Why Being in a Relationship Won’t Cure Your Depression (Like I Once Thought)
No-one told me that relationships, well, any relationship; friendship or other was hard work maintaining. It’s something I had to work long and hard at, with someone that was willing to wait on me to catch up with them. Not easy to find in a world that constantly tells me that I’m broken and need to be fixed. I expect there are many, many others that feel the same. Not easy if you’re a happy person, never mind someone that’s prone to depression and a lifetime of crucifying yourself for small things.
For me, the golden goose of getting out of this mindset was to get myself a partner. You see, having a life partner was the be all and end all of my feeling better. She would look after me and make sure that all my needs were addressed and well, I’d sit back and relax and enjoy being not depressed anymore. Again, like usual, I was setting myself impossible targets, and when the relationship came to an end, I would metaphorically sacrifice myself on the alter of the sadness gods. I was a professional at self-crucifying. Think of anything bad, and I can bet you I’d find a way of attributing this to myself. I was a professional fall guy, for myself.
I didn’t understand that I was only hurting myself by continuing this mindset. Always searching for that, “perfect partner” and thinking that the grass was always going to be greener on the other side. I was one of those guys that typically told himself that “she would be perfect” when I seen a woman. I would shoot her up high on a mount-Everest-type pedestal, so much so that even her farts smelled of roses. And there would be ambling down at ground level, scrabbling for the crumbs she was willing to give me.
It’s not healthy, and not attractive, and part of the reason I can count on one hand how many women I’ve dated in my life, but more on that later. Let’s talk about depression.
I always say to help yourself, you need to work on yourself. Being in or out of a relationship has minimal relevancy when it comes to matters of the mind.
Okay. So for clarity in this article I’ll admit that for the most part of my entire life I have been clinically depressed. There have been varying degrees of my depression of course; as a young adult there was a burning sensation that something in my life was missing, a strong father figure, a place to call home, and the feeling that no matter what — someone had my back. Then in later adulthood going into my twenties there was always that burning desire to have a family, someone to love me, and a place to call home. It was always something that I felt was missing in my life. I could only describe it as a black empty hole in my stomach, something that was always there but I could never quite put my finger on it.
Depression is a killer. Let’s not talk about this lightly because I’ve seen stronger men than me be taken by the harshness that is the depressive void. One young man when I was in my teens, I remember thinking he was hard as nails, having watching him fight on more than several occasions. I remember speaking to him a few days before he killed himself. He seemed happy and full of life, and then, he was no more. I never knew what it was that tipped him over the edge, but we all knew he was depressed.
Depression chips away at us. Every day. Telling us that we aren’t worthy, that we’ll never be any better than the rubbish that is our lives now. It tells us we can’t do things, it tells us we can’t achieve what we’ve always wanted to achieve. It tells us that no-one will love us. Why would they anyway? We’ll only be a burden on them. Depression is like an enveloping sadness infecting every area and every layer of our lives. If we think about something, you’ll be sure that it’ll be tainted with the foul stench of inadequacy. We’ll never be good enough.
We get infected with phrases like,
“If only she wouldn’t talk to me like that then my life would be better.”
“If only I was able to work faster then I’d be able to get my work done.”
“If only I wasn’t so worthless then perhaps I would get the girlfriend I always wanted.”
Depression finds a way of setting ourselves impossible targets and then body-slamming us to the floor when we don’t meet them. Why would we? We were worthless anyway. I bet our friends could have done that with one eye tied behind their back. Damn, we’re so useless.
People pleasing is another form of depression — because why would anyone want to place my needs in front of another person’s? I am not as important as them. It’s more important for the other persons needs to be replenished before I even think about addressing mine, and my needs are sad and pathetic anyway. I mean why would I even need those addressed? God I am pathetic.
Yet the biggest reprieve from depression was when I began to look into the history of my life, what happened to me as a child, the life I led, the decisions I made, and the person I had become as a result of it. And ultimately not an easy thing to do, but hear me out. I brought in change to my life. Change is hard. It’s not easy.
There are many core elements to depression that people disregard which form a huge role in the way our lives play out in society, and well, I’m going to talk about them. How they effected me and how I began changing the outcomes of my life.
The sense of home.
We need to have something to call ours. Our territory.
We need to feel at home. Have our own territory. We aren’t as sophisticated as you may think. Although we’ve mastered medicine, space, technology and a wide array of things, we are still an outdated species living in a modern world. We are still at the core, running around in our packs, working through life. Humans are a communal tribe — and the default of that is family home.
