My latest blog post – How to be Happy Alone – seemed to strike a chord with a number of people who were going through the process of rebuilding their inner selves after the end of a long-term relationship. However, I’ve just spent the weekend with one of my oldest and dearest friends and we spent some time walking and talking and pondering this subject; and we were both able to trace the roots of our “split” with our true selves way back past the beginning of our most significant romantic relationship.
Both my friend and I lost a parent at a young age but we also had to deal with other issues – issues that traumatized us and affected the way we related to the world as children and – as an extension of that – affected our relationship with our growing selves. We adapted and adjusted our personalities to fit with our situation and parts of our true selves were lost in the process.
One of the common consequences of this kind of “splitting off” of a part of yourself is depression. I have been fortunate in that I have never really suffered (at least not long-term) with this illness but I know many people that have, and instead of looking in at it from the outside as many do and wondering what it’s all about, I have always felt close to sufferers and felt that “there but for the grace of God go I”.
In the past few days the British media has been full of stories about British actor and comedian Stephen Fry, whose well-publicised battle with bipolar disorder culminated in a suicide bid last week. I was pleased to see that the media reported this with sensitivity and that it did much to raise awareness of this debilitating disease. One of the things that is so misunderstood is what such fortunate and famous people such as Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax and Robbie Williams – people who would appear to have everything going for them – have to feel miserable about. One of the myths about depression is that there has to be a reason for feeling down. There doesn’t. At least not a tangible one – one to do with material success, having loved ones, fame or fortune. And that’s the point. Because if it was as simple as that you’d be able to do something about it. For many it’s a clinical disease which is triggered by hormonal changes in the body and/or brain chemistry.
For many more people, though, the disease will have its roots in something that has happened in the past, and treatment of the symptoms with drugs alone will not eliminate the cause. That’s where counselling comes in, and this is a treatment that continues to be overlooked and under-funded in Britain, with waiting lists of up to a year on the NHS.
This is tragic. Because I truly believe that, with help, it’s possible to recover from a difficult or traumatic childhood or traumatic event that has left you scarred. I know, because I’ve done it. It takes time and effort and courage and it doesn’t happen overnight. But for me, it was well worth the time, the pain and the effort that I invested.
I mentioned in my latest blog post – How to be Happy Alone – that as part of my “recovery” I had also read a lot of self-help books and one of my readers asked what they were. So here are just some of the books that I can think of that have helped and inspired me over the years:
Toxic Parents – Susan Forward
Feel the Fear and do it Anyway – Susan Jeffers
The Consolations of Philosophy – Alain de Botton
Women Who Love too Much – Robin Norwood
The Cinderella Complex – Colette Dowling
The Road Less Travelled – M. Scott Peck
The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran
Families and How to Survive Them – John Cleese and Robin Skinner
Life and How to Survive it – John Cleese and Robin Skinner
If anyone has read any other inspirational or enlightening books then I would love to have your recommendations.