Does this black cloud have a silver lining?

There’s a well-known saying that every cloud has a silver lining. Sometimes I’ve suspected that the only silver lining in my black cloud is a bolt of lightning  that’s about to fry me on the spot.

Other times, I’ve spent so long staring at the black cloud that it’s got bored of just hanging around above my head and dropped monsoon-like rain straight into my face.

The cloud I’m talking about is depression. It’s more than just a cloud – it’s a whole weather system, wreaking havoc in countless ways. It follows you around, showing no mercy.

When the cloud descends it’s like dense, black fog – a suffocating wall of smog that makes any potential silver lining slip away, deep into the impenetrable gloom. Which is terribly unsporting of it, isn’t it? It envelopes its victim and seeps into their brain, controlling their mood, but it doesn’t stop there. It tries to infect everyone around that unfortunate person too.

Not content with its cloud-like tendencies, depression can whip up a whirlwind of stress, anger, worry and raw emotions and pelt you with them, like a giant storm smashes windscreens with grapefruit-sized hailstones. You can feel like your head is spinning like a tornado, or you can feel buffeted from all directions by a hurricane that nobody else can sense.

It takes on other sinister forms too. It can be like quicksand (OK, I know it’s not a kind of weather, but it’s sort of elemental so bear with me), dragging you down, zapping your mental, physical and emotional energy, sucking the lifeforce from you.

But however much it might not like it, my cloud does have a silver lining. More than one, in fact.

For a start, it’s given me something to write about. When I started blogging, I had no idea I would end up writing so many posts about depression. Then again, I didn’t exactly intend to have depression. Nobody would choose the wretched thing, would they? I mean, it’s… well, depressing. But writing about it has helped me to get to grips with what I’m feeling and to put it into words, and the best thing about it is that it’s helped other people too.

The other positive thing to come out of my depression – which, incidentally, is still stalking me – is that so many people, friends and strangers alike, have shown me such kindness and support. I’ve learned that there are loads of other people out there who have gone through the same thing, or are still going through it, and we can all help each other. And, despite the misery of depression and the ongoing struggle to overcome it, I’ve actually learned to like and value myself a bit more than I used to, because the kind words of others have proved to me that I’m really not as bad as I thought I was.

If there’s a black cloud hovering over you, chasing you or engulfing you, don’t give up on seeing the summer sun. It might take a while to appear, so, in the meantime, grab and appreciate any flashes of silver you can find. They are up there somewhere.

I’ve written this blog for Mind. Find out more about them here: http://www.mind.org.uk/

 

 

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17 Comments on “Does this black cloud have a silver lining?”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Your description is AMAZING. I rely on the 5,000-pound dark weight image to try to help others understand a condition that is not about thinking differently “to cheer up”. Your writing is definitely benefitting MANY people!

  2. Another fantastic, honest and endearing blog. ‘You da blogging man’ on beating/living with this vile illness and I’m recommending you to everyone I speak to who has depression. I so wish you didn’t have to suffer, but the gift you have with words, your imagination, your ability to share from your own experience and your brutal honest self awareness is inspiring. Sometimes your blogs are the silver lining. Keep it up coz your blogs tell a multitude of us that the little lie our evil alter egos whisper to us, that we’re on our own and noone can feel like us is BS!

  3. lisa beadle says:

    Hi, yet another blog that really helps me not feel that I am the only one in the world, always thought there was light at the end on the tunnel, you are helping in such a great way to help me get to then end of that tunnel after 24 years, maybe soon that day will come, thanks for keeping me going

  4. Harry Fenton says:

    Sometimes it takes a bit of imagination to see the silver lining … in my case, warped imagination! As I’ve said elsewhere in these parts, I try to find something that amuses me in everything – a laugh a day keeps the blues away! Well, it can do, if only for a few seconds and, as I’ve said before, sometimes a few seconds is all we need to get past one of those moments when the inner voice is saying, “Where’s the razor?” (Good job it’s a safety razor!) In fact, I have even been known to raise a smile, even laugh, in a funeral. Yep. A real giggle. Of course, I was sad because it was a friend who’d died. He was big (I mean really big) in animal rights; so the crem’ chapel was full of vegans from the Vegan – nothing wool or leather in sight except for his Mum’s shoes and coat. And typical for an animal rights gathering, there were a few dogs in there, too. Now, when there’s some serious mourning going on in the chapel the last thing you’d expect in the middle of it is a young dog declaring “I’m bored. PLAY WITH ME!” Woof, woof, play-growl, play-growl, and jumping up and down. Of course I laughed! The dog had it in perspective, too – i.e. life goes on, so let’s enjoy it as best, and while, we can. Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done for us miserable buggers; but we do have our moments! The other amusement in the service was a toddler, who found amusement by running up and down the middle of the chapel, trying to entice her Mum for a “Chase me!” game. Best of all, she had to be retrieved from the coffin! I got this mental image of my deceased friend popping his head out of the coffin and playing peak-a-boo with her, and the horror on the assembled mourners’ faces as it happened. Well, I did say my imagination is warped – what did you expect?

