It’s all in the mind. And it hurts!

During most of my adult life, I have suffered, to one extent or another, from depression – worse at some times than at others. As far as work is concerned, for one period of just over a year, it prevented my doing any at all. At many other times it got severely in the way. Compared with most other such sufferers however, I was in a privileged position. As a film director who wrote the vast majority of my own stuff, I exercised a large amount of control over what I did and when I did it. Had I worked in an office, it would have been a very different story. 

Quite early on in the progress of my depression, in order to try and ease the pain and distress it was causing, I set about trying to figure out where it had come from, what was its source. Surely I wasn’t born with it. And if I weren’t, then I must somehow have acquired it in the years since. I went back in my own mind – time and again – into the events of my past, particularly my childhood, as far back as I could remember, looking for clues. As for my very early childhood – that part that predates my ability to remember any of it – I spoke with relatives who were around at that time and who could recall my circumstances. In this way, I started to build up a picture. I got quite a shock. A lot of it was pretty unpleasant. Nevertheless, it seemed clear that the unpleasant stuff was what lay at the root of it and had therefore to be acknowledged and confronted.

The other thing I did, over a period of about ten years, was to jot down in a notebook I carried with me all the time, thoughts and observations about my life and about life in general. It helped. Externalizing my disturbed feelings and then noting down observations that emerged from them had the beneficial effect of starting to disconnect me from them. The realization that I was neither those feelings nor the pain they brought on gave a wonderful glimpse of freedom and well-being. Those glimpses, though extremely short, were intensely significant – and with time they grew longer. And longer. Today, although I still get the occasional attack, it will hardly ever last more than a day. And even then will seldom be enough to put me off carrying on with my normal everyday life. I can talk openly to W about my feelings and how they seem now like the distant feelings of an entity that exists no longer  – i.e. those of myself as a very young child. 

Life, as we all discover at some point, is not easy. Looking back over my notes a while back, I thought maybe they could help others. Depression, after all, is now one of the commonest and most misunderstood causes of distress and serious unhappiness in western society. Accordingly, I’ve distilled what seems to be their essence and I’m going to present them here in this blog on an occasional basis and in a form which I hope expresses them in a succinct, straightforward way. I sincerely hope they help and give reassurance to any who read them and who may themselves be struggling with the anxieties, lack of self-esteem and debilitating negativity which scarred my life for so long and may be scarring theirs.

Here is the first –


‘Why can’t things stay as they are?’ you say. Why does everything have to change?

Look out of the window. Everything everywhere is in movement. Leaves twist in the wind, birds fly, ants scurry, the grass grows, sap rises within the trees, the clouds cross the skies above our heads, the earth moves round the sun. Even the particles within the atoms which constitute the buttons of your coat and which make up the flesh on your bones, spin endlessly around each other. And you and I grow older.  Nothing is as it was even a fraction of a second ago. On a different time-scale we would see before our eyes the rivers gouge out canyons in the land, the mountains turn to dust, stars come to birth and go out. Nothing is as it was, nor as it will be. All is change: life itself is change.

Shutting the door on change, you shut the door on life.

Is that how you want it?

About besonian

Writer, photographer, film director
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8 Responses to It’s all in the mind. And it hurts!

  1. Catherine says:

    It’s funny, I really enjoy doing different things and enjoy the changing seasons, but I need to know that I have a stable reference point as well. I suppose that an internal one is the most useful – but when you lose it then I find everything changing becomes harder to manage……

    • besonian says:

      Thanks Catherine. There is one internal reference point which is always there, whatever changes take place in one’s outer world. It isn’t perhaps always that easy to sense, but it’s always there waiting for you. I don’t know what one would call it – in fact I’ve heard it called by various names, as I’m sure you have – the Self, That, I – perhaps even God – except that last word is overlaid now with so many often dubious overtones as to be inappropriate – at least to my mind. I prefer to call it simply ‘I’. (As opposed to ‘me’ which is really just my name, my history and background etc.) And it’s like the cinema screen on which the various images come and go but which is always there and never affected by the images. If you can feel that within yourself (and ‘feeling’ it is all you can do – it’s not detectable by the mind, being prior to that) it’s a wonderful way of remaining essentially unaffected by the winds of change, even though your hair may get quite blown about in the process!

  2. I clearly identify with the notebook, Jeff. I used to carry around a sketchbook with me everywhere in my early days in Tokyo, not only to record visually but also to ease anxiety which I still get from time to time.
    My late mother sadly had chronic depression for the last five years of her life. She died last year at the age of 74. They tried and tried but couldn’t remove that ‘thing’ that was crippling her mind. However, all through my childhood, I remember a person who liked telling humorous anecdotes, mimicking others’ accents, laughing, jovial, upbeat and anything but depressive. She gained a high position in the Social Services. When she was first admitted to a nursing home, my father had mentioned to me something about a brief history of anxiety attacks in her younger days though I could never imagine it. It’s saddening that these demons somehow reared their ugly heads later in her life and eventually took it. A few years ago I paid tribute to her with an amusing anecdote which was published in The Guardian.

  3. besonian says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your mother, Jason. As I said in my blog, depression is so misunderstood. In my view, one of the prime misunderstandings – which many people have – is to assume it’s a ‘thing’ – like it has an existence separate from our own selves. In fact, like it or not, it’s an integral part of who we are at that time. Mentally disconnecting our own selves from another part of our own selves is – well, in fact, it’s not possible. And to treat it as though it were is pointless. Depression is a deep-down cry for help, usually from the pain of psychological wounds received many years ago. In our society we still regard the physical as ‘real’ and the psychological as being ‘only in the mind’. If you break your leg and have to walk around with it in plaster, people will draw funny pictures on if for you, sign their names and write rude jokes on it. Tell them on the other hand that you’ve got a severe psychological condition – and most of them suddenly have a train to catch.

    Your mother seems clearly to have been cooking up her problems from an early age. It’s so often the way that these demons are created in childhood, especially the very early years. In those days we have no way of dealing with them. They hurt badly. To ease that hurt, we try to forget them; push them away into the far background. Which is where they remain. They don’t go away. Until, later in life, and still hurting, they start to force their way to the surface, saying – Please deal with us!

    As far as how the individual deals with that, I can only relate – as I have done in the blog – how I went about it. There may well be other ways. But whichever way one chooses, of one thing I’m sure – depression is an integral part of who the sufferer is. And it must be dealt with as such.

  4. Many times simply acknowledging what you are feeling helps you to deal with it. I don’t have depression, but like everyone else I get depressed from time to time. I suffer more from nervous anxiety and always have. A lot of mine stems from my background, too. My grandmother was nervous, and my mother was nervous and nearly agoraphobic. She hated people and going out in public. I’ve had to work hard to overcome that “training” I had from birth. School years were difficult. My 20’s and 30’s and going out on my own were very hard. I wouldn’t go back to how I was for anything!

    • besonian says:

      Thank you for looking at my blog Donna. Sounds like you had a rough-ish time too. I think in one way or another, most of us do. We were born with none of these things like anxiety, agoraphobia, depression, etc. We acquire them, usually in the very early years of childhood. And my theory, which I’ve largely borne out in my own life at least, is that as they are acquired, so also can they be at the very least eased and even eradicated. If not, they are inevitably passed on to the next generation – which sounds like your mother’s situation vis-a-vis her mother.

      • That’s true. I’ve grown so much, and I’ve tried hard to make sure my boys weren’t raised as I was. They’re still a lot like me (and also a lot like my hubby). We did our best, and I’m proud of them. Hopefully they won’t look back some day and blame me for all of their problems. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Guest author: Jeff B. Grant | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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