First published by Mind.
After three years in the mire of depression, optimism is a new idea to me. It is both exciting and a new thing to worry about.
Can I remain optimistic and positive? Can I really leave depression behind? When I wobble can I keep my balance? Can I really come off my antidepressants this year or will it be another anticlimactic mission?
The answer to these questions can be found in an unlikely trio of places – a children’s Christmas film, a Dr Seuss book and in Alice in Wonderland. This answer is just one word long and is my motto for 2013:
One simple, memorable word to focus on. Believe good things are possible. Believe in the seemingly impossible. And, hardest but potentially most rewarding of all, believe in myself – believe in what I am capable of, what I can do, and believe that I can be well and happy.
So what’s all this about Dr Seuss, Alice in Wonderland and Christmas films, then?
Let’s start with Dr Seuss, and one of his many great books, Oh the Places You’ll Go. Reading this for the first time to my children a couple of weeks ago, I was convinced some of it was about recovering from depression. I particularly like these three passages:
And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
In Tim Burton’s film of Alice in Wonderland, which I watched recently (not with my children, who would have been well and truly freaked out by it), Alice also faces danger and has to fight a giant monster called the Jabberwocky – another thing that sounds like depression to me. She explains something that she learned from her inspirational father:
I try to believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Count them, Alice. One, there are drinks that make you shrink. Two, there are foods that make you grow. Three, animals can talk. Four, cats can disappear. Five, there is a place called Underland. Six, I can slay the Jabberwocky.
I love this idea of believing in things that don’t seem possible but are. In the darkest moments of my depression I felt useless to everyone and thought I would never get better or look forward to anything. It seemed impossible to overcome it, yet that’s what I am doing now.
The children’s Christmas film I mentioned is the lovely, magical Polar Express, in which a boy who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus boards a train to the North Pole and meets the big man himself. When he returns home convinced forever, the conductor stamps his ticket with the word ‘BELIEVE’ and tells him:
The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.
So I am ready to get on the train and to believe. It is a leap of faith. I haven’t been ready to take that leap until now, but here we go. Depression, you have had your fun. Now pack your bags, go away and never come back. I am changing the locks.
If you are going through what I have been through with this soul-destroying illness, never give up hoping. Keep dreaming. Keep looking for light in the darkness. Believe that you can and will get better.