When you live with depression and anxiety you can feel such a long way away from your dreams.
Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
It struck me recently that I have an overwhelming, deep-seated self-belief that I’ll never achieve anything. I’ll never be successful. I’ll never make a difference. I’ll never have the opportunity to be something special! Funny, I know. Because it seems I’ve already achieved so much. So how could that immature voice constantly mumbling away inside me still have so much power?
Too few people are able to maintain a marriage, raise healthy amazing kids, interact routinely their grandchildren and live surrounded by the things they enjoy. Too few people get to start and run their own multi award winning businesses. Too few people get pulled out of nowhere to be recognised for their entrepreneurial gift. Too few people have had the business and personal successes I’ve had.
And that’s the trouble with depression. It robs you of the ability to feel good. It steals your dreams, your expectations and your joy.
Oh why, oh why can’t I?
If you’ve ever wondered why those of us with depression seem incapable of seeing an ‘up side’, then you’ve likely never been swamped with any number of physical, physiological, psychological and environmental factors that impose a most distressing paralysis.
I could take you down a memory lane of all the reasons why I might believe all of that but I’d be repeating all the stuff you’ve read here before. Of course I wasn’t wanted. I wasn’t needed. I was socially and economically disadvantaged. I was abused. Frightened. Confused. I wasn’t smart. I wasn’t anything or anyone.
So here I am at 50 something wondering why the heck I still think all those things about myself. Why, in spite of many more recent positive experiences I still believe myself to be the small child who no one really wanted. Why do I still think I’m stupid? Unlovable? Unnecessary?
I’ve never claimed to have all the answers to living with depression. But when I think back through all the bad times and all the bumbling bad advice I’ve received, the advice that seemed the most unhelpful, that hurt the most, was the advice that contradicted my inner voice.
While my inner voice was telling me how useless I was, external voices based on the external evidence were telling me to ‘snap out of it’. In fact, I was yelled at for not being able getting out of bed. I was told I was being ‘melodramatic’ and ‘over sensitive’. I was told I would just have to ‘suck it up’ and ‘get over myself’.
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
In the extremes of my depression and anxiety when all I wanted was someone to tell me everything would be okay, I was often drawn into an inexorable argument that required me to justify the way I felt. I don’t know why I’m like this, I would scream with my face covered in snot, my eyes sore and bloodshot and my nose a bulbous red appendage on my face. “I don’t know what to do!”
It’s only years later and in a retrospective frame of mind that I consider how these arguments might have shaped my self-belief. How they gave me an opportunity to face the contradictions that life had imposed and find a way to stand up to my inner self to find a way forward.
When my symptoms became debilitating I became desperate to be supported in my inability. To be told I was okay the way I was and that I didn’t need to do anything. In fact I had 2 years of pretty intensive psychological counseling during which I developed an attitude of entitlement and self pity. Each session encouraged me to accept that anyone with my ‘history’ would feel ‘bad’. I would leave sessions primed to tell the people around me how they should treat me because I’d been dealt a crap hand in the game of life. Interestingly in that 2 years, none of my symptoms abated. My depression and anxiety continued to incapacitate me and I grew increasingly defensive of my right to be pampered.
My dreams were continuing to float further away. They’d been swept up in a hurricane of niceties and platitudes designed by psychotherapy to save me from feeling bad about feeling bad!!
I’d fallen hook, line and sinker into believing what my inner voice was telling me. It’s the ultimate in selfishness. I’d fallen for a perception of myself that did not meet the reality. I expected everyone around me to support the person my inner voice created by being incapable of believing the truth.
So what’s the point?
Believing the rhetoric of my inner voice meant being sheltered from the truth of who I actually am. The truth of who I was born to be and the paths I needed to travel. Recovery, meant finding a way to believe the truth about myself. And when challenged to choose an emotional state that contradicted my inner voice, I felt so vulnerable the only defense was to blame the challenger.
If my inner voice is telling me I’m a fake, I’ll produce an emotion that supports this view. If it’s telling me I’ll never be any good, I’m bound to feel something that recognises the grief and disappointment of that belief. When, in a moment of frustration and anger, I’m asked to confront those lies by ‘getting over it” or to confront the fact that I actually am being ‘melodramatic’, I respond by defending the voice that tells me I can’t get over it.
A voice that lies. I know it lies because it continues to lie to me in spite of indisputable truth.
Knowing my inner self still wants to use negative experiences to justify it’s need to ‘protect’ me from further pain, means understanding that surviving between conception and death means negotiating pathways that are unfamiliar and potentially damaging.
The only thing worse than having seemingly unachievable dreams is not having one.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me
Oh, somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
If you’d like to hear Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole performing ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ CLICK HERE (you’ll be taken to YouTube)
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.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)