I have entitled this post ‘Depression and It’s Effects On Self-Esteem – The Naked Truth!’ and the first naked truth is that I have been struggling over whether to do this post for some time now.
The fact of the matter is that in order to do both it and it’s motivation justice I have to put it all out there and that is an extremely painful and difficult thing for me to do. But I have promised myself that I would do it.
And I have promised this because the truth is that I really do feel it is the only way and that it is very important. Especially since over the pat view weeks (both in conversations that I have had and also in blogs that I have read) I have witnessed a great deal of pain, hurt, embarrassment and even shame expressed by fellow mental health bloggers over their self-image, body shapes, physical features, weight etc.
Now I am a guy, and I fully accept that these things can often be different for a guy and that they seem to be somewhat; heightened, perhaps more severe even for women, but trust me it is hard enough for us guys. So sharing my experience (even from a guy’s perspective) whilst being all that I have to offer, will I hope encourage others as I do so desperately want to reach out to others who are suffering similar things.
So this is my poor, inadequate, offering – my attempt to do just that. And knowing my passion in this I apologize in advance for the length of this post – which will no doubt be fairly lengthy. But I do hope you will stay with me throughout it.
Depression and it’s effect on perceptions and feelings…
For this one I am going to use one of my own quotes…
Depression can bleach all the color from the most vividly chromatic rainbows.
I know of no better way of stating it and trust me a life without color is a life dulled into non-entity.
Imagine a life without colour if you can, one without feeling or even appreciation of experience. One where sometimes you will hurt yourself just to see if you can still feel something.
Depression and it’s effect on hope and motivation…
American Psychologist Rollo May stated that…
Depression is the inability to construct a future.
And I would certainly have to admit to understanding and relating to this sentiment. It is as some would say the inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel no matter who tells you that light is there.
But don’t be mistaken into thinking that for me (and many people like me) depression is the act of taking that ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and convincing yourself that it is just another on-coming train about to smash you into oblivion.
I am sure that is true for some, but for me it simply isn’t so. For in that scenario that train offers and end, and in that end is escape from it all and thus hope.
I (in the depths of my depression) on the other hand know no such hope and thus all I see (if indeed I see that light) is a light at the end of the tunnel which no matter what I do will fade into nothingness before I even reach it or it me.
So there is little to no hope and with little to no hope comes little to no motivation. As all hope fades from the horizon, so too does you reason for being let alone your reason for doing and with not doing comes simply being. Being still, being inactive, being… on the road to protracted suicide by inactivity?
Depression and it’s effect on self-esteem/self-worth…
The writer David D. Burns wrote…
Depression can seem worse than terminal cancer, because most cancer patients feel loved and they have hope and self-esteem.
“can seem worse than cancer” because “most cancer patients feel loved and they have hope and self-esteem.” Chilling words aren’t they? Perhaps most chilling because for so many of us that is the truth that is experienced.
Let us recap for a moment here…
In the depths of depression there is often no color, no tangible sensations or feelings or even experiences. The nothingness has begun to consume you and in so doing it sucks all motivation and hope.
And what fills that void where once the hope and motivation lived? Well that one is easy – The negativity Family.
The negativity family – Self-doubt and it’s older brother self-hatred.
Anxiety and her older sister fear.
Hopelessness without her now aborted child motivation.
Displacement and his twin sister misunderstanding.
Am I painting too graphic and too dismal a picture here? Too graphic, too dismal? I am certain that those who are reading this who have experienced the depths of such depression won’t think so.
Your very reason for living can be lost and along with it your ability to live, leaving you only with existence.
Normal everyday activities such as washing, bathing, brushing your hair, cleaning your teeth, washing and changing your clothes can slip into normal every other day activities and then every other week and so on.
Why bother? After all, ask yourself why you do these things now? To please the ones you love? Because it is ingrained in who you are as a person? Because (as L’Oréal commercially puts it) you’re worth it?
