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The arrival of this post has been delayed by technology on one hand and caution on the other. First, my technological difficulties – the gremlins struck this week and disabled both my laptop and phone as well as killing my headphones. I won’t bother rant about the inconvenience and how we are all now so dependent on our phones, computers, social media etc. I’m not ranting because I don’t really believe the loss of these tools and toys is unsurvivable. Look at me, I’m still here, more or less intact. Yes, there was frustration and exasperation and the expletive quotient in my vicinity went way beyond tipping point. I lost time doing things I would rather not be doing. Other items on my list went neglected and minor consequences ensued. But ultimately I arrived in the future in much the same condition as I was when my tech bubble burst. Fine.

The other reason I was hesitating to post was caution. Before I started this blog a couple of months ago I thought long and hard about its purpose. What exactly was I trying to achieve? Was what I had to say any more deserving of a claim in cyberspace than the output of anybody else? My perception was, and continues to be, that the blogosphere is a morass of unquantifiable variety and standard and that my contribution would be nothing more than another grain of sand on the beach if you’ll forgive my analogy jumping quickly from the swamp to the seaside. How would I present myself in this universe of in-distinction? I came to the conclusion that the web is just another meeting place, another stepping off point. How I aspire to conduct myself in the real world can also be my guideline for the virtual domain. I realise that is very likely the opposite rationale for a lot of people who represent themselves online but there you go, perhaps I am not very imaginative.

I decided I would listen to my gut and write about the substance of survival. I would attempt to discuss the minutiae of the everyday internal and external struggle. In an honest way. Not preachy or sanctimonious but straight. When getting into this area of personal existentialism I talk often of ‘straight lines’ and ‘clean lines’ and ‘clean channels’. It’s funny for such a messy area I like to use language that might be better used in geometry, architecture and engineering. I don’t have any problem bandying about terms relating to energy and feelings and sensitivity. Embraced wholeheartedly are the subtleties and nuances and complexities of self-doubt and wonder.  So I was happy as I set out on my new journey but knew that at some point I would have to take the plunge and write specifically about my own experience and not hide behind my particular brand of generic wisdoms and insights. Which brings me back to the aforementioned caution.

I have been cautious about opening the following door because once opened, it is difficult to ‘un-open’. I am about to invite the application of certain labels and fixed ideas, things that are anathema to me. They are limiting and reductive and discourage engagement. I may regret this tomorrow or in a week or even next year but I have been trying more and more to live for now and to respond to the moment. So I will just come out and say it.

I have, I get, I suffer from, depression.

I have done since I was a boy. Red rages and black moods would hijack my otherwise quite normal existence. (I feel compelled to interject immediately and ask what is a normal existence and to clarify that I understand there is a very large difference between the description I just used and the unconscious normalising that all children do.) My episodes built in seriousness as I got older but they somehow remained very private and it took me until I was well into my twenties before I was convinced by someone very important to me to seek help. Without that help it is arguable I wouldn’t be here today.  I am not trying to be melodramatic, to me it is something that is self-evident. If I hadn’t learned how to cope with my depression I could very easily be dead.

That is quite a thing to see myself write because I am much more used to letting myself off the hook when I discuss being depressed and will slip into euphemistic expressions like ‘sometimes I get very low’ and ‘I know what it’s like to feel down/blue/flat’ or ‘I have experience of bottoming out’. Euphemisms can be funny in an amusing, postmodern way but they are fundamentally a chickening out of dealing with reality and putting things in starker, less prettified language. Dealing with depression in the moment is a miserable, demoralising, enervating trial of self-hatred and self-administered poison. It is a withdrawal from everything that is life. It is a retreat from colour, light and vitality into a deadened hell of self-constructed contempt. Into your cave you bring contempt for self, for ambition and aspiration, contempt for every positive thought you’ve ever had, contempt for every dream you’ve had the audacity to entertain.

And as you pull away from the light you move ever closer to the dark. There is an external shutting down, a ‘switch off’ that renders you almost catatonic, a state that belies the intense internal activity that has consumed you. At its most vicious depression is an incessant flirtation with death. This is not to be confused with self-pity. It’s a much more aggressive energy than that. It is the firm belief that your life is worthless. The fear or inability to act on the death desire only compounds the self-loathing. When the depression eventually lifts the initial feeling is one not of euphoria but far more mundane, merely quiet relief sullied with foreboding. It gradually improves and then, in my case anyway, I come out of the dark, I am ‘normal’ again. Happy, content, good energy, sociable, focused, ready for action. It’s quite the transition and I am always grateful for my restoration.

