Sunday, November 27, 2011

This too shall pass

One of the most powerful insights I can share about handling depression and/or anxiety is that how you feel at a certain point in time is not a permanent state. This is a point worth labouring over - or at least a paragraph or two. This is because the above-mentioned conditions have encoded in their DNA a deceptive quality that tells the sufferer: "How you are feeling now is inescapably permanent, and nothing you can do is going to change that".

The good news is that nothing could be further from the truth. Yet even from the vantage point of robust good health, I find my senses will still try and tell me the blues are here to stay. If even today this sentiment holds sway for me (albeit momentarily), how much more for the person in the middle of their own life's storm.

This is where the people around the sufferer can be a great help even if they feel inadequate for the task of relating to the depressed/anxious person in a positive and life-affirming way. They can affirm what the sick person cannot. Here is how Abraham Lincoln put it in 1859 when consoling an American crowd in the middle of great turbulence:

"It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! "And this, too, shall pass away." And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away."

Apparently as a child, Lincoln had very few books available to read. His stepmother said that Lincoln sought to learn and understand every detail of the texts. She said when something was "fixed in his mind to suit him he never lost that fact or the understanding of it". It may require some repeating to get through to the sufferer that "this, too, shall pass". It certainly took a while with me. It remains one of the most valuable truths I have ever learned.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reaching for the stars

Anybody struggling with disorders like depression and anxiety will from time-to-time be aware of the lack of control he or she has over how they feel (after all they are called disorders for a reason). The sensations grip not only the person’s mind but her or his body and spirit as well.

While there is much to say about the power within a person as a vehicle to overcoming adversity, today I want to talk about how to harness the power of people and things outside of ourselves to help in the process of finding wellness. This is not because I lack confidence in my own or any other person’s inner strength as a means of overcoming mental troubles, but rather because the person suffering mentally can sometimes lack confidence in their inner strength and therefore will at times need to draw it from elsewhere.

An illustration is helpful here. In the late 1970s, NASA launched the space probe Voyager into the solar system to take pictures of outer lying planets. To get where it was going it had a certain amount of power it could direct into changing course, but a key factor in its journey was the way it harnessed the gravity of the planets it visited along the way that worked as a slingshot to propel it from planet to planet and then into outer space where it continues its amazing interstellar mission to this day.

We humans are not so different. We all require power external to ourselves to get where we are going in life’s journey.

These power sources will differ according to each person’s personality and needs, but here are some practical everyday examples.
  • Relationships: be they family, friends, a special someone, God
  • Regular means of enjoyment: this can be from entertainment (such as music, TV shows), creative self expression, exercise, personal reflection etc
  • Periodic things to look forward to: such as holidays, parties and catch ups over coffee
  • Spontaneous things: like running into an old friend, finding a funny clip on youtube, going on a picnic

Of course these examples are far from mind blowing, but it is often simple nuts-and-bolts aspects of life like these that can help slingshot us out of the blues and reach for the stars. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guy falls into a hole

Thought it was time I made a short video myself seeing as I embed so many made by other people on my site. Speaking to camera ain't as easy as it looks!