Hiding My Real Self

This afternoon I read a very real piece from Sista over at Phoenix Fights about anger. She writes very well about hiding her internal anger from her (annoyingly chirpy) therapy group and pretty much all of her friends, resigning herself to the fact that a recent outburst has probably led to the end of one such friendship. It was a post that really made me stop and think today.

How much time do we spend convincing others (and maybe also ourselves?) that we are experiencing socially acceptable emotions? How many “how are you’s” do we answer dishonestly with “oh great” or “much better thanks”. We may go as far as a little “getting there” or even a “one day at a time” but even these will be followed with a cheery smile. And then there’s the shoulder shrug or head bob that always follows such a statement, designed to relieve the other person of any awkward duty to reply, implying that it’s fine to leave it at that.

Why do I not admit that I’m not always okay? Why do I not answer a “how are you” with “not great actually, see that corner over there…well I’d really like to lie down in it, curled up in a ball, for about 14 straight hours”. Who I am I lying to? Who am I lying for? I’m not sure any more. Am I trying to protect my partner from the reality that I’m always going to be a little bit not-okay? Am I trying to pretend due to some unconscious fear that he would leave me if he suspected this was me, forever? Am I trying to convince myself that this slightly-less-than-okay existence is enough for me?

I’m not really sure why I do it, but today I realised that I’m not the only one who does. And I’m guessing Sista and I aren’t the only two! Which makes me wonder…what would happen if we all told the truth?

Hiding My Real Self

Wanting That Which I Can’t Have

I want to have down days, not weeks or months.

I want to drink a shot on a night out with friends and not worry about blacking out. I want to say yes to that fifth beer, flying in the face of my “4 beer rule”. I don’t want to be known as “the sensible one”, or in some hurtful cases “the boring one”.

I want to know what to say to strangers when I meet them and have to engage in small talk. I want to not second guess myself. I want to believe that my friends want to spend time with me. I want to stop offering them alternatives to my company, expecting them to bail out.

I want to get up and leave the house and not have to remember to take pills. I want to leave the house after forgetting my pills and not experience the chill of panic when I remember. I want to not be the girl in tears in the pharmacy because they don’t have my meds in stock and I’m all out.

I want to really read a book. I want to imagine the characters, their faces, their clothes, their little idiosyncrasies. I want to be able to talk to somebody about the book a week later…hell, a day later.

I want to remember what I did on Monday.

I want to have the energy to stay out in a social situation after 10pm. I want to look at the clock at 1am and think “wow, time flies when you’re having fun”.

I want to be able to press publish on this post without having to re-read it three times because I’ve lost my train of thought.

I want to be sad. I want to feel sadness. I want to cry for my Mother.

I want to feel angry when my friend does something stupid. I want to tell them they’re an idiot.

I want to be me. I know I’m in here somewhere.

Wanting That Which I Can’t Have

Depression: The Curse of the Strong (Review)

Quite a few months ago I came across a book called Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Dr. Tim Cantopher*. Naturally, any book that wants to tell me I’m strong has to be worth a read so I clicked that oh-too-simple-to-spend-my-money 1-click-purchase button. The book then lived idly on my Kindle for several months while my money lived actively in the Amazon bank account. I should probably work on my impulse buying! However, I did eventually get around to reading it and I figured I should share some of my thoughts with you all in a review of sorts. So here goes.

I finished this book in about 3 evenings. It’s really simple to read and does quite a good job of explaining without being patronising (about 90% of the time – in some places I think the author went a little overboard with the “you’re so strong” message). This book has divided me. On the one hand, I think those of us suffering from depression could do with a nice dose of positive energy and reassurance that we do indeed suffer from a physical illness. On the other hand I’m not quite sure that the author has carried through on his attention-grabbing title – I found that I closed the book with a little bit more self-love and a sense of strength but no practical ideas for maintaining that state. The suggestions are the usual: rest, relax, ask your boss to reduce your hours, don’t watch TV before bed….nothing I hadn’t heard before. Perhaps I’m looking for a miracle cure but if you author a book for the Type A personality you can’t really expect them to start spontaneously meditating. In fact, I would argue that we are the very people who should be given activities and exercises instead…something to DO! That’s just how we work.

The best chapter in the book is probably the first chapter: “What is depressive illness”. The author does a good job of explaining some fairly complex biological and psychological concepts. Of course, a neuroscientist would probably criticise the simplified diagrams and “electric circuit” analogies but lets face it, if you have depression any explanation of the brain that contains words with more than 3 syllables just isn’t going to work. Some days I have to read the microwave instructions on my soup twice! If it piques your interest my advice would be to pick up a first year university textbook on neuro-psychology for further reading.

The rest of the chapters were disappointing, however if this is the first book you are reading on depression then you’ll probably find them excellent. The author offers a good review of the history of depression (including some fun “ye old treatments” info) and an overview of the main schools of thought on the ever-present “why do I have depression” question. As a first-time reader I think you could do a lot worse than Dr. Cantopher as your guide. As somebody with a background in the field and who has read extensively on the topic I didn’t find anything new here. I did enjoy the author’s style however and I wish I had found this book when I was first starting out on my journey. In chapter 4 the author does introduce some interesting perspectives on positive thinking and introduced me to the concept of being able to “fail well”, i.e. failing, forgiving yourself & learning from it. This is something that I am particularly bad at therefore it was a section of the book that resonated with me and has led me down a path of further reading. I hope to share my thoughts and findings as I go.

