One of the hardest things to hear when I am at the bottom of the pit being smothered by the Black Dog is that 'things could be worse' – when that well meaning friend tries to make me feel better by saying that elsewhere someone is probably having a tougher life than me. Logically, they are right. Intellectually, I totally understand. But when I'm down there, in that dark pit, where the pain is not physical, yet is intensely full of pain, where normal feelings are dulled, yet somehow there is this other acute feeling of tragic despair that seems to curl around my body and soul like a snake, defying all attempts to break free by squeezing tight around my chest, binding my legs together so it's almost impossible to move, squirming through my thoughts ensuring the light can't get in – what could possibly be worse than that? I mean really?? They have no idea...
But of course they do have a point. It's just that another thing that the Dog (or Snake, or whatever image we may like to use for our depression) manages to achieve is to remove completely any sense of proportion and perspective that we otherwise might have: Nobody loves us. Everybody hates us. Nothing is right with our lives.
The only way I find to restore that sense of perspective is to experience others' trials myself, to learn about others' lives and to do whatever I can to help. Last weekend, I took part in two separate activities which helped re-calibrate my perspectives. I ran a charity auction for a friend of a friend, raising money for an organisation which provides support to babies and children suffering from terminal illnesses. The parents, aged 18 and 21, had just lost their baby. Ouf. Where do you start?
And then on Sunday I volunteered in a play group for children affected by bereavement - children who had all lost their Mum, Dad or a Grandparent to cancer. Ouf again.
I know that the next time I experience a depressive episode, the lives of these brave brave people will be furthest from my conscious mind. But I also know that such re-calibration activity does give me strength, when I am well. Strength to appreciate what I have, and hopefully strength to keep the dogs and snakes at bay for a little longer.
A Moodscope member.