Depression, the word itself seems descriptive of the experience it portrays. I think of depression as a lessening or lowering of life energy. Looking at the words, “press” and “on” in the word depression, I think of a pushing down, a pushing down of this “life energy”. Other words and descriptors that come to mind are, fluidity – an absence of; stuckness; unexpressed and unacknowledged words and feelings, for example unexpressed frustration, unexpressed sadness, unexpressed anger, unexpressed disappointment; pain; grey; monotone; distress; unseen; unheard; confused; numb; others!
If you have had any relationship with depression, either within yourself, or that you have seen in others, or experienced in groups or systems you have been part of; I wonder what words, images, sounds, smells, or other experiences come to mind? Perhaps stop reading for a moment and see what you notice in yourself and the world around you right now?
When I do this, the first thing I notice is a pressure pushing inwards and downwards on my upper arm/ shoulder area. I’ve been sitting at my computer for half an hour or so and it’s like my body is shrinking into it.
As I notice this pressure on my upper arms my automatic response is to lift my arms, put my hands on my head and stretch up in my back. My chest pushes forwards. Over the next couple of minutes, I notice I feel brighter, sharper in my attention. I feel a liveliness that wasn’t there previously, that had been dormant perhaps as I clattered away on the keyboard. After a few minutes more, my back and chest drop a little and I rest back down into the chair. My energy drops and I feel calmer.
The energy of depression is inward in nature, Jan Roubal says that in depression, “a person does not give out his energy but turns it back to himself”. He elaborates that this itself only becomes a problem when it becomes habitual. Conversely, I think of treating depression as a movement towards life. “Life” being an awareness of different feelings and emotions we may experience, different states of mind and experience, and a connection to and relationship with other life forms that grow and change.
To ignite something different, to shift the seemingly unmoveable, making connection with other life forms can be key. Coming into relationship with people in the world around, animals, and wider nature, trees, shrubs, grass, soil and the air breathed. This tends to require an outward movement, a looking out at others, at nature around us as we walk in the park, at the different birds that occupy the rooftops or tree branches around our homes. A reaching out to touch perhaps, the bark of the oak tree, or to take the hand of a friend.
When next heading to the shop, station, workplace, car door, maybe give yourself permission not to rush, or not to be looking at your phone, and instead notice what you feel in the air as you step outside the house. Try looking up at what you see above your eye line, tree branches, birds, clouds perhaps.
It can be helpful to pay attention to and get to know your particular habits of depression. For example, do you struggle to get outdoors and meet others, or struggle to pick-up the phone to text or calls others; or perhaps you might move quickly around in a heightened state of confusion. Do you need to sit and slow down, take stock; or do you need to move and mobilise your energy.
Either way, being around or with others can offer a great deal of support. Out in a café for example, it is possible to hear and feel the buzz of conversation and the energy of others going about their lives. Arranging to go for a walk with a friend can offer something different from the usual patterns of thinking and being when alone.
However, a relationship with others alone isn’t necessarily the magic cure for depression. It is very possible to feel aspects of depressive thoughts and feelings when in groups and systems; especially where one is in a system of people or life that itself is in depression.
Over time and often with the help of therapy, it is possible to get to know more about your experience in relation to the world around you. How do you respond when you are being “this way”, or when you are doing “this with these people”? Does it ease life for you, lighten the load so you can feel more flow? Or do you feel more overwhelmed or closed down perhaps? Or something different?
One last thought, and hardly an add-on considering its power, but I invite you to consider your creative world. How is your creativity? How are you as a creative being? I imagine there are many who are suffering from implicit judgements from school days, e.g. “that drawing/piece of writing isn’t good enough” and have subsequently come to believe that they aren’t creative. I challenge this, as I consider that creativity is in the very essence of being human. To quote Rollo May, “We express our being by creating”.
So, with this view in mind, why not reflect on your creative being? Notice how you are creative perhaps? Do you take photos with your phone? Do you enjoy preparing food and meals? Do you plant seeds in the garden? Do you dance, do you move to your own rhythm? Do you sing? Do you ever turn left when the obvious choice would be to turn right?
My hope and aim in sharing these reflections is to encourage and to offer thoughts and ideas which you can include, modify, or leave to one side, as you build your own way forward. Wishing you well on your journey in life.
- May, R. (1975) The Courage to Create. Norton, London
- Roubal, J. (2007) Depression – A Gestalt Theoretical Perspective. The British Gestalt Journal, 16, 1