Spiral of despair – by Tabitha

25 Oct

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
  • Chocolate
  • Sleep.

5 Responses to “Spiral of despair – by Tabitha”

  1. Justyna October 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    I like kyboshing. And your happy list is very short. So it doesn’t take all that much to make you happy. A good thing. Low maintenance Tabitha.

  2. kgo October 27, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I really liked this entry very much, even though it wasn’t as funny as usual. I just wanted to let you know that it’s ok that it wasn’t as funny.

  3. Tabitha October 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Justyna: I actually think I am quite low maintenance when it comes to happiness. Expectations are overrated.

    Karen: Thank you for your reassurance. I don’t think it was such a great post, but yes, thank you nonetheless.

    • Beth November 1, 2011 at 5:19 am #

      Having been down my share of spirals, it gives me a little smile to read your post. The little smile of, “thank god I’m not on that spiral right now”. Spirals can suck. They can also present a trapdoor right at the bottom offering you an exit to crawl out of (i.e. a life changing experience, and I don’t mean suicide or hallucinogens!) if you’re really lucky and care to follow through with the metaphor.

      I’m medium maintenance when it comes to Making Myself Happy. My list is topped by going to David Jones Food Hall and buying myself a treat, followed by going and trying on some funny hats in the store and then smiling at the lady playing piano. Thank goodness I didn’t need spiral assistance when I lived in Canada because this is very specific indeed.


  1. Courage by Beth « Far Flung Four - November 14, 2011

    […] reaching out for help; admitting that I wasn’t perfect; climbing back up that spiral Tabs was talking about a few weeks back, felt like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it was also the most […]

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