Today, heck, maybe even for most of this week, I’ve felt depressed.
It’s not easy for me to admit that, for two reasons:
1. Guilt/shame- I’m currently travelling with the rarest freedom to go where I please and so should surely be having the time of my life. I’m in Jamaica for Jah’s sake.
2. Ignorance. Full disclosure: I can sometimes be disconnected from my feelings, especially negative ones which I tend to block.
Managing to observe and examine this process is highly valuable- so how did I come to be this way?
In adolescence I spent several years in poor mental health. A diagnosis of clinical depression at 18 stalled my university ambitions. Three years of imbalance followed before reaching rock bottom with an acute psychosis and a couple of months in a psychiatric ward.
Who knows why...brain chemistry, personality, life. Whatever the reasons, it happened and it shaped who I am today...and I’m grateful.
“What makes you comfortable can ruin you and only in a state of discomfort can you continually grow.” (Bill Eckstrom)
During those years of discomfort I often felt bitter. As a schoolboy I only knew to measure ‘growth’ by academic success...B’s to A’s...A’s to A*’s. As friends were graduating with university degrees and commencing their journeys into adulthood, I was a drop-out - dependent on my parents for care and on drugs to cope.
Nevertheless growth was occurring. Growth that would never be validated with a grade or a piece of paper. No, this was a subtle, translucent growth. The foundation of what has now been over ten years of good mental health.
For me, the Greek aphorism ‘Know Thyself’ (seen above) is the definition of good mental health.
Depression is a deeply introspective state. Life, with its all-absorbing momentum, is halted. You’re thrown off the ride and when you land…’you’, whoever that person was, is gone. Who you are now is unclear, but one thing’s for sure...it feels fucking terrible.
I don’t know if I’ll ever revisit that dark place. The prospect used to terrify me, hence my reflex to block negative feelings. For me, being ‘down’ feels synonymous with Depression and therefore not to be tolerated.
And so ironically, as I run from Depression in such a way, with intolerance and denial, I’m actually running towards it, feeding its potential re-manifestation. For if good mental health is ‘know thyself’ then bad mental health is ‘ignore thyself’.
For the past two months I’ve been intensely absorbed and fulfilled - backpacking around Colombia. You can check out my last post on the lessons I learnt here.
Now for the first time on this trip, the ride has slowed. I am alone...far from home…existing in the bubble of my own being...my heart heavy with a sadness I do not understand.
Please do not wish me better or hope that I cheer up soon. Instead celebrate and be grateful with me that I am simply aware. I welcome this spell of sadness as a teacher bearing a lesson of self-knowledge- an opportunity to grow and learn.
Wherever you are on your own journey I wish you patience and tolerance. Whatever you’re going through it will soon pass...everything does.