Cathy Domoney shares her very personal journey through depression and anxiety.
I’m stubborn, really stubborn, I mean I hate being told what to do (as my poor long-suffering husband will happily verify). Some people say that this is my strength; some say it’s my weakness. I’d say it’s my motivation, my driving force, my rocket-fuel. When people tell me that I can’t, I go out of my way to prove them wrong. This has led me to overcome illness, have children, change careers, publish a book, move countries to mention a few things. This can have the opposite effect on the person hearing it however. Let me explain.
When I was a child I was affectionately described as a ‘mistake.’ (I prefer the term a wonderful surprise). My parents had their pigeon pair at the appropriate age and place in their lives, they were complete and content. But when they went from the UK to Australia for a holiday, they came back with a stowaway! Being the youngest sibling by ten and thirteen years, I got told what to do and think from a very young age, by multiple sources. Of course when your sister is ten years your senior and bullies and belittles you relentlessly, and frequently informs you that she resents the day you were born, it translates as pressure.
I lived with fear and was constantly the recipient of emotional abuse. I behaved the only way that brought me peace. I began to be the best possible person I could be and made sure not to make any mistakes that may be used as ammunition against me in my already powerless world. I would never be told what to do as I’d already done it, I never had arguments because I’d done nothing wrong and I pushed my voice way down where it couldn’t be heard and, therefore, couldn’t ‘rock the boat’. This was a short-term solution which got me through my childhood but was to have long term consequences anchored to years of depression and panic attacks in my adult life. It’s something I still struggle with today and it can be exhausting. These ridiculously high expectations that I placed upon my child-self, because of the actions of others, kept me in an emotional prison for decades.
It’s also had a huge impact on my health. I now have three auto-immune diseases. I’m the sort of person that believes that illness of the body has deep routed emotional triggers. I’ve taken pills prescribed by doctors, but until I investigated why I was feeling the way I was, my illness remained dominant. Wasn’t it Sigmund Fraud who introduced us to the term ‘sublimation’? Where we push down emotions but they later manifest somehow? Well, I believe that in me, it manifests in chronic illness. From the age of 18, I’ve danced with chronic illness. That’s when my journey into self-discovery and my thirst for knowledge of the human condition was born.
The Self-fulfilling Prophecy
I studied Sociology for ‘A’ Level and Degree Level and it began to open my eyes to a radically different way of looking at the world. It introduced me to the concept of the Self-fulfilling Prophecy, which is basically the concept that we live up to the expectations set out for us by ourselves and others. Generally in life, we believe what we’re told. This is particularly true for children who are surrounded by people who tell them what they are and who they’ll become. This resonated with me at every level of my being. I became obsessed with this philosophy and read as much as I could on the subject. I began by focussing on what I was thinking. I’d developed a habit of thinking very negatively. I struggled with life, which to me was dark and heavy. I dipped in and out of depression and received a lot of therapy.
What Is Depression
People ask me what depression is. I think it’s a very personal opinion. For me, depression is acknowledging that I have a life that most people would kill for. An amazing husband who adores me, beautiful children, fantastic qualifications, my own home, wonderful friends, and the list goes on. Depression is the warped reflection in the mirror that laughs at you. Logically, you know you have nothing to feel depressed about. You feel guilty for having depression. People have lost their children, their husbands, their legs. People are starving, dying, suffering. What right do I have to be depressed? I have everything to be grateful for. So to me, that is what depression is, the logic of my world doesn’t match up with my feelings for my world. The fact that I’m intelligent enough to recognise this makes it worse, not better. Throw in the fact that I have training in Counselling & Psychotherapy, makes it harder still.
