Depression, a term coined by Adolf Meyer, has been considered an inadequate name.
William Styron in his account of his depression, Darkness Visible, wrote: “’Melancholia’ would still be far more apt and evocative a word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a bland formality lacking any magisterial presence.”
American author Susan Sontag was more succinct: “Depression is melancholy minus its charms…”
Churchill named his own depression – black dog. He was not the first or last to use black dog to describe depression. While the term has survived Churchill, its origins remain obscured in the history of the English language.
Churchill’s daughter, Lady Soames, said of her father’s depression: “A lot has been made of the depressive side of his character by psychiatrists who were never in the same room with him. He himself talks of his black dog and he did have times of great depression, but marriage to my mother very largely kennelled the black dog.”
Whatever our personal opinion may be on Churchill’s achievements, he certainly did achieve, even though chronically haunted by his black dog.
I say: “We need to celebrate how well depressives do function, and do achieve.”
I have worked as a clinical hypnotherapist and licensed psychotherapist for many years with young people suffering with depression. I have total respect for their inner strengths to cope. The psychological and emotional ‘worlds’ of depression which they have, not out of any conscious choice, entered, do not relate in anyway to the ‘worlds’ of day to day life. And so it takes massive energy for the sufferer to even attempt to relate to life.
Depression is often then compounded with anxiety, such as shame, fear of the weakness to take charge, (“Pull your self up with your boot laces!” Which actually defies physics, we can’t!) guilt about having mental illness and maybe guilt about how the illness affects others; family and friends.
We know the unbearable tragic statistics: around one million people in the world commit suicide a year; one in five of us will suffer a mental illness.
Medication helps; it helps to get a flow of energy, specifically Serotonin. But, it does not cure. For thirty years my focus has been on cure rather than management or control.
As Churchill’s daughter said; “… marriage to my mother very largely kennelled the black dog”. However the black dog is still looming a dark presence in the back yard kennel!
How can we bring a cure?
As I truly do not want to lose you here, I repeat, I have total respect for the suffering of depression. I too suffered, in the early 1980’s; my life was not worth living.
I had a brilliant therapist, I’ve had no recurrence, I have had challenges, sadness and loss, and I’ve discovered solutions to challenges, and I’ve grieved and moved on.
The next part of my discussion with you is largely based on my therapist’s well acclaimed work plus my experience and study:
Anxiety and depression can become compounded into an undifferentiated mass of psychological and emotional information, leading us to experience the unsolvable horrific cycle of: “One damned thing after another….”
My work differentiates out the anxiety, and brings resolution to the fears and shame; we can then give full attention to the depression.
Depression will have its antecedents in our early formative years, learnt beliefs, trauma or crisis. We may or may not know what triggers the depression in our teens or young adult life. It’s not always necessary to know or have the insights about what triggered it.
In our early years we unconsciously, as a psychological protective mechanism freeze moments in time, the unconscious stops time, right on the edge of trauma or crisis in an attempt to stop the next moments becoming worse: I am age 5, this important adult is yelling at me….I unconsciously stop time whilst they are yelling in case they start beating me……
These frozen traumatic moments of ‘the yelling’ play on and on deep within our mind for a year or twenty years until something in our environment triggers the feelings of fear, sadness, helplessness, not necessarily the memories of a yelling adult.
We may not even have noticed the trigger: the newspaper seller on the street had the same tone and delivery of voice as the yelling adult…..
We walked on by and suddenly we felt low or fearful.
Sometimes we do know the trigger: we had a huge loss, we felt abandoned. These trigger encounters will connect deeply and significantly with our younger experience: The yelling adult abandoned us as ‘worthless’, we felt the loss of their understanding love. The ‘yelling’ adult later, even minutes later, apologised, and told us they were having a bad day. But, the part of us frozen in time never grew on in time and deeply continues to feel abandoned and lost.
My work safely enters these frozen moments in time and brings resolution to the experiences enabling time to move on.
I will give you some clear examples of how this works in my next discussion with you.
Thank you for listening.