Finding the Light at the End of the Depression Tunnel

Finding the Light at the End of the Depression Tunnel
By Rebecca Perkins

“When going through hell, keep going.”

The quote above is attributed to Winston Churchill and is believed to be related to his depression. Whether he said it or not how this quote has kept me strong! Even during my darkest moments I had a sense that it was easier to keep moving forward than turning back or giving up.

I’ve been shying away from this post for some time now. I avoid tough subjects. Depression is one of those tough subjects. I am well and have been for many years now – that, however, wasn’t always the case. My intention in writing about depression is to share my experiences frankly and openly in the hope that something inspires or supports another going through their own private hell.

Depression is a serious illness and one that sadly carries a huge stigma. It frustrates me that people are fearful. If you have a heart condition, diabetes or a broken leg you wouldn’t dream of not attending to it, or of taking advice from experts on how to repair the damage. No one is going to call you weak if you are unable to fix your broken leg. Then why is it that so often I hear people saying they won’t see a professional therapist in order to gain an insight into their troubled mind, or they won’t take medication for depression to help them begin to make sense of where they are. If you are depressed, seek medical help.

Depression is not about feeling sad. It is not about feeling a bit down or being in a bad mood. Depression is a blackness. Depression sucks all emotion from you. You are left feeling hollow and numb and with a deep sense of hopelessness and loneliness. Depression drains the world of color and sound and taste and smell.

I have experienced some very black and bleak places in my mind. I spent some of my teenage years with depression. I suffered chronic postnatal depression and I suffered again as I was battling with a deteriorating marriage. There were days when I could barely get out of bed. I went around in some sort of coma. I would have panic attacks collecting the children from school. I couldn’t face anyone, especially those closest to me. At times I couldn’t even speak, such was my fear of opening the flood gates of my tears. I lost a huge amount of weight. I developed asthma and I had tonsillitis permanently. Simple, every day tasks became my very own Everest … and still I battled on.

I have spent time getting myself to where I am today. I have taken medication and I have spent time with a variety of therapists. All these helped me piece my life back together again. Today, I know the triggers and I know how to handle them. That’s not to say that I live my life in a perpetual state of blissed-out serenity. I’m realistic, yet I won’t let a ‘blue’ day affect me in the devastating way it used to.

You are not alone in this, as brothers we will stand and hold your hand.’ – Mumford & Sons.

Here are my thoughts on what helped me through those bleak periods and on what keeps me focused today. I make no claim to be an expert, these are simply some ideas that may in turn give you strength. Take your pick and create your own too.

  • Realize that some days are shit days and that’s ok.
  • Fresh air on a daily basis. Thank goodness for my dog, who is often my reason to get outside everyday. Come rain or shine, snow or gale, we’re out walking.
  • Alcohol solves nothing.
  • Gratitude every night before bed, a list of all that is good in my life. It always gives me a different perspective.
  • Have a buddy — when I was ill after the birth of my youngest I had a friend who was my lifeline — literally. I’d phone her number and whisper the words “it’s me” and she’d reply “get in the car, the kettle’s on”. I couldn’t have got through those times without her.
  • Carry a picture with you of those you love, and one of yourself when you were happy or a picture of yourself as a young child.
  • Create a nest for yourself — candles,warm blankets, good smells, remember smells from your youth (seaside, ground coffee, baking bread for me).
  • If you can bare someone to touch you, then have a regular massage. I was truly blessed that my sister was training to be an aromatherapist when I was recovering and I became one of her case studies. We cried a lot and whether it was the healing oils or the simple fact that I was allowing someone to touch me and nurture me I slowly began to heal.
  • Hold somewhere in your heart the belief that ‘this too will pass’ — however ‘impossible’ it might seem.
  • Visualize a candle flame burning somewhere — a sign of hope.
  • Carry a token or pebble, something that has tangible meaning for you, it will act like a connection to better times.
  • Somewhere stored away deep inside trust that you are not alone — I am not religious, I am spiritual and even on my darkest days I trusted that I was protected.
  • Learn (with the help of another) to not judge yourself and not compare yourself with others. We are all different. This was one of the greatest lessons for me during the tough days.

Depression would not be my lifestyle of choice! However, even though writing this blog has brought back some excruciating memories I am grateful for the experiences I had. I am the woman I am today because of my experiences, ALL my experiences — the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

If this blog has inspired you in anyway do let me know, leave a message or email me. It is a subject close to my heart. Share it with anyone you know might be silently suffering. I am not a therapist I work as a midlife coach and have guided many women towards a more fullfilling second half of life once they have healed from their depression. How can I help you?

This blog was first published on The Huffington Post and since then I have added to my suggestions on my YouTube channel.

(Photo Credit: Unsplash, Zach Minor)


About the Author: Rebecca Perkins

Rebecca Perkins is the author of Best Knickers Always: 50 Lessons for Midlife and founder of RebPerkins.com. Her latest book 40 Words of Wisdom for my 24 Year Old: A Parenting Manifesto (originally a Huffington Post blog) was published in April.

