I think of depression as a cyclic disease itself, though no form of depression is more cyclic then what I can only describe as Post-Depression Depression. Similar to Postnatal depression in theory, though entirely different in subject, PDD comes as a result of depression being left untreated over longer periods of time, or ignored after a hospitalisation due to the patients desire to get better immediately, to achieve their own goals or sometimes to appease others. I’ve tried my best to sum up this un-recognised though regularly felt form of Mental Health Disorder in five clear stages, though the order in which they come in this article may not always be followed chronologically for the subject involved. I write this in the hope that we, as depressives, might take the time to learn more about ourselves and our difficulties that come as a result of our illness.
This stage usually begins sometime after an initial period of suicidal or clinical depression, which is what I have experienced and therefore will reference henceforth. The time from the ‘recovery’ of the initial depressive episode before reaching the first stage of what I call “Post-Depression Depression” varies from person to person, depending on their own personality traits, living situation and background. If the first cycle of PDD results in a relapse of suicidal depression, then the subject often finds the Lethargism quite comfortable, having experienced it before, though first time around and sometimes even at a later date, it feels cripplingly painful to the soul. Often dismissed as Angst or a Relapse itself, Lethargism usually consists of isolation, long periods in bed alone watching Netflix and listening to what some call depressing music, such as Elliot Smith or Joy Division (My personal choices – not true for all as others have different music tastes) or even certain songs by bands like Nirvana, Oasis, Green Day or Pink Floyd. Very little is accomplished by the subject during this stage, at face value, though little or no serious self-harm takes place and suicide attempts are usually kept under wraps. With the right support system in place, the subject may often skip over stage two which is ideal in all cases. Though the subject may not be aware that things the engage in in stage two are always Self-Destructive at the time, they often later regret decisions made during this time. During this stage, it is paramount that the subject finds self-worth as quickly and promptly as possible, as finding it sooner rather than later can help avoid stage two; though rushing too quickly into finding self-worth can often lead to continued cycles of PDD. Finding self-worth takes a long time, and is what I have known to be the best long term cure for depression itself. That is not to say that Lethargism must be experienced in order for a former or continued depressive to find self-worth, some are fortunate enough to never experience PDD in their mental health journey, though it can have its benefits in building character, especially among young adults and adolescents. In order to proceed as safely as possible through Lethargism, the subject must utilise strengths in short term coping mechanisms different from those utilised in a hospital environment, which cannot be classed as Self-Destructive.
A term most of us are familiar with, Google defines self-destruction as: behaviour that causes serious harm to oneself. This can manifest itself in many ways, again depending on the subject, varying from self-harm in the physical sense, experimentation with new narcotic drugs or sometimes overdosing on familiar narcotics (attempting to reach new highs not intentionally achievable by a person comfortable with their own mortality) and unprotected or unsafe sex to name a few (Basically the checklist for the diagnosis for Borderline Personality Disorder). Another form of self-destruction, manifested by those who tend to be more emotionally unstable, but have less of a tendency to commit dangerous acts on impulse, is to intentionally (but sometimes unknowingly) destroy relationships in their work and personal life. This often occurs when the subject spends too long in a lethargic state, and can often go hand in hand with more dangerous form of Self-Destruction. Looking at self-destructive behaviours really does vary from person to person. For example, after several cycles of PDD and a hospitalising relapse of my own depression, I turned to Cannabis (with low THC content at first – to avoid any relapse or new causation of psychosis) though this is debated muchly through the scientific community based on its value in medical science. I believe however, that it helped me particularly well because my depression went hand in hand with an anxiety disorder, as many do, which helped reduce the heightened anxiety in order to help me tackle the depression on a day to day basis. This is why I have come to believe that if Cannabis was to be legalised within the UK, regulations on THC content would help to avoid street “Skunk” and other forms of genetically modified Cannabis and therefore reduce the risk of future psychosis within the subject. If you feel you may be engaging in self-destructive behaviours of any kind I would advise seeking help immediately from a medical professional or a trust support group that may consist of close family and friends.
For a more in depth look at forms of Self-destruction or way to break free from it, check out some of the links at the bottom of this article.
