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What Doesn't Kill Us... Wednesday September 21, 2016

That which does not kill us makes us stronger, goes the old adage. Actually, it was the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said it.

Huh. I prefer the one which goes, "That which does not kill you gives you a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a really dark sense of humour." I think a lot of us can relate to that one.

Besides which, the first does not seem to be true. That which does not actually kill us, may leave us weaker, not stronger. Death by a thousand cuts is still a death. People who have defeated cancer more than once will tell you the second time is harder. Survivors of torture know that the second and subsequent beatings are more difficult to endure because you know the pain that is to come.

So how can we be stronger for a traumatic event? How can going through the darkness of depression make us stronger? How can we be stronger after surviving, say, a suicide attempt?

Apparently, studies have shown that some trauma survivors report positive changes and enhanced personal development, called post traumatic growth (PTG). PTG refers to any beneficial change resulting from a major life crisis or traumatic event, but people most commonly experience a positive shift by having a renewed appreciation for life; adopting a new world view with new possibilities for themselves; feeling more personal strength; feeling more satisfied spiritually, and/or their relationships improve.

Hmmm, do you hear that? Yes – that's the sound of my deep scepticism...

But maybe I need to rethink.

Because I know that I am stronger, more resilient, more compassionate and less judgemental as a result of my times of darkness. My relationships are rich and loving (mostly) because I am more accepting of how people actually are, instead of trying to make them into my idea of what they should be. And that's because I have to accept myself as I am.

I accept my condition. I have bi-polar; it's as simple as that. If I try to deny it, or hide it or fight against it, I sentence myself to more trauma.

Accepting isn't the same as condoning or approving. To accept means to stop resisting or struggling against what is because to do so causes pain and suffering. Acceptance means to surrender to the moment as it is. Not to give up.

So no, I'm not giving up. I accept that I will probably go down into the pit again and yet again, but I'm keeping my eye open all the time for new medicines and new practices that might reduce the depth of the pit or enable me to avoid it. Because yes, I'd love to be well. I'd love to be delivered from this condition.

And I'd love to know how easy you find this acceptance, and if you feel you are stronger for having depression.

A Moodscope member

NB – parts of this post have been taken from a blog post by Debbie Hampton in The Best Brain Possible.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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LP Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 7:27am

Hi Mary,
Acceptance doesn't come easily to me. Neither does surrender. Especially when people do wrong. It comes from a fierce sense of self protection that was never there for me as a child.
I have come to understand though the notion of "It is what it is". I can't change others. Fighting against what is, just makes things worse. That doesn't mean that I think it's ok. Far from it! I get that I can accept that it exists and that in life, bad stuff exists.
It was really helpful that you said that acceptance doesn't mean condoning or approving.

From my struggle at work I am stronger. I have learnt to say that I don't agree and say why.
I stand my ground, stick to my values and who I am, as Lex said in his blog called "Dont go changing".

As I've got older and been through difficult times I've learnt that they run their course and that asking for help if I get the feeling that I can't cope, is taking action which brings relief. It boosts my confidence in my self and just reassures me that I am capabable.

With mental illness I believe that there are physiological causes and ways to improve it's impact.
Things can and do get better than they have been and I agree that there is always hope.

Even though at the time it feels like the bad time will never end, it always has. I get strength from my feeling of determination not to go there again.
Not only can I survive it, but come away feeling that if I can survive that, I can survive a hell of alot that may come my way.

Thank you for a great blog Mary. Love and strength to all. LPxx

Duma Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 7:52am

Hi Mary.

Have to say - I agree with Frederick.

First thing I learned in the martial arts was this - getting hit doesn't hurt that much.

Heartbreak - after a while, it just smarts some. Enough experience and you're a damage sink.

Almost nothing upsets me, I've been around...

... I know I am a freak and all, but still, the man had a point.

Barring getting permanently hurt, it's all just going to toughen you up.

Here's hoping others feel the same way, Duma.

Orangeblossom Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 7:55am

Hi Mary, I love the way that you analyse this quotation by Frederick Nieteche and apply it to your own situation in an adapted version. Difficulties have enabled me to build on my resilience & a more recent practise of mindfulness has definitely been helpful. Acceptance of myself and where I am at this moment is a work in progress.

Lou Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 7:59am

I can very much relate to this blog. I am much weaker physically from that which that which didn't kill me but I have had to do a lot of work to repair the mental side. This is still a work in progress as is acceptance, which is more of a goal than a reality! Great Blog, thanks Mary.

Sophie Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 9:41am

I can relate to this, to some extent. I am not weaker physically (thankfully) but I have certainly set myself the task of working to improve my mental state through recognising triggers, forming coping strategies, things like that. I don't want to 'leave it to the tablets' to fix, I feel like I want to take some control over my outlook, whether it is skewed because of a chemical imbalance or not. Work in progress is good - 'If you are struggling, that's a good thing. It means you haven't given up'. Think how proud we should feel of ourselves for investing such time and energy into improving our own well being :)

Lou Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 12:12pm

" 'If you are struggling, that's a good thing. It means you haven't given up'.' Sophie - thank you so much for this, it's a really great thought and one I shall hang on to.

