Danny Baker wants you to know that recovery from clinical depression is possible, even when it feels that the despair is eternal.
One of the cruelest traits of clinical depression is that it can often make us feel as if there’s no way out. It can convince us that our despair is eternal, and destined to oppress us for the rest of our days. And it’s when we’re in that horrifically black place, staring down the barrel of what we truly believe can only be a lifetime of wretched agony, that our thoughts turn to suicide.
In that moment, it seems as if it’s the only way out.
I’m so glad I didn’t kill myself
Unfortunately, I know that place well. I’ve been to that place where all hope is lost, where death seems to be the only salvation. Below is an excerpt from my memoir where I write about what that was like. It was April 2010, and at the time I was a 21 year old university student and aspiring author.
The days dragged along. This was the worst I’d ever felt. Period. There was no relief from the ceaseless dread. I could barely function. Paying attention in class was almost impossible. Studying was too overwhelming. I’d fallen absurdly behind. I hadn’t touched my book [that I was writing] in days. I’d quit my [part-time] job at the law firm, too—needed all my free time to try and catch up on uni. But there was never enough time. I was constantly exhausted. Drained of life. Depression sucked at my soul. My spirit withered. My goal for the day got broken down even further: “just survive the next six hours,” I’d tell myself, “the next four hours. Hold off killing yourself until then.” [At which point I’d tell myself the same thing over again.]
I’d previously thought I’d get better. I’d always thought it true that hope and depression were bitter rivals until one inevitably defeated the other, and I’d always thought that hope would win out in the end. But for the first time in my life, I was void of hope. I honestly believed that being depressed was just the way I was, and that being depressed was just the way I’d be, for the rest of my life. And because I was so convinced that I’d never get better, there seemed no point in fighting my illness. Instead of willing myself to “hang in there” because I believed that my suffering was temporary and that everything would be better one day, I comforted myself with the knowledge that human beings are not immortal. That I would die, one day. One special, glorious day. Then I could spend the rest of eternity molding in a grave, free from pain. You might be wondering why I didn’t just kill myself if I wholeheartedly believed that my future consisted of nothing more than excruciating misery. Well, first of all, I still was not a quitter. But more importantly, I didn’t want to hurt the people that loved me.
“It’s not fair to commit suicide and ruin their lives,” I thought. “So I have to hold on. No matter how much it hurts me I have to hold on.”
Hence why I drew comfort from the thought that one day I’d die and finally be free.
When you’re that depressed, that insanely and utterly depressed that you genuinely believe you’ll suffer that acutely for the rest of your days, life seems to lack all purpose.
“After all,” I remember thinking, “what’s the point in working, fighting, striving for a better life if I’m sentenced to one of chronic anguish and despair? There is no better life. There is no life outside of pain. So what’s the point in doing anything but waiting until death finally arrives on my doorstep and whisks me away to the Promised Land?”
I was still studying, and I still planned on finishing my novel and trying to get it published, but it was more out of force of habit than anything else. My passion had been drained. My zest for life asphyxiated. I was like a ghost, just drifting through the ghastly days.
‘Shit! What’s wrong, mate?’ an old friend once said when I ran into him at uni. ‘Perk up, brother!’
I was shocked. One of the most well-known attributes of depression is that it is entirely possible – and very common – to suffer horrifically without anybody knowing. But somehow without realizing it, I’d crossed the line from a place where I was able to put on a front and fool people into thinking I wasn’t depressed to a place where I was so sick that it was obvious to people I hadn’t even seen for a year. When I got home I looked in the bathroom mirror, and realized that I was staring back at a man whose eyes were exhausted slits, whose whole face shrieked of agonizing misery. I was staring back at a man whose spirit had been broken, whose soul had been destroyed. I was staring back at a man who, for all intents and purposes, was already dead.
As you can see, I was so convinced that I’d never get better. I was 100% sure of it. But if you keep reading my (free) memoir, you’ll see that after a while my medication started working, I started benefiting immensely from therapy, and over time, I began to recovery. Towards the end of that year and throughout 2011, I also made a number of positive lifestyle changes, and by early 2012, I’d kicked my depression for good. Ever since then I’ve been feeling great, and last month, I launched the Depression Is Not Destiny Campaign, to expose depression for the liar that it is, and show people still going through it that recovery IS possible—even if we can’t always see it.
It’s time to seek help
Recovery is possible, but it won’t happen by itself. You need to take action. In particular, I recommend the following:
Make an appointment to see a doctor. If you haven’t found your current doctor all that helpful, then try a different one.
See a therapist. If you’ve been seeing your current therapist for a while and haven’t made much headway, then again, try a different one.
If you can’t afford the above professional help, then check out the list of free online resources that I’ve compiled here.
Read some quality depression self-help books. I’d particularly recommend Feeling Good
, by Dr David D Burns, Authentic Happiness
, by Dr Martin E. P. Seligman, and The Mindful Way through Depression by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and John Kabat-Zinn.
Cut all alcohol and illicit drugs out of your life and start eating well, sleeping well and exercising frequently.
Read a recent blog post I wrote titled Are Your Simple Daily Actions Leading You To Freedom From Depression Or Forever Keeping You A Prisoner? Then, reassess your current simple daily actions and make alterations where necessary.
To reiterate one more time—because it’s something that does need to be reiterated over and over again—recovery from depression IS possible, and provided you get help, you can beat it and go on to live a happy, healthy life. So just keep doing (or start doing) the things you need to do to get better, and you too will soon see that depression’s been lying to you—just like depression was lying to me.
Read more on depression and depression recovery: