An odd escape


This is a continuation of my ‘honest’ posts where I finally say things which I haven’t said before. It’s not happy at the start, but please fight through it. There’s a light at the end.

I think it’s relatively clear to anyone who has read my earliest posts that I had quite a long stretch of depression a few years back. It flavoured probably the entirety of the first year, and certainly influences everything I write to this day. What has changed is how. It was at first a dark influence, entangling everything with chains of negativity, but now it has become a positive force.

Today I want to talk about how my former depression made me who I am today. A huge proportion of people experience depression during their lives, and every experience is different. I really feel that the more there is about turning that depression around on the internet, the better. There is only so much you can learn about depression from a health website, as it’s such a personal condition. Personal experience is important in getting above it.

I’m going to a gig in a few days. A band called Anathema is playing in Leeds Minster and I’m more than excited. I feel like it was an inevitability to see these beautiful people eventually, Because despite the apparent disconnectedness to today’s theme, Anathema is an integral part of my escape from Depression.

Funnily enough, I’ve talked about this band before on the blog. Why? How does a single band get so much coverage on a blog with very little link to music? Because their music changed me. They are one of a few bands in the world that are so important to me that they have influenced who I am very clearly. I’ll come back to Anathema in a bit.

It took me a long time to realise I was depressed. Several years actually. From about 14 to 17 years old, I was depressed without accepting that fact. I only realised when it became too much, when the darkest ideas had sprung into my head and I noticed that it wasn’t healthy to be having these thoughts. I won’t go into them too much, but they weren’t too happy.

I went to the doctor. I was given a form. I filled it out. I got very close to the ‘ seriously dangerously depressed’ mark on the form. The doctor sent me to talk to a counselor.

At this point I still hadn’t worked out why I was depressed. Depression is confusing – it has to be for it to go relatively unnoticed for 3 years. I was about to find out why I was in this awful position.

I only needed to see the counselor once. She referred me to a more serious counselor, but I never went. In a few days, I wouldn’t need to.

The meeting with this counselor was strange – terrifying at the time – but the realisations I made in that meeting changed everything. It was the first time that I explained everything to another person, and in doing so it was the first time I explained everything that was making me depressed to myself.

I found out that my depression boiled down in the end to a lack of trust, A feeling of failure, and fear.

the worst part is that it seemed to stem mainly from my family.

When I was 17 I genuinely no longer trusted a single person in my family. The only person I trusted in the whole world was one of my friends. One friend. And I got to this point because…

Fear. Two people in a household of four were prone to being incredibly aggressive and I have always been pretty non-confrontational. I was however for a while convinced that one day I would be attacked during one of their uncontrollable rages. Because of this I had the entire house mapped. Despite hating violence, I knew what I could use as a weapon in every room of the house if I needed to. Some days I was convinced I would need to know.

There was also the constant feud between my two divorced parents. Little did they know how much that feud tore me into pieces. I didn’t know who to believe, so I chose to believe no one. One parent always told me how I was being manipulated by the other. The other parent did not say how I was being manipulated by the other. I only realised a few years ago that by being told I was being manipulated, I was manipulated by those comments.

Then there was the feeling of failure. I always prided myself in being smart. Up to the start of secondary school I was at the top of the class for everything but sport, and depending on the sport I wasn’t awful at that either. Then, from a mixture of boredom of the ease of work, and pressure from the formerly mentioned things, i stopped caring. By the time I was 16, my grades had dropped considerably and I didn’t enjoy learning anymore.

I also had loved extra-curricular activities. I had loved music lessons. I had loved Scouts. I had loved swimming and table tennis. A couple of years of feeling like a failure and I didn’t enjoy these things anymore.

And perhaps the most important part of my feeling of failure, was a member of my family who certainly didn’t hold back on telling me how stupid I was. Every day I would be called ‘stupid, moron, idiot’ +numerous angry expletives. After a while you start to believe that rubbish. My reaction was to become completely apathetic to it. Which naturally made me appear more stupid. I wouldn’t answer questions, lest I appeared stupid. I certainly wouldn’t ask questions, because that’s apparently what stupid people need to do (NOT TRUE IN THE SLIGHTEST), I wouldn’t shout back at the accusations of stupidity, because I hate confrontation. Withering away under an onslaught of insults was the only option.

And so it was this realisation of distrust, fear and failure that I found myself after this counseling meeting… I had one very bleak day after this.

