Riding on the euphoria of a suddenly revitalised England football team the nation is gripped in a sun-drenched period of celebratory fervour. It doesn’t matter that nothing has been won, because something has changed. In some ways, it is the very fact that we have not reached the end of the journey, wherever that may eventually be, that we are so enthused.
In contrast, last weekend Beth was morose. After a week of dance performances, she had reached the end of what will have been her last show. Passing eighteen next year she will be too old to take part in the bi-annual dance extravaganza, and it hurt.
The extent to which we are occupied by our goals and plans is not, as it would sometimes seem, energy sapping. Instead, it is this drive forwards to meet our own and others expectations which fill the tank as fast as it empties.
The most pervasive and damaging aspect of depression is its stillness.
In what I now recognise as my first brush with depression some thirty years ago I had finally landed a job only to realise soon afterwards that I hated it. Having achieved what I set out to I was suddenly faced with the task of shifting my objectives, finding something new to focus on in order to keep the forward momentum.
Bereft of an idea as to how I could make a silk purse out of a particularly bedraggled sow’s ear I sunk quickly.
When endings and emptiness arrive it’s much easier to prise the opening wider and stare inside at the nothingness than it is to find something else to fill the space.
It is this human difficulty with the nothingness that can be so devastating. Unable to see space as an opportunity for reflection, experimentation and resetting we instead view it as an abyss into which it is increasingly impossible to avoid falling.
In order for us to avoid depression, we have to strike a healthy balance between allowing ourselves to grieve and mourn endings while at the same time taking responsibility for how much time we allow ourselves to look inward.
Beth’s sadness passed after a couple of days. Once she was back at school life moved on and there were a multiplicity of ways to refill the space. Homework, university visits, dance classes, “Love Island”. Sometimes endings are easier than others.
On July 4th 1990, the last time England made the semi-final of a World Cup a friend of mine was killed in a car crash driving alone through the bend of a quiet road. For everyone close to him everything that came afterwards had to emerge from a terrible emptiness.
Fortunately, most of our endings are far less extreme and traumatic, but they are also more frequent than we sometimes realise. Respecting them, giving ourselves time and space to grieve them, and taking full responsibility for the changes that are required after they have passed is the only way to emerge from the emptiness that so often follows.