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Friday, January 31, 2014


        As I sat at my table at Meilori's, I ran my fingers through my hair and stared at the screen of my laptop.

       The ghost of Oscar Wilde sat down beside me. 
"What is wrong, Roland?  Is your apprehension about your upcoming cancer surgery worsening?"

       I shook my head. 
       "Several friends have emailed me asking how I keep on keeping on.  They are fighting inner wars with depression and grief.  They ask me how I ignore it to keep on working."

Wilde seemed to look within himself at a parade of unwanted lessons in memories. 
“When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realizing what I am that I have found comfort of any kind.”

Oscar looked sadly at me.  
“Then I was advised by others to try to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal.
 It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else –
the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver –
would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy.”

Oscar toyed with the petals of the sunflower in his lapel.
  “No. To regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie onto the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”
Wilde sighed, "Though, in the eyes of the world, I am ,of course, a disgraced and ruined man, still every day I am filled with wonder at all the beautiful things that are left to me:
loyal and loving friends such as you, Twain, and Captain McCord … good health … books: one of the greatest of the many worlds God has given to each man …
the pageant of the seasons: the loveliness of leaf and flower: the nights hung with silver and the dawns dim with gold. I often find myself strangely happy though the weight of depression deadens the inside of my chest.”
McCord sat on the other side of me. 
"Recovering from depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed is hard.
In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can be exhausting.
It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery:
The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There’s a difference, however, between something that's difficult and something that's impossible."
He rubbed his face with his gloved hand.  "I'm a Ranger, son. And we break problems down into do-able steps --
The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Draw upon whatever resources you have.
You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one.
Take things one day at a time and reward yourself for each accomplishment. The steps may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up.
And for all the energy you put into your depression recovery, you’ll get back much more in return.
The ghost of Alfred Adler sat down opposite me.  He slid a sheet of paper towards me.  "I was listening at the next table, and I jotted down these thoughts:

Depression self-help tip: Challenge negative thinking

Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future.
But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking will only mock your inner grief.

Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.

Ways to challenge negative thinking:

  • Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else.

  • If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.

  • Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking

  • Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.

  • Keep a “negative thought log." Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook.

  • Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. For example, let’s say your boyfriend was short with you and you automatically assumed that the relationship was in trouble. It's possible, though, he’s just having a bad day.

Types of negative thinking that add to depression
All-or-nothing thinking –

Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground (“If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”)

Overgeneralization –

Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever (“I can’t do anything right.”)

The mental filter –

Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.

Diminishing the positive –

Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)

Jumping to conclusions

Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader (“He must think I’m pathetic”) or a fortune teller (“I’ll be stuck in this dead end job forever”)

Emotional reasoning –

Believing that the way you feel reflects reality (“I feel like such a loser. I really am no good!”)

‘Shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ –

Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do, and beating yourself up if you don’t live up to your rules.

Labeling –

Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (“I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”)
The ghost of Mark Twain sat beside Adler, shaking his head. 

"The best cure for depression, son, is to be there for others, to find a way to make them laugh, or to feed them in a way they need the most.  But laughter is the best."
Wilde smiled, "I knew there was a reason I kept you as a friend."

For more of Oscar Wilde vs. Mark Twain
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  1. Sadly depression (and his cousin anxiety) are not only liars, but very convincing ones.
    I love your methods for putting them back into their cages, but would add two others. Determination/stubbornness have kept me going. And curiosity. Today might be vile, but I am still curious to know what tomorrow brings. Even if it is worse. Can it be worse? Tomorrow will tell. And then the next tomorrow...
    But yes, for me, a sense of humour (often black) has stopped me from drowning more than once.

  2. This sounds good to me:
    (thanks Twain)
    "The best cure for depression, son, is to be there for others, to find a way to make them laugh, or to feed them in a way they need the most. But laughter is the best."

    Caring is something we do for friends. Remember that, Roland, when you need to talk.

  3. Elephant's Child:
    Life is like a movie in that should we leave it early, we would never know if it would have gotten better in the next reel.

    Laughter and beauty help. And petting our animals. :-)

    May the way grow brighter for you each day of this New Year!

  4. D.G.:
    Just you visiting and commenting means so much to me. And Mark Twain is my scoundrel companion often in my thinking. :-)

  5. Any man who has Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain as friends just has to be a very good and wise man.

    There is only one small piece of experience I would add to your thoughtful post, and that is I've sometimes found that when the "black dogs" (as Churchill called his fits of depression) have got their fangs in me, it can be a sign from my subconscious that something in my life is very wrong right now, that I'm on the wrong path or doing something, however small, that is wrong. or in the wrong relationship. The depression can be a sign or warning from my subconscious that I have to make a change.

    Then again, the very word cancer is enough to induce serious depression. But please bear in mind that in most cases it is NOT a death sentence, especially with skin cancer. You're going to be fine, my darling. That is my all-powerful decree.

  6. surviving... is the key, everyday you feel you cannot get up, get up... everyday negative gets in the way, attack it with the positive...

  7. I was depressed last night so I called Lifeline. They've got a call center in Pakistan. I told them I was suicidal. They got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck.

  8. Helena:
    I accept your decree. :-)

    Inside my mind is an enchanted place. LOL. So yes, I have Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde chatting with me -- and Hemingway wanting to box my ears ... and nose!

    You're right: depression can be a sign that something is amiss inside you. As Carl Jung wrote: "We are not what has happened to us; we are what our choices have made us."

    I wrote on depression because several of my friends are hurting from it. I have the Father uplifting me so that, while I feel apprehension, depression is at least denied me!

    Putting one foot in front of another is sometimes all we can do, but we can at least do that much, right? :-)

  9. Walter:
    Love your black sense of humor. I used to work for a crisis hotline in the past, BTW. :-)

  10. Depression raises it's ugly head in various ways.

    There is no magic bullet, nor cure, just time and hope.

    Take care. Thinking of you, Roland.

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  12. Wendy:
    No magic bullet but activity, straightening our bent thinking patterns, and laughter always helps in some small way. Thanks for being in my corner. Roland