Sunday, 31 March 2013

Simple truths and dirty lies

There is a lot of depression about. Not just feeling down, but full-blown malignant clinical depression. It's all over the place, and probably inside more of those around us, at least some of the time, than we may realise. That thought is prompted by a recent conversation with a young woman who requested some help from me, or guidance, and I hope I was able to give her some. And it is also prompted by thoughts of some of the bloggers I visit or have visited, because depression seems quite a common trait in the blogging community, or perhaps it is just that people are more inclined to talk about it on their blogs. And over the years I have had my own problems with the dark swamp of depression, or the black clouds, the black dog... whatever metaphor one wishes to use. The modern prevalence of the problem is perhaps a consequence of the steady erosion of faith and the increasing availability of time to think. Not that I would promote faith in things we cannot know about as a cure, even if I can somewhat envy its undoubted effectiveness in those who can sustain it.

I was driven by these thoughts to return to a blog post that I wrote in 2008, and the memory of some words from Joe Joseph, a journalist with The Times who wrote:

'Happiness rests on the most fragile of foundations. But it is precisely because it does, that it can also be rebuilt on the most fragile of foundations. Happiness is the emotional equivalent of Venice: you marvel that it survives in a harsh modern world, this improbable city built on stilts, up to its skirts in water.'

In my old blog post I expanded on that myself by writing:

Happiness is so fragile because it is built from almost nothing. From a glint of sunshine, a smiling face, the laughter from a momentary joke. The fragility allows it to crumble so easily, but because its structure is so flimsy, happiness is equally easy to rebuild again, from a glint of sunshine, a smiling face, the laughter of a momentary joke.

And I also wrote:

The key to happiness for me, these days, is to accept that life is pointless, that we mean nothing and that whether we achieve little or a great deal, or something in-between, it all amounts to nothing in the end, especially when the stars burn out, and are gone. But the point in life can be to try to find some interest, and even fun, in the people and things around us with whom we share this journey on our little planetary carousel spinning on its axis and circling the Sun. And to treat each day as a life and do something we can enjoy, is the best that we can hope for.

And I was thinking of all that today as, once again, a large latte, a newspaper and a comfortable seat in a warm dry place, oh... and a strawberry and cranberry muffin this time, was sufficient to keep me happy and content, and able to plan for a productive evening while wondering why I could not always keep my life and my mind this simple.

And I thought of the youngster who asked me for help, and who is just about to leave her teenage years behind her. I wonder if the comments of an old man made any sense to her, including my attempt to convince her that the feeling that things could never possibly get better and must inevitably get worse is just one of depression's dirty lies. I probably told her more than I should have about myself in order to try to convince her, but I am hoping that it worked.

So... the clocks have moved forward today and I am sitting in my conservatory at quarter to eight in the evening and it is still moderately light.

Happy Springtime.


  1. I so wish that this was a meaningless post for me. It isn't. I muddle along (mostly) but my partner has had clinical depression for many years. I really would like to be able to put it right for him - even knowing that his healing has to come from within. And not only is depression a liar - he/she is a very skilled one.
    My happiness comes from small things - but I am so lucky that there are a lot of them. The birds, books, the garden, the light on the hills, and the list goes on...

  2. Thanks for the comment EC. A tough topic. Partnership and family life have many benefits, but having to share others' difficulties is, well... a difficulty. In some tough family times I have sometimes thought that life is so much more complicated when a contented day depends on several people being contented at the same time, and not just oneself. I know from your blog a little of the issues you face, and all I can do is perform the rather meaningless and ineffective act of "sending" good wishes to you.

  3. Thank you. My happiness does NOT come from word verification. Death to all spammers - or at least painfull hemmorhoids to all spammers.

  4. I'll take WV off again for a while and see how bad the spam is these days.

  5. Ouch. My painful hemorrhoids are making me depressed. Why have I got them all of a sudden?

  6. As I got older, much older, I asked less, and less and less of life. It means that one never gets widely happy, but one never gets widely disturbed....

    It works very well until life slams one on you, and your quiet, little, well-arranged, everyday is torn apart by someone's sudden death....

    What? All I ask, to be happy, is to read 4-5 friendly blogs a week, and one of them disappears? Hard to shake the sadness, the sense of loss, of betrayal...

    In a way happiness is a connection,(not always human). Depression is the lack of it...It's the void, the absence of warmth and of belonging.

    So I try to stay connected, be it to a coffee shop, to a bit of Beethoven, even to a Scottish land with some beautiful trees (via the internet). It's up to me really....It's there for the taking.

    If it disappears, I'll re-adjust my gears, slowly...As I'm doing now that we lost Jams' Friday Cats.

  7. You wrote, "Not that I would promote faith in things we cannot know about as a cure, even if I can somewhat envy its undoubted effectiveness in those who can sustain it.

    I am now one of those sustained by faith but I have written, if not about depression, about the darkness of hopelessness.


    Where lies hope, my friend, in this tangled mess
    Of life's many twists and turns knotted tight?

    Can hope be, my friend, in this tortured soul
    Battered by life's storms and drowning alone?

    What is hope, my friend, to the losing of will?
    A meaningless word, a concept so trite.

    Hope, my friend, is no friend to those such as I.
    A teaser, no more. No support in the void.

    No hope, my friend, no hope.

    But, somehow, I came to faith and, with faith, life is transformed. This doesn't mean that life is easy but life is much more than pointless.

    But, had I been told this before I found Jesus, I would have rejected it utterly.

    The paradox, "Real life is with Jesus but we cannot know this until we have real life in Jesus."

    Remember, Jesus is standing at your door. All you have to do is open that door to Him.

  8. I am glad that we have a connection Claude. I will try not to die on you too soon.

    Nice to hear a bit more from you these days Calum. I am glad that your faith is helping you. I think that what may be standing at my door is the Powerful Placebo Effect, manifested in the realisation that there is nobody out there to help so I better help myself from within, and that is helping quite effectively at present. Who cares what path we take to persuade ourselves to cheer up and handle things if we can find one that leads to relative contentment without harming anyone else.

  9. You're right. There are many ways to move forward with/through depression. Whatever works is fine provided, as you say, others aren't harmed.

    I didn't look to faith as a way to work with depression. I didn't look for faith at all. Faith sort of 'snuck' up on me ..... thankfully.

    Take care, Big Yin

  10. "CalumCarr said... You're right."

    Ach I do like the art of selective quotation :)

    Take care Auld Yin

  11. I don't suffer from depression but I do have down days just the same as everyone else.

    I find that getting out in the countryside or a garden helps lift the spirits as does spending time with friends.

  12. Gret stuff - good meaty stuff into which to get my teeth. Thank you Don!

  13. Hello again John. Sink yer teeth in and chew,and feel free to spit out too :)

  14. Thank you for this post Andrew. You will know why. x

  15. Indeed I do dear Ashley Lily. Keep painting the face though, and taking the photos, please.