suffered with depressive illnesses of varying degrees resulting in anything from light grumpiness to suicidal tendencies. Whilst the former is quite tolerable, the latter is clearly not. I have documented over the years my battles, going into detail in my book.
Even though this has been a struggle that I identify with myself as much as I do my gender (male-ish), I do not want it to be the defining feature of my existence. I am not content with letting those desperate feelings wash over me as they have done in the past and, in moments of strength and clarity, I do what I can to protect myself from future attacks.
The problem for me – and for most with similar problems – is that we have carved neural pathways so deep that they provide a not-so-handy shortcut to those feelings.
Imagine a block of stone, flat, free from all marks. This is our brain when we are born. As we live, many pathways are chipped into the stone getting deeper and deeper the more we follow the same thought processes or muscular actions. This is why dart players will get better with practice and why people with manic depression can go from OK-ish to leaping from a bridge in mere moments.
Us depressives tend to have many of these pathways; ridges deeply carved into our brain stones. We will have various triggers that can bring on a depressive episode. My intention is to change this within myself in two ways.
- Challenge those thoughts as soon as they occur, lessening their pathways in the same way running water would wear away at any grooves in a rock over time.
- Create new, healthy neural pathways to happiness.
Whenever I catch myself in bad thought, I try to find the cause and whether it is justified. Invariably it is not so I attempt to talk myself down. I couple this with practising mindfulness, relaxation/meditation and positive thinking.
Simplistic notions, yes, and I know that I am facing an uphill struggle against a strong headwind, but I am a determined bugger so I will beat it before it beats me.