When you live with depression and anxiety, if you let it, life can be like a ride in a submarine.
Having been educated in the 70’s by teachers who were barely as old as my siblings I was indoctrinated into a musical era that included bands like, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and ACDC just to name a few. I remember ‘music time’ at school was littered with children singing Beatles hits and at the time, I was rather taken by the thought of living in a yellow submarine!
However, it seems I hadn’t really considered what it would be like to live beneath the surface of the world. To be floating in continual darkness. Breathing air that had been breathed before and hearing sounds already heard.
The feature of a submarine of course is its ability to exist without anyone knowing. It floats beneath the surface, all it’s systems operating and it’s heart continuing to beat. It’s almost like how depression can lurk beneath our exterior of hard steel. Invisible to the outside world, its ruminations sound like a relentless gong and a heart beating to fuel the systems that would keep it alive, in spite of our need to kill it.
Of course it’s easy to build a home for our-self in our submarine. To be carried from one place to another and only coming above water for a few brief moments and then sinking back down into the gloom. We can even do as Lennon and McCartney suggest and invite all our friends aboard and expect them to live as we do and celebrating our descent into darkness.
It’s something those of us with depression risk in our illness. We forget there is life above the waves and so we wallow in our altered state of mind expecting everyone to join us there rather than having expectations of recovery for ourselves. Sadly, when we’re in a depressed state, we can find it comforting to cogitate on our failures and guilt, all the time allowing them to grow until they’re the blackness outside our submarine windows. There is no octopus’ garden. No band. No life of ease.
Yep, there it is. Sometimes we can be so self absorbed either as a symptom of our illness or simply because we are inclined to feel sorry for ourselves, that we begin to feel comfortable in our circumstances. That submarine is now a shell. It’s how you define yourself. You’re now floating beneath the waves aboard HMAS DEPRESSION and you’re its captain.
“Oh no I’m not” I hear you say. “I have a clinical diagnosis of depression and I no longer have control over anything that happens to me.”
When you live with depression it’s symptoms can be devastating. It can turn up when you least expect it, last for weeks, months, years or a lifetime. It can debilitate you by draining every ounce of energy you have, every ounce of joy and pleasure. It can turn a pleasure cruise into a disaster and leave you wondering how you ended up this way, unable to control your destiny.
And now I’m telling you, you’re the captain of the ship. You’re in control of where that submarine goes and if it chooses to resurface.
It’s this one thought that had me seeking help wherever I could find it. And it’s true, I tried some pretty crazy stuff (most of which I’m embarrassed to admit). In between wanting to die and convincing myself that this was how my life was going to be, I somehow knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t meant to be like this.
Don’t get confused. At the time I couldn’t get myself out of bed, couldn’t stop crying long enough or convince myself that life was even worth living, but somehow that one belief, that I was not meant to be this way, helped me to relentlessly pursue wellness.
It sounds tough I know. When you can’t get out of bed, when you can’t leave the house, when you’ve actually convinced yourself you’d rather die; I’m suggesting you do, what? Yep, I’m asking you to make a decision. Just one. It’s the most important decision you can make, but don’t let that put any pressure on you. You’re going to have to make it sooner or later so you may as well do it now.
When you notice your cruise liner has become a submarine you need to make a decision that you will get off. The truth is, if you’re willing, you can captain your submarine all the way back to the harbour.
I hear you say; “I can’t get off. I don’t know how to get off.” And, right now that’s true (I was convinced I was born to be that way). Right now it’s possible you can’t even conceive that you will ever feel better or manage to disembark from this terror ride, because this is you.
Don’t fall for the lie that because you have a ‘mental illness’ it’s a part of your ‘personality’. Of course if you’re determined to feel miserable (and to make everyone around you feel miserable) for the rest of your life you can believe anything you want. You can live in that submarine until it’s buried in the seabed and lost to the world.
The truth is, that it could take weeks or months (maybe years) for you to actually get off the submarine, but if you don’t make a decision that you will get off, you may very well not.
Alternatively, you can believe that, even though right now you can’t do anything about it, you were created for a purpose. You are meant to be a functioning, contributing participant in your life after all, you’re the captain.
From the movie U-571: You’re the skipper now. The skipper always knows what to do, whether he does or not.
If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.
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.)