 She began writing to make sense of her life after the ending of her 20 year marriage. Rebecca is a NLP Master Practitioner and Personal Performance Coach working with women to navigate the transition of midlife. She is passionate about midlife as a time for renewal and for living the second half of life with enthusiasm and vigour.

 As a coach she is challenging and fun, motivating and inspiring. Midlife has taught her to be open-minded, to take more risks, to enjoy the simple things and to live each and every day with the question, ‘If not now, when?’ She lives in London and enjoys supporting and being surrounded by her children, spending time with her guy and celebrating life after 50.

 You can contact Rebecca via her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as well as YouTube.

14 Comments

Erik Snyder

This is so beautifully written. Sadly, It’s 2015, and this stigma surrounding mental illness lives on. These are great ideas to help individuals cope and manage their daily black moments. thank You!

Reply
Alexander

We all have had, or we are having tough times and some times what we do is give up, but if we think positively in everything there is always a way out I had really bad times when I was 11 till some months ago now I’m 19 so it took me so long to find a way but I found it by opening myself to people who love me and most importantly to love myself and accept who I was.

Reply
Rebecca

You write so beautifully Alexander about how you found a way to open up to those around you and especially to love yourself…it takes some people a life time to learn this.

Reply
David Miller

Thank you for sharing this, I would imagine it be especially difficult for me to share things. I have been diagnosed with many many health problems, but If you where weak God wouldn’t put you through it.

Reply
Peggy

Please know how reading your article – helped me and Articulated the very things I have been trying to convey.. I was raped in my home some 13 months ago – I have fallen apart – I lost my home – my job – most my retirement… and LIFE feels like SHIT… some weeks I am OK – SOME – I just want to “kill myself” – no one understands the mental chit-chat and crap that goes on in our brains!! Thank-you!

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Peggy, I usually leave guest posts for the authors to respond to but feel as though I had to reach out to you. You have been through an unimaginable trauma and it’s no wonder at all that you’re feeling the way you’re feeling. I’m pleased that Rebecca’s article was able to give you some comfort and help you to feel a little more understood – she has a wonderful way of speaking from an open heart, as do you. There would probably be few people who would know exactly what you’re going through and who have been through the type of pain that you are experiencing, but there would certainly be people who could relate to struggling with something so big as to feel stolen and suffocated by it some days. I hope you have the support you need. It might feel as though nothing will make a difference – I really understand that – but the right counsellor, if you aren’t already seeing one, could make a big difference and really help you through this. You don’t have to do this on your own. If you don’t have anyone supporting you through this, I would really encourage you to speak with your doctor as a place to start. He or she will be able to recommend people for you – if you aren’t seeing someone already. I have no doubt that there will be so many people, as I am, who read your comment who will be sending you love and strength to move forward from this.

Reply
Rebecca

Oh Peggy, I’m sorry it’s taken so long for me to reply. I’m glad that in some way my words have connected with some place inside you. I can’t imagine your pain but please know that I’m sending love and courage to you.

Reply
marge wisniewski

How timely this was for me! I just adopted Winston Churchill’s quote for myself too after reading it in “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah. It was the favorite part of the book for me as it was in others according to the comments following the book! Hell it is, for sure, depression!

Reply
andrea

So much of what you said rang true. Courage to you and to all suffering through depression. It does get better.

Reply
Rebecca

Thank you! Yes it does get better, and hopefully for many of us we can look back and see how far we’ve come.

Reply
Aruna

simple yet very effective. only your life experiences can make you write so.
Thanks for sharing. 🙂

Reply
Rebecca

Thank you and apologies for the slow response. It means a lot that you’ve commented and that it touched you in some way.

Reply

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We often put so much pressure on ourselves to make Christmas magical. Rituals can make this easier. They get the special memories, you get to make the ‘magic’ without having to come up with something new and different each year.

It’s very likely that there will already be Christmas rituals happening in your family, even if you don’t realise it. Ask them what they remember most, or what they loved most about last Christmas, aside from the presents.

They might surprise you with things you’d completely forgotten about, or which at the time didn’t seem to be a biggie. It can be the simplest things. Maybe they loved the way they were allowed to have ice-cream with pancakes at breakfast last Christmas. (Ice-cream at breakfast?! Told you Christmas was magical!!). 

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You’d be surprised what they find special. It doesn’t have to be big to feel magical.

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In the meantime though, you can do it for them. This is the magic of co-regulation. When you do strong steady breathing during their anxiety, it will calm your nervous system which will eventually calm theirs. You will catch their anxiety, and this will feed into their anxiety. Your strong steady breathing is the circuit breaker. They will catch your anxiety, but they will also catch your calm. Don’t worry if this takes a few minutes (and maybe a few more after that). Anxious brains are strong, powerful, beautiful brains working hard to protect. Breathe and be with. This will open the way for that distressed young nervous system to find its way home. And you don’t need to do more than that.♥️
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