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Relationships - February 2018

I need a cure for lifetime depression


Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com 
for her to respond in the column.



I need a cure for lifetime depression

I need a cure for lifetime depression.
Is anyone working on that?
It is a terrible illness, and I get no help that makes me any better.
I am very ill, ostracised, ignored, criticised, and carry a stigma I don't deserve.

This crie de coeur is not unique. There are many depression sufferers who live their lives in hope of relief from it's grip, yet feel they cannot find any.


The first thing to strike me on reading this heartfelt email was how courageous this person must be.

To have felt depressed for her whole life and feeling all the things she does about how others treat her shout strength and determination. My heart goes out to her.

 

In the weeks before her death my mother told me that she had realised she had been depressed most of her life.

She was 75 and had had pulmonary problems for many years, which, in their way, had deprived her of the oxygen the feeds the body and, more importantly, the brain. She felt endlessly tired and therefore became inactive. As a result she became less able to fight the leaden feelings that so distressed her.

 

I do wonder if our email writer is ever encouraged to push herself outside to walk, run or swim.

Finding ways of getting oxygen to the brain is so often an important first step to a lifting of the darkness of depression. A member of my own family, whose depression is severe, finds swimming the key to her feeling more in control and "more alive"- especially early morning when there are few people in the pool and even better, swims in the sea. A short walk, once a day, then a little more and a little more, is an excellent way to help oneself - even though it'll feel like the hardest thing in the world to begin with...but hang on...what could be harder than living with endless depression?

 

We expect huge amounts from medication in today's world. In depression it is a remedy, not a cure.

Most people who go to their doctor with symptoms of depression will be given medication to dull their hard-to-bear feelings, which can help, and in the UK might be offered a series of counselling sessions. These are, typically nowadays, six weeks of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Again, if they are lucky and don't have to wait too long that can help, but neither are they going to unlock the reasons for the depression. For some sufferers to be given CBT will give them useful strategies for coping with their difficult feelings and with situations they find intolerable. In finding new ways of coping they feel encouraged and it then becomes easier for them to take steps towards some sort of improved life thereafter. They might not feel the need to 'unlock' reasons. Often depression 'Just is'. But for others it will do nothing. This can so easily confirm the sufferers worst fears that there is no way their situation can be improved.

 

I cannot blame them for feeling this way, but they are wrong. No-one needs to live under the dark cloud of depression permanently.

I know that there are some people who will always be prone to slipping into the heavy and unhappy state when things upset them, or in the dark and dreary depths of winter - or even in spring, when everyone else is lifted by more light, flowers and trees bursting into life etc., But most can be helped and encouraged to keep looking for ways of finding small chinks of light, short bursts of enjoyment. To look for those things, no matter how small is yet another tiny step towards strength.

 

Hope is only a thought away

And in deep depression one tends to build walls to shut out light or movement - a kind of entrapment if you like. When feeling so low that seems easier than taking a step or allowing one positive thought. That is why it is so important to keep looking for the right person to help you take those first steps.

So many sufferers have felt that the counsellor or therapist they were sent to "wasn't any help". So great is the longing for someone to say to you 'do this, take that, and you'll get better, but that is not how it works and the disappointment is crippling at times. I agree there is never a 'one size fits all' in therapeutic practitioners. We are as varied as everyone else. The most vital thing to hang on to in such a situation is to look for another therapist. How many of us have felt comfortable with or have liked every doctor, dentist, or hairdresser we've been to? If they're not for us we ask to see someone else, or we seek someone elsewhere. There is no shame in this. It shows how much you want to be helped and how aware you are of what fits for you. There is another positive thing!

 

Do not give up on trying different kinds of support.

I'm sure after many years of depression you might have tried all this, but If medication is part of that and it helps, use it. If counselling is offered, take it. If you hear of a self-help group, join it. Trying things out is creating hope. It isn't a guarantee that this will be the thing that frees you. Only you can ultimately do that but with help it is more likely. Accept any offers of help. If we break an arm we accept the help of someone to put it in plaster, if we have an upset stomach or a headache we take tummy remedy or a paracetamol. A toothache we take to the dentist. There is no rule that says you can't accept help from the neck up! What happens in your mind is happening to your whole body.

 

Much of the feeling of being ostracised or ignored is due to others feeling helpless, or frustrated

and unsettled at their own inability to help in the face of prolonged suffering and are unable to communicate that easily to someone so shut in with depression. That is no-one's fault, it is not a judgement against the sufferer and the depressed person hasn't made it happen, it is just how most people react.

 

Mental illness is no different to chronic illness of any kind.

It is difficult to live with but need not control every part of your life once the keys are found to controlling it.

 

One of the keys to unlocking this awful affliction is to cultivate and nurture hope.

If you lose sight of it occasionally that is not a failure, it can be found again. Keep finding it in little corners, hiding in unexpected places and all kinds of ways. It will sustain you while you search - always - for other keys to make a hundred small differences.

 

turntome.org

mind.org.uk


You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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