Choice as a whole can be a tricky subject for people to tackle. One of the common early beliefs surrounding depression was the mistaken idea that someone could “just snap out of it” – something we know is not true. It gave depression a certain element of choice to it, implying that people could choose not to be depressed. Let me say one definitive statement about this:
This is not the case.
If it was as easy as simply choosing to snap out of it, I’m sure the vast majority of depressed people would do just that. Unfortunately for us, there is no way to shrug it off and go about living as though we are not depressed. It takes a lot of work. That, however, is a topic for another day. Let’s focus on the different aspects of choice that depressed people have and see where that takes us, shall we?
Shutting Yourself Away
I think, for me, this was one of the big ones that people would use to try and emphasise a modicum of choice onto me. When my depression first hit, it hit really hard. My appetite declined to the point of almost not eating, my sleep was heavily disrupted, averaging 2-3 hours a night and I got to a stage where I stopped going out except for work. Social gatherings, meeting friends, usual events or my usual haunts became things of the past and it was hard for me to motivate myself to get to them.
One of the first things some of my friends started telling me was that I was choosing to shut myself away. As you can imagine, my first reaction was to disagree with them wholeheartedly. After some consideration, however, my views changed.
Yes, I was choosing.
But not the way they thought.
Living alone and independently as I do, I knew I had to continue going to work. Even when I felt lethargic with barely enough motivation to get myself out of bed in the morning, work had to be my main priority. To work is to earn, to earn is to afford and to afford is to live. Makes sense, right? Yeah, it did to me too. So, with a restricted and rather finite amount of energy to put into my daily living, I started prioritising what I was going to put my energy into. No surprise, work came out on top.
Committing eight hours a day, five days a week to something is a serious commitment. Understandably it takes a considerable amount of energy to motivate yourself to attend an obligation of that magnitude, especially on your bad days. Suffice it to say, I had little energy leftover to channel into other things such as those social gatherings or one-to-one meetings.
In short, yes I was choosing. I was consciously choosing what took priority. Some might argue that work is a necessity and therefore you have little choice in the matter but still, I chose to put work first. That meant other interests dropped off very rapidly.
But I was still choosing.
You Are In Control
Control. Sometimes I feel like it’s an illusion; a shadow on the wall. It’s unfortunately the one thing that people seem to come back to. Whether it’s alcoholism, substance abuse or self-harm that you might get into, the one underlying principle that people always come back to is that you are in control.
But are you?
During my journey, as you shall see, I went to some very dark, very low places. Self-harm was one of those places, again as you shall find out. I won’t go too far into this as I plan on doing a series on self-harm a little later on (so stay tuned for that) but, in a nutshell, there was very little control over it.
One thing people always say was: “It was your hand that picked up the blade, you’re in control, you’re responsible.” Well, yes…I was responsible. There is marked difference, however, between responsibility and control. For someone going through that situation – and everyone’s situation is different – it can feel as though the control is stripped away. For some it’s an addiction, for some it’s desperation. For me, in the place that I was in, it was a last resort mechanism that actually proved to be an effective quick fix. Not a good quick fix, admittedly, but it worked.
But I was choosing.
Yes, I freely admit that I was choosing. See, in such a dark, black void there were two prominent thoughts going through my head: self-harm and suicide. Underpinning both of them was the strong desire to simply make it stop. In my mind I knew suicide wasn’t a good option, so I turned to the other one, the self-harm.
Let me say that again: I made a conscious choice to turn to self-harm instead of suicide.
Yes, I was responsible.
No, I had little control over it.
Yes, I chose to self-harm.
But wouldn’t you say it was far better than the alternative?
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