The plague of depression
30. When the cloud is heavy,
Depression has often been described as anger turned inwards. It’s also viewed as a hiding place to go when things become unbearable, just as animals retreat into dark quiet corners when they’re weakened. Some sadness after a loss or traumatic event is normal; when it doesn’t lessen, intervention to prevent it getting worse is timely. This state, when prolonged, can monopolise thinking and energy, and drain emotional and physical resources needed to recover from existing hardship.
Suppression of deep dark secrets, such as those scandalous back-stories leaked from time to time about famous people, can strain the unconscious mind where they are stored away, frozen as lived unless processed. Powerful unresolved feelings can block recovery and ease, perpetrating disproportionate levels of horror dating back to the precipitating incident(s).
An internet search reveals how common it is for depression to concern people. At least 10-15% of populations in the Western world are diagnosed with it, a huge increase over recent decades, forecast only to rise further. Endless check-lists of symptoms and help-tips can be retrieved at the click of a button, prior to face-to-face professional confirmation. Visitors are urged to talk, with a therapist or friend. This works well half the time, but often words feed or compound the problem, or services aren’t available or affordable or therapeutic. Along with mainstream offerings, there are other options.
Tackling depression with its negative effect on the immune system, is essential one way or the other to prevent debility and slippage in quality of life. Depression is frequently triggered by internal conversations and habitual internal questions, often self-critical, which in turn consist significantly of remembered external remarks. There are methods to re-adjust these but first, relax because as Nietzsche and others have observed, it’s hard to be sane in a world where madness is the norm!
Quitting obsession with the other’s need to defeat in order to defeat them is the starting point to enter the game of non-zero-sum winning. Paul Watzlawick enlarges on this and other ways people contribute to their own psychic misery in his witty book, The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious. But when children are taught in school, at home and everywhere they look, to win above all, who can blame them/us? Better to create a new space to look at the world differently and begin to draw happiness from more reliable sources. Many guides in circulation, such as From Sad To Glad, are worth consulting.
Constantly judging and feeling judged to highest standards sends joy fleeing. Research confirms that perfectionism predisposes to depression. Always trying to do everything 100% right is often more stressful than adaptive. “The sage never strives for greatness and thereby has the ability to achieve great things,” states the Tao Te Ching. Doing jobs that involve intimidation and constant pressure to perform make pacing down very difficult without risking a confrontation, but when health and peace of mind are at stake, maybe it’s time for a change anyway.
Likewise with close relationships when they are more destructive than supportive. A popular well-regarded manual on shifting depression using mindfulness techniques by Mark Williams and three co-writers, is suitably entitled The Mindful Way Through Depression. Review the basics, of nutrition, exercise, hydration, sleep, and revise where necessary, as they profoundly influence mood. No matter what degree of help is required though, don’t be left alone looking into the abyss. Start here and now, try what’s already known, and ask people until something works to make the mood lift, as it does.