Some people don’t have a great sense of feeling at home. Like me, for example. I spent my youth hopping from place to place, town to town looking for somewhere to call home as I followed my mother. From Russia, to Kirkcaldy, to Leven, to Thornton, the list as a young boy is endless. I grew up feeling never being truly settled. Never truly feeling comfortable in the place I was living, and that set the premise of never truly feeling tied to one place in my adulthood, forever moving when things got tough.
I’ve learned to set roots now. How staying in one place is beneficial, and how familiarity helps. If I settle in one place then I try and do it for a long time. The last house I lived in was for nine years, and we only moved because our landlords wanted the house back. Settling is important.
The Sense of Belonging
When we DID finally settle, and I whipped up some awesome friends that I still have today, there was always this missing feeling that I could never rely on my parents. And that never being able to rely on my parents reflected onto my adult life with my disenfranchised sense of self. If you can’t trust anyone in childhood, then that will go forward into adulthood. Trust in others comes from learning to trust yourself.
If you’ve ever been to a counselling appointment in your life then you will remember the therapist asking if you have a support network. Support networks are basically what do you do when you need to ask someone for help? Who do you turn to first? People need this. Sorely. This is why you see people with die hard mentalities to some groups, be it football, or Politics, or whatever, and it’s because their familial structure doesn’t give them the support they need. I’m talking die hard here, not just liking, or frequenting usually. The sense of actually belonging to something.
I’ve only began feeling as if I belonged somewhere since recently. I could never trust my dad with anything, not even a simple secret. Anything I told him was always minimized to the point that what I was worrying about was stupid. My problems were stupid, therefor I was stupid.
Now? I have family that I can always rely on no matter what, and a family unit that will bend over backwards to make sure that I’m always in the right frame of mind. No problem great or small, it’s always given the thought that it should. Because I have been shown this — I can now do this for my direct family.
The nagging self doubt
Are you one of those people that constantly second guesses themselves?
Should I do that? What if I can’t do it? I’ll never be able to do that
That was me. I would always sit back and over evaluate something, and eventually never pluck up the courage to do it. It’s why I always wanted to achieve big things, and always dreamed of achieving greatness but never set about doing it. I crucified myself for being a failure. Essentially I was dreaming of winning the lottery but never buying a ticket to play.
I learned through therapy that this was my dads influence. My mother had always told me that I could be anything that I wanted to, and partly why I have the confidence to do so now, but every time I tried to do anything worthwhile my dad would shut it down. I always wanted to be a writer, even before I knew what I wanted to do. Once I showed my dad my writing and he ripped it up, telling me that I needed to get a real job and stop fantasizing. He called my work immature, and yet forgot that it was because I WAS immature. I was only fourteen years old.
It wasn’t only my writing though.
“She’s too good for you.”
“You’ll never manage that.”
“Hahaha, you can’t do that. Stop trying”
“You’re the milkman’s son. You’re no son of mine”
Words said to us in our childhood play a detrimental part of how we are as adults, and the people that we surround ourselves with.
I noticed that I liked to surround myself in people that were really happy with the status quo. A lot of my friend circles liked the fact that I was tough on myself and couldn’t see the positive side of myself. I had found myself in a lot of toxic friendships because of what I went through with my father — in essence I sought out people that were quick to judge and didn’t give out many compliments. This was my upbringing, so in my head it was true to life. We seek out friendships and partners that are “familiar.”
It all changed when I decided I was better than this. I decided to keep my positive friends and slowly faded out the friends that weren’t too keen on the idea of me rising up in the good feelings ladder. After a while my life became so prominent with empowering and awesome friends that I began to seek out and encourage mutual awesome friendships. Through their awesomeness I began to learn to be nurturing, inspiring and kind to myself and others. I always root for my friends, even when it’s being something I could never hope to achieve. It’s never about me anymore. It’s always about their successes.
The complete contempt for all that is myself
It’s a hard-borne fact that I didn’t like myself. In fact, I hated myself. I didn’t want to be me. All of my friends and family had better lives, why couldn’t I be them instead? Why did I have to live my crap life? I just wanted to find a hole and crawl into it.
It may come as no surprise that many people that suffer from depression really don’t like themselves, or the people that they have become. Because of this they struggle with personal boundaries and the self respect that come with building those. Take me for example, you could walk right over me if you knew how to push the right buttons, and many people did. Many people took me for all that I had out of my gut felt need to be liked and wanted by someone.
From my own personal experience I had never built any personal boundaries around myself because these had been extremely violated as a child. I really didn’t know what was acceptable and what wasn’t, apart from that which I learned through trial and error out in the real world. But I had never really explored what it meant to be me. What I deemed acceptable and what I didn’t. No-one, and I mean literally no-one had actually explored me as a young man and asked me anything like — “what do you think about that Raymond?”
