The buzz word in mental well-being has become Depression. Whether it’s in the workplace, on the sporting field, in our daily activities, becoming a new mother, depression is a growth industry. Something which was almost unknown about not so many decades ago, and has only come out in the open over the last decade, depression is almost a default position for many people who are struggling with the slings and arrows of modern life. It is a tougher world than mankind has ever known. Little wonder with the pace of modern-day life, the massive crowding of major cities and the breaking down of transport infrastructures, the dark side of Social Media driven by pathetic faceless wretches, and spiritual values in tatters.
Interestingly, humanity has always been captive to the toughness of life. Be it war, or famines, or fortunes lost, or changing climates, or broken hearts and dreams, or dramas created by man or the ravages of powerful nature, we have always been vulnerable. Whenever anything bad besets us, we think this is the first time it has ever happened. We think we are unique. We are not. It has been happening from the beginning.
We might not have known about Depression but we did have words to describe our feelings. At times we lose our way, we feel black clouds hovering, we cry for no reason, we feel sad, we experience anger, anxiety overcomes us, we struggle to keep up with both the Joneses and our bills, we are scared. These conditions are perfectly normal.
“At times we lose our way, we feel black clouds hovering, we cry for no reason”
There is no doubt properly-diagnosed depression has increased dramatically but too often it has been wrongly applied. Even doctors have been under so much pressure that they will prescribe anti-depressants, not just to overcome a tricky diagnosis but because the patient has self-diagnosed and literally demands tablets. It’s as simple as that: it’s as complicated as that.
What I do know is that Depression is serious, it affects your physical and mental condition. When it hits you and you become clinically depressed, there is no way it can be confused with any of the other conditions above. It’s bigger than the black dog. It’s the black hole itself. When it hit me on Christmas Day in 2001 I could not move. My body shut down totally. Along with the physical I was mentally and emotionally dumb struck.
“It’s bigger than the black dog.
It’s the black hole itself.”
I had hit the wall.
I was reminded of the days when I ran marathons in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. It was always acknowledged that somewhere between the 30th and 35th kilometre in this 42 kilometre event, you would probably hit the wall. You knew it was coming but you never quite knew what it felt like. But you absolutely trained for it. Because if and when it came you had to be properly prepared. This preparation could only happen if you had put in the hard work. Miles on the track, proper eating habits, plenty of rest, positive thinking. The sort of conditioning needed by elite athletes as well as the majority of marathoners – the funrunners. The romantics.
The wall for life and the wall for marathoners represent similar metaphors although runners have been forewarned about the marathon wall. It’s the former wall that jumps out at us. Men and women are totally unprepared for depression, anxiety, mental trauma or even suicidal thoughts. When we are struggling, we are happy to admit that we are “feeling shithouse” but we deny anything beyond that. Depression is something that other people experience rather than ourselves.
It’s actually when we are feeling shithouse that we have to address the problem. You are possibly on the slippery slope to getting slam-dunked by the wall. Whether it’s marriage problems, working too hard, drinking too much, or whatever, something has to change. The marathon runner has to prepare themselves to making Changes in their routines: we have to make changes in some of our habits and behaviours. As I have often said, if nothing changes, nothing changes.
Firstly, you have to change the way you think. If you don’t think your life will get better, it won’t. You have to start believing. No good lying in bed and sweating through another night of intense and debilitating negativity. Easier said than done I know but unless something is done, you’ll be stuck in the mire.
“If you don’t think your life will get better, it won’t.”
Actions speak louder than words and have to be brought into play. Here are some ideas. There are plenty of ideas if you search for them. Each of us have our own unique and special qualities.
Unhappy at work? Who’s to blame and are your expectations too great? Would you be happier elsewhere? Possibly not. Get some career counselling. You might be the problem.
Get healthy through exercise and diet. I don’t have to tell you how because the information is all around you. Buy a pair of runners for a start and cut down on the French fries.
Get rid of unhealthy habits – not necessarily forever because that’s too long. Moderate your drinking, smoking. When you are fragile, they lift you up and dump you down.
Get professional help. Don’t try and take this journey on your own.
Meet family issues head on. Bring the most pressing issues to your wife/partner and/or children. We are usually hopeless at broaching our most difficult thoughts and yet this might be the only way to knock them on the head. Be honest.
Take time off from your busy world and give your mind a break. Whether it’s work or technology, we are all in overdrive today. We have to be everywhere and do everything. That’s what we think. We can be more efficient by actually doing less.
The wall is totally avoidable if we take important steps to change. If you could hear a train coming down the tracks, wouldn’t you jump off the line?