At the moment I’m fighting a constant battle between depression and positivity; I can spend days with a low mood, which literally paralyses me to a point that even doing simple tasks is a challenge; I then get angry and very irritable.
I haven’t really explored depression that much, I’ve spent most of my time focusing on anxiety but as the two normally go hand-in-hand, I think it’s about time I started giving both equal attention.
It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be depressed; like anxiety, it can be quite unnerving, illogical, and pretty hard to understand if you haven’t been there. My brain can think logically, I can be aware of what is happening, and come up with ideas and solutions, but physically doing things takes an immense amount of energy; I often compare it to wading through treacle.
I think a lot of people liken depression to boredom, or just feeling a bit sad, but it’s a lot worse than that; it lasts for long periods of time and it makes you question your whole existence; I’m constantly asking myself “what’s the point?”
As most of you know, I’ve done a lot of reading in order to try and learn and make sense of my mental health, and this has included books on positivity such as ‘Positivity’, by Barbara Fredrickson who has done years of research into the benefits of living a more positive life, and how poisonous negativity can be.
It’s these books that I struggle to get through, because while they make complete sense to me, I find them really hard to relate to; I struggle to remember a time when I actually felt really positive about something, it’s like an alien concept for me.
I know the importance of living in the now and not dwelling on the past (Eckhart Tolle), the art of happiness (The Dalai Lama), the power of the mind to heal (Dawson Church) and even the ancient Hawaiian practise of Ho’oponopono, but somewhere there’s a disconnect between this logical knowledge and putting it into practise.
Depression is like a barrier that just won’t let all these good things in no matter how hard you try.
Poor mental health has really highlighted for me how individual we really are, each of us is completely unique, there is no one else like you on this planet; mental health disorders seem to magnify the negative individual aspects and experiences of our lives.
I’ve learnt that we can all go through the same problems, but how we deal with, or react to them can be very different. It’s the same storm, different boat scenario.
It suggests that how we treat mental health disorders is also very specialised, and that’s why I get annoyed that the NHS only really recognises three forms of treatment for disorders such as anxiety and depression: Medication, CBT and Counselling. There are so many different options out there, but like me, people are left to search them out for themselves.
In my past life, working in hotels and residential lettings, I learnt a little bit about training and managing people, mainly the different ways people learn (visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic) but I’m seeing now that this only touched the surface of how to really help people and get the best out of them. I think it goes back to our desire as a species to label people, it’s almost comforting to be able to slap a label on someone; does it make us feel safe because we now know them and how to relate to them?
I have just finished reading ‘Eleven Rings’ by Phil Jackson, a basketball coach who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships and the Los Angeles Lakers to five; it’s safe to say he is a bit of a legend in the sports world.
I didn’t read the book because I’m a basketball fan, because I’m not, what attracted me was the fact that Phil Jackson used so many different techniques to coach his players, he is someone who has explored everything from humanistic psychology and Native American philosophy to Zen meditation and took them into a world that was predominantly styled along the lines of an aggressive approach to motivating people.
You don’t have to be a fan of the game to understand the job he had on his hands, when you consider the diverse range of players he has coached, including Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. He had some serious egos to manage, internal politics, and the media circus that was ever present; while he didn’t always get it right first time, he would work at finding a way to connect with each player on an individual basis.
He would buy the players books to read, books that he thought would help them grow and develop, but he wouldn’t give the whole team the same book, he would think about each individual, and try to find a book he thought would benefit just them; now that’s a lot of work!
I’m beginning to realise that treating a mental health disorder like depression, takes that level of management; you need to really find out what’s going on, and build from there.
My counsellor has stopped highlighting or reminding me of my successes, because she has realised that I won’t believe her anyway. I have achieved a lot over the last four years, but because it feels so far from where I want to be, all the little successes seem meaningless and are often short lived (again, I am fully aware that journeys are made of small steps, etc…..).
I remember when I finished the Milton Keynes marathon in 2019, I felt stoked (I was probably on a sugar high because of the amount of Jelly Babies I had consumed during the race), but literally the next day the high wore off and I couldn’t see anything special in what I had done.
How you motivate someone with depression is a bit like looking after a fragile piece of porcelain; get it wrong and it can easily break, causing more damage.
Different motivational techniques work for different people; I know what doesn’t work for me, the problem is trying to find what does work, getting outside, walking and running helps, but the effects are short lived; Kim uses techniques like EFT and meditation, but I find it hard to know where to even start; I sometimes feel that you may as well ask me to scale Everest in flip-flops, it just feels impossible to know where to begin.
I’m going to keep going, to keep exploring the unpredictable world of depression. A lot of the time I find myself taking little bits from different places and trying to put them into practise.
I’ll let you know what I find.
Thank you, thank you, thank you