In his book 'When Darkness Seems My Closest Friend' Mark Meynell shares his reflections and personal insights in to living with depression. As well as being an author, Mark is director for Langham preaching and Langham partnership in Europe and the Caribbean.
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Mark: Well the fixer is the person who is there basically to, for whatever reason, make themselves feel better about themselves, or because this is just the way they naturally assume things should happen. They are there to tell you how to sort yourself out and what solutions they would prescribe and if you do what they tell you, you will be fine. Whereas actually it's much more complicated than that. You need somebody to rather than just fix you, to accompany you in the midst of it.
Heather: Where have you found help and comfort in this journey of depression?
Mark: Through various things, particularly others that have had similar things. Then you do have a sense of somebody who understands you, because I think it is a very alien thing. For those who have not suffered mental ill health, it's impossible to try and put into words for people to understand. Whereas if you meet somebody else who has something like this, there is an immediate affinity and a sense which you don't have to try and find words, you just know.
You can't just rely on them because we can't necessarily keep everyone buoyant, sometimes we can drag each other down. So we need other people, we need the Gospel, because ultimately that is our sure foundation. I found also that it's a matter of leaning on various aspects of creativity. Whether it was God's creativity, in the natural world for instance, or human creativity, particularly through music, and I'm sort of an amateur musician so music has been very important for me.
Heather: What advice would you have for people in relation to managing symptoms, because you have learnt a lot over the years?
Mark: I suppose. I think that every individual is going to experience this in a different way, so one can't have a blanket common prescription, basically that's the first misstep that people make. It's a question of beginning to understand one's situation. Just because somebody you know has an expression of mental illness in a particular way, does not necessarily mean that is what's going to happen to you. I have known some people who had an acute experience for two or three weeks and they emerge eventually, whereas for myself and others it's been chronic and it's been 13 years now for me, not always at the same intensity but at various levels.
So you must not jump to conclusions, although what the illness will do to you is basically lead you into catastrophizing and seeing every possible worst thing and that's very difficult. So gather one or two trusted people around you, who can help keep your sense of perspective, that you can bounce ideas off and they can come back and say "it's not quite like that." You just need another perspective that actually might be a bit clearer than what is going on in your own head. The friends who are perhaps outside of it and want to be that kind of support. I think the crucial thing is patience and time and don't try to fix, just be with that person and find out what they want and need.
Heather: Why have you written the book 'When Darkness Seems My Only Friend'?
Mark: I wrote it to begin with basically for my own sake. It was part of my therapy in a way, and I find I am the kind of person that needs to write things in order to get my thinking clear. So it was very much a therapeutic thing and wasn't necessarily for publication to begin with at all. I did share one or two chapters, as I went along, with other people I knew were struggling with the same sort of thing and it seemed to resonate with them. I think that in the end that is the main thing. If there are people who can read this and say "At last there is somebody that shows that I'm not alone or somebody who can give me words for what I'm trying to describe," then that makes it worth it. Certainly that seems to have been the response so far in the first few weeks since it has come out.
Heather: You talk about unexpected friends in books, music, organisations. Is that what you hope for your book to be, an unexpected friend for somebody in the path they are walking?
Heather: So how can people get a copy?
Mark: It's available in Christian bookshops and on Amazon. IVP are the publishers. My blog has links to it as well: markmeynell.net.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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