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Thursday August 2, 2012


A professional counsellor shares his personal experiences with depression.

As a registered counsellor, I often see desperation and pain etched on the faces of my clients. Whatever counsel that I offer drifts pass them like a fleeting cloud. Their glazed eyes reflect the misery of their depression. If one can accept that depression is an internal perpetrator and the management of the extraneous environment can help, then and only then can one recognize that depression is a perception. It is not reality and with the right tools, one can climb out of this dark chasm.

In my case, I was a victim of circumstance. I emerged from the surgical theatre with a severed nerve which left me with a foot drop. I felt as if my world had collapsed when I found I had no sensation in my left leg and I suffered excruciating pain day and night for the next four months. I could not sleep, and had to be under the care of two caregivers round the clock. To stay positive in such circumstance is like expecting the moon to be blue tonight. I then started using all my acquired counselling experiences to counsel myself. “This depression I have is only a perception, not reality,”

I kept telling myself. I can still walk albeit with a limp and I told myself that the intense pain will be a thing of the past one day. I am not facing any terminal illness as such. To convince myself, I left my hospital bed every morning, got into a wheelchair and went on a tour of the hospital. My first stop was the Oncology Department. After two or three hours there, I visited the Emergency Unit where I saw all kinds of gruesome cases.

The realisation that I was more fortunate than some others, helped me develop a positive attitude and a steely determination that I had never felt in my entire life. I had learnt a new way to strengthen myself and cushion the hurt. I will refrain from counselling jargon to explain why we generally do not know ourselves, unless we take a deliberate step to do so, with professional help. Suffice to say that we have a “black box” in our brain that records all our traumatic experiences.

These experiences are stored in our sub-conscious and unconscious. Once we are familiar with what is inside our “black box”, we will recognise ourselves and know our “unknown self.” And once we know this, we will understand what sets us off, and that is when the joy of living sets in. We will then be able to control all extraneous developments rather than the other way round. I know this for a fact and have no sympathy for myself. I have accepted my fate and do not allow my handicap to bother me.

Once I recognised myself and knew the source of my reactionary self, the pain in my leg slowly lessened. When my orthopaedic surgeon told me that this disability would be for life, I consciously controlled this extraneous factor and must have confused my surgeon as he kept asking me why I was smiling. I did not care to explain to him that I had found the joy of living and was not going to allow what he said to rob me of my euphoria. I was controlling the extraneous factors in my life and not allowing them to control me.

Three years have since passed. I still have to live with my disability. I have not got used to the idea that I cannot wear Japanese slippers or sandals, or jog in the evening. However, it makes no difference to me. I have found alternative activities and hobbies to keep me happily occupied. I have since developed a passion for books and writing. I enjoy sharing my experiences with my clients. I take to the swimming pool like a duck to water, and swim regularly to keep fit. Depression is not part of me and will never be. All relapses will be met with gratefulness that I am what I am, and not any worse off.

Today I have discarded the leg breeches and the walking stick, and yes, I do fall from time to time, but I realise that falling is only part of the journey. When I get up and limp on again, that is true strength.

Program Administrator at Kassim-Aydin McPherson Consults Sdn Bhd.