I was never given any chances to reflect as a child. What did I think? How did it make me feel? What are my thoughts on the situation? But I’m not alone in this because I think a lot of us were brought up in the same situation — which is why we have a plethora of adults still trying to figure out what they want in life, and an even larger amount of children growing up unsure what they want to do, or what they want from life. See the cycle?
So you see, how could I have any healthy boundaries if I didn’t even know where I began and where I ended? I had never explored myself enough to understand who I was and what I would deem acceptable or not, bar of course the standard societal discrepancies. And thus people just used and abused me, and then tossed me aside when they were done. I was fair game.
And you see, without healthy boundaries then there’s no self-respect. Without self-respect, then there’s no self-confidence. I spent an eternity of being a human chameleon, one that adopts other popular people’s stances to reflect my own in a desperate plea to get other people to like me. Why? Because I didn’t think me, on my own, was worth liking.
The “Why bother?” syndrome
Then it just get’s to the point of, “Why bother?” right? Why bother when nothing works, and all that I try ends up in failure, and everything I do turns to sh*t. I’m about as useful as a bag of dicks.
But that’s the clincher. The depressed mind tricked me into thinking I’ll never get anywhere. The depressed mind doesn’t like outside of the comfort zone. The depressed mind will convince me to staying inside my neat little box of familiarity because the depressed mind doesn’t like anything new. I spent an entire lifetime doing only what I knew.
“Damn Raymond, you moved an entire country — that’s new.”
But it wasn’t. Think Russia. Think all the other little places I moved to as a child. I lived in Russia for five years. Moving is familiar to me, staying is not. I spent an entire childhood (and adulthood) moving.
*Spoiler alert* The magic happens outside of the comfort zone.
By god it does. It was only when I went against the grain that any sort of traction began to happen. I got up when I cried to go back to my bed. I applied for jobs that I laughed at myself for applying for them, and got them! I pushed on at work when I screamed holy hell to stop. And I challenged myself in some of the most mentally challenging situations I’d ever found myself in.
Don’t ever think depression is something you can easily challenge. It will whisper sweet nothings in your ear until you’re screaming to submit.
And when you try and fail? Get the hell back on your horse and try again.
Do you think Bill Gates launched an international empire on his first try? Google at the very beginning were a laughed at search engine not taken seriously.
You have to be strong.
You have to be committed.
The sense of not achieving
As I said earlier I had dreams, big damn dreams, but I never bought a ticket to play the game.
How would I ever be able to achieve? Having no sense of home or belonging, the nagging self doubt coupled with complete contempt for all that was me, and the why bother syndrome. With all of that piled on top of my shoulders how the hell could I ever compete with anyone in this world? The odds were so stacked up against me it was unreal. I had no chance. How the hell could I ever advance?
I achieved a lot as a kid. Maybe some of you have read before that I had managed to get into the Scotland Under 14’s International Golf Team? I wear it with a badge of honour now, but back as a teenager there was a sense of shame to it for me. That I had messed up and didn’t make the cut. I didn’t take failure well back then. But the mere fact that I had beaten thousands of other kids to get as far as I did was something to be proud of.
That all ended when I hit the drink and drugs. And was a large part of my life through my late teens and early twenties. I only cared about where my next beer was coming from, or how I’d finance my next joint. A life of slavery to alcohol and drugs can have the mind focused elsewhere, when it should have been doing what it was made to do — learn.
It started off small at first. About the six months of sobriety mark I sorely realised that I had missed learning over the last 11 years. I hated it in fact.
So I picked up a book. And another, and then another.
After enough time had gone by I had resat my college education, taken myself off to university and was by now thoroughly enjoying my re-education. Education should be fun, especially when I get the choice to choose which subject(s) I take.
Where am I Now?
Well, I’m happy now, but I’m thoroughly aware that depression can happen again at any time. I understand that sometimes we just can’t control what happens to us in life and we have to deal with the fallout — for better, or for worse. But I’d hope that I’m self aware enough to alleviate the symptoms somewhat, or know where to go for advice if it ever happens to me again.
Remember, it’s easy for me to write, harder for you to live through it
It’s easy for me to write a 3000+ word article on depression because I’ve been through it before. But I’m not suffering from it currently, and I can’t even pretend to relate right now, so take what I say for entertainment (or self soothing) purposes only. And if I’ve hit the right spot (which I hope it does) then I’m glad this has helped, if only a little!
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