One of the apparently cruellest things about depression, is that it makes it very hard for a person to see and feel the good bits of their own life. Being wrapped in a blanket of personal gloom, good things struggle to get through and register. It can be hard for those on the outside, whose care and affection doesn’t get through the gloom layer to make any discernible difference – I’ve been there, too. When you want to be able to wrap love and support around a person and make everything better, but the gloom keeps you out.
I try to hang on to the idea that there will be good things. I have far more control over my mind than I have over my emotions, and I can throw logic at almost anything, so long as it occurs to me to do so. I do my best to carry the idea of good things, so that even on the days when I really can’t see them I still know that they must still be there. It’s a thought form that helps prevent the despair from getting an absolute grip.
I make deliberate time for gratitude – usually at the end of the day when I review what’s happened and try to spot the good bits. Some of those good things will be very small – a flower, a bird, a moment. Recognition of the friendship and support I have helps to keep me on a more even keel.
Alongside this I am careful to pay attention to my rage and distress, my ingratitude and to look hard at whatever is bothering me. To focus only on the quest for the good things can be to deny myself any hope for identifying and resolving distress. I spent a lot of years determined to see the best in things, and it kept me suffering when I could have protected myself had I only acknowledged there was a problem.
I find it easy to love the small things. The butterfly that came to my hand and stayed, and had to be gently persuaded to leave. It was easy to love the butterfly, and to smart at parting with it, the very smallness of it made that easier, somehow. I could not have had an exchange of physical closeness, adoration and parting with a human in that time frame, and I find that interesting to consider. Dogs bounce up to me and demand affection, and I give freely of myself for a moment or two before they depart. I touch without anxiety and accept the gifts of their easy affection and again, there is no way in the world I could do something as fleeting and generous with a human person.
I am blessed with a lot of lovely, brilliant, fascinating people – many of whom I do not know well, but who saunter along the edges of my life. People who come to this blog, or talk to me on facebook, people I know a bit in the less-virtual world. I treasure the passing encounters and unexpected exchanges.
Sometimes, it is hard to see the bigger things, the constants. I fear taking for granted anything or anyone who is more familiar, closer, more available to me. If I cannot always see the small good things, can I see the big ones? Probably not, and they are, emotionally speaking, harder to sneak in under the gloom. Small things can sometimes get through when bigger things cannot. A butterfly can land on the hand I would find it impossible to let most people touch, because humans are bigger, and our physical interactions so much more loaded. There is always meaning, implication. The rejection of a dog is easier to bear. The irritation of a butterfly would not break my heart.
In looking for the good in small things, I have come to recognise that my gloom is often protective. It is there to keep people out, and to help me mistrust what presents itself warmly, because I’ve been trapped and wounded by that more than once. I don’t let many people inside the gloom, because it is a level of trust and vulnerability, and I have not learned how to arrive like a dog or a butterfly and give without fear.