3. Cathartic moment
The ‘Cathartic moment’, often referred to in film theory, is the moment in which the subject has a life changing thought or experience that alters their future or perception on certain things (sometimes referred to as an epiphany). I often find that myself, like other people I know who have shared their similar experiences with me, that this stage is the most recognisable and memorable outside of deeply traumatic events. This may be because we remember fonder memories more clearly and for longer periods of time, but for a depressive, we worship the days in which we just enjoy wake up happy. This is also the stage in which, in my experience, I have been most aware that I have been repeating the cycle of PDD. The catharsis can be about anything relating to the subject or their life. It often comes as a result of a tiresome but especially joyful or sometime traumatic experience. For Night Owls like me, this moment often comes as a result of frustration due to insomnia experienced regularly, and usually takes place very late at night or in the early hours of the morning. Though there is nothing inherently dangerous about a catharsis, how the subject reacts to it and takes action upon it can often lead to the completion of the latter stages of PDD, instead of a safer and more pleasant exit via stage three.
4. Unpredictable slip (Triggers)
An Unpredictable slip, like the title suggests, can be very unpredictable and can come at any time. Often people will be taken straight from a state of Lethargism straight to stage four before then proceeding to any other stage of the cycle without warning. This usually takes place due to an outside factor like a ‘Trigger’. Triggers, very briefly, are something particular to one person or sometimes a group of people that triggers a relapse of feelings and send a flood of emotion relating to the particular event, word or thing of any kind, back to the subject, upsetting them deeply. Without triggers to upset the cycle, and without an early exit, the unpredictable slip still usually follows a catharsis, due to the way in which the mind settles at different times. It usually comes as a result of a rushed catharsis or a rushed search for self-worth, after which the subject finds that the idealism they experienced in this time, wears off and is instead replaced by harsh realities. This can be very dangerous as it may lead back to a state of Self-Destruction, and repeated slip ups can lead to a loss of self-worth, which may lead eventually to a full blown relapse. For help or advice on how to deal with this, I suggest picking up a copy of Matt Haig’s acclaimed bestseller: “Reasons To Stay Alive”, with great emphasis on the chapter entitled: “The bank of bad days” (page 52). Not only is the book as a whole a terrifically written and deeply personal account of Haig’s own experiences with Depression and Anxiety, but I’m certain it has done its job in saving lives, let alone being one of my most frequently used short term fixes during a stage of Lethargism and one of the most valuable in terms of finding self-worth (or at the very least giving yourself to space and time to find it).
5. Open Wound
It’s difficult to separate stage five from stage one if you have experience all five stages of PDD in full before. It seems very similar, and you often feel as though you have accomplished nothing, but really you have. You have survived your Post-Depression Depression and even though you may repeat this cycle from here or any of the other stages, as your scars, both physical and emotional, begin to heal, you now know that you can beat this disease and you can succeed in getting better. Going about your life as an Open Wound leaves you feeling numb, which is why it is so familiar to Lethargism, but it has something within it that stage one does not have: Hope. The hope to push on and keep moving forward. It gives us drive; the drive that comes as a result to spite our own fatalities within our minds and to all those who knocked us or kept us down in the dirt.
To conclude as best I can, the fundamental issue of PDD, as I see it, comes as a result of a lack of support and knowledge around the subject. My advice to anyone who suffers from depression or has suffered in the past, or perhaps anyone who knows someone close to them who suffers/suffered from depression of any kind, as with any Mental Health Disorder, is to read and educate yourself. Because, as Haig puts it, depression is so understand because: “It is invisible.”
Thank you very much for reading this far, and please let me know what you thought of this article. I’m never afraid of a surprise email so if you were to look me up in any time of fear or stress or even crisis as a result of any Mental Health related problem you might have, I would never turn you away. Although, that being said, I’m not a Doctor. I can only give advice based on my own personal experiences and the experiences I have learnt about or witness from other patients in the past. Though I am fairly educated on the subject, I haven’t officially studied it yet. If you feel as though you may be having a Mental Health difficulty or crisis and you don’t know what to do about it, approach your GP or another Medical Professional within the Mental Health sector of the NHS or privately. Outside of that, if you just need someone to talk to, hit me up ( email@example.com ) or below at any time. The most important step to defeating a Disorder of the mind is asking for the help, or you seriously won’t get it as the services are so incredibly stretched and underfunded.
Outside of all that, I hope you have a terrific rest of your day, and watch this space to read some more of my personal thoughts and philosophies on certain subjects that interest me, including some of my own creative writing.
Links on Self Destruction:
Matt Haig’s “Reasons To Stay Alive”: