My new book has launched! It’s called Climbing the Mountain – A Survivor’s Guide to Overcoming Depression. Here is the introduction to whet your appetite. FEEL FREE TO SHARE IT.
Living with depression is hard. There’s no sugar coating it. The heavy darkness of depression affects everything: your energy, your self-esteem, your will, your relationships, your work, your physical health, your personal life, your social life, your spiritual life, your sex life, your studies, your hobbies, and more.
Depression takes the joy out of life. It isolates you in a mental prison that seemingly nobody can penetrate. It skews your judgment and decision making. It strips away your enthusiasm for things you used to love. It distracts you from important tasks. It entices you to hide yourself away in misery. It encourages you to engage in destructive activities just to dull the pain for a moment, like drinking, taking drugs, smoking, vaping, gambling, reckless behaviour, and more. It pushes you seek out conflict and outrage, subconsciously acting out against who wronged you or what traumatized you and clinging to the hurt. It convinces you that you deserve pain or that you should harm yourself. It makes you feel like you are trapped in an endless, unbreakable cycle of all these things, leaving you feeling alone, helpless, hopeless, and enveloped in shame and exhaustion.
Depression is quite simply a mountain. A massive, heavy, foreboding mountain. It sits on top of you, pushing you into the ground, weighing down on your mental and bodily functioning. The words “depressed” and “depression” are literally correct.
As somebody who developed depression in 1982 and has lived with it since, I know its effects only too well.
Unfortunately, depression won’t go away by itself. We all wish it could.
How long and how badly you suffer from depression depends on what you do about it. That’s right, to get the measure of depression, you have to do something. Many things, in fact. The actions you take – and don’t take – determine your destiny with depression. Now, I know that taking action is probably the last thing you feel like doing. I get it. I’m so familiar with that feeling of all-consuming apathy; of being alone in an ocean of shame, thinking it’s a safe cocoon. Said Henry Rollins, “I’ll never forget how the depression and loneliness felt good and bad at the same time. Still does.” I know only too well what it feels like to stay shut away and not try, and to lash out at or push away anyone who tries to get me up and do something different. Taking action fosters brain activity and thought patterns that can feel unfamiliar and scary. But depression thrives on inaction. The combination of inaction and isolation provides the perfect conditions for depressive, diabolical thoughts to keep circulating and grow stronger. In short, staying at the bottom under the mountain’s enormous weight means letting depression rule you. You can’t even run away from it; the mountain stays with you, looming over you, wherever you go.
Climbing the mountain is the only way to tame it or conquer it. I call it a mountain because trying to tackle depression can feel like climbing Mount Everest. It’s a gigantic challenge that looks impossible. Even just thinking about climbing it is intimidating. But climb it you must if you truly want to get your depression under control and put it in perspective.
Climbing your Everest requires preparation, hard work, and help. That’s what this book is about: how to climb that mountain.
To climb your mountain of depression, you have to change. I don’t mean that you want change to come along and happen to you, or for you. You have to change you. You have to change what you do and how you think. That’s the challenge and the solution.
Looking online isn’t much help. Nobody ever said they got over depression thanks to the Internet. Sure, online you can find plenty of information about the effects of depression (which you probably know already) along with basic treatment ideas that provide some help but only scratch the surface. It’s much harder to find good material about how to actually make your way up the mountain. While research and understanding are good, more important is the action you take. And that action needs to take you to the most vulnerable place – the summit of the mountain – where you can begin to release what caused your depression in the first place.
Don’t look for shortcuts. There aren’t any. There is no helicopter that can fly you to the top of Mount Everest and deposit you on the summit. You must do the work to get there. You have to climb, one step at a time.
The good news is that it can be done and that experts can help. I believed for years that I couldn’t do it. My belief was wrong. I learned differently, thanks to so many helpful people and thanks to putting in a crap ton of effort.
You can do it – if you truly want to.