And Yet, I am Strong
People say that I’m a bubbly, happy person and a joy to be around. This is true. I love being around others, I love helping them shine their own unique light on the world. But the truth I’m a borderline depressive and always will be. I’m getting better at ‘catching’ myself and knowing the symptoms. I’m getting better at consciously working on my thinking and expressing to my nearest and dearest how I’m feeling. I no longer see it at a weakness. I can look at my life and know that I’m one of the strongest people that you’re ever likely to meet. I’m passionate, all loving, will champion your efforts in the world, I’ll lift you up when you’re feeling low and know what to say to give you hope and I’ll help you carry on. I’ll laugh with you, celebrate with you and weep with you throughout your lifetime, whatever you need me to be, I am. However, I’ll always be a bit sensitive and I’ll always need to be shown that I’m loved. These are my life floats that prevent me from sinking. If now and again I do disappear into the murky waters, I recognise it as a chance to allow the water to cleanse me and then I get back out and start again, guilt-free.
I can’t read the newspapers or watch the news reports, I have even stopped looking at Facebook. I just can’t cope with the negativity, the aggression and the sadness. I internalise it and over-think it. It plunges me into darkness.
I used to feel guilty at hiding from such things. No more. I’m of far more use to the world in my positive self than the alternative. I want to focus on things going well in the world. I give to charities and I send love and angels to all who need them and then I focus on what I can contribute. Living in a bubble makes me a better mother for my four precious children, a better wife, friend, community member and global citizen. I do what works for me and I’m no longer willing to apologise for it.
My passion for helping other people see and achieve their full potential stems from this place in me as I can’t bear to see others struggle. I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of the rainbow, if you’re there too, please know that you’re not alone.
I don’t think that I’ll ever be truly free of my depression and that’s ok. By acknowledging it, embracing it as part of who I am and purposefully and relentlessly moving forward, I’m lessening its grip on me. Writing gives me an enormous sense of relief. Reaching out to others gives me a sense of peace. I take each day as it comes and I reach for positivity and happiness. If I go quiet, I’m not being rude, I’m sinking, so please be patient. If I question you at times seeking reassurance that we’re ok, I’m suffering from self-doubt and anxiety, so please be kind and throw me a line. You may not understand my situation enough to know what to do, but please just love me enough to try.
Helping someone with depression:
- Please be patient. You may not understand where they are coming from, they probably don’t either.
- Be gentle when trying to help. What you may see as the right way forward may not be what the other person wants.
- Offering advice can come from a loving place but can cloud the issue further. Provide a safe, non-judgmental environment where they can find their own answers.
- Each journey through depression is very personal and will move at different rates, two friends with depression will rarely follow the exact same path.
- See it as an illness, not a weakness. You can no sooner force a broken leg to heal quicker than you can try a force a depressive into recovery, it doesn’t work like that.
- Try not to be a hero. Helping somebody is wonderful, as long as you recognise the signs of when to back off and allow the person to take control again.
- Love is the best medicine you can give. Winnie the Pooh and the gang don’t expect Eeyore to ‘cheer up,’ they love and accept him just the way he is.
Where to turn if you need professional help
What are your best tips for helping someone living with depression or anxiety?
Author: Cathy Domoney, Positive Thinking Children’s Author
Cathy holds a Diploma in Counselling, Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy. With a BA Hons in Sociology & History along with a Certificate in Life Coaching, she offers the complete package that is destined to make changes in the lives of children through her books. When teaching she helped pupils & colleagues with self-esteem issues. Cathy knows how positive-thinking can impact on a child’s experience of the world & passionately shares this knowledge with parents & teachers.
Madeleine, Maddy & Midge – Positive Thinking for Children
Madeleine has two secret friends, Maddy and Midge. Maddy’s happy messages make Madeleine feel tall, strong and full of confidence. Midge however, fills Madeleine with worries, troubles and doubt and makes her feel small, scared and alone. Madeleine has found the magic spell so that Maddy’s voice will be all she will hear and Midge will disappear like the ‘Pop’ of a bubble. Madeleine has the power to decide whether to be happy or sad. The question is, what will she decide? Madeleine, Maddy & Midge contains a powerful message of self esteem and confidence for children. It is more than just a story book, it is a literary friend. Complete with parent and teacher activities Madeleine, Maddy & Midge is a valuable resource tool.
Get Cathy’s book here.