Talking to someone suffering from depression can be painful and frustrating. Unfortunately, none of us can inspire hope into another unless that person has the capacity, openness and belief necessary. So I often fall back on the five things that can help with depression (a friend named them as ‘the five little piggies of depression’, a catchy and iconoclastic way to describe and remember them). They are diet (eating healthily); exercise (just getting out of the house for a walk is good enough); meaningful activity (it could be work, or a crossword puzzle, as long as you allow yourself to value it); social interaction (talking to someone in a shop or on a helpline, if that’s all you can cope with); and sleep (getting enough and watching out for being able to do nothing but). It all sounds deceptively easy, but when you’re depressed it can feel impossible. So think about which of these is manageable; and use the help of family, friends, your GP or counsellor/therapist.
Atlhough the stigma that has been attached to mental health issues for so long does appear to have lessened, the batlle for acceptance, compassion and understanding remains. Anyone can suffer from mental health issues (your partner, your child, your boss, your friend, yourself), and just because it’s never happened to you yet doesn’t mean it never will. There will be times in life when it all feels like a struggle, and, hopefully, others when it seems wonderful and easy going. So how do you view your mental health? Do you pay attention to how you’re feeling and behaving? I think if we can cultivate a sense of interested inquiry into our own, and others’, state of mind or mental health that will allow us to take steps towards finding what we need to function as well as we possibly can.
I’ve been thinking about what it takes to feel ok about yourself. I know that this seemingly simple task can feel impossible, and that feeling bad about yourself can cause immense suffering and even annihilation. So what does it take to feel ok about yourself? I believe that we need to understand our selves, our relationships – ourselves in relationship with others, the world and, very importantly, with our inner sense of self – and to experience this understanding in a caring, trusting relationship with someone else. This someone else might be a friend or a lover, but often it needs to be a counsellor or therapist: someone who has the knowledge and compassion to understand how we get into the position of feeling bad about ourselves and the ability to help us find a way out of that place.
I listened to an excellent talk by Jungian analyst James Hollis recently. He speaks so articulately, clearly and compassionately; it was a real pleasure to allow myself to be swept along by his ideas and images.What stayed with me the most out of his 50-or-so minute talk was a quote he attributed to John Lennon: 90% of life is showing up. This hinges of the concept of accountability to oneself: the ability to stand back and ask ‘What’s really going on here?’ ‘What’s running my life?’ We need to be able to sift through the archaic messages, the infantalising mechanisms and anxiety management systems we developed as once critical, and even life-saving, but which now stand in the way of allowing us to be ourselves as we are, and want to be, today. I believe we can all benefit from asking ourselves ‘What matters the most to me in my life right now?’