The awakening: life beyond depressionPosted: February 12, 2013
When my wife and I took our two children for a winter walk recently, I fully expected them to moan that it was boring; that they were cold; that they were hungry.
Surprisingly, none of that happened. In fact, they had a great time, exploring paths and enjoying the sights and sounds of our local countryside. It reminded me that, for small children, every outing, every place or activity brings new and potentially exciting and fascinating experiences.
The most memorable moment was then they were standing on a bridge over a road, waiting for cars to come under it. One driver looked up, saw their excited faces and honked his horn. It was quite possibly the most thrilling thing that had ever happened to them.
In contrast, for someone with depression, every day, every outing, every place or activity is a source of overwhelming worry, fear, stress, dread, anxiety and tiredness.
Thankfully, I am now experiencing the world in a more childlike way. It is like my senses are reawakening after being numbed and lost in freezing fog for three years.
Depression had drained the colour from my life, deadening my memory, blackening my moods and draining my energy and enthusiasm. I go out now and look up at the trees and sky, rather than staring blankly ahead or at the floor. Like my children, I’m enjoying exploring the world around me and taking in new experiences.
I’m also rediscovering pleasures that had become lost and forgotten – music, for example. It’s not that I never listened to music during my depression, but some of the music I enjoyed most a few years ago somehow lost its appeal in those dark times.
I’d skip half the tracks on CDs or on my iPod because I just couldn’t be bothered to listen to them. I’m now getting a lot of pleasure from digging out music that I haven’t listened to for ages, like my collection of 50s American rock ’n’ roll, which has been sadly neglected for a long time but which is now a fresh delight.
One musical moment in particular filled me with a feeling I haven’t had for a long time.
Before I got my first CD player in the mid-90s – one of those personal CD players that nobody has any more – I’d built up a sizeable collection of cassettes, including a small number of Elvis Presley tapes. There was a poor-quality live recording, a greatest hits compilation and a couple of movie soundtracks.
The ability to play CDs opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I bought a CD called Elvis 56 with my birthday money. This collection of songs recorded in 1956 came with a nice booklet of photographs of Elvis looking cool and moody, and held great promise. I put the disk in my CD player and took it to bed with me that night.
What I heard made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It made me shiver. It was magic. I was hooked. The impact of those songs – Anyway You Want Me; I Was The One; I Want You, I Need You, I Love You; Anyplace is Paradise – stayed with me. I needed more Elvis CDs, and it didn’t stop there. I watched the movies, bought the box sets, read the books, even began impersonating Elvis at karaoke.
I put a CD of Elvis’s 1956 recordings in my car last week and there was that feeling again – a feeling that makes you just sit back, take a deep breath and go ‘wow’.
So, in life beyond depression, feelings like joy, excitement and anticipation can return, however long and however deep they’ve been buried. Perhaps my prolonged hibernation is over at last.