I had an episode two weeks ago and I managed to get myself out the door and do the things I normally do. I had to put myself in a social, recreational setting and participate. I did so. That was day one. On day two my reserves weren’t as resilient but I still managed to read and to write a little. I asked myself if I could exchange mundanity for serenity. If that episode had struck eleven or twelve years ago I would have hidden myself away and tried to punch my own lights out. I would have fully succumbed to the dread and the violence of the attack. Riddled with questions of self-doubt, my only answers would have been ones of admonishment and judgement. So, in a very significant way I feel like I have won. I don’t expect ever to not suffer from depression but I seem to have found a way to cope. It’s horrible when it happens and I hate the way it makes me feel but I recognise I am able to deal with it with minimal collateral damage. In ways it would be easier not to cope and to give in to the rage and the darkness but I will continue to play the waiting game and sit it out until the next one comes along.

This is not a bid for pity or an online cry for help. I am comfortable with my situation and have no problem staring it in the face. As I said in an earlier post, no one is happy all the time. We are complex, messy beings and should resist Globalisation’s imperative to reduce us all to one-dimensional consumers. I have shared this because I believe we all have our demons. Sadly some of us are at times more vulnerable and susceptible than others and the demons find it easier to get a purchase on our fragile souls. I am writing not to say I have vanquished those demons but rather to say this is part of my story, I know what it is to feel broken. I also know what it is to feel restored.

I don’t always like the dark but I am not afraid of it, it exists for real reasons and there is always, always an opportunity to come out of it.

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27 thoughts on “Coming out of the dark

  1. Good on you for publishing that piece, Dara. A measure of your fortitude. You’re absolutely right – we all have our demons, but I’m not sure how many of us would have the wherewithal to address in a forum like this. You always get me thinking, reflecting. Keep up the good work.

  2. Well done Dara. It’s a much more common illness/condition than people let on. Wishing you the very best from Budapest.

    • Great to hear to hear from you Declan! Hope all is well in your part of the Old World and the creative juices are flowing fast and furiously. Thanks for your thought, I really appreciate it.

  3. Hey there Dara,
    You are so brave to come forth with that story but I believe you have the fortitude to conquer the demon and I can appreciate how you feel to some degree. Thanks for being so real and the beautiful person that you are. xx

  4. Ah thanks Marts, that’s a lovely response. I’m so used to it that I forget the power it has when revealed for the first time. Stay cool! xx

    • Nice one Steve, glad it spoke to you. I just don’t think it’s fair for me to be preaching me hole off without admitting to my own frailties. Hope life is treating you well. Say hi to me auld mates across the road. ; )

  5. Hey Dara, very inspiring and helpful, to all I’m sure. It’s so important that people hear that they’re not the only ones feeling the way they do. It’s those who voice those feelings that bring us all forward.
    Keep her light

  6. Thank you Dara that was enlightening. I once heard Charlotte Rampling say that depression is an illness of the spirit.

  7. Hey Dara,
    You provide a vivid account of the black depths of depression. I get very down but not to the point where I’m disabled so I can only imagine how terrible it must get. Some life force emerges to drive me back again toward the light; or, to change the metaphor, the ascent follows the descent with some sort of realisation while I’m down that the very thing that pulled down was not altogether black or without something in it that’s affirmative. ‘No defeat is made up entirely of defeat’ William Carlos Williams once wrote or words to that effect, ‘for the spaces it opens/ are always unsuspected…’ One other thing that helps me is the Buddhist’s notion that the ‘self’ is a concept/idea/notion and not real. “No self, no problem’ (Zen Master). I find relief in this and in R.D.Laingh’s words, “the self is the story we tell ourselves of who we are”. This acts as a prompt or needle to burst the bubble, the language bubble in my head, that is causing the “depression”. I know all this can sound like nonsense, especially when you’re in the downward spiral, but it helps me and sometimes I burst the bubble quickly. Perhaps there is nothing you can really do and all efforts to control it are useless. We humans think we can control everything! At times I’ve been saved not because “I” deserve it but because of something I call grace. I think my depressions arise out of my inability to let go of outcomes, trying to control other complex body-mind organisms from afar at times and always ending up as you might expect, disappointed! Anyway, I read your blog on a smart phone during a power cut and found it very interesting seeing I was so down at the time myself.
    Best wishes,
    Trevor

    • Thanks Trevor for your committed reply! That’s a lovely quote from Carlos Williams and a sentiment I wholeheartedly embrace.

