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Monday, December 13, 2010

More on the Analogy of Depression

Dear A. B.
I have a question. Can anyone prevent depression, before it happens, with knowledge and education? R________

Dear R________
I can only say that I cannot always prevent my own depression from happening. Sometimes, like the last two days, I have had the shadow of depression around me due to my less than cheerful thinking. I can prevent this from becoming full-blown depression by insisting to keep moving my thinking to more productive areas. And at the moment I am completely back to normal and feeling good after a day and a half of feeling less than good. 

But I can't prevent full-blown depression that happens after I go to sleep. However, I can always get rid of it in a short time and am "usually," thereafter, completely okay.

I say "usually" because the last depression I had yesterday morning was really quite bad. Although I got out of the major part of it right away, and initially felt pretty okay, I was quite low energy, a kind of blah crept in that lasted, on and off, for about 24 hours. I never gave up moving myself toward better thinking. I was even monitoring myself so that I could pass on what worked best for me. 

Number one is that you never give up. When you find yourself meandering into the "blues" you just turn around and think something else. It is not easy to insist on doing better thinking, but that's no excuse.

In a way this last experience has me adding another phase of depression to the A and B parts I talked about December 11. Phase C is a low-key, low-grade kind of unhappiness. Not accompanied by the physical stress symptoms so much as just low energy. Not really depression but not wonderful either. I'm usually feeling wonderful so  I don't like Phase C any better than the other two phases. Maybe worse because it seems to last longer.

Regular mind exercises and singing songs don't seem to work so well to get out of Phase C. The final break for me today was to affirm for myself again that I was feeling a little isolated and my only real hope of getting back to essential okayness was to reconnect with others. Especially with my peers. My own children or grandchildren are not the same as someone with my age, my experience, someone like-minded, sharing my same era. I called my neighbor to come for tea and almost immediately my attitude changed.  I kept thinking how happy I was she was coming over. 

Then, when she started chatting, she said she, too, had been feeling rather blah for two days with low energy. We had a nice chat, kind of reaffirmed each other, and at the moment I am back to being a loving, completely okay person. That's another thing that is important. You can't be a loving person if you are unhappy. They are mutually exclusive. And we need each other. Not a one of us can be truly whole by ourselves.

So my answer is that knowing how your brain works is necessary to get out of depression and sticking to the task of getting out of it is necessary, and reconnecting with one's fellows is necessary. I don't think that preventing depression is as important as knowing how to manage it when it comes. I agree with the old wise saying that it is better to have suffered and survived than never to have suffered at all. Suffering can help us know ourselves in a way that nothing else can. We are better for knowing ourselves. A. B. Curtiss

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