I really hated myself sometimes. I could not stand who I was. After all I couldn´t do anything, I couldn´t achieve anything. In every activity I started, be it a school activity or something as simple as vacuuming, the most likely outcome in my mind was failure and further validation of my own inadequacy. If I had to use one word to describe how I saw myself as a whole in this period of my life it would be: useless.
And because I genuinely saw myself as useless, the motivation to go and do something, anything, was extremely hard to come by. Why would you try to do something you knew would fail? This led to a deeper and deeper spin into my own darkness and mind, and a heavy, suffocating, self-destructive depression, that was continually strengthened by my own mind. Our mind tends to strengthen our thought patterns, and it doesn´t much care whether those are positive or negative, it will look for anything at all that will confirm our thoughts and beliefs, and try to disregard the rest. This can be a liberating and good thing to get people to believe in what they do and achieve great things, or it can lead a person to their own ruin.
So how would I function during this period you might ask? Well the truthful answer is that I didn´t, not to a very good degree at least. I slept, a lot. I slept till 1,2 or 3 pm, or sometimes later. I did not have any drive or energy to get out of the bed, so I saw no reason to. I was able to identify that I was depressed as I had grown up with some of these things very near me in my childhood. I had also visited a few psychologists in my time, so I was in no doubt that I was depressed, but I could not summon the energy to do anything about it. I did go to see a psychologist about this eventually, but that was after I had dug myself out of the whole almost completely on my own, and was more just to learn how to prevent this from happening again.
The roots of my self-hatred, lack of self esteem and depression was a few different things. Looking back at it the CP played a bigger role than I would have liked to admit at the time. The reason I say that is because the CP was something I had never wanted to identify with, I did not want to be known as “that guy with CP” to my friends or anyone else for that matter, so I did my best to distance myself from it, in all circumstances. But even if you distance yourself from it, if you haven’t actually tackled it mentally and the impact it has on you as a person, it will probably catch up to you at some point, and I hadn´t, I ran away from it for most of my life.
I had enough of other challenges to endure in my childhood, that dealing with the CP was not on the top of the list of priorities. As such I think I may have put it off a bit too long. When I say “deal with the CP” what I mean by that is to truly come to terms with it, be at peace with it, and all the aspects it brings to my experience of life.
One of the things I had not yet accepted was the fact that I was different. I hated that idea. I didn´t want to be different, I wanted to be just like my friends. So I participated in everything they participated in (minus the ones that were impossible) and each time I would see that I struggled or saw myself be “worse” than them, it chipped away at my self-esteem and how I viewed myself.
The moral of that story is that its great to be different, in fact we are all different. You should try to identify the areas in which you are different to others, and even see if you can use some of that to your advantage.
Another thing I refused to accept was that the CP limited me. I hated that idea, in fact I went out of my way several times to show others that I didn`t let it limit me. Whilst I don´t think this is a bad mindset to have per se, it something I am cautious of today, because it led me to make some poor choices in the past and pushed myself too far over the limit sometimes. I think its important to push yourself over the limit at least 1 time, because then you know where that limit is. But now I try to acknowledge that the CP does limit some things in my life, but I am not stressed by it, why would I be? Different things limit us all each and every day, but a lot of people don’t have something as valid as CP to “blame it on”.
Getting out of The Black Hole
I am going to discuss some techniques of how I got out of my depression below, but I would like to add as a disclaimer of sorts, that if you read this post during a particular dark time of your life, you should not be afraid to seek professional help. Getting an outside view, and the help of a trained professional to understand what is going on inside your head and how to get out of it can be invaluable. There are also forms of clinical depression, which requires medical and professional help, and if you are suffering from any of these issues, you would be best advised to seek help. There is no shame in that! Information about Clinical Depression can be found here.
So how did I get out of all of this? I worked extensively with myself to try to understand what I was thinking, and gradually trying to turn my mind around by doing things that reinforced positive and good thoughts rather than my depressive ones. I would sometimes write down what I was good at, and while my list was quite short when I started, it gradually grew as I started to believe in myself again. It may seem like a silly thing to do, but it does work! I also used to do daily meditations, where I would internalize an aspect of myself, either physical like my legs, my walk etc. Or it could be a part of my personality or an interest and such like. I focused on that one aspect for 30 minutes, trying to analyze what sort of thoughts it provoked when I thought of myself walking for example.
Then I would systematically go through each aspect and try to find things I appreciated about it. For example, when it came to my body, I tried to focus on the fact that I was thankful for being able to walk around, it didn’t matter if I wasn’t able to walk as far as everyone else. I was also thankful that my arms and hands enabled me to work on the computer, to draw, to write etc. instead of focusing on the lack of fine motor skills or the like. The point is, no matter your own situation, you can always find something to appreciate, if you look for it. Eventually, I started to really believe and internalize this belief of appreciation, and after 6 months or so, I no longer harbored any feeling of resentment or hatred towards my body or the CP in general.
I´ve tried to make a list below to give you a much less verbose tips and tricks list, and I hope some of you may find this helpful in dealing with Depressions or problems with your self esteem.
1. Do not compare. You are unique, your experiences in life are unique, there is no point in comparing your life to someone else, this will only lead you to focus on what is lacking and what you can’t do rather than empowering you.
2. Understand what you are thinking. Write down your thoughts if that helps you, what is it that your mind is constantly repeating that is bringing you down?
3. Internalize and externalize what you want to think. Just as I would advise you to write the negative thoughts down, you should also write down good thoughts. And if you feel like you don’t have any, write down what you would like to think when you become happy again.
4. Learn to appreciate the small things. Find something about yourself that you are thankful for, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem. It may help you to write it down as well. Repeat this process as often as you can to train your mind on how it should think.
5. Do things you master well. If you already have something your good at, that you feel help you feel better about yourself, like an activity or a job, use that to strengthen your own self image.
I hope some of you found this post hopeful, and as always I would appreciate it greatly if you commented, shared and liked this post if you did. 🙂
Cover image Courtesy of Sander van der Wel