      Surely we’re all made up of shadow and light – that’s why there are so many grey areas to negotiate!

      See you soon and thanks again for the extent of your engagement.

  8. Hi Dara,
    I realised i needed help last september, i got some, probably not enough!! But its a mountain to climb, conditions are not perfect… and when they seem perfect…. thats when i wait, empty, inviting the wave of doom to occupy the space. But mostly im trying to acknowledge every “normal” day. Keep up the good work. xx

    • Thanks Jenny, I hope you’ve found some touchstones to make the path a little easier. I mainly try and make choices that keep me moving towards positivity. Or at the very least, choices that don’t lead to the opposite.

      Take care,

      D.

  9. Hi Dara, first of all thank you so much for the fortitude and courage it must have taken you to write this post. I have also suffer(ed) from depression and read your words with a very disconcerting mixture of horror and relief, both I think from hearing someone else describe their personal experience with it in any detail for the first time.

    Like you, and I suspect almost anyone who has had to go through this ordeal, I haven’t quite vanquished my demons. But after almost losing and driving away virtually everything and -more importantly- everyone I cared about, and perhaps almost my life; with some help I have made some big changes that involved leaps of faith I never thought I could take. And for the most part I am much happier now and so I guess I also know what it feels like to be restored.

    However I think a big part of this involved my attempts to stifle any retrospection of what I went through in fear of more pain, which in turn has only fanned the flames of anxiety, dread and frustration that still remain constantly flickering in the back of my mind.

    With that being said and finally reaching my point, after being intensely disturbed by what you have written and forced to confront everything I’ve tried to bottle up you have actually helped me (in your words) move one fairly big step further away from the darkness and one step closer to vanquishing this demon. So again, and really, thank you for sharing something so personal. Please know that you have significantly helped at least one struggling ‘young and impressionable’ person with this post, and hopefully one day I’ll muster up the courage to have a conversation about this with you in person. See you around!

    p.s. Sorry about the long comment!

    • Don’t apologise for such a heartfelt response. I’m delighted what I wrote has resonated with you to such an extent. It’s an ongoing journey but all you can do is try to engage honestly and compassionately with yourself – forgive yourself what you see as your failings.

      Good luck, don’t lose faith!

  10. Brave of you to write this and great you are coping seemingly better than ever with the dark demon – depression.
    I suffered too, for well over a decade with depression. Huge, horrible, hidings away. Huge horrible wastes of time, doing little more than having Radio 4 playing away near the bed for company. Most of the time I wasn’t listening. (Especially when Melvin Bragg starts getting all academic on a thursday morning!)
    Hopefully though, I am free of all that now. Reading Eckhart Tolle and the power of living in the now helpeda lot. To start to see the beauty that was all around me in each moment if I wanted it, to realise that really nothing need be boring, To observe. We actors like observing. The stand – up comedian in me loves observing. To see the limitless possibility in life. To understand the need to work on losing your ego, (though this work will take a while mind!) because it had such a power over me.
    To finally not let the ego’s endless repetitive negative thoughts go round in a loop playing in the head. Silly boy, what time I’ve wasted.
    Somehow, these days I am endlessly postive. It’s like a little miracle. Fingers crossed it continues.
    All power to you Dara! Onwards and upwards!

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  12. Dara – very brave & open of you to write this piece & what a very well written piece it is (as usual). I am well aware that you have written other pieces since & that I am quite late commenting on this one.
    My ‘lateness’ was a deliberate choice; you posted, I read, your words reached me & I made a decision to seek help. As I have made many commitments over the years & not followed through with action, I promised to myself not to comment until I had taken the first steps, which I have now done.
    Your honesty in admitting the reality behind the euphemisms has inspired me finally to face myself & engage the help of a professional. (And you thought waiting until your late twenties was bad!!!)
    I would like to thank you & also to let you know that I miss your company, but am enjoying your blog very much, as a substitute!
    Many thanks.
    Kevin.

  13. It is like nothing else. Not sure if you read the amazing blog Hyperbole and a Half? If not, you must read her own recent funny/heartbreaking descriptions of depression — to which 3,000_ readers responded.

    As someone who suffered a brief depression in the summer of 1995, I remember it very, very well. You don’t even know what to do with your face and you don’t even care. It is not “feeling sad”. It is a very specific thing. I wish you luck with this.

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