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Withdrawing into an inner darkness … that is depression

Call it a product of modernity if you will, but it is not. Give it whatever name you desire. It has, to my way of thinking, been with us for as long as our capacity to think advanced beyond the primitive.

The news last week of the death of former St Kilda champion Danny Frawley is yet another in a long list of sports people and others who have suffered from this terrible affliction we call depression.

The fact that (as disclosed by his family) he believed he had beaten the beast of darkness, and stopped taking his medication made his death all the more sad.

Three doors up from a previous address where I resided there lived a young family with two teenage boys. Everything about them appeared normal.

The eldest boy played Under 16 Aussie Rules football with one of the local junior teams. As it goes, it was the same club as that of my grandsons.

At training I would often compliment him on his prodigious talent. “Ya reckon,” would be the response of the typical teenage kid with an exceptional ability.

Often I would say hello as he walked past on his way home from high school. He readily engaged in conversation … especially if it were about the football.

He seemed as content as the average teenage boy. I later learned that being alone in the bush, hunting and fishing, was what he enjoyed most. It was in this environment that he took his own life. He was found at his campsite with a self-inflicted bullet wound to the head.

The deepness of his depression had won the day.

The “RUOK?” day passed us by last week and since the suicide of my young neighbour I have often asked myself what if l had asked the lad that very question.

Or indeed what if someone had asked me at the lowest point of my own depression.

Unlike Danny Frawley, l continue to take my medication in the knowledge that to do otherwise is to invite the dreaded darkness back into my life and l never want that again.

In one of my latter sessions with my psychologist I mentioned how oblivious people can be to one’s depression even those you know and love.

In my experience I went from day to day, appearing to function normally without emitting any clues, or when I did either intentionally or unintentionally, people responded with the usual just “just get over it” or even when I attempt to explain, they without any understanding, accused me of seeking pity.

In my case I sought the sanctity of that which I thought I enjoyed most, writing everyday for The AIMN and acted out my everyday life life as best I could.

The catalyst for my recovery came with an innocent question to my doctor from which resulted a diagnosis of depression. I was refereed to a psychologist, placed on medication, and the began the long road toward the light.

I was never suicidal. I just wanted some understanding of that which I didn’t comprehend myself.

I found out that depression is common in men of my vintage, however every case is different. In my psychologist I found a women of great understanding who gave me back – through her treatment – many things I thought I had lost.

In medication I found an acceptance of drugs I would once, in a typical manly way, have rejected.

In meditation I found the calmness and tranquillity I longed for. The capacity to overcome mental and physical pain.

In my recovery I rediscovered the positive empathetic encouraging person I once was. One so willing to pass on the experiences of a life well-lived.

My thought for the day

Life is an experience of random often unidentifiable patterns and indiscriminate consequences that don’t always have order nor require explanation. The more we relate to others the more we get to know ourselves.

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9 comments

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  1. Viki Hannah

    Thank you for sharing this.
    Every word resonated ;

  2. Keith Davis

    Good on you John. It is invaluable (at least in my eyes) when people open up and truly heart-express. Such a thing is of real assistance to others.

    And … ah yes … there is much joy in writing for AIMN.

  3. wam

    Depression seems such an inadequate word to cover such a vast range of happenings.
    Danny Frawley’s funeral showed how difficult it is to understand the what, how, and why being depressed becomes depression.
    Chemical disorders in the brain are but partially understood.
    I read 1 child in 7 has been affected by such mental disorders and there are few things sadder than stats like that.
    ‘Beyond blue’ is an excellent image and caring for others is a requirement to life.

  4. Kaye Lee

    I think we all suffer from depression at times in our lives but for some the battle is truly debilitating.

    New mothers lives change dramatically and forever. They suffer the most outrageous hormonal changes with little sleep as they try to adjust to being completely responsible for another human being on top of everything else they must continue to see to.

    Kids suffer from self-doubt – about their changing bodies, their abilities, their friendships and the quixotic expectations of youth. A cruel word from a friend, missing out on team selection, not being invited to a party, stressing about exams, all can feel devastating.

    We find ourselves unexpectedly unemployed.

    We lose people we love but are expected to carry on.

    We make poor decisions and cannot stop thinking what if I hadn’t…..

    We blame ourselves for things over which we had little control. We struggle to meet others’ expectations.

    Shit happens, people let you down, and there are times when the best we can do is get through another day.

    It takes a conscious effort to forgive yourself for not being perfect – no-one is. We all make mistakes. We must find the strength to know our own worth even whilst forgiving ourselves our failings, find the strength of forgiveness of others, and allow ourselves the joy of learning even if it comes from making mistakes.

    We must try to look out over the edge of the pit to include others in our lives.

    We need to hold each other up.

    And I agree that the AIMN family helps to remind us that there are many good people who care about making the world a better place.

    You should be proud of yourself John. You make a difference.

  5. Karen Joyce

    Impressive John.
    Thank you for the insights.
    Tentatively, but more often and with growing resolve, our community is making progress with this necessary discussion.
    The realistic support we need is not often happening yet.
    You have in many ways, with your writing, helped to increase the rate at which things will move in a life affirming direction.

  6. Rossleigh

    “Lost Connections” by Johan Hari is definitely worth a read.

  7. Keitha Granville

    Thanks for sharing, I know that would have been hard. Maybe even impossible at some point , and I am certain it seems like that for many under the cloud. Often when asked R U OK they will reply, I’m fine. Where do you go from there?

    I am so glad you have contributed to AIMN, i always find your work interesting, stimulating and to the point.

    May your journey continue upwards.

  8. John Lord

    Thanks for all your comments and thanks Rossleigh for the recommendation.

  9. Winifred Jeavons

    I am glad you found your answer. I like to read your articles . In my experience , in giving we receive. And you give!

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