Saturday, April 23, 2016

Depression Survival: Love Thyself

Depression Survival: Love Thyself

“The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.”
Mark Twain

How can someone not love himself? The Bible has passages that relate to loving oneself. Like in Mark 12:31 where it states to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

I’m not referring to arrogance, bragging or boastful behavior. Those characteristics are wrong. I am referring to the basic human understanding that we love ourselves and don’t want any harm to come to our minds, bodies or spirits.

Someone who has never lived with the disease of depression would have a difficult time understanding how a person could not love himself. Some people who have the disease actually hate themselves. Yes, there are times when the negative self-image roars to the surface and self-hatred is a dominant theme. It may last a few days or it could possibly last a lifetime.

Take eight-year Krame in my book, The Shade Tree Choir. During his formative years from that tender age until he escaped from his home, he hated himself. He was continuously told he was a bad person, a son-of-a-bitch and was no good. He believed it because his alcoholic parents and mentally ill mother told him so. After all, to a child, parents don’t lie. Parents set the belief system at a young age in their children. If they said it was true then it surely must have been. Children have no methods to understand what alcoholism does to the family. All they know is that physical beatings and constant verbal abuse reinforce what the parents have said.

Krame thought he was bad. Each time he was kicked with steel-toed work boots, slapped across the face, whipped with both ends of a belt or locked away in a darkened closet, he just knew he was a bad person. Many children of alcoholic parents learn not to love themselves. They learn nothing is ever good enough and no matter what they do, they are destined to be “bad” people.

They may grow with a belief system of, “If my own parents don’t love me then how can anyone else ever love me?” That is why many have difficulty with personal relationships. Sometimes when they get emotionally attached and fall in love with another person, the old feelings of negative self-worth rise to the top and they sabotage the relationship. By destroying the relationship, they re-affirm what they were taught as children. “I am bad, therefore you must go away.”

This can add more fuel to the fire of depression. I have written about the physiological changes that occur with depression in my blog, “I’m In The Mood For Music” dated April 17, 2016. Is depression rooted only in our physical beings? Is depression rooted in learned behavior as children? I suspect it is both.

However, somewhere deep inside the spirit of a child lies the belief that he is not bad. This creates conflict. That inner belief of the child versus what abusive parents may say about the child can be total opposites. It requires tremendous energy to survive in such an environment.

His friends knew Krame as the Thinker. He analyzed every action to be certain he would never be caught and beaten again by his dad. There was no childhood for him. It was physical and emotional survival. Child abuse does that to a kid. It takes away childhood experiences and sets up a lifetime of conflict, trying to “love thyself.” Too often, however, even that adult fails and does not love himself.

The depressive person then goes into a familiar cycle of sadness, self-hatred and other negative thoughts. I wonder how many suicides have occurred because people were in that thought process. I also wonder how many suicide victims felt a sense of being exhausted trying to find answers and felt overwhelmed. I suspect many – if not most.

Krame struggled his entire life trying to counteract the ghosts of his past. He did become a high achiever like many others who suffer clinical depression. I read that my idol, Mark Twain suffered from severe depression and used to experience bouts of rage and melancholy. I understand. Why? Because I am Krame. The Shade Tree Choir is a book about my childhood. I too have moments of rage, severe melancholy and inability to function. I too sometimes have to withdraw inside myself to nurture that little boy in me. This is all part of the disease.

I have no idea if my disease comes from my genetic make-up, my childhood or other learned behaviors in my life. I suspect it is a combination. For me, what is important is to recognize when I’m about to be smacked again with an episode. It is then I have to reach inside my bag of survival tools and get to work.

Any depressive person who read Twain’s quote at the beginning of my blog would nod in agreement that, “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.”

There are times I am that way. I pull in emotionally to heal and try to let it pass. I may sleep more, may become quiet and withdrawn and find an activity that requires significant concentration. I intentionally stop giving to others because I need all my energy for myself.

Many years ago I was a Board member for several groups. I was hit with a stressful situation and knew I needed to pull in to heal. I resigned that day from all the organizations and felt immediate relief knowing I had time to help myself.

Here are some survival tools I use. I hope you find one or two that may help you to love yourself.

·      I write. I either write poems or short stories. Sometimes my best creative juices flow the best when I am in a funk.
·      I sit alone and fish. Sometimes watching a bobber shuts down negative chatter.
·      I refuse to volunteer in my community and help others. I spend the time needed on me instead.
·      If depression isn’t severe, then I go to the gym. If it is severe I avoid exercises because I know as a retired physical therapist that injuries can occur if one isn’t focused. I don’t like walking, but it can be good for people who are in a negative state.
·      Sometimes I list the reasons that I am a good person. That exercise helps bring positive energy to me.
·      I apologize to those I may have harmed with my behavior.
·      I share my feelings. Like I have done here in this week’s blog.

Here are some links you may find helpful


  1. I also retreat from my social life. I've lost friends because of withdrawing from everyone because they just can't seem to understand that I need every ounce of strength to climb out of the abyss.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Dave. Not everyone understands the mechanism of depression, or understands what it means to the person going through it. Thanks for trying to help others understand. As your friend, thanks for making the effort, because your effort keeps you in our lives. I am thankful for your friendship and for your effort. Robyn


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