I recently read an interesting blog post from an online friend for whom I have a great deal of respect. The subject matter is one that I have been fortunate enough to have never greatly encountered in real life. Which got me thinking… why not? Reading some of the posts at the end of the piece suggested strongly a link between a physical breakdown as well as a mental one. Which fits in with the idea that the mental and physical aspects far from being seperated, are actually symbiotic in nature. Healthy body, healthy mind was a saying that was ingrained into me at a very early age. I have always been active and continue to be through work and in my leisure time.
The empowering nature of being active and engaging positively with what life may present to you, I am convinced, help to maintain a positive outlook. This positive engagement also gives you the confidence to approach problems in a positive frame of mind, which again in my experience, tends to then result in generally more positive results (though not always).
The subject of the bad news seen every day in the media and the feeling of helplessness as a result was interesting to me. There has never been a time in recorded history when people can see in such quantity, all the trials and tribulations going on in a seemingly shrinking world. From natural disasters to human conflicts, the media is full of it, especially with the advent of 24hr news channels. Bad news sells papers was a well known journalistic saying and it would appear to me that it is still as prevelent today as it ever was. Seeing all this suffering along with seeming injustices add to an air of helplessness.
But why does this effect some people so badly and others minimally? To an extent, I suspect early life experiences create a framework that colours perceptions. I am fortunate to have grown up in a stable family environment. My parents had certain experiences as children that made them determined not to repeat with my, and subsequent, generations. From a modern cultural perspective, their experiences would nowadays have been unacceptable. However, for their generation, their experiences were normal. Times were different.
So I had a very stable early framework from which to start from. This does not mean, however, that my childhood was stress free and a completely happy one. As a child with a very active imagination, I had the “gift” of being able to construct many scenarios for everyday life, And lots of these scenarios were not at all pleasant. It effected me to the extent that fear of what may happen could overrun the probable reality of a situation in many cases. This lead me to being a very easy target for bullying. I would rather have taken a slap from others than fight back in a lot of cases because I knew that for some of my school classmates, this would be one of the only ways they would have been able to release some of the frustrations of very hard family lives. I empathized with their reality and so accepted that it was appropriate for me to share some of their pain (be that the right or wrong thing for me to have done at that time).
And empathy is a quality I recognize in many people for whom depression blights their lives. The empathy of sharing the suffering of others thrust into their lives through the medium of tv and other media can quickly reach saturation point.
The turning point for me was the acceptance that I can only be responsible for my own actions and that although empathy may be viewed as an admirable trait, making myself ill because of others didn’t actually help me, or them. Seeing the “bigger picture” can be limiting and with all the communication led media available to us in an affluent western culture, bad news may spell success for those presenting it but I seriously question the validity of the saturation point we now appear to have reached. Is it coincidence that depression is increasing when we are being saturated by media companies each trying to fill 24 hour broadcasting?
The other thing that changed me was physical activity. My father was always engaging in some form of physical training in his spare time, even though his job was a hard physical job in itself. So with his encouragement, I started to find my own interests in and through sport. The confidence that took root in me through this set me up for the rest of my life. Being able to set realistic goals and the subsequent achievement of reaching these goals had a profound effect on me, both physically and mentally. But more than this, it was demonstrated to me that physical activity was being manifested in me also as a spiritual experience. Physical activity affected my mental state which opened up some positive spiritual experiences.
So I believe that one very major reason for the absence of depression for myself, is the continuing physical aspect of my life. There may well be people who may read this, for whom this may represent, for the want of a better phrase, utter bollocks. However, I consider it a useful thing to contemplate and as the idea of blogs can be a somewhat self-indulgent exercise, I wanted to record my thoughts at this moment in time.