I recently caught up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a few years. Her account of the intervening period since we’d last been in touch was a litany of failures, disappointments and dark days. She was in that place where unhappiness perpetuates, unrelenting, bulldozing through whatever hopefulness or positivity you lay down to curb it.
I was reminded of one of the many self-improvement courses which I (and everyone else – it wasn’t just me needing improving!) was sent on by Vodafone as part of their generally excellent human resources program. It was billed as a course on “resilience”, and I have thought of it often, because as I get older it seems to me that resilience is probably one of the most useful life skills a person can have. That and being able to roll your tongue like a taco.
There was nothing particularly groundbreaking about the content of the course; it basically put forward a toolkit of resources you can apply to bounce back from setbacks. There was practical stuff about sleep patterns and exercise, and mental tricks for overcoming critical thinking. One of the ideas was about how to stop yourself sliding down the spiral of despair, where negativity begets negativity, and then next thing you know you’re listening to Fiona Apple on repeat.
It’s a lot easier to stop yourself when you’re close to the stop of the spiral, before you’ve gathered too much momentum. Even then, it’s a struggle. You claw yourself back up, slide down a bit, and claw up again, until hopefully you can get a stable foothold. This, to me, is basically the difference between despair and depression: a depressed person completely loses the resources within themselves to even cling to the sides, let alone drag themselves back up. My friend had plummeted to the bottom of the spiral with a thud, but she was ready to make the long climb back, and just working out how.
Thank God I have never experienced depression, but I’ve listened to some Fiona Apple in my time. I’ve received such good advice from friends over the years that I find I can now draw on that to life-coach myself out of most tailspins these days. I also feel I’m so much better at recognising patterns in my own behaviour and kyboshing any teetering steps in the direction of that spiral. Isn’t getting older just the most amazing thing? I feel I’ve left wallowing behind me for good, along with French existentialist literature.
I also keep in reserve the Things That Make Me Happy. If, one day, I find that these Things That Make Me Happy don’t in fact make me happy anymore, I’ll know it’s time to head to the doctor’s office.
Things That Make Me Happy:
- Videos of pugs on YouTube