Saturday, 6 April 2013

How are you looking?

Some time ago, I chatted to an eighteen-year-old student about her project on depression. Having heard about Moodscope, she'd asked if we could meet, and after hearing about my experience with the mental health system she was, to use the vernacular, gob-smacked to learn that I'd been seen by two different psychiatrists at the beginning and end of a three month period during which I'd been asked to keep some sort of record of my mood.

At times you need to see a story through someone else's eyes in order to properly realise its meaning. This intelligent young woman immediately recognised that two different psychiatrists means two fairly subjective evaluations. How could the second one have known whether there'd been a difference in me since my appointment with the first? He couldn't. Now, you might not be a psychiatrist yourself (and if you are, you've been keeping that one quiet) but I'm sure you have a natural instinct to pick up on small signals when you come across friends you've not seen for a while. I bet you know pretty quickly, often within seconds, if something's not quite right – or alternatively that they're better than they were the last time you met.

Please trust those instincts. If someone looks and sounds flat, they're almost certainly low. It could be a temporary thing of course, but it's sensible to take note of the warning signs. Also, if you're fortunate enough to have a friend who's sufficiently honest to tell you that you're not looking yourself, doesn't it also make sense to treat this as helpful intelligence, rather than damaging criticism? Sometimes others see things which we cannot.