I wasn’t sure if I should introduce you to Bernard, he’s not exactly the social kind. He sometimes wants me to close the curtains on a sunny day and wallow in the comfort of darkness. He likes to whisper, “You’re not good enough.” He sings childhood taunts. He’s sometimes a struggle to control. Let’s face it, Bernard sucks!
Would I be the same person without Bernard?
Yet, without Bernard I sometimes wonder if I would be the person I am today. I battled with Bernard for years, but I have come out the other side a better, stronger, happier, more confident person. So, without further ado, meet Bernard – also known as depression.
Bernard suddenly crashed into my life when my first child was born. He settled nicely into my very soul and made himself right at home. He had plenty of baggage to rummage through, he cherry picked my biggest fears and built himself an armoury with which to batter my already fragile self-worth.
When we first met, Bernard was an unknown quantity; I had no idea what he was. I just knew that life was so much harder with him in it. Getting out of bed was a chore, speaking to people became crushingly difficult, thoughts of self-harm swarmed in my brain, the inadequacies of my youth resurfaced and threatened to engulf me. I honestly thought I was going mad, I needed help!
In desperation I turned to my ex mother-in-law. Through sobs I told her how I felt and asked her what I should do.
“Pull yourself together, stop grizzling and get on with it. Stop wallowing in self pity; you’re not the only woman who has ever had a baby!”
Seriously!!?? I believe myself to be a very understanding person, but I will never forgive her those words. It took many years for me to seek help again. “Pull yourself together” became my mantra, until I learned that:
“You can only pull yourself together so many times before your seams burst!” – Michelle Lyndon-Dykes
When I eventually sought the help I needed, I was finally able to put a name to my dark days. My doctors called it depression, I chose to name it Bernard.
With the right help and support from family and friends I have evicted Bernard from my soul. He put up a fight and claimed squatters’ rights but, bit-by-bit, I built my armour against him. He now lives in ‘a small cupboard in my brain’ and that’s where he stays – mostly. He does rear his ugly head from time-to-time to cover my mind in a warm blanket of despair. I’m lucky, I have the support system I need to throw off that blanket, because it would be oh so easy to settle into its black, familiar bleakness.
I have found that, as long as I don’t feed Bernard, he keeps to his cupboard and just whispers occasionally.
What Bernard feeds on:
- Winter months
- Being too insular
How I starve Bernard and keep him docile:
- I turn negative thoughts into positive ones. “I’ll never be able to…..” becomes “How do I learn to….”
- Bernard just loves the Winter. The long, sunless days make him want to come out to ‘play’. So I get outside and squeeze as much sunshine as I can out of a British Winter. I also try to get abroad for a couple of weeks to soak up some rays. Regular vitamin D supplements help.
- I make myself go out even if I don’t feel like it. One “I can’t be bothered” soon turns into a string of “Maybe next times”. Before I know it I haven’t left the house for weeks, which gives Bernard time to pick the lock on his cupboard door
- I talk about my problems, I don’t keep things inside. Something trivial can soon fester if it isn’t aired.
Why I wrote this post
Let me just kick one thought that may have fluttered through your mind out of the ballpark – I did not write this post to gain your sympathy. I don’t want sympathy, I have battled my Bernard and won. Now empathy on the other hand I would welcome with open arms. If after reading this post you can empathise with my fight against depression then that’s got to be a good thing.
Look around you at the people in your life, are any of them showing symptoms of a struggle with their own Bernard? Offer them a helping hand, point them in the direction of this post, show them the links that I’ll post below, do all you can to help them through it. If just one person gets help and isn’t told to ‘pull themselves together’ then my scribbling has been worthwhile.
And if you are that person, then please ask for help. There are hands just waiting to reach out and pull you from the darkness, all you have to do is take that first step. Let today be the day that you start your journey to locking away your own, personal Bernard.
My best wishes and heartfelt hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Help for depression: