I’m going to start with Gerard Manley Hopkins again.
My own heart let me have more pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
Given that GMH uses language most of us find obscure (he is reckoned to be a “difficult” poet because of this), I think many of us can see what he’s getting at.
In modern parlance, we beat ourselves up for having depression; for not being able to cope; for giving into it – although I hope I dealt with that part last week.
Getting depressed about being depressed is probably the least helpful thing we can do. Ruby Wax, in her book “Ruby Wax’s No-Brainer – It’s All in the Mind,” which I would heartily recommend, says that when she stopped being depressed about having depression, it all got a lot easier to live with.
I think the beginning of this is acceptance. “How,” you ask, “can you talk about acceptance when last week you referred to depression as the Enemy?”
Well, first we must accept that the enemy exists. It is not our fault; we did not invite this enemy in, and we have done nothing to deserve it – yet here it is.
What is not helpful is tormenting ourselves with the scourge of critical self-analysis; to ask what we have done wrong and “Why me?” The answer to the latter is always, “Why not me?”
It is better to be kind to ourselves; sympathetic and helpful. We have been invaded by the enemy; what should we do?
What country, when invaded by hostile forces, does not employ all the intelligence at its disposal to find out as much as it can about the enemy? The more we know about our depression, the better able we are to resist it.
What country, when invaded, does not invest in weapons of defence? We need to know what things help us, and what hinders; then do more of the first and less of the latter.
What country, when invaded, does not cast around for allies? So often, we think we must go it alone. One of the symptoms of depression is the feeling of isolation it gives us; yet that isolation is so often “all in our mind.” There are people around who really want to help, but don’t know how.
One of the best things ever said to me – and it was said by our own lovely Lex – was, “How can I help?” I know it’s difficult to ask for help - we are socially programmed for self-reliance – but our friends and family really do want to help.
I confess this is a “Do as I say, not do as I do,” because I am very bad at asking for help. I know my best friend would be delighted to do my ironing; last time around, three friends took over this blog for a month; my family are happy to drive me anywhere I need to go. I need to swallow my pride and ask.
Again, be kind to yourself. Think about what you would say to a dear friend who was in your position, and what advice you would give them. Then say those things to yourself and take your own advice.
And, you know, that goes for me too.