I believe that the key to this book might be in what you are looking to get from it. For me, it was refreshing to read a book based entirely on the premise that I am a strong individual, instead of focusing on my negative traits. Unlike self-help books that encourage you to work on your negative traits with the aim of minimising them, this book focuses on your strengths and understanding how they may have contributed to your illness. Dr Cantopher by no means suggests that we should desire to be weaker, only that we recognise what we are doing to ourselves and quite simply: give ourselves a break! I think that is something that all Type A personalities could do with.

Overall, this is a great book for those new to the topic and an interesting read for those of us already possessing knowledge. Within the pages I found a signpost for further explorations, I hope you will too.

Note: Probably one key thing to mention about this book is that it is based on stress-induced depression and is not aimed at those suffering from Bipolar, postnatal depression, SAD, etc. So if you have one of these disorders this probably isn’t the book for you. This work is aimed at us Type A over-achievers who, in a way, have “stressed” ourselves into depression.

* This is an associate link to Amazon. I’m not looking to monetise this blog, it’s never been my intention. I’m just very technologically inquisitive (I’m learning PHP in my spare time) and wondering how this whole affiliate thing works. If you abhor these practices I apologise for this and if you’ve already clicked the link please clear your cache. If you haven’t clicked yet, you can just go to Amazon and search for the title instead of going through this site. Thanks.

Depression: The Curse of the Strong (Review)

Dear Everyone Who Is Not Me

Today’s Daily Prompt is: Write an anonymous letter to someone you’re jealous of.

Dear Everyone Who Is Not Me,

You walked past me on the street yesterday. I doubt you even noticed me. But I noticed you. Your confident walk. Those designer sunglasses. A uniquely crafted handbag swinging by your side. Your beautiful outfit – stylish but not trying too hard, just right in fact. As if you had been let in on the secret style formula that constantly evades my grasp. By comparison the “cute tee” and jeans combo I chose this morning is decidedly “mumsy”. I hate the way that my hair sits three weeks after my haircut; no matter how hard I try I just can’t get it to look like it did that day in the salon. I never seem to be able to find such unique accessories, I always make the wrong choice & choose a bag I grow to hate or an impractical clutch. I envy you.

You sat across the crowded pub from me last week, surrounded by your friends. You laughed in all the right places, a real feel-it-in-your-belly explosion of mirth, not a fake insert-laughter-here chuckle. Your friends listened to your stories, enraptured by your obvious wit and brilliance. You hugged newcomers and kissed departing pals, confident in your place in your social group and surrounded by those who enjoy your company. I never seem to be comfortable in social situations. Am I talking too much or am I saying too little? Are my stories interesting? Is that a look of polite boredom on the faces around me? Fatigue creeps in all too often and I long to return to the solitude of my flat, to my undemanding but understanding internet friends, away from the social minefield that is every bar and restaurant. I envy you.

We worked together on a project last month. You were assigned to share your expertise while my team learned from you to improve our work. You are so intelligent, so knowledgeable and so articulate. Your ideas are innovative, yet profitable. Your style is relaxed, yet persuasive. You had my colleagues on the edge of their seats, torn between missing a word that you said and scribbling copious notes lest they forget any of the wisdom you were imparting. As a fellow female in a male-dominated industry I silently saluted you. I will never sit where you sit. I lack the business acumen and the ability to articulate my thoughts in such a logical and convincing manner. I could never persuade others to believe in me as you have, regardless of the value of my ideas. To pay just to be in the same room as me. I always seem to get in my own way, doing enough to be appreciated but not quite enough to stand out. I guess I’m not destined for professional brilliance after all. I envy you.

In Envy,


Dear Everyone Who Is Not Me

I can’t, I have Depression!

Recently I engaged in a discussion with a fellow blogger somewhere (thanks meds, can’t remember who or where!) about knowing somebody who uses their illness as an excuse to get out of doing things. Since then I’ve been thinking quite extensively about it, as it’s something I’ve dealt with for a large part of my life. A close family member suffers from depression and they played a large part in my own failure to accept my issues.

For the longest time I thought that maybe I was just like them – wallowing in self-pity or inventing an “illness” that was a convenient excuse to hide my own shortcomings behind. I thought there was nothing wrong with me that a good kick in the ass wouldn’t cure. That I needed to stop making myself out to be suffering from anything other than weakness and get on with my life. 

Once I successfully cleared the hurdle of seeking a diagnosis and accepting my label as a depressive, this person’s presence actually became a more positive one. Actually, that’s not true. It’s more accurate to say that their presence became less negative. I don’t mean that they changed into a supportive person or shared some insights into their actions that gave me a lightbulb moment of clarity. In fact, this person doesn’t even know about my diagnosis. They continued on much as they always have – living in their bubble of self-absorption and self-reference.  What has changed is my perception of them and the influence they have on me and my emotions. 

These days I hear the usual “oh I could never do that” and “I had such potential and then the awful life I have had happened” and instead of anger, resentment and guilt I feel pity and more importantly I feel motivated. I spoke recently about the concept of being a high-functioning depressive and what that means to me. I guess I left out a major driver in my life – my determination not to turn into this negative, self-absorbed person who has had such a negative influence on my mental health to date. 

I can’t, I have Depression!