Just before Christmas I picked up a copy of "Depressive illness, the curse of the strong" by Dr Tim Cantopher – and I think that this book has done me more good than anything else.
What you get here is scientific fact, not someone's airy fairy theory. In the book Dr C shows why the kind of nastiness I've been experiencing over the past two years or so is based on sound biological evidence of real physical changes that are happening inside the brain, as real as a broken bone or a cut hand.
He also shows why it's really only strong people that get this far – by this I mean get so far that their brain just "blows a fuse" so to speak. Other less strong people would have given up long before this happened. And he describes how to go about healing the brain when this happens (through evidence-based treatments like medication and/or CBT) and why it's so important not to let this happen again; if you push yourself too far the fuse will blow again.
For me this makes sense. I'd been pushing myself way, way beyond normal limits during the years my son was battling with anorexia. I was doing this because I had no choice; if I'd given up my son could have died. So one day, and I reckon this was probably about 24 months ago, something just "pinged" inside my brain cut out. And I've been desperately trying to fix it ever since through umpteen different types of therapy and at least three different types of medication.
Some people may feel weak because they've arrived at the stage where, unlike previous occasions when they'd always been able to fix things, they felt stuck and completely helpless. Going back to the title of the book – "Depressive illness, the curse of the strong" – this happens not because you're weak, but because you're strong – you've pushed your brain so far that something has blown inside it, physically - and because it's blown, just as if you'd broken your arm or leg, you need to rest and recuperate, and allow it time to heal. And to do the exercises you need to do to help it to heal.
Having broken my elbow in the summer after the bike accident, this analogy is especially helpful. When I broke the bone there was nothing I could do apart from resting and doing the physio exercises that I needed to do to help it heal and reinstate normal movement/strength.
Because my brain had blown a fuse, so to speak, the circumstances were very similar. So, just as you wouldn't ever feel weak because you couldn't heal a broken bone immediately without help and patience, it's completely ridiculous to ever think that you could "snap out of" this kind of depression/anxiety and be able to fix it immediately or without help, be that help rest, medication and/or therapy.
It's difficult for me to describe the biological process that takes place in the brain when it blows a fuse, so to speak, but apparently it's something to do with the limbic system in the brain and the transmitter chemicals. They malfunction, just like a fuse in a plug, so your brain doesn't work in the way it used to work until it's been fixed.
I'm no scientist or medical expert so it's hard for me to describe exactly how this happens suffice to say that it is biological thing, a physical issue, just like any other physical problem in your body.
Just knowing this and knowing that, far from being weak, it has happened because I am strong has helped me more than anything else has to date.
It has also helped me kind of admire and actually like myself for a change whereas before I was mega self-critical and saw myself as weak or a failure.
Now I know that this is not the case – and I have scientific evidence to prove it!
So whenever I feel crappy, I'll just remind myself of the fact that, far from being weak, I am strong and it is because I am strong that I feel like this.