There is no prescribed timetable, so don’t be concerned if it takes you a long time. More than three decades went by before I even made a proper start, let alone progress. Simply make the choice to climb the mountain and not give up. Sometimes you will stumble. Sometimes you will face huge challenges. Sometimes storms will force you back and you’ll feel like you’re covering the same ground, even starting again. I hope through this book you can develop more resilience and keep climbing. I say “more” because you are already amazingly resilient. You have carried and dragged your mountain around with you for a long time and you’re still here trying to do something about it. That takes almost superhuman strength and perseverance. It proves that you have the strength to climb the mountain. Depression tries to convince you that you’re weak, all the while that you’re lugging its enormous weight around.
Listen to that small voice inside that says you can do it. The voice that says you can’t is your past holding you prisoner. Your past is not your future, unless you allow it to be. What happened before was a lesson, not a life sentence. You can do this. I used to think I couldn’t. And I was right – until I changed that thinking.
Do your best to get out of the cycle of saying how miserable you are. While talking about your feelings is important, you must also take action to change. That means you need to do both: discuss your feelings to lighten your load a little, then take accompanying action to get you moving up the mountain. In the end, your actions and behaviour will be what really count. As someone who excelled for nearly four decades at thinking how miserable I was, I can tell you that repeating over and over how awful things are only invites more misery. Trying to change depression is difficult, but it’s not as damaging and debilitating as enduring misery upon misery for years.
Release all your expectations and focus on taking a step up your mountain right now. Whatever that step is, concentrate on taking it, nothing else. It’s easy to become obsessed with an end result when what you need to do is focus on the process and the moment.
If you stumble or get distracted, shelve your guilt, no matter how hard it tries to drag you down. Would you put guilt on someone you care about who was in the same situation? Or would you give them love, encouragement, and a chance to start again? The moment of now is everlasting and provides you with a continuous, non-judgmental opportunity to pick yourself up, start fresh, and keep going. Use it.
At the end of your climb, a very different life awaits you. A life you hadn’t considered or thought possible. Go get it!
I chose the Mount Everest analogy for good reasons.
- Just figuring out how to begin tackling your depression feels like stepping out from under a gigantic shadow to find that you’re staring up at Mount Everest, the tallest, most intimidating mountain on the planet. It’s so daunting that it looks too hard, too much, impossible. Depression thrives on impossible. It loves nothing more than to convince you that things can’t be done and that nothing will ever get better. It will do everything in its power to keep you sedentary and stuck where you are.
- Why climb the mountain? Because it’s there! Like Everest, your depression is the largest, most dominating feature of your life’s landscape.
- You can climb it or you can be overshadowed and weighed down by it.
- You cannot make it go away, nor can you go around it. Either you make the choice to go over it or it will continue to stand in your way.
- You probably think you could never climb Mount Everest. It’s dangerous, difficult, and arduous. Even when you’re close to the summit, it can still seem so far. But many people have climbed Everest and many people have overcome depression. Why not you? It’s not impossible. It can be done.
- Climbing Mount Everest requires training, a team, a guide, and a support system. So does tackling depression.
- There are thousands of steps to take, both up and down that mountain. Sometimes you will progress slowly and other times quickly. Sometimes you will make progress and other times you will encounter delays, setbacks, and failures. You succeed by taking one step at a time. Don’t look at the huge mountain, focus on the next step, and keep going.
- Climbing Everest involves an unknown and unseeable goal. You’re chasing a feeling/reality you’ve never known. You cannot imagine the greatness that might lie ahead.
- Successfully climbing will be your most transformational achievement. Those who have climbed Everest will never see the world the way they used to. They cannot go back to their old ways.
- You’re not alone. Many others are climbing at the same time as you. Support each other, learn from each other. Accept the support and advice of others because it could be invaluable.
- Climbing the mountain doesn’t make it disappear. Instead, you tame it. You see it differently. It no longer casts a spell over you.
There are many other similarities to Everest that you’ll see through this book.