Have you ever noticed that people who are experiencing depression are often some of the most authentic people you can speak with? There’s something about the experience of depression that makes you face up to parts of yourself that other people have the luxury of ignoring.
Perhaps it’s the sheer length of time we spend in contemplation. Depression is often a very isolating emotional state and it’s no wonder after hours and hours alone with only ourselves and our thoughts we begin to see truths within us that we hadn’t previously noticed.
I witness when I am chatting with other people who are depressed, that there is an honestly and integrity when talking about emotions and how we really feel. Of course, there are people in denial about their depression, but overall, when speaking with people who have sat in depression for many years, I observe a person who is pretty astute and accurate in their ability to recognise how they really feel.
I see a gift of clarity and integrity hiding within depression. I perceive within myself, as someone who has experienced depression for a long time now, a truthfulness about who I am, and I see a separation occurring in my life because of that truthfulness in a society which holds back, denies and represses.
Sometimes I even wonder, if I lived in a more loving and honest society, would I even be depressed at all? It’s a pretty heavy and ‘out there’ thing to say I know, but I often wonder if I’m depressed in the chemical condition sense, or if my very soul is depressed by an inauthentic world.
I once sat in a room with some women, as part of a workshop I was attending about mental health. It was a workshop to help people who didn’t experience mental illness to better understand it. I kept my own mental health difficulties to myself, because I wanted to see how people acted and communicated during the workshop, without them being influenced by the knowledge there was someone with mental health problems ‘listening in’.
Throughout the afternoon I noticed that the ladies had a lot of trouble with talking about the experience of mental health. When they were tasked to enter into a state of empathy and discuss how they think they would feel if they were depressed, they really struggled to voice anything that came anywhere near the depth of the depressive experience.
There was a lot of “I’d feel down I suppose” and “I wouldn’t want to get out of bed” and many more practical generalisations about depression, but what I really noticed is that these women couldn’t access the emotional depths within themselves to really describe their feelings.
Perhaps I’ve just had one too many therapy sessions where I’ve journeyed into my real feelings and learnt how to share them, but I was really struck with how difficult it was for these ladies to be honest enough in their own selves to try to access those deeper emotions. They kept their words very simple as to not come across as too deep or too intense, but depression is deep and it is intense.
When it was my turn, I was able to talk with a level of openness that no one else in the room had the courage to. Me! The person who has depression, who has battled mental illness most of her life and has messed up most of her life because I can’t get my ‘stuff’ together – I’m the one who could speak with honesty in this room with ‘normal’ ladies with jobs and family and everything that society says makes them the ideal citizen of the world for the mentally ill to aspire to.
Inside depression is this gift of a greater knowing of yourself and a developing ability to be honest about it. It’s right at the bottom of the pit, but it’s there and I believe that many of us who are depressed have this amazing opportunity to find this clarity and really grow much more than people who don’t get forced into this state of inner reflection.
I know that depression is not a fun thing to have and I’m not trying to make it sound like it’s great that we have it and it’s a blessing in disguise, but I do want to share that I personally believe that there is a lot to learn about ourselves and this, in itself, is a gift.
When I get to speak with other people with depression and we are open about our experiences and speaking truthfully, to me it’s a really special experience, because I don’t see a room full of people who are ‘sick’, I see a room full of people who are warriors.
So today I want you to know that you are strong and you are living in a challenge that takes a lot of courage and the gift, the ‘war wound’ that we can claim from within our depression is the gift of a greater sense of self, and I think that is something we can wear with pride.