Compound Depression

Recent events have brought on times for me where I have had strong thoughts of suicide than ever before. Finding strength has been very difficult, but I am still here so I would like to share with you something I have learnt and that I hope will help me better manage my depression in the future.

Problems, issues and events in life that lead to depression and suicide ideation come in many forms. Sometimes they build and reach an unbearable pressure, feeling like you need to find some kind of release valve to vent and stabilise. Some things are a constant low hum of frustration and irritation, often manageable but ultimately quite exhausting. Then there are sudden events that come out of nowhere and catch you completely off guard.

My experience as a trans woman has taught me that (for me) gender dysphoria is a constant low hum. It sits in the back of my mind, every now and then spiking when I am reminded of it, but ultimately it stays at a constant, manageable level. I hope that it will disappear completely in time, it is fuelled quite strongly by discomfort and a dysphoria related to my genitals, but there are a lot of other factors involved that make it quite nuanced and difficult to express.

For example watching a film where young women are coming of age and learning about women’s rights, friendship and life in general. Many of my female friends will be able to relate to this through their own experiences, but I struggle because I know who I am now, but at that age I was shoehorning myself into a male template. My path is so different and I can never get back the time I spent trying to be something that I am not. This is a kind of retrospective gender dysphoria that can hurt just as much as any other form.

A spike in dysphoria amidst the constant low hum.

Other parts of life can bring comfort at these times, whether that is leaning on friends, immersing yourself into work or perhaps playing sport. Most of us have a few outlets that we can hold on to when depression pulls us down.

I find work very fulfilling, doing well in my job often fills me with confidence and gives me the strength to fight my own demons. My friends bring huge amounts of light to my world too, as does RockFit, art and sports.

Compound depression

Spiralling into depression and feeling thoughts of suicide is not a good place to be. Personally, I am finding that a single problem is never the cause. What leads me there is when depression, sadness or loss affects more than one of my key aspects of life.

Job – friends – family – sport – art – identity

These are my main pillars of strength and bring me strength when I need it. (I added identity on the end because of my gender dysphoria, really it belongs in a category of its own as it sits more as an overarching sense of self that affects my life in general).

What I have found is that when depression takes over too many aspects of my life, it leads to a spiral of bad thoughts, self-deprecation and thoughts of suicide. My performance at work slips and I struggle. I have a problem with friends and I struggle. I get pushed away from sport and I struggle.

When there feels like there is no outlet it can be extremely difficult to see a way out of depression. This is when suicide leaks in and plagues thoughts. Not because it is an easy way out, far from it. Suicide starts to look like not just an idea, but it starts to look like the only option because all other bridges have been burnt.

There is another dangerous thought that stops recovery. Let’s say I feel terrible about my job,my identity is clouded by dysphoria, I have a fall out with a friend and sports have pushed me away. In times like this it would sense to reach out to family, or perhaps other friends. Except my mind tells me that I would be bringing all of this burden and depression into their lives, so they are better off without me.

Let me tell you from experience, this is bullshit. This is depression winning. It is depression talking. Don’t listen to it.

What I have learnt is that compound depression is what hurts me. If I keep them separate and don’t think of them as a whole then they are manageable. Step back and separate.

Tackle one at a time and seek help when needed.

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