See that is the thing isn’t it. You have no color, no motivation, no self-worth or self-esteem.
You don’t think about ‘pleasing the one you love’ – because you either can’t think about them or are convinced they are going to dump you anyway or simply believe they are better off without you and wish they would dump you.
You don’t know ‘it is ingrained in who you are as a person’ – because you are no longer the person you used to be.
You don’t buy the ‘because you’re worth it’ argument – because in your eyes you simply aren’t worth it.
So your personal hygiene starts to slip.
Your diet and eating habits suffer. Eating only now and then because someone makes you or eating too much because at least it is something tangible to break the nothingness or because at least it provides some feeling or sensation or comfort.
Relationships start to stress and crumble. Either because; you are putting less into them, or because others who are trying to help are doing so in the wrong way or you are perceiving that help in the wrong way, or because you have convinced yourself they are better off without you, OR because you are (as they will sometimes tell you) ‘no longer the person I knew and loved.’ Well DUH I am no longer the person I knew and loved.
Social activates even work activities reduce and cease as; you can no longer cope with them, become too self-conscious as a result of your worsening personal hygiene, or because of your black moods, or because you are simply lost to those worlds now.
Financial burdens start to form as a result of lack of income due to lack of activity or poor spending as a result of trying to find some tangible instant gratification or some quick fix. This in turn can affect your diet and personal hygiene.
The self-perpetuating downward spiralling cycle…
Reduced personal hygiene, reduced eating or over eating or poor eating, reduced social contact, reduced income, reduced activity and mobility.
Can you imagine what this all does to your skin, your weight, your body shape?
Can you imagine what that in turn does to feed those negative self-deprecating thoughts?
Can you see how these all impact and play into each other? Can you see the self-perpetuating downward spiralling cycle that has begun and which is so very hard to break free from?
At the start of this piece I promised you the truth and the fact of the matter is what I have written thus far is the truth for too many of us with mental health and (specifically but not exclusively) depression related issues.
This is a picture taken just before my mental and physical breakdown back in 1999. It shows my wife and my son and how I looked back then.
Back then when I was that person. That person who was before the person that I am now.
That person before the depression took control and before that self-perpetuating downward spiralling cycle took hold.
When I started this article I promised you the truth and the truth is that I am no longer that person and will never be that person again.
My son – bless his heart is much older now and has (like my faith) been a God-send and a life saver for me.
My wife – bless her heart did so very much, put up with so very much but in the end I “was no longer the person she married or the person she loved” and so she (in many ways understandably) moved on to a new relationship.
When I started this piece I promised the truth and did so because…
over the pat view weeks (both in conversations that I have had and also in blogs that I have read) I have witnessed a great deal of pain, hurt, embarrassment and even shame expressed by fellow mental health bloggers over their self-image, body shapes, physical features, weight etc.
Take another look at that photo for me. That was who I was before the depression took control and the truth is that I will never be that person again.
Why? Because I have changed and because those things that I shared above I shared out of personal experience.
I promised you the truth – the naked truth – well here it is….
They are soul destroying and they drive us into retreat and isolation and seclusion and defeat.
But they are not who we really are and we are not just what we or anybody else sees on the outside.
No matter how unappealing, distasteful and even hideous our outsides may seem to us, (and trust me it pains me and embarrasses me for anyone to see me like this) we are worth loving and worth that fight for recovery!
In truth I have no idea if this post has made any sense what so ever. I have written and deleted, re-written and altered it, delayed it, and re-thought it and struggled over it more than any other post that I have written.
It is my sincerest desire that I have not offended anyone through this post or that last photo. But I took it and included it because I want so very much to encourage and to do so from a place of empathy and of saying…
“Look at me. If anyone knows those self-hating, self-deprecating thoughts of shame and embarrassment I do. But try to see beyond my obvious embarrassment and pain and shame and please try to understand that despite it all I still believe there is hope and that each and every one of us is worthy of that hope and worthy of fighting for that recovery.”
Kind Regards and God bless you.