As a person who is under the constant watchful eye of a strange friend called depression, and having had this loyal companion for about 40 years, I have done an awful lot of reading and learnt an awful lot about my own problems. I have read hundreds of testimonies of other people of all ages and spoken with thousands of people with challenges relating to mental health.
Given the above; I was considering the concept referred to by many acclaimed and well known authors in the field of mental health, known as “Downward Spirals”.
Essentially this is one of many ways of describing how one may plummet into depression. Let’s take a scenario of my own recent “falls”.
Work stress had been high for some time. A number of highly emotive personal matters were dragging me down. I felt stretched like “cling film” – about to rip! I had a list of lists (!) of things I needed to consider / get done! – You get the picture.
On one of my lists there was a job that I wanted to do on my partners’ car (which, as an engineer I thought was easy). So with parts, tools and everything prepared I set about this task and ended up making the whole thing worse.
Now, being in a vulnerable place, all I needed was a “straw” to break my emotional “back” and “this” was it. I was in “free fall” down a spiral of bad memories that caused my mood to become even more devastated, which provoked even more recall of sad memories causing a complete destruction of everything I am.
Self-image burnt to smithereens and a further decline, until finally I was at zero – suicidal, and as I described myself “the nothing man”.
Now there are hundreds of ways and really great ideas on how we can turn a downward spiral round and start an uphill climb back to normality, I myself, have on occasion, been able to self-distract not self-destruct! (Although the latter is something I seem to be bloody good at!), and been able to temporarily pull myself out of a cavernous depression – but my success in this is rather questionable (in my opinion).
However, I recently found and shared on social media a thought provoking image with text that amounted to this though (I’m paraphrasing):
“When you seem to be surrounded by darkness and there’s no way out, it’s because you have just been planted”.
So this got me thinking.
I would like to add to this; often a seed (that’s you or me in the darkness) will not germinate (start to grow) for a little while. Once planted, it needs time to rest, absorb nutrients and gain a little strength before it can start to push upwards and begin to flourish and see the light through the most meagre of pin holes.
Then, on seeing light, the process of photosynthesis happens. (This is the way that plants convert sunlight into energy for growth).
Now, again drawing a tenuous parallel – humans too use sunlight in an almost “photosynthetic way”. Sunlight in moderation helps the body create Vitamin D, a recognised natural combatant to depression.
In many Scandinavian countries and in parts of North America where there is almost perpetual darkness through some seasons, there is a disproportionate high risk of depression and suicide. This can be largely accredited to “Seasonal Affected Disorder” (SAD)
Equally, you may not like somewhere that gets too much hot weather and bright sunshine, but any natural light does help the body create Vitamin D.
REST AND BIDE YOUR TIME
The whole point of this long “pre cursor” is that maybe (?) when we are really, really, low, if we can just make sure we are safe, although feeling like you want to end life, then perhaps staying in the darkness (in your mind) for a short while, resting, absorbing memories, not running away, and getting an occasional glimpse of light, might not actually be such a bad thing?
How do you feel about this?
Maybe (?) just “being” in the depths of despair (providing you are safe) and venting your emotions through tears / hiding under the duvet for a day or two is not actually such a bad thing?
I am left, as I write, with these words that resonate for me – maybe they will for you too:-
I was spending some time at the Eden Project a few months ago, and was lucky enough to have a private tour with a wonderfully enthusiastic horticulturalist (I will call her Jenny – not her real name). The words that stayed in my head were:
“Remember a plants natural tendency is to adapt and grow in even the most hostile of conditions – it might just take some time”.
Perhaps that space and time in darkness is actually just you being able to give yourself time to adapt?
And while in the darkness of your sanctity, your duvet, your lonely rock on a hillside, a tree stump overlooking a lake, or a park bench, consider this:
“We” are very often good at helping others in their time of need but absolutely lost in our own time of need. So, try and think of this idea:-
The next time you are as low as you can go, you are completely emotionally “done in”.
Imagine there is a much older “you” who cares and loves you very much, and in desperation you have picked up the phone and said “ Sue/Fred I am really feeling in a bad place and terribly low – please help me”.
Open a mental dialogue – write it down if you feel like it – (it’s not a necessity, but you may find a catharses in doing so) – your first question might be as mine once was;
“What do you think I should do about this relationship with Annie?”
And let the conversation go on while the older you listens to all the emotional and real life problems, of the “you” that is presently challenged, worried, anxious and then the older and wiser you simply listens. Then, when asked for advice, the “older” you responds with the love of the purest, wisest and most sincere kind.
I did this once in a time that was extremely difficult for me and while there wasn’t a thunderbolt from heaven waving a magic wand to make me all well; in retrospect I can undoubtedly declare that this was a pivotal point in time for me, and later on I came to recognise the significance of the exercise / process for me.
With love, peace, hope and growth.