Stress, depression and Star WarsPosted: September 8, 2011
When I was a boy, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. And, as I have found out in the past week, that urge hasn’t quite gone away.
I’ve been rehearsing for a panto version of the Three Musketeers, involving proper sword fights, and my inner child has been prompting me to make lightsaber noises every time I pick up my sword.
Unfortunately for me, this isn’t the only fighting I’ve been doing. Like the hero from Star Wars, I have been fighting dark and very personal forces. No Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine for me, though. Instead, I have been under attack from their sinister real-life counterparts, stress and depression, for the last two years.
Like Darth Vader in the first Star Wars film, stress came wading in first. I’d been working hard, taking on too much and putting too much pressure on myself. There was a lot going on away from work too, not least adjusting to life as a worn-out parent with two young children, and my return to the village pantomime after two years away.
So stress bashed away at me like a battering ram for several months and, almost without me noticing at first, the shadowy figure of depression crept in, whispering morale-crushing phrases like ‘You’re not good enough’ and gnawing away at my self-esteem like some kind of rabid, saber-toothed phantom menace.
It took three months of daily headaches and a catalogue of persistent, pesky little illnesses and ailments to make me realise that something wasn’t right. I hadn’t looked forward to anything for some time, and my worries were squeezing the joy out of my life. I had no physical or mental energy. In Star Wars terms, this was perhaps my equivalent moment to when Luke realises Darth Vader is his father. The Dark Side of the Force was calling from inside my own head, but I wasn’t really that keen to become its slave, so I went to see my doctor, who has since become the Obi Wan Kenobi of my depression experience, giving me the advice (and medication) I need.
Depression wasn’t ready to give up that easily, though. The tablets alone weren’t putting it in its rightful place. When a kind therapist friend generously gave her time to help me, I realised counselling could be a powerful ally, so my doctor referred me to a counsellor – counsellor Yoda, if you like. Begun this fightback had.
The counselling tackled the negative beliefs I held about myself and all manner of other things that helped to start getting my mind into better shape. My Jedi training was making me a useful warrior against the Dark Side.
My Rebel Alliance – my wife, friends and colleagues, counsellor and doctor, church and faith – has given me the best possible chance of taking on the Dark Side and winning. It keeps attempting to strike back, and it will be a while before I can wave goodbye to my antidepressants and enjoy my first beer since April 2010, but the Force is strong in this one.
The Dark Side’s powers are weakening. Soon, I will be the master.