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Archive for depression

Creatures of Connection

immer zum mittag .... hells gateA new injury kept me put of the ocean and away from my private practice clients not to mention causing a cessation of yoga, walks in the national park, and the occasional dance.  My mood was unaccountably flat.  I put it down to lack of endorphins and worry about what might happen.

Finally sick of myself, I hauled myself down for a wallow in the waves, nice and alone apart from the handful of other crazy souls braving the bracing conditions.  There were no amazing aquatic acts, but something fantastic happened in my brain.  Suddenly, I felt the heaviness shift and I felt, well, expansive, somehow alive again.  As though someone had kicked over my internal starter motor.

Being literally immersed in nature, with a view that involved mountains and waves.  Being circled by a fin certainly lets you know that you are alive, and the rush of relief that comes when that fin turns out to be attached to a baby dolphin, watchful mother close by.  That helps.  The da-da, da-da, da-da music courtesy of jaws fading into a joyous tune from long ago.

We can put some of this shift down to biology I am sure, getting moving, triggering endorphins and so on.  But my strongest feeling was that I had plugged back in, to the world, to myself.  Many people view connection as something that happens when you have 256 Facebook friends and your mobile phone constantly chimes.

I believe that connection starts, and to some degree ends, with getting back into your own body, being with your own present experience, connecting with oneself.  And without that, connections with others have the potential to be draining encounters fraught with frission rather than sustenance for the soul.

I have heard many therapists discuss depression as ‘a disorder of disconnection’, and have noted in my practice that people who are depressed often are disconnected: from loved ones, valued activities, and other things that give life meaning.  However, my recent experience of being ‘unplugged’ has reinforced for me that all the electronic friends in the world are no substitute for connecting to the beauty around us, as well as our own internal experiences.

For me it seems to be nature that does the trick.  What jolts you back into your body, into a sense of vitality?

Depression, anxiety and the nastiest voice you will ever hear

The nastiest voice you will ever hear will generally come directly from you.  That’s right, that little sing-song radio playing in your head.  The one that really knows how to bring you to your knees with humiliation and despair.  In my job, I am privy to what this little voice says in people’s heads.  The thing that surprises me time and again is how that voice plays the same tune for everyone from teenagers to senior cits, CEOs and celebrities to us more modest folk.  Try the following on for size.  Although the tune is really really common it’s really really hurtful too.  I challenge you to make it to the end of the tirade without balking:

‘Why are you bothering to do that you know you will be rubbish at it and just make a fool of yourself and anyway there are heaps of people who can do that better than you you are no better than a fraud and you will just look like an idiot because there really is something wrong with you isn’t there and when people find out they will all turn their backs on you and you will die alone and look at how much thinner and successful and good looking and nicer and funnier everyone else is you really are a disgusting unloveable fat blob why do you always have to be such a loser no-one else ever has these problems you must be insane no wonder you have no friends your therapist probably even hates you and other people just pretend to like you for what they can get why can’t you just be more like her she’s sooo much smarter if you weren’t so lazy maybe you would get somewhere in life and stop being so useless.’

Eeewh!  It’s hard to read isn’t it?  You can feel the darkness rising when engaging with a dialogue like this.  And yet many of us do it everyday without a second thought.  You can just imagine how this voice feeds anxiety and depression, and how it stops you from doing anything worthwhile like getting a new job, making a friend, or starting a new enjoyable activity.  Usually we frantically seek to drown the voice with substances, addictions, proving ourselves worthy, avoiding new challenges, anything in fact to make it be quiet.  But what would happen if we treated this voice as the bully that it is.  Imagine if someone walked up to you with the above spiel.  How would you handle it?  Just because it’s happening in your head does not mean you need to grab a hold of it and believe every poisonous word.

When dealing with this voice it’s best to go against the knee jerk reaction to drown it out and to instead have a really good listen to it.  Is what it’s saying sensible?  Is it always true or are there exceptions that it seems to be forgetting about?  What if the voice was just a total load of rubbish, an amalgamation of every nasty or bullying word you have heard during your lifetime?  Then instead of rushing to control it with behaviours we may not value, perhaps we could just let it play and have a bit of a chuckle about the boring repetitiveness of it.  Russ Harris, the ACT specialist (see www.actmindfully.com.au) suggests simply thanking this nasty voice for it’s opinion, and then getting on with whatever it is that you would really like to be doing today.  What a great idea!

Depression affects 121 million people worldwide, but no-one we know suffers from it…much!

That scary statistic is from WHO.  121 million people, peoples.  That’s a lot.  That’s a hellava lot.  Let’s pile on a few more stats.  How about 1 million people in Australia this year alone will experience a depressive illness.  Or, that depression will affect 1 in 8 men (and slightly more women) at some stage in their lifetime.

What makes me feel really frustrated (and mystified) is how we all pretend it doesn’t really exist.  When it comes to physical disorders, people seem only too happy put their hands up and claim ownership.  There can even be an element of one-upmanship: along the lines of having a snottier flu, creakier arthritis, more severe pain or even just a longer list of health ailments.  But when it comes to emotional pain, this eager attitude quickly evaporates.

Standing in line at the supermarket, I hear people discussing the most personal of physical disorders.  Their daughter in-law’s bowel resection for instance.  In gruesome and graphic detail.  This leaves me frantically attempting to escape the checkout queue.  And yet, imagine this.  You ask someone how he is, and he says that he is really having trouble with the shopping because he is verging on his fifth panic attack today.  Or that she is suffering from complete lethargy due to her depression.  Perhaps mentioning it would help that person to make it past the checkout.  Perhaps we would help them to do so.

If we round up 100 customers from the Coles supermarket, we know statistically that more than a large handful of them will currently be suffering a significant depressive illness. And that’s only the depression side of things.  What about panic attacks, eating disorders, substance abuse problems, social anxiety, and the list goes on. And on. It is such complete rubbish that everyone except you is walking around in a state of total inner peace and divine satisfaction with their lives. No matter the impression that is sometimes portrayed.  Maybe you sometimes depict a false impression too?

I say it’s time to reach under the soul destroying ‘fake-happy masks’.  Wearing them is far too exhausting, and in my opinion, totally passé.  We all know several people with depressive illnesses and perhaps they are suffering alone because they and/or we can’t or won’t recognise it.  When someone feels depressed the best first step is to let them know that they are not alone, not weak and not going crazy.  So, if that depressed person is you: YOU ARE NOT ALONE YOU ARE NOT WEAK AND YOU ARE NOT GOING CRAZY. Effective treatment is available too.