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August 8, 2014

The Lessons I’ve Learnt From Depression, Now That It’s Over


Three or four weeks ago I stopped being depressed. So far, I’ve stayed un-depressed.

I have to admit I feel really uncomfortable announcing it like this, because somehow I feel like I have the obligation to stay un-depressed now, and if I relapse I’ll be letting everyone down. But I’ll try to ignore those irrational feelings.

The thing is, I think it might actually have ended for good. It’s an intuition, or a feeling I have. But I really hate saying that because, what if I’m wrong? Somehow it would feel like I’ve let everyone down. But screw that. Yeah, I think I might have actually gotten out of my depression for good. (Update January 2017: I was right).

Why do I feel that way? Well…

I feel like I’ve started to really get over the deadly breakup which started it all about 9 months ago. I can finally look back with a bit of perspective, and realise just how devastated I was. I have a sense of having clung on for dear life. The strange thing is, that while I was in that pit I didn’t quite realise the extent of the damage, and sort of felt like my depression was out of proportion or had some other explanation. No, I really was that devastated.

The other factors of my depression have lessened too; I have a better social life these days, my money situation seems to be improving rather than stuck in danger territory, and I speak enough German now that I don’t feel completely helpless trying to do some transactions on my own.


What I’ve Learnt From Depression

Depression has taught me a lot.

It’s helped me with learning energy management and improving my skill at non-coercive self motivation. When I was seriously depressed, I had so little energy I really had to triage. Sometimes my work for the day was to have a shower, sometimes it was to go grocery shopping. If I got too fanciful and decided to make something elaborate to eat, for example, I’d find myself without enough energy to do the really basic stuff. So this really helped me get practical, learn to think about energy as a resource, and learn to set priorities.

Depression helped me to learn how to rest, something that I had very much needed to learn. In previous posts, in fact, I mentioned how I was so bad at resting that I maintained an addictive relationship to Facebook in order to avoid having too much energy. If I quit Facebook for a week, I’d have so much energy I’d work too much, and burn out.

Well, one friend of mine pointed out how “depressed” sounds like “deep rest”. And that’s an interesting way of seeing depression. I think it’s not a crazy idea at all to think that some or even all of my depression had to do with my body’s need for rest. If I wouldn’t give it to myself, my body was going to force me to rest.

I found that often the best way of getting stuff done was to surrender to my depression. So, if I couldn’t imagine doing the dishes now, I would just go to bed and sleep or just lie there, or read a book, or watch a series, or whatever else I found restful. After some hours of that, I would suddenly feel energy welling up in me, and would be able to do stuff.

If, however, I tried to fight my tiredness, I’d generally fail, and collapse back on Facebook. My self-chastising would make me feel worse, and my inability to rest in an INTENTIONAL manner would make it take a lot longer before my energy came back.

Nowadays, despite not being depressed, I’m better at recognising when my body is asking for rest. I know that if I rest intentionally rather than mindlessly procrastinating, my energy will come back much faster. I’m also starting to get used to a rhythm, where during some parts of the day I will be resting and during other parts I will be working. I can kind of plan for it, rather than expecting to be able to keep working indefinitely then being caught unawares when I crash.

New Concept Of Work And Rest

I now have a different concept of work and rest. I used to think that the distinction between work and rest was artificial, a product of a society that uses coercive motivation to force people to do money making activities, rather than simply enjoy being productive as they naturally would feel drawn to do. For instance, I often thought that certain video games require a lot of effort. You could imagine that the same activity could be made into a job, and suddenly it wouldn’t be rest anymore. Isn’t that absurd?

I still think that I have a different mindset towards work and rest than many people do. I think for many people, rest means freedom from an oppressive school or job. For people who live a non-coercive lifestyle, there is no need to find freedom in certain activities, because freedom is felt even while working.

However, I do think there is a difference between work and rest for people who live a non-coercive lifestyle. Even if both rest and work activities can require effort, work activities often cause stress because they involve attempting to get somewhere, do something, build a structure; while rest activities have as an essential quality that they don’t involve trying to get somewhere with such urgency. Even when there is a goal to a rest activity, it usually doesn’t feel so important to get there, and hence, there is less stress.

It’s sort of like “disconnecting”. It’s getting the brain to go down other avenues, rather than endlessly circling the same track. Obviously, doing the same thing all the time, or even just never quite disconnecting from that thing and continuing to subconsciously use your mental resources on it, is unsustainable. Your brain needs to have permission to stop for a while.

What I Learnt From Being Suicidal

So depression has taught me to rest. It made me more connected with my natural rhythms and desires, able to feel feelings which I previously ignored or couldn’t feel at all. That’s pretty awesome.

