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The addictive nature of depression

Addiction:

the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming

Searching for depression and addiction will return you endless discussions and studies on whether patients can, and do, become addicted to antidepressants. Change your search term a little, dig a bit deeper and you'll find the occasional piece, and a few Reddit threads, on the addictive nature of the illness rather than the treatment.

I previously described depression as entrenched, familiar, and almost comforting, so when I found the Reddit threads I instantly identified with the sentiments many expressed.

But there is a dichotomy that exists, a contradiction.

Welcomed but equally resented, depression can all too easily become the go to state, especially when accompanied by feelings of inadequacy or a sense of guilt at being happy during the better days; almost a position of "I don't deserve this."

There is something called the DAD effect - Depression, Addiction, Denial - which states that depression and addiction often present at the same time but it can be difficult to ascertain which came first and, therefore, which to focus treatment on. Is an addiction (gambling, substance abuse, etc.) the cause of the depression or is it a response to (or attempt to escape from) the depression? An addiction to the depression itself, however, is almost never considered.

While it seems counterintuitive to suggest that someone can be addicted to depression, the entrenchment experienced fits the definition; one can indeed become "enslaved" and it can be psychologically habit-forming. Depression is a ready made excuse, a perfect get out clause: if anything goes wrong then that's why; if anything looks daunting then this is the reason - and, conversely, the reason to avoid it.

The challenge is to get away from this pattern, to stop reinforcing negative thought patterns and feel that you do deserve it. That this shouldn't be the default position.

The deeper and longer you sink the harder it is to swim back to the surface.

As this article on the BBC website explains cultural "norms" can make it especially difficult for men to stand up and say they need help. Men are just supposed to get on with it, be strong and "man up" if they can't.

But that's dangerous, it creates a state of fear. Fear of failure. Fear that you won't be taken seriously. Fear that there's something wrong with you (when there obviously is.) Fear to admit you need help.

But it's not just a man thing. It can affect everyone.

I wrote before about being in denial of my condition, that there was something wrong and that I needed help. The DAD effect was complete. While I am no longer in denial (mostly) I still struggle with the D and A and need to break the cycle so that's where I want to direct my efforts and will cover in future posts.

The addictive nature of depression
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Yesterday was the anniversary of my decision to step back from the blog, a reflection of my realisation/admittance that things weren't good on the mental health front.

It's been a rollercoaster year.

I wondered if it may become a permanent thing but think I'm just too connected to the written word for that to ever happen. Still, it took over 10 months for me to be in a fit state to post. And it has altered (probably for good) my approach to blogging and what I should use it for.

Whether consciously or subconsciously (perhaps both) I don't feel any pressure to post, which can only be a good thing. I make notes on a regular basis - even if just a few words - but the inclination to share is greatly tempered.

I became disillusioned with the banal exhibitionism of social media long before I killed my accounts but blogging, ironically, became a proxy, a surrogate to suckle at the breast of instead of being a means to wean myself away from that mindset.

Now, I will only post when there's something to say, when it's something worth saying.

Status
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The poem "The Stream” was an illustration that depression is often contextual.

We're currently on holiday and the stream in the poem is in one of my favourite places: The Trough of Bowland, a jewel hidden within the wider Forest of Bowland area of natural beauty.

In fact, the area containing the stream is only a part of the Trough itself, although the whole area is stunning.

When I say depression is contextual you need look no further than the line "No stress, no signal." There is indeed no mobile phone signal, that requires at least a five minute drive in either direction.

At any other time there would be no stress, however, the poem was written whilst waiting for a breakdown truck to look at an issue with the brakes on our car - we had developed a nasty rasping, screeching sound prompting us to seek assistance.

So, how do you call for help in the middle of nowhere with no signal and you can't drive out? Surely that's about as stressful as it gets!

Fortunately, we had some friends with us who could assist with the five minute drive but it was still the type of noise that sounds expensive, potentially causing us to cut the holiday short.

Yet, despite all this, the area by the stream is one of the most calming, relaxing places I know - along with an area in Olden, Norway, next to the Oldeelva river.

Water seems to be a major factor.

If we had been stuck almost anywhere else I can imagine sinking into a trough of despair, all sorts of feelings bubbling to the surface, none of them good. Instead, the Trough just sucks the stress out of you.

Even with all that was happening, those ninety minutes were a blessing.

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The StreamComments

Endless transient, fractal patterns,
Belie the apparent calm.
Stone weirs play different notes:
A binaural symphony that alters as one turns the head.
Peaceful, yet with a persistent cacophony.
Ripples spread while eddies cause leaves to rebel against the flow.

The air shifts as the trees sing with an unexpected breeze.
The valley seems almost alive in its own right;
A living home to myriad unseen entities.

No stress, no signal.

A dragonfly briefly dazzles with its aerial dexterity.
Perhaps jealous, flies abandon the wing, instead skating abstract routines.
The splash of a jumping fish,
Lost as soon as it is seen, playing hide and seek.
Unimpressed by the flies' attempts at artistry.

A powered paraglider drifts overhead,
A droning reminder of civilisation beyond the hills.

Time is fleeting, time stands still;
The slowly lengthening shadows the only means to mark its passage.

The Stream

Moral responsibilityComments

While there has been much written about content ownership - especially in an #indieweb context - I have long espoused a moral aspect to it.

The theory is that if your words are on your own site then you are likely to be more considered before hitting the publish button.

There is a lack of responsibility for words when they are just thrown into the social void, especially behind the shield of a pseudonym. The increasing toxicity was part of what drove me away from mainstream social media.

It's interesting, therefore, to see Instagram pioneering a way to instill that sense of moral responsibility in its users by encouraging positive interactions.

Instagram - are you sure?

A supportive place
Using AI to suggest someone might want to rethink a comment - before posting - may seem like a small thing but, if it gives people pause, even for a second, it could contribute to an environment more conducive to maintaining good mental health and should be applauded.

Moral responsibility
Colin Walker
Colophon. Content: CC NY-BC 2.0 UK, Code: GPLv3
Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog

Thinker, writer, ideas man. Blogger & microcaster.