In the customer experience excellence training we run, there’s a huge focus on ‘self’ because without self-mastery, excellence is a rumour and service to others is a direct derivative of service to self. Now on the train to self-mastery rides on the rails of self-awareness which is a key tenet of emotional intelligence. The foundation upon which personal and professional excellence is built and without which the much desired and so seldom achieved status of wisdom is impossible.
So what grabs me each time we reach this section, is that when we get to the fourth competence of emotional intelligence – maintain hope in the face of frustration – and I tell participants as a topic opener that “Depression is real and is here with us, and all around us there are people close to us, walking about seemingly normally but are truly depressed” the reaction is standard no matter the composition of the group. Everybody nods in total agreement making noises that can only be interpreted as total concurrence. And on further suggestion that the government should recognize depression as a national pandemic, the assent is unanimous.
I am no expert on psychology and what depression is or is not, but my take on it, being the recipient of many a personal sharing and being someone that for some reason people are drawn to talk to and to share, is that it walks about lurking next to us like a shadow, that doesn’t go away with the absence of light.
It is a deep dark hole that consistently attaches itself to our sides. And unlike the general make up of a hole, this hole isn’t frightening or perilous, no. It instead very inviting… It fashions itself as a hole that is cushiony in its form and that invites one to dip their toes in it. Its composition is one akin to the soft, sticky, almost suction like nature of black cotton soil. And no, this hole is not wide and gaping open, it is close fitting and has its sides warm and enveloping. And a soon as one ventures to dip one body part in, its serves to gently pull the rest in slowly, but surely, providing warmth and coverage and encouraging further dalliance in its engulfing darkness. This would be the sort of hole that one would find themselves in, if they stepped into the murky stickiness of soft, black cotton soil that feels bottomless and on which one cannot quite stand firm.
Its adhesive nature draws one further inward and soon from ankle deep, the progression to knee, waist, shoulder, then neck deep, happens progressively. Soon the all-consuming immersion happens, and one is in, over their head – literally, covered and under the blanketing lid of depression. The takeover is not of the swift-get-in-and-seize variety, but of the I-cannot-deal-any-more-let-me-give-up type. Thing is, depression isn’t something one sees coming like grim reaper complete with a black hooded cloak wielding a scythe to harvest one’s soul. No. It shows up in the form of high stress that doesn’t seem to want to go away and hacks at our patience continuously, as sadness at different happenings that make us feel continuously low and doesn’t lift easily, as helplessness in the face of frustration that is overwhelming and doesn’t appear to dissipate, as emotional strain from a relationship or relationships at home, at work or from loved ones, as pressure – mounting pressure that morphs into anxiety and distress, and most common from traumatic situations that result in grief, pain, blame, angst and despair. The list is endless and just about anything can turn us towards the inviting comfort that depressive hole.
That all said, that one is immune to depression and that it for ‘certain people’ is a fallacy. Quite the depressed person is walking about unaware of their depressive state. Could you or I be depressed and we don’t know? Oh yes. Could you or I be circling at the edge of the black hole looking into it with the likelihood of succumbing to its charms? Oh yes. Could you or I have ventured in and wondering what’s going on with us and not sure that we’re in the clutches of depression? Oh yes… most definitely yes.
Self-awareness is a critical weapon in the depression war. To know and understand oneself to the extent that one knows that something is unusual about how they feel and especially when the unusual feeling persists. There isn’t quite anything like a ‘normal’ feeling because normal is as unique to human beings as their diversity and one’s normal could very well be another’s abnormal. But unusual to self is just that – unusual. And especially if the unusual feeling is not one that empowers, or makes one feel good about themselves or their situation. Hang around with that feeling and recognize and acknowledge it and see how best to not get drawn into the dark hole, or if in already, to see how to pull out. The pulling out for some is self-induced and could take the form of either pushing back at the enveloping darkness, creating space and moving up towards the light or if not too deep in holding onto the edges and pulling upward and outward away from the clinging stickiness to get to the edge and then out. Sometimes self rescue may not be possible and one may need to call out from the blackness of the hole, for another to reach in and pull them out. The results of which could be one clean pull that extricates totally and brings one up to the light or several consistent jerks that slowly allow for upward movement to the top and out of the encircling darkness.
Whatever the case – that one ray of hope however small, whether self-created or provided by another provides a life line. That there’s something worth struggling to get out of the hole for – be it for self, for another, for a cause, or for a specific objective – creates the desire to try. And that’s all that is needed. So our challenge today is to recognize that depression is indeed here with us – all of us and no one is immune. And to take a good look around us both at self and others and be sensitive to what seems ‘unusual’ and prepare to lift up and off of the deep dark dangerous deceitful drawing hole of depression.
Author: Carolyne Gathuru
Carolyne is an ardent and passionate people builder. She is moved touched and inspired by people, finds them fascinating; is intrigued by their thoughts, activities, ideas, hopes, dreams, drivers and ways of being, and has a vision to transform humanity one person at a time. She may be found on firstname.lastname@example.org