“When we cling to pain, we end up punishing ourselves.” – Leo Buscaglia
With depression comes pain. Pain that comes from the illness itself, pain from the loneliness when depression drives people away, pain from the struggles with the bullying, conflict, and stigma that depression attracts, pain from the cutting, and self abuse that your mind convinces you that you need, and pain from trying to escape the Black Dog that infiltrates your life and soul.
With any pain comes the threat of punishment. Punishment we inflict on ourselves when hurting ourselves is our only relief, punishment from the bullying and stigma that society forces upon us, punishment from being locked away from family and friends. There is so much punishment from ourselves, others, from the Black Dog that really doesn’t like us but won’t leave us alone.
Pain and punishment are a catch 22. Where there is pain we are punished to go through it, where there is punishment we can’t escape the relentless pain.
For the depressive preventing and overcoming pain and punishment brought upon by our lives and from living with depression is the greatest challenge in recovery and our abilities to move forward, beyond depression, are a goal we hope to achieve.
People who live with depression, also live with learned helplessness. Martin Seligman defines in his book Authentic Happiness – Using the new positive psychology to realise your potential for lasting fulfilment proposes that learned helplessness might be a model of “unipolar depression”; that is, depression without mania. The people made helpless by unsolvable problems display passivity, become slower to learn, and are sadder and more anxious than people who are not depressed. In this sense, it is difficult to get past the helplessness, to become an optimist when in most cases the depressive has had a lifetime to perfect helplessness, and being a pessimist. Unless, like me, when required, you can put up a mask (A mask to hide the pain) to hide who you really are, but even then it’s near impossible to escape from.
My experience with therapy, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), uncovered more pain for me in order to start getting better, to change my thought patterns which have caused me more punishment than nearly everything else I have experienced in my life. After all with depression there are two enemies the big Black Dog known as depression, and yourself. In no way am I against therapy because with time and the start of recovery I am making some progress, but with the pain of reliving the past to reclaim your future it is punishment in itself. With the write therapist it is possible to change thought patterns, to learn to combat the pain and to reclaim your life from the punishment. It’s a slow process, with any barriers, and setbacks, but with time pain and punishment can be controlled.
Letting go of the past and the pain is one of the greatest hurdles any depressive must overcome to take charge of the punishment that our pain causes. We can’t forget the past, I certainly can’t, but we can start a new future moved on from the onslaught that pain and punishment inflict upon us daily.
Parts of my storey are very confronting and some may find upsetting, if you find yourself upset and depressed I encourage you to ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224636.