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    When I think about the mind, it reminds me of an old house, dark and decrepit. The paintwork on the façade is cracked, peeling, scorched by the sun, and battered by the winds of the past. It is uninviting, but somehow draws you in, like a moth to a flame.  You can’t help but walk up the splintered steps to explore the inside.

    The heavy wooden door is slightly ajar. You feel your heart quickening in your chest, the blood pounding in your ears like a beating drum. You struggle to catch your breath; you want to turn away and flee like so many others before you, but you know you must go on.

    The corridor is long, dark, and dusty; a path which hasn’t been walked for a long time. Your footsteps echo as you go forward, dust billows behind you, and cobwebs snatch at your face like ghostly fingers. You see movement ahead, you slow your pace in trepidation, yet you know you must continue.

    Two figures appear in the dark, shadowy and sinister. As you approach, you notice that one figure is cowering low to the floor, hands raised as a shield, to protect itself from the words spouting from the other. The figure doing the talking is tall, and menacing. It has no face, yet words keep coming from the place where its mouth should be. You hear it calling the quivering figure weak; telling it that it is worthless, stupid, and unloved. It spews out nothing but hatred, every vile insult sparks something inside you, and you break into a run determined to protect the whimpering figure on the floor.

    As you get closer, you hear more of the bile; you see clearly the figure on the floor. Realisation washes over you as you see that the frightened figure is yourself. You are naked, vulnerable, and uncomfortable. You hear what is being shouted by the taller figure, and realise it’s every worry, every self-doubting moment you have ever had. You stop, and realise the figure is the part of your brain which feeds all of your self-doubt, your fears, and your anxiety. You stare at the figure, and notice that as you do, it begins to become smaller. The realisation that it is a manifestation of your fears rather than an entity which can cause harm makes it seem less frightening.

    You stand and watch, listening to the figure and realising that although it may say things which are hurtful, you can choose how you react to them. You approach your trembling self, and hold out a hand. It places its hand into yours, and you stand united against the negative thoughts and feelings. Together you watch the figure twisted in its hatred, and choose to let the words wash over you and away. In the same way that no two drops of water are the same in a waterfall, no two thoughts are the same, and they will pass quickly. The figure continued to shrink, and as it did, the house began to fill with light. The corridor widened, and the cobwebs vanished. Warmth spreads throughout the house and you walk back towards the open front door. As you look back, you see yourself sat peacefully in the warm light, and you know you are free; you finally feel at home in your own mind.


  • Depression: Child Friendly?

    There are many things in life which are tested for their “child friendliness”. From pubs to hotels, theme parks to holidays, all parents want to know in advance whether their children will be well catered for and will have a good, safe time. There’s one area which hasn’t been investigated though, how “child friendly” certain illnesses you can have whilst being a parent are.

     

    The simple answer would simply be: none of them. Who wants to be ill when they have children? However, some chronic illnesses could quite happily fit in with 21st Century parenting values (yes I may be generalising). Diabetes for example: you have to follow a healthy diet, make sure you eat regular homemade meals and ensure your weight stays stable. This is basically forcing you to do what everyone should already be doing. As long as you follow those rules, take any medication you are prescribed, you should be fine.

     

    I have depression and have done so since I was a teenager. I have had good times, many people with depression do, but it is always there, lurking around the corner, ready to pounce at any time. Quite possibly, the worst “job” in the world to have when you are depressed is being a single parent. I would even go as far to say parent in general, however if you are in partnership with someone, at least you can share the work.

     

    Depression has a significant number of side effects which are far from child friendly:

    1. You feel tired all the time. Children are full of energy all the time. There is no snooze button on a child and when they are young, you can’t really leave them to their own devices; it’s a constant stream of hyperactivity and demands for attention. Of course, when they are in bed and you get the chance to sleep, this is when your brain wakes up and demands attention for itself in the form of rumination and worry about futures which may never happen, and so the cycle continues.
    2. You have very little patience. Children are annoying: fact. You may absolutely adore children, even other people’s but they are, by nature, self-absorbed and irritating. When you add any additional needs your child may have, such as Asperger’s Syndrome in to the mix, this multiplies tenfold. From talking incessantly about obsessions to still wetting themselves at the age of six; meltdowns to sensory seeking behaviour, ASD symptoms can be frustrating anyway. When combined with depression it can constantly feel like your head is going to explode. You find yourself telling your child to “stop talking” or removing yourself from situations as you can feel your temper reaching breaking point. You shout more often than you would like, and had hoped to do while imagining being a parent (personally, I always dreamed of being one of those serene parents who never shout) and you feel yourself turning into the “bad guy” as, when you are a single parent, you do the majority of the discipline. This all adds to the depressive cycle as you feel like a shit parent and start to believe your children deserve better.
    3. General feeling of apathy. This, unfortunately, can strike at any time and affect any part of your life. You can feel apathetic when your toddler falls over in the street, automatically saying “you’re okay” and telling them to “get up and carry on” rather than actually checking to see if they are okay.
    4. Disinterest in food. People with depression can regularly forget to eat, this in turn means they can fail to buy food on more occasions than they would like to admit. This means the children are not eating as healthy or varied a diet as they should be. This is made worse when you know you’re a good cook and know it doesn’t take much effort (technically) to make a healthy dinner.
    5. Having a tendency to over-think things. This itself causes two types of parenting issue:
      1. Over-thinking what it takes to do something, example: “I should take the children to the park. Child with ASD will be hard work as he doesn’t like the idea of going out, toddler may need to nap and get crabby. What if it rains? I have to get the pushchair out of the boot of the car. One child may run in one direction, one in another, who would I go after? What if the toddler poos? What if the older child needs a poo and there isn’t a toilet? What if one is on the swings and the other on the slide? What if… What if… Maybe we should just stay in.
      2. Over-thinking another person’s words or actions, example: Child says “I hate you!” Parent with depression thinks “He’s right to hate me, I’m a shit parent, the children deserve better, I can’t cope with them, they’d be better off with their non-depressed parent.”
    6. Self-harm. This is something I struggle with; I and other people with depression, including parents, will have urges to do this frequently. I managed to stop for a while because my older child noticed the marks and they’d be harder to hide in the summer, unfortunately I have recently relapsed and have started cutting myself again. No child should be a witness to that, however it’s not something people do on a whim, for attention. It is a true side effect of depression, which brings me to the last point…
    7. Suicide. This is the least child friendly side effect of them all. As much as people with depression, myself included, often feel their loved ones, which includes their children, would be better off without them, the overwhelming number of people with these thoughts and feelings still have a small voice telling them that a parent, even them as a depressed parent, is something a child needs. A child’s life would ultimately be made so much worse if their parent killed themselves. I just hope that my little voice, and everyone else’s sticks around and starts to drown out the other one which says that you’re worthless, that the world would be better off without you.

  • HUMANS

    “Modern humans (Homo sapiens or Homo sapiens sapiens) are the only extant members of the hominin clade, a branch of great apes characterized by erect posture and bipedal locomotion; manual dexterity and increased tool use; and a general trend toward larger, more complex brains and societies.” Quote from Wikipedia

    The above is a scientifically accurate answer to the question: what is a human? It isn’t, however, the answer to what we really want to know. The real question is, why do humans spend so much of their time trying to destroy other humans?

    Throughout history, there hasn’t been a period of time during which humans have not been at war with other humans. There are currently around 11 wars in progress in which there are over 1000 deaths per year together with a further 33 conflicts in which there has been a death toll of at least 25 with one of those deaths being within the past year (source)

    There seems to be four main causes of war: Religion; Territory; Oppression and Self Defence. Take any one of these reasons, add in some cleverly crafted propaganda and biased news reports and you have it, war.

    Even if you move away from the extremes of war, you find conflict almost everywhere you look. Someone is always annoyed about something; person X did something to person Y and now they’re not talking; people cannot learn to “agree to disagree”. There are even people who seem to thrive so wholly on conflict, if there isn’t any drama in their lives they will create it. It is this conflict we each have an ability to change.

    Children learn about many things in school, algebra, statistics, how to read a book in such minute detail it’s no longer enjoyable and other such skills which, unless you want to be in a particular job such as an astrophysicist, don’t really have any application in the “real world”. I think a better society would be created if children were taught the importance of communication; humility; tolerance; compassion. Instead of being taught how to debate, teach conflict resolution. Although children do work things out for themselves eventually, a vast proportion of adults still deal with conflict like children. They take the easy option, more often than not delivering bad news or unkind words via text message or via social media rather than talking with the person face to face. People bitch seemingly ALL THE TIME about someone or something but have no intention of actually doing anything about it. If the foundations of how to properly deal with this were taught at a young age, most conflicts could get resolved in a relatively peaceful manner.

    I am sure everyone can think of at least one example of a conflict in their lives which, instead of being resolved, has spiralled out of control and has reached the point of no return. Although lives are not lost in the same sense as they are during war, lives can be, albeit temporarily, destroyed. Unresolved conflict leads to thinking, which leads to rumination: an open door to depression. Rumination is something I am currently guilty of. I have lost a lot of friends and some family members recently due to people being unwilling to discuss or attempt to resolve conflict. It seems they would rather ignore what has happened, pretend I never existed and completely sever contact. Whist I appreciate that a face to face discussion may not “fix” the issues, at least I would know that we had tried. That everyone knew exactly why things are the way they are and everyone had an opportunity to explain their “side” of the story. Instead, I am ruminating, having these imaginary conversations in my head, trying to make sense of what has happened and never getting the answers. It becomes easy to wholly blame myself even though I know rationally that isn’t the case and the downward spiral resumes.

    I may just be dreaming up an ideal world, but I feel that if we as a species learned how to deal with our personal conflicts rationally rather than resorting to childish ways, this would branch out into other areas. If tolerance was taught from a young age, the differences in humanity would be accepted more readily and in turn there would, hopefully, be fewer wars.