But just one…

Now back to Anathema. They started out as a doom metal band. Doesn’t sound like a too hopeful solution to depression, does it? The thing is that their music has evolved beyond recognition from those early days (which are also excellent, but very different) and now Anathema creates some of the most soul-resonating music, I would argue, ever made.

And so the following day, as i was walking back home from school I was thinking about the dark place I was in, desperately looking for a solution now that I had pinpointed the causes of my depression. I put Anathema on on my mp3 player.

This I what I heard.

“Needed time to clear my mind
And breathe the free air find some peace there
I used to keep my heart in jail
But the choice was love or fear of pain and

I…
Chose…
Love…
Cos everything is energy and energy is you and me…

Light shines in through an open window
Shines inside your heart and soul and
Light will guide your way through time
And love will help you heal your mind and

Life…
Will…
Be..

Cos everything is energy and energy is you and me…”

A choice of love or fear of pain.

And my solution became completely clear.  The answer was to forgive and love everything.

In a moment, the world turned beautiful. It was like the switch of a light. One moment It was dark, and suddenly the world was beautiful and I was crying. I looked around me as if I had never seen the world before, marveling at the sky, the birds, the trees.

I never told anyone that I had done this. I didn’t run up to my parents and say ‘I forgive you’. They would have been confused if I had, because they wouldn’t have known they had ever done anything wrong. In fact in many ways, this is a horrifically brutal blog, because I never said to them that I felt they played a vital role in my depression, and now it is on the internet for the world to see. 6 billion eyes could potentially look at this. But they can rest at least in the knowledge that they were completely forgiven a few years ago.

Over the course of the following week, I was called stupid numerous times by that particular family member (it still happens to this day actually). It didn’t matter. I’d forgiven them and I only had love at that point. Aggressive comments were directed from one parent at the other (but not the other way round – that rarely happens, to this day). It didn’t matter. I’d forgiven both parents for any wrong-doing they had done, and I had only love. The completely blown out of proportion aggression towards normal every-day inconveniences from one family member continued. It didn’t matter. It was forgiven, I no longer looked for weapons around the room I was standing in when it all kicked off.

I made my odd escape from depression through total forgiveness and love. i only found the answer through a band called Anathema. For all I know, that band might have saved my life.

.

.

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And now I sit here, wondering if I should publish this or not. It’s a completely honest piece, and I have been striving to be as honest as possible, that honesty hurts. If certain family members read this, they would be hurt severely by it.

But honesty is honesty.

And so it becomes public honesty.

full circle.


I find it strange that, despite being agnostic, every time I finish a meditation I almost invariably bow my head and say thank you…to something…

Just an odd little musing to begin my little today’s writing with.

I’m really meant to be finishing off an essay for one of my Chinese modules this evening, but as I was walking home from my weekend-ly shop and coffee shop reading stop, I decided that what really clinched a higher point on the importance ladder was actually writing something on the web again.

I’ve been at uni for around 2 months now, and i’ve spent that time breaking the rules of being a student. What on earth do I mean by that?

Firstly, there is a myth that all first years do not in fact do any work.

This is almost true.

There are however some that end up working all the time, and it appears that a happy combination of German and Chinese (with a module in Arabic on the side) kind of forces your free time to take a holiday without you.

I’m actually loving being so busy though. It feels great to never even have a chance of being bored. Sure, I’ve had no time to write this poor, ignored, blog, among other hobbies, but to spend every hour doing things that interest you is awesome.

And that thought brings me round nicely to an interesting fact…

I believe one of the first things I ever wrote about online was the importance of doing what you believe in/have interest in/ are passionate about and how empowering that is. It seems that ideas move in circles, but beautiful, expanding circles that somehow meet again points where they are poignant .

What is poignant about right now for me then?

It’s common (at least for me) for beginning uni students to be asked a difficult questions by their peers on an almost daily basis – “so what do you want to do in the future?”

Some have a clear goal. Other’s have a rough idea. Yet more have no idea whatsoever.

It’s a good question though, and one that I’ve answered with numerous answers, depending on what feels right. Sometimes the answer of “I don’t really know” seems right. Sometimes to declare my goals as “either being in academia, journalism or politics” is my response.

Other times the answer is ‘I want to be happy’.

Just so you, as the reader, know, I ‘ll interject on my own writing here and say that I didn’t begin writing today with any set goal as such on where my writing would lead, so apologies if this all seems disjointed. I will post this as soon as I’ve finished writing rather than proof-reading. It just seems right today to do so. This is therefore a semi-disclaimer for disjointed content!

The truth is, I have many loose goals, enclosed by the last one – to be happy.

and that, is perhaps why everything around me currently seems so poignant. I’m at university – it’s a big change. I’m doing something I really care about – that’s a big deal. I’ve come back from life changing experiences from living in far-western China for a year – that’s of huge important. I’m now also in the position to look back on that in retrospect – that is definitely, without a doubt a huge deal.

So yes, it seems that in hindsight to the beginnings of this blog i have come full circle. But that would suggest that i’m back at a rhetorical ‘square one’, surely?

I’m not ashamed to say that when I started writing this blog, I was in a dark dark place. I used to suffer from severe depression, which I only ever told one person the majority of. I didn’t even tell him everything, as despite not being depressed anymore, I keep some secrets to myself (as some of my friends will be aware of – trying to work out the enigma that is me!). I’m definitely not back to this point, and although I would never try to erase my days of depression – it made me who I am – I don’t want to ever go back to that abyss.

I have however held onto part of my depression – melancholy. Melancholy makes me happiest. Perhaps it’s seems totally wrong for that to be the case, but even great artists of the past have accepted melancholy as not just an interesting concept to explore, but essential for expression. In a way, I see my years of depression as now being essential to being as happy as I can be. Whether you can share this opinion or not, there is no way you can have such an intense form of happiness without melancholy. So I hold that it seems things have come full circle, but those

circles are growing wider, more open, more all-encompassing.

Like a good, deep meditation.

And so this post too comes full circle.

Which makes it the perfect time to end.

I leave you with a picture of this time last year. Near the edge of western China, where it meets the stans. Yining, Xinjiang province.

Yining, Xinjiang province China

Yining, Xinjiang province China

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading, have a wonderful day.

to something new


I’m staring at a face

Once I knew so well

Every angle, every imperfection

Every hidden scar.

Who knew where it would go?

Who wondered the path it took

Through darkness

To Sorrow?

 

I’m staring at a face

It’s not what I knew so well

Less harshly cut lines less clear

joy upon its brow.

How could such a change exist?

How could the path so tightly turn?

From sorrow

Now to hope?

 

I’m staring at a face

I haven’t known so well

For far too long since childhood

Many years are lost

Why has grim and ghastly gone?

Why so swiftly has contentment come?

From hopelessness

To something new.

a positive world


Recently i’ve been trying to look at everything in a positive way and so far, its working quite nicely. Obviously there are some things which are certainly harder to look at positively, and others that just will never be a good thing, but simply trying is one step further away from being a grumpy pessimist.

So what was it that made me want to think more positively? bluntly put, i had been depressed. For quite a long time at that. After spending a few years of thinking everything and everyone is against you in some way, one may consider it impossible to see the world in a good light again. Trust me, its not. In fact, it allows you to appreciate it in a way you would not even be able to imagine if you hadn’t gone through a rough spot. A theologian named Irenaeus, for example, believed that we had to experience suffering as a form of  ‘soul making’ in order to better ourselves and ultimately bring us closer to God. As i am not a believer in God (at least not in a traditional manner), I don’t see this soul making concept in regards to god, but there is certainly something to say about it to describe how suffering can bring the best out in us.

Irenaeus compiled a list of apostolic successi...

Image via Wikipedia

What happened after coming through that rough spot? For me, I found i had learnt alot from suffering;  perhaps the biggest thing being that i have something to compare good experiences to. I also rediscovered what was really important to me, and in this way i would actually say that being depressed was important in finding a positive way of thought. This comes straight back to Irenaeus and his soul making; it looks like his idea may have had some truth in it. Because of the apparent truth in Irenaeus’ words, I can say that I believe suffering to be a fundamental part of positive thinking. It may seem odd that the complete opposite of what good is, also is a fundamental part of good itself, but consider that without evil, good cannot exist. So in order to become a positive thinker, you must acknowledge the importance of suffering and evil.

Now back to thinking positively.  Heres a few points that i think are important in positive thinking:

1. Acknowledge that not everything is good, as it can’t be good without something bad to contrast it.

2. Anything that you consider bad, think about whether or not something good could come from it. For example, many may consider a volcanic eruption a cause of suffering and damage, but it also creates incredibly fertile land able to support life.

3. Realise your goals and go for them. nothing is more positive than success. You will probably suffer while trying to reach the goals, but in the end that suffering was a fundamental part of reaching it.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment 🙂