Crying & strength

“Crying doesn’t indicate that you’re weak, it just means that you’ve been strong for too long.”

I think this quote may have been doing the rounds of the internet for a while, but I’ve only just seen it. I don’t know where it came from originally, or I’d credit the author. I saw it here.

It totally knocked me for six.

A lot of the crying I’ve done in my life has been due to depression. So when I read this I see the surface meaning and I also see “Depression doesn’t indicate that you’re weak, it just means that you’ve been strong for too long” and that is true, true, true.

About a decade ago I read Tim Cantopher’s book Depressive illness : the curse of the strong which I thoroughly recommend. If I remember correctly, he wrote that people with depression tend to have been struggling on with massive pressures (be they internal or external) while beating themselves up about not managing better. That strong people are much more likely to get depressed because weaker characters throw up their hands and give up struggling long before their mental health suffers. That it’s not healthy to be so strong it eventually breaks you! That you need to literally give yourself a break and rest rather than battle on.

This was definitely the case for me.

—-

Earlier on today a colleague (previously observed to  have an unhelpful view of mental health issues) was telling me that in former communist countries depression is so rare as to be almost unheard of. Hmm. I thought to myself. Just because a thing’s not public doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Not wishing to be drawn into debate I let that slide. She then proceeded, telling me that if you say you have depression* in countries such as those, there is little or no help from the medical profession unlike in the UK. This I could find a little more believable (although I don’t know if it’s true or not). She concluded from this that people in those countries just have to get on with it.

“Or die,” I said, flippantly, but meaning it.

At my lowest point, had I lived in a situation with no medical support, no support from my employer, with a family & friends who denied the existence of mental heath issues, I would probably have been told to pull myself together. And I would probably have managed pulling myself together just enough to kill myself. And so I wouldn’t be here to disagree with my colleague. I wouldn’t be doing anything. I’d have taken the only way I could see of getting a rest, which would have been to Rest In Peace.

—-

So these days, I don’t stay so strong. I rest after little stresses, little strains. I cry sooner rather than later. But this quote about crying is one that I think the world should see. And they should see my version too.

“Depression doesn’t indicate that you’re weak, it just means that you’ve been strong for too long.”

………….

* Clearly she thinks it is a thing you say you have, rather than a thing you actually have.

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What a difference a decade makes

Apparently it’s 2013 now. I’ve mostly been preoccupied with being a horse owner and so have only just managed to find a moment to notice that it’s 2013. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one thinking “Twenty-THIRTEEN?! Surely the millennium only just happened?! How on earth did that get to be thirteen years ago?!”

This probably doesn’t paint me in the most intelligent light, but my thoughts continued:

“Woah … 13 years is more than 10 years … 10 years is a decade … so it’s more than a decade since the millennium. Woah!”

You might be tempted to point out that it’s been more than a decade since the millennium for a while, but you see, I’ve only just noticed.

So my decade-fixated brain wanted to consider what I did and who I was in 2003.

2003 was the beginning of the end of my childhood. I was 21. I’d finished my degree the year before and in the autumn I would begin my Masters. I had a job in retail, in a menswear chain, in a shop with so few customers the main challenges were thinking up things to do to make the day go by. Even on a Saturday you’d be stood wondering how long it would be before anyone came in. This was made more depressing because the salesmen were on commission. If no one comes in even the best salesman is going to struggle to make his money.

I was in the workforce, for the first time (aside from temping and cleaning holiday jobs), which was a bit of a shock to the system.  It was a lonely job. Aside from 1 day each week I was the only female and I was “posh.”* Their word not mine. The day I left the manager said to me “When you started we didn’t talk to you because we didn’t know what to say to a posh bird.”

During 2003 I moved from my dysfunctional student household to a somewhat more functional post-graduate household. I moved from the no-customers, no-conversation, no-work job to work in a flagship department store and I began my Masters. It was a step towards growing up…

But I had no hope.

I didn’t think about tomorrow with anything but fear.

I didn’t think about other people with anything but fear.

And I didn’t think about anything that scared me.

I acquired a boyfriend. Over twice my age, from a different nation/culture, ex-military special forces, built like the proverbial, he was not exactly boyfriend material. But, looking back, I think I was with him because I thought he could keep me safe. Under his enormous wing I wouldn’t have to face the fear. But it was probably fortunate that he stood me up on Christmas day, contributing to our breaking up in early 2004.

I thought I was worthless. But I had to hide that. I lived in constant fear that people would see the worthlessness and I felt slightly scornful if they didn’t.

I was functioning. Just.

I was all fear. It was my only motivator; my constant companion. All I could do was get through each day dodging the fear.

If you had told me that in 10 years I would have a loving husband, a home, a horse of my own, 2 cats and thought patterns that didn’t revolve around fear, ever, I would have laughed in your face so hard you would have seen the desperation.

If you had only told me that I would have riding lessons and a pet, I still wouldn’t have believed you. I didn’t believe there was anything good to live for. I didn’t believe anything good would ever come my way. I had no hope.

If I wrote a letter to my 21-year-old self I don’t think I’d be able to make her believe any of it. I wonder if anyone could have done. In some ways I believe I had to hit rock bottom to learn to change and to see that change was possible, but in other ways I wonder … 2003 was a few years away from rock bottom – could it have been preempted at that point?

 

What a difference a decade makes.

 

 

* I.e. had a southern accent and a degree.