I’ve got a theory on sadness, melancholy and depression. It’s not based on anything factual – just my observations. I believe that most sadness and depression are like the common cold. Nasty, but over quickly if you apply a bit of common sense and TLC. Severe depression is a different illness, and reminds me a lot more like the flu – it can leave you unfit to do “normal”, and is lethal under the wrong circumstances.
We all get it
Everyone has depression at one time or another, just as we’ve all had the common cold. Average every-day depression, sadness and the blues is about as harmful as the common cold: If you stop and take care of yourself when you need to, it’ll clear up soon enough and you can get on with your life.
I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). For me, I know I’m coming down with a bout of depression when my feelings are overwhelmingly negative and my internal mental dialogue is exclusively pessimistic and self-critical. I know intellectually that nothing has changed, and yet my experience of life for the moment is fundamentally and completely different.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
Take time out for TLC
I’ve always been a healthy person, so this summer I set out to do everything I knew how to boost my mental resilience: I exercised, got my weight under control, meditated regularly, and looked after my diet. Yet, despite all of this, I still came down with my annual SAD-dold thingy. I’ve learned that the best option when it hits is to take a few days off, and get some mental TLC space to recover. When the ego gets involved, and we try to “solder on”, that’s when everyone else we come into contract with gets dragged down with us.
Not too long ago, I came down with a classic cold. I’m not good with being ill, so I came down with true Man Flu’. We were busy at work, and as much as I wanted to take a break, and as much as I intellectually knew that it was the smart thing to do to take a break, I didn’t. I worked the longer hours that I thought I needed to, and as a result the cold went from bad to worse, and kept going. It created some serious material to play the “man flu” card, and to get sympathy from those around me about how hard it was to keep soldering on. But, by the end of a week, I was fed up and frustrated. So, after a self pep-talk, I took the generic cold medicine I’d had in the house the whole time, took my vitamins, made sure I drank enough water and got a good night’s sleep. Twenty four hours later I was nearly back to normal, and very sheepish that I’d dragged myself (and my team) down because I hadn’t taken the time to rest and recover.
This has become my experience with SAD. When I take the time out for TLC, then the recovery is quicker and more complete.
Don’t Ignore It
So, my theory is that sadness and early depression are just like the cold. When it starts, when it’s mild – that’s the cold version everyone gets. At this stage, so many of us just try to solder on. We push ourselves harder, trying to push through, and that often just makes it worse. Just like a cold can drag on, or if your (mental) health is compromised, it can escalate into a secondary infection like a chest infection or pneumonia. When we don’t stop to give ourselves the TLC we need it hits (just like a cold), we weaken our emotional resilience, and make ourselves more susceptible to the harder, uglier side of depression.
I’m not saying this to belittle depression – it’s very real and it’s very dangerous if we try to sweep it under the carpet or ignore it. Just like our health is important – our mental health is absolutely vital. What I am saying is that I think that we all get depression at one time or another. So if it’s hit you – you’re in good company. We all know what it feels like (whether we’re prepared to admit it or not). So next time you get side-swiped by a bout of depression, take the time to look after yourself, so that you can get past it and get on with your life.
Demand not that events should happen as you wish but wish them to happen as they do happen, and your life will be serene. ~ Epictetus