I also learnt something recently from my relatively recent bout of intense suicidal feelings, a period which lasted three days. (It seemed to be a “the night is darkest before the dawn” kind of thing, as I improved entirely shortly after my suicidal phase).

I noticed that my desire for suicide wasn’t really a logical desire. Perhaps for some people it is, but for me it wasn’t. Instead, it was rather like the desire to punch someone in the face when angry. In the moment, it can seem very attractive, even like a good idea, but nothing good ever really comes out of actually doing it.

I craved suicide, and even thought I wanted suicide, but when I eventually looked at things logically I realised I really did want to live. I had all the reasons in the world to stay alive. But still, I craved suicide. Like a drug.

This has helped change my idea of suicide. I often thought, when I heard someone “saved” someone else from a suicide, “Why can’t you respect her desires? If she wants to die, let her! It’s her choice!”. However, nowadays I understand better why it does make sense to try and stop people acting out this desire, just as it makes sense to stop someone punching someone else in the face. Much of the time, perhaps most of the time, suicidal urges are a kind of madness, and are not in someone’s best interest. Perhaps attempting to stop suicide attempts is disrespectful for those who have made a clear-headed choice, but seeing as you can’t know how someone is thinking, I guess it’s better always to try to stop them if you can.

Learning To Avoid Victim Feelings

I’ve also learnt from my suicidal phase to avoid victim feelings like the plague, as that’s what triggered me to feel suicidal.

To be exact, I was triggered by an absurd argument on Facebook about basically the topic of my post “Why Attraction To Trans People Is Not A Taste” (I wrote that recently as a way of getting the thoughts out of my head). Basically, the fact that a very large proportion of people find trans people unattractive and think that that is just because trans people ARE unnattractive, rather than because of THEIR transphobia, made me feel incredibly ostracised. I did the absolutely wrong thing here, and tried to argue with someone who thinks it’s just normal to ostracise me, rather than ignore that person.

Since then, I’ve realised that to some extent it’s a matter of life and death for me to avoid such negativity. I am not certain how I will go about avoiding it, but I know I have to. I have an almost physical reaction against such negativity now, associating it with the intense pain of those suicidal days.

Of course, I need to be able to talk about victimisation, which is real. However, at the same time, I need to avoid excessive victim feelings. It may seem like something of a paradox, but I feel certain that there is a way of keeping one (to a healthy extent) and avoiding the other.[insert_php]
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The Cause Of Victim Feelings

I’ve thought about my tendency to feel victim feelings, and come up with a few ideas about what causes it.

I’ve thought how victim feelings make one feel important, and that can be something addictive, even if the feelings themselves are awful.

I’ve also thought that I probably have a hard time with my loss of privilege, because I used to be entirely privileged (white, middle class, apparently male, apparently straight, apparently cis) and subconsciously, I saw myself as a person who was NOT put into a subordinate social position. So my victim feelings might have been partly a kind of indignation, as in, “No, wait, I’M the top dog in this society, you’re not allowed to do that!”. Probably if I had been born in an under-privileged position, this would have been easier.

In fact, I have a friend who is a person of colour, who seems to have dealt with being trans a lot easier than me. It seems she had already learnt what it was like to be under-privileged by our society, so losing more privilege by coming out as trans wasn’t such a shock to her.

I’ve also thought I should try and take things less personally. I mean, on the one hand, transphobia is personal. On the other hand, it isn’t. People’s urges to hurt others, or subconscious patterns which hurt others, are not because of me. It’s very unfortunate for me that I happen to be on the receiving end of those tendencies, but perhaps I can come to see them in a rather clinical way, rather than as a personal attack.

These are all thoughts I’ve been having, though I can’t say I’m an expert yet – of course. We will see how my ability to avoid victim feelings develops. I do very much intend to improve in this area, though, because I think without it, I can never be really happy.

And I do intend to be happy. If I spend my life fighting, there will always be more to fight, and more pain. Only by being happy can the suffering I have been through become meaningful.


 

Related

Deep Depression

Unjobbing And Dejobbing

The Need For Rest In Self Directed Work

Why Attraction To Trans People Is Not A “Taste”

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2 Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for writing this, i am coming out of depression and still having trouble with it, I feel as if I should be doing something all the time and not resting.

  2. Debbie Cooper says:

    Thank you for writing this – I have recently found myself undepressed after may be 40 years of having it de-colour my life. Your experience of those early days sounds quite similar to how I feel now and I also feel that it is only now I can recognise how ill I was at times and know that I was not faking it. I have come to this place through training as a psychotherapist and counsellor and I have discovered new strengths and skills I had no idea I had.

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