This is a post written by one of our supporters. We would be quite interested to hear your views on this so please leave a comment, let us know what you think. Let’s get a discussion going!
Although the symptoms of depression are relatively universal, each person’s experience is different because each person is unique. To dismiss a professional’s help because your depression is different is not saying that the symptoms are different, but that their manifestation is different in each individual. This then makes the task of professionals challenging when faced with each person who, quite understandably, are focussed on their own signs of depression. What works for one may not work for another, but the challenge is to not let personal depression manifestations to simply dismiss something before due consideration.
As I think about this title, “Pushing Back the Shadows”, I initially understood it as pushing back the stigma, the lack of understanding that depression is an illness – like physical illnesses – except there are no “plasters” or “bandages” evident. It is therefore dependent on the explanation of the depressed individual to a professional to obtain the treatment that works best for that individual. It is hard enough to explain depression without having to do so when you are already depressed! Therefore, “Pushing Back the Shadows” gives opportunity for people to share their personal experiences in the hope that someone reading it may have that moment when they recognise themselves in the descriptions. However, is there not a danger of focussing on depression so much that you become the slave to depression and no longer able to look for the next step?
This leads to another viewpoint on “Pushing Back the Shadows”. If depression is the shadow, then “Pushing Back the Shadows” can be understood as the battle against depression – pushing the dark cloud of depression to the point where daily life can function. This takes effort and energy, which Alex has already identified, is not necessarily available, making it difficult. Those who are surrounding and supporting the person want to fight that battle for them and will encourage them to fight, but the battle is for the person alone – only they can take each step, like a young baby learning to walk.
As one who is permanently on anti-depressants to deal with a life-long medical condition, I can identify that the daily battle to “push back the shadows” is faced by more than people diagnosed with depression. When getting out of bed and getting dressed for someone with a life-long medical condition is achieved – it would be a reason for celebration, a sense of achievement, a battle won. But in the great scheme of life, such an achievement is not seen as that great – people get out of bed and dressed every day so what is so special in that. “Pushing Back the Shadow” is a personal achievement in the privacy of an individual’s life and not one where congratulations will be ringing in the ears. In the perspective of normal life, each battle won is normal – not news-worthy. Unfortunately this is a fact that has to be accepted – one person’s health battles are not the centre of the universe so will not be high on the radars of many people’s hectic lifestyles and priorities.
Yet, I suppose the key to any health battle – whether it is mental or physical – starts with understanding. What are you dealing with? Unfortunately “Google” will give you loads of information from professional and “wacky” sources. Unfortunately this is the first search we make in seeking to understand. But, as academia will remind you – check your sources – anyone can write anything and post it on the internet. As Alex quite rightly states, this blog is not from a professional basis, but from a personal experience and a desire to help others – it is not of great academic worth but simply an insight – “Pushing Back the Shadows” of understanding.
In seeking to understand, the medical profession have access to tried and tested resources and will happily point you in the direction you need to understand what you are dealing with. The libraries in the UK are also a great untapped resource that can help as well without the cost of purchasing a book. However, if you find one that helps you could always invest in your own copy.
When you begin to understand what you are dealing with, you have already achieved the first battle to “Pushing Back the Shadow.” The first battle, yes, but each day will continue to be a challenge which, like learning a new skill, will get easier over time and practice.
As a supporter, it is never easy to “say the right thing” or “give help at the appropriate time”, especially when you do not see the person every day to be able to gauge where they are on their challenge. It can also be hurtful when your support is denigrated by a comment or reaction that bears no resemblance to the last contact you had with that individual. However, “Pushing Back the Shadows” I believe takes understanding, where this blog is only one resource – not the ultimate resource; and takes that desire of the individual and their supporters to want to push against the shadow of depression rather than remaining trapped by it. It is not a smooth path, but one that has many pitfalls and obstacles to be overcome. BUT you don’t have to achieve release all at once – it is simply just one step (one day) at a time. This is what each professional and supporter will be encouraging you to do – take the next step – it’s not as big as “the shadow” would try to convince you. They are on your side, even when they say what you don’t want to hear. They are trying to help you win today’s battle and take the next step to “Push Back the Shadows”.
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