Sophie Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 1:18pm

You're welcome Lou, it's funny how sometimes a phrase or caption really resonates, isn't it? I used to think of struggling being a negative thing, but I don't anymore

Lou Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 3:22pm

Yes, it's a great way of thinking about it. And yes, sometimes it is the right words at rhe right time that just capture the imagination. Thanks for sharing yours.

Richard Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 8:09am

Morning, Mary. It is what it is. I'm convinced that my parents will never understand my mood swings. Why should they?
I stand in my new house, happier than ever.
I wish you a safe journey. This is my last blog.
Peace & Love
To all Moodscopers.

Nick Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 8:17am

You ok Richard?

Frankie Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 8:32am

It has been good to read you here Richard and lovely that you are happier than ever. May I say "au revoir" instead of goodbye? I have always liked seeing your name ... Wishing you peace of mind and heart. Frankie

Richard Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 7:51am

Never better, Nick. Thank you, sir.

Richard Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 7:52am

Thank you, Frankie x

Nick Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 8:13am

To me Mary, your words seem so honest and real.
In that realness and honesty, I find a deep beauty.
Thank you for bringing beauty into my life. xx

Sophie Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 9:21am

I like the saying 'I have a 100% success rate of making it through the bad days'. I remind myself of that when I'm having another one. That plus the thought of 'the time will pass anyway, whether I am here or not', so I do my best to hold on tight and ride it out, knowing that eventually enough time will pass for the bad day to make way for a better one, all I have to do is keep myself safe until then. The one thing I have faith in, when everything else seems to fail, is that the time will pass regardless.

Andrew Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 10:15am

Hi Mary...another beautifully written and very honest blog...thank you for sharing. Stronger? Hmmm I am told many many times that I am strong. Strong for 'dealing with' the bad times. Strong for holding on. Strong for working hard to beat The Dog by talking, going to therapy, taking exercise, trying to eat properly and look after myself better....but do I FEEL strong? Nope. Never. Not in the slightest. I feel either OK (at best), or weak, ashamed, annoyed, and constantly wary.Depression has not made me stronger. More aware, yes. More familiar than many of the breadth of the spectrum of human moods and conditions, for sure. But stronger? I think not. I wish!

Brum Mum Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 12:47pm

Hi Mary I love your take on this. I do feel stronger for understanding my illness, putting positive strategies in place and learning about resilience. When we are sensitive souls, which I certainly can be, it is harder to be resilient, but also we can be more loving but easily hurt. I have experienced post traumatic growth after leaving my husband. Even my Dad who doesn't support divorce commented on this. Some people say that they feel stronger experiencing depression. I'm not sure whether it has made me stronger and as my decline can happen very rapidly I don't know what I might have achieved had I not experienced it. It has however taught me greater empathy which I use in work. Thanks once again for an insightful blog!!

Brum Mum Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 1:46pm

Have just learnt that empathy leads to burn out, whereas compassion does not. You learn something new everyday!!

Sophie Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 9:54pm

Wow, that is very true and actually seems so obvious! Empathy is by far one of my biggest 'strengths' but paradoxically weakens me as it is so tiring to be that way all the time. Thank you for making me more aware

Graeme Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 1:19pm

Thank you for your honesty and openness, Mary.

Lexi Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 1:53pm

Hi Mary-I do think that depression and anxiety has made me more sensitive to the plight of others. But depression is the "gift" that keeps on giving, and there were days when I wondered if it would indeed kill me (metaphorically and physically).

The Gardener Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 2:36pm

I wish I could get some 'karma'? Buddhist like distance without losing sight of reality - some ability not to get sore, angry and frustrated at a situation which is beyond me to cope with - and accept that I do my best. I must BE managing or I would not have had such a good time as the last few days, so many people and such help. But my shell is not thick enough to withstand Mr G's rudeness to me and strangers, his every five minutes cold, hot, hungry, doesn't know where the toilet is, when are we going - sun's too bright - it's dark, on and on and on.He CAN be diverted but only if he has 100% attention all the time. Lovely this morning, beautiful weather, brilliant morning. I was fighting some shelves in my shop, and I, like so many of us have a hang up in asking for help. among two middle-aged English couples, the wives were trawling through the gew-gaws on a nearby stand. I approached the husbands and said 'you good at DIY'? One pointed to the other. They both came in, shelves done in 10 minutes, and they were fascinated with my enterprise. The wives were furious - but I hope the guys got a 'feel-good' factor. I am beginning to believe that suffering does make one stronger (as Mary says, if it does not kill you). More and more I look for small joys - increase in butterflies this year - I CAN be proud of what I've achieved (but never give myself more than a 'little' on the scale.

Hellyblossom Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 8:19pm

Hi Mary
A beautiful and heartfelt piece of writing. Acceptance is absolutely the thing and it's such a game changer, even in small doses. A good and simple reminder for us all.

Lex Wed, Sep 21st 2016 @ 10:57pm

A powerful and deeply satisfying read, Mary. Thank you. Lx

Mary Wednesday Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 3:48pm

To all who took the time to comment, thank you. I was dealing with something yesterday and did not have access to my computer to reply to you all. But thank you.

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