  5. Colin says:

    Hello.
    I just came across this blog from the link in Mind. Specifically it was the, “black cloud/silver lining”, title that drew my attention and I began to apply this analogy to my own predicament.

    I can see where Paul is coming from, and having suffered for some 5 years or more, (I am at pains to remember exactly how long now), the silver lining, lately, lingers longer outside the envelope Paul describes. I rarely see the hailstones of anger and the like, just the smog.
    I feel the help I receive, and the ideas that enter my head can, for the very limited time I receive it, produce a faint glimmer which quicky disappears on analaysis influenced by negative thoughts every time.

    Anger stirred for an instant when suddenly, I discovered the government has informed all assessors involved with ESA that depression, on it’s own, is not a basis for a person not to go to work. In other words, unless you are hearing voices or talking to your imaginary friends during the assessment, you are deemed capable for work. On top of that when the nurse dong the assessing has only received eighteen hours training and they can over-rule ones GP, phychiatrist and others in the space of a twenty minute interview, brought the flash of lightening to which Paul refers, that moment of anger, only to fall into submission to authorities that know better …apparently. Now, again, the smog envelopes and the cycle continues.

    I like the analogy Paul but wonder whether applying this to my depression, it actually helps?
    I like your blog by the way and wonder if I will have suffient confidence to comment again. This comment alone I am beginning to regret already through anxiety and what others will think. If you see this post I have managed to overcome!

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Thanks for commenting, Colin. I, for one, hope you do have the confidence to do so again.
      My GP has looked after me well, and my employer has been sympathetic. It’s sad and infuriating that others are not as fortunate. The government can’t make informed decisions about individual cases of depression, so I can only hope that the good sense and experience of doctors and other professionals can overcome ill-founded policies in their daily work.
      Keep reading – maybe another analogy on another day will be more helpful.
      All the best
      Paul

    • Harry Fenton says:

      Nothing to regret about that post, Colin. It was a good one. Indeed, I think you voiced the concerns of many of us about the ESA assessments. I fear for the time when I receive the call as I am one of those who still receives the Incapacity Benefit. However, two of my friends have been through the process, were ruled against but successfully appealed. One of them was purely on the basis of her depression. It seems to have a good chance on appeal that you need to bring into the meeting your OWN copies of a medical opinion. My friend’s experience was that any such evidence sent to the ESA prior to the meeting never finds its way into the assessment! So, one has to get letters from the experts – doctor or consultant – sent directly to you, and take them with you into the meeting … and if the beggars rule against – appeal! I heard on the radio 40% of appeals are successful! Trouble is, when you’re feeling little better than Death warmed up, the spirit to fight back is already knocked out of you; but you have you try. I just hope I have enough strength to do so if my time comes.

      • Sorry to butt in here… but I’ve read Colin’s post with interest. I work in the counselling field. I have suffered from depression. My daughter has suffered from… er, ‘something’. She was not diagnosed with depression, but had tried to take her life… and there is depression on both sides of the family. Nothing else was really wrong (she told us) apart from normal teenage things, so let’s do the math! This is all just a garbled way of me saying I have have extensive experience of depression, personally and professionally. Colin refers to ‘that moment of anger, only to fall into submission to authorities that know better …apparently’. Lemme tell you something which no professional will tell you ….They don’t. It’s all about perspective and conjecture (theirs). I’ve studied for years but when I have a teenager in the room, I always tell them, there’s only one expert in the room and it’s them. Please, please… anyone who reads this blog believe that a professional knows you better than you know yourself. You know if you are well enough to work, if you have the necessary concentration or if it’s been eaten away by depression, even for a time. You know if you have the energy needed. Don’t let anyone bully you into thinking you are ‘not really ill. You are and there’s an army of us who are well – maybe just for a while, but we are ok at the moment… (but understand the crippling nature of depression) who are doing all we can to fight your corner to the government. We take up arms on your behalf.

      • Harry Fenton says:

        Great post! We have a course running up here called “Expert Patient Plan”. A key message of it is we know our own illness better than anyone: We know how we feel, which is the same as you are saying. We know how it affects us. The problem arises, I think, because when we know we don’t have the energy (and in my case, mood stability – I’m Bipolar, Ultra Ultra Rapid cycling) we don’t have the energy, we don’t have the energy to fight back when these officials, with beggar all psychiatric training, make judgments about our mental fitness to work! (I suspect a lot of people don’t appeal against decisions made against them because they don’t have the mental or physical energy for it. The last time I went for a Review of my Incapacity Benefit, I was stressed and very depressed. I got into the meeting and burst into tears – a clear demonstration of my mood instability! But I know if I went in on a day when I was hypomanic, they’d have put me down as ready to work – nay, ready to take on the World because THAT is how it seems when I’m on a high; however, I could just as easily switch mood within minutes and become weepy.)

  6. Thank you Harry! I dashed that post out without proof reading it and I’ve made all manner of typos – my perfectionism getting in the way again here! – but I really do take issue with anyone telling us they know how we feel and making a diagnosis. Depression (and any illness in fact) affects everyone differently. There might be some similarities which people can read up in a text book, but the fact that ‘professionals’ are making decisions based on 18 hours training which overule psychiatrists and gp’s really makes my blood boil.

    Also if disability living allowance or incapacity to work is stopped and people are then expected to join the huge que of people looking for work and have to regularly report to the job centre and explain what they’ve done to try and find work, that’s going to be so demoralising for people who every day, actually getting out of bed is a huge effort. I know for me stress and rejection is massive triggers with a fast track ticket to a full on depression. I’m blessed to have literally fallen into a job I love, but if I were trying to find work, (so I could eat and pay my bills), the endless round of interviews and rejection letters – if I even got that far – would cripple me within weeks and undo years of work and therapy.

    Also, I wonder what employers think about all this? I so hope I’m not gonna be shot for this, but I’ve tried to manage organisations, targets and staff work loads when one person is suffering from depression and it can be a real challenge. Other staff get jealous when a person is high, because they think the person is trying to get all the glory, and then when they are down, about the amount of time they are having off. I’ve had employees coming to me saying I am showing favouritism to someone who only I know (or perhaps just suspect) is suffering from diagnosed/undiagnosed bipolar and I’m unable to say anything. Also, I’ve seen employers abuse staff with bi-polar, letting them run with projects and just sitting back and taking the credit for their incredible creativity and energy. Then on their down days, the same boss who should be very happy, because they have had all their targets met by one super-human employee is angry and threatening, because the poor bugger can’t keep up that energy. What does that say to someone who is already sensitive and vulnerable, picking up that their boss is mad at them, employees feel they are not working hard enough and then isolating them. All big triggers for a further and deeper depression methinks!

    If our government is going to say people can work with depression, I think we need to have better information and mandatory training for all employers, so they are more understanding and places available (I know this sounds bad!) which can accomodate people who might work slightly differently to others who can cope 9 – 5 for 5 days per week.

    I’m so glad for your comment Colin. I’m so pleased you found the courage. You have a voice. Use it. We need to hear it.

  7. Harry Fenton says:

    You know, I am beginning to think we may need to invite discrimination, by telling prospective employers, at the earliest stage, very clearly about our mental health and how it affects us, either on the application form or at the first interview. Betting 99% of them won’t take the applications any stage further when they hear “sometimes I cry a bit in meetings for no reason, I’m often late for work because I can’t get up, and other times I’m quite manic …” (I love it/hate it when I see peoples’ eyes at the first mention of “mania” and “Manic Depression”. Their imagination takes them to a place where can see me running amok with an axe or a chain saw! You can see the fear and they back off rather smartly just in case I’m hiding the axe under my coat!) Employers would soon get fed up with the ESA assessors sending them people who are clearly (to us and the employers) functioning imperfectly when they are not ready to work. Maybe then those judging us so poorly will have to take notice that when we say we are not ready to go back to work, we really are NOT ready to go back to work!

  8. Now, that really does sound like a plan! I like that idea!

    I defo like what you say about being honest that sometimes you cry in meetings etc. Some of the meetings I go to, I would like to cry in and I don’t have bi-polar! At interviews, it’s amazing the things people hide. But actually what employers want is honesty. So, by all means if you’ve said all that at the interview, and they still offer you a job, they either are completely ok about it, or are completely ignorant. I think you might need to add somewhere in your CV though that you are very clever, passionate about your beliefs and not afraid to hide your emotions. All strengths any employer would be grateful for. I don’t really think that anyone else with a mental illness is functioning imperfectly though, although it might feel like it sometimes… just not functioning in a way that fits in with our repressed culture and expectations….

    I actually wonder if Bi-polar and mood disorders are illnesses at all, but just the result of trying to contain emotional responses in our horribly restrained ‘stiff upper lip’ very English (hide those damned emotions!) society. Sadly, no matter how hard we try, people who are passionate and creative, show and own their emotions are still seen to be weak, especially guys! You are allowed to look mean and moody, but heaven help a guy who brushes away more than one tear! I reckon if we, whose emotions do seem to live a lot closer to the surface than others, all migrated to perhaps Italy, Spain or parts of South America, we’d be considered completely well, albeit a bit repressed about showing emotional responses sometimes! But, that’s another whole discussion….

    In the meantime, I guess if you are sent for jobs by the ESA assessors and know you are not fit for work (by that I mean in the repressed and stress driven, target obsessed or mind numblingly boring environment which would make anyone who doesn’t have a skin like a rhinosceros cave in), an axe under your coat might be a plan! Axes are a bit heavy to cart around, so I tend to resort to having a dialogue with the ‘voices’ at interviews and telling them I don’t think its yet time to kill anyone… usually works! :)


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