Some days it just happens. Maybe the sky is slate grey. Again. Or the cat has woken early and demanded food. Again. Or the news broadcasts details of another atrocity somewhere in the world. Again.
The sadness that envelops me on these occasions is pervasive, invasive, massive. It weighs down on and over my head like a sodden blanket – suffocating, heavy, draining. Like the dementors in Harry Potter stories, it sucks life, snuffs light, drains energy, dulls senses, and, usually, wells tears. Not uncontrollable sobbing tears. Not the tears of sorrow or grief. But slow, heavy, dull tears, that well and ooze and dribble, like the final wringing of a rinsed garment when there really isn't much more to wring.
Thoughts are slow, dwelling on the triggers that first bring on the feeling. Seemingly unable to move on. Other events – a careless driver, a harmless piece of litter, a remembered pain, a glance in the mirror, seem to fly in from all sides, sticking like sand on a beach sandwich, unwelcome, inevitable, unpleasant, permanent, feeding the sadness and somehow giving it legitimacy. And so the spiral starts – the sadness feeding on itself, growing, thickening, sucking in a myriad of irrelevant and unconnected thoughts to become that single, cancerous, overshadowing mantle that is depression.
The critical voice shouts 'Snap out of it'; Screams 'What have you got to complain about?' Yells 'Pull yourself together! Snaps 'What are you, a man or a mouse?'
The critical voice knows nothing though. It has guile, and volume, and resonance, but no knowledge or understanding. It is incompetent.
It reminds me of the four stages of learning – in the context of depression it works like this: Stage One - Unconscious incompetence: We have absolutely no idea what is happening or why we are feeling so perfectly awful. (This is very scary and can last for years if no outside help is sought). Stage Two - Conscious Incompetence: We understand what we are feeling, but have no idea what to do about it. Stage Three: Conscious Competence: We understand why we feel the way we do, and we have to work hard using learned techniques and coping strategies to drag ourselves back into a better place. Stage Four: Unconscious Competence – we have managed to train ourselves to cope, and out of our awareness, we spot the danger signals and channel our thoughts in positive directions, watching the negative thoughts pass us by, like trucks on a busy road – we see them, we watch them pass, we forget them, we move forward.
Currently I am at Stage Three. Most of the time. This morning, I awoke and had slipped into Stage Two. Again.
What stage are you at?
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