Ridewiser Depression Blog No.1
We do not see things AS THEY ARE. We see things AS WE ARE.
I never realised how true and insightful this little saying is until I grappled with the horror of being truly stuck in a ‘depression’ mindset, and trying to understand it.
It was May in 1994 at Greenpark Private (Psych) Hospital, Bundoora, and I was finally sitting face-to-face with a very much needed wise psychiatrist, and also with my depression itself, after surviving some dangerously long 6 month bouts of the illness between 1988-1993.
This young doctor, Mark, looked at me quite concerned (which was a thing in itself), and suggested I stay overnight in the hospital wing nearby. At this point I vehemently dismissed the idea as a bit ‘over-the-top’ of a suggestion. He then asked me why was I gripping my side of his desk, white-knuckle tight – as if hanging from a cliff-edge with out-stretched arms, and leaning away sharply to one side, quite oddly… I was in some kind of denial that I didn’t have any serious ailment needing follow-up, I just visited for a consultation check-in chat.
Suddenly, Mark’s reality rushed over me, smothering my perception like a cold wave. I woke from the delusion and remembered that I’d been visiting him several times in recent weeks, and had been suffering quite a distorted version of unhappiness in all my days, that seemed to run backwards eternally, like I’d always been depressed as far back as I could recall.
I was experiencing the whole room tilting, like falling inside a giant inflatable Magic Castle on a festival ground, I thought I might land onto his spikey Cycad pot-plant in the corner of the room if I didn’t hang onto something.
Things were just not right in my body – in my poor stressed out brain – it was like I was experiencing the world through my own stormy weather system. In reality, I would later realise that my internal environment experienced that day was created by a concoction of many life stressors, including months of accumulated worry and rumination chemicals to knock the brain’s vestibular system off balance, and the added aggravation of several mechanisms within my thinking style which, when poorly managed, could precipitate very poor weather and keep things that way like a habit.
It was evident then, that there would need to be a lot more understanding as to what were the key factors contributing to the poor weather on the inside. If I was going to navigate my way through life, either avoiding these dreadful system depressions, or eliminating them altogether, I needed to change something.
A two-year process of increasing awareness and learning some new mental skills on a personal development mission was to commence with a series of counseling sessions with a trusted and capable person who I liked. I became astutely aware of the 4 major stages of going through change, common to most behavioural modifications in people, and found my first possible road-map out of the horrible depressions looked a little bit like school levels, or qualifying – a bit like the bike race grading systems around the world.
Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence (I don’t get it, what am I not good at?)
Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence (I see what it is that I’m not good at, yes there’s some work needed)
Stage 3 – Conscious Competence (Oh, I get it, I can see how to get better at this now, I’ve got this…)
Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence (Look at that, I just did it and didn’t even notice myself trying!?)
Stage 1 awareness happened to me that day in the consultation desk in May 1994 with Mark the psych.
Stage 2 understanding became apparent to me after a few specialised sessions with smart people and dedicated listening, processing, understanding better and thinking about things differently.
Stage 3 competence would be the big one for time, perhaps 2 years on the job of practicing to do things differently each time the opportunity came up for choosing a different fork in the roads. Suddenly, for the first time, down times were an opportunity rather than just a down time going down further.
Stage 4 change was revealed to me one bright sunny day about 3 years later following a disappointing result in a relationship scenario, and then it just started happening all the time about 5 years later in 1999. The depressions became less frequent, and shorter in duration, and less intense, and were probably in many cases emerging as high anxiety for a few days, but that never got too much momentum so didn’t develop into a condition, or I managed myself and life events better using a relatively better set of skills, increased awareness and some kick-arse strategies to tackle the hard times my own smarter way.
My Ridewiser Depression articles are intended to be a contribution to give inquisitive people an alternative type of explanation as to what else could be happening during depression experiences, some of the associated thinking mechanisms and mindsets, the risky pitfalls and even the existence of high points that can make up the journey to re-order a mind in combat with the mental unrest we call, depression.
Ridewiser – Ride the Journey of
Your Life More Wisely
3 Things that could Change your In-house Weather System…
* DOG time – the utterly healing experience of tapping into the mindset of a dog’s brain; how they are wired to just live in the moment, indefinitely; to watch and share in a dog’s experience of the world, literally focused on only what is here right now; suddenly it’s all that really seems to matter.
* WALKING in nature – the healing air of being amongst trees, the quiet stillness of living things that just happily being, it is much like creating a meditation on the outside that will end up merging to some extent with your inside world.
* EXERCISE at something you know well, something familiar – the harder the exertion the better, exercising can change the body chemistry and reveal that the depression condition itself may not remain as permanently stuck as it seems.
Rob Crowe O.A.M. is a writer, speaker, Olympian and director of specialist program designs for Ridewiser Mindfitness cycling in Melbourne – how to enhance mental fitness while optimising physical fitness through cycling.
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