We are the pirates who don’t do anything!
Aaarrgggh in honour of international talk like a pirate day on 19th September, I think it’s only fitting to see how depression and anxiety fit into a romanticised view of piracy. Never having been one to shy away from a topic, there’s an amount of effort that goes in to making an important point without offending someone. So the risk that I might some how offend a pirate is just a little daunting!
Let me say, the past few months in my life could be easily compared to a wild and uncontrolled boat ride on the high seas. And, I’d have to say, that I’ve not at all enjoyed it. From the lows where everything beneath me has been pulled away and my once clear view of the horizon becomes a forbidding view of mountainous blue green seas. To the precarious highs where I perch, excited by the opportunities I can see in every direction. Exhilarated by the possibilities and the desire to reach a hidden treasure.
Intentional journeyers understand the journey will include danger. In fact it could be the danger that attracts them. But those of us kidnapped from a seeming pleasure ride are not so prepared.
It’s true there are times, when the ocean water has rolled away and the sandy seabed appears to rise up, that I’ve wished the mountainous waves would consume me. Prayed I would be washed away from the fear and pain that I never asked for and can’t control. I’ve seen those walls too many times. I’ve felt their foreboding too many times only to raised back up to peak at the horizon before crashing back to a place of terror.
When you live with depression and anxiety one of the most difficult things to explain is why you can’t control the way you feel. Why when we’re consumed by sadness and grief that we can’t understand “there’s nothing to be upset about”. Why, when anxiety has us so debilitated we cannot perceive ever leaving the house again “we’re just being ridiculous”.
It’s the descriptions of our behaviour that feed our endless self-doubt. That we’re believed to be; ridiculous, silly, stupid, unreasonable, pathetic, miserable and the list goes on; because we can’t share the raging chemical activity that’s driving us. And, even if we ask you to recall your saddest moment or your most frightening experience you can justify the feelings you felt by the stimulus that created them.
Without intending to upset you; recall how you felt when a parent, sibling or child died and the grief and despair you felt believing it would never end. The chemical activity within you at that time is the same chemical activity behind depression. The only difference is, that we don’t need to lose someone close to us to feel that way. We just do and we can’t turn it off. Like you we have to wait until our body restores itself, which in the case of clinical depression, may never happen. We are gripped by a torment so severe and debilitating that we cannot believe our life is worth living.
So too with anxiety. If you can recall being afraid for your life, you can catch a glimpse of anxiety. The overwhelming feeling that you are about to die. But like depression, we don’t need your experience to spark our body into fight or flight. Our body is already sparking, waiting for us to attempt a simple task, like a trip to the supermarket, to fuel a raging fire of fear pushing us to retreat.
The same chemicals that make your emotional responses appropriate and understandable, when out of control, make our emotional behaviour inexplicable and vexing. Disabling.
So while I take a mirthful look at pirates riding over the ocean and use the analogy of thunderous rolling seas to describe the enormity of the highs and lows I’ve experienced it isn’t without a longing to see life the same way ‘normal’ people do. To ride the waves and all the time knowing the boat is bound for a safe harbor where my treasure awaits. That calm will be restored by the natural flow of nature.
Instead, like a ghost ship, our emotional wellbeing is adrift and without destination.
From Captain Jack Sparrow (a good description of how I sometimes feel!):
“This is a dinghy, not my vessel. My vessel is magnificent, and fierce, and huge-ish, and… gone.”
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Here’s a link to my favourite pirate song! ‘We are the Pirates who don’t do anything’ by Reliant K.
Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.
If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor or contact an organisation such as Beyond Blue.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)