Leaving Provence I am staring through the window of the train as we speed past a procession of faded patchwork fields. A stone farmhouse, weary cows spread thinly on gently sloping banks, and a patch of sunflowers dry, faded and with their heads bowed in submission. It is as if the weeks of unrelenting hot sun have been too much for everyone and everything.
When the heat saps the energy from us it can become too hard to do even the most mundane and basic things. But not bothering is self-seeding, and making excuses leads us into a painful morass of our own making.
One of the great things about a psychiatric hospital (not, I imagine, an oft-used phrase) is the structure. The imposition of “this” happens at “that” time is a way of saving the vulnerable from their own inevitable folly.
Most people struggling with depression sleep more than those who feel fine. But the endless sleep feeds the depression and makes it stronger.
If I think about the periods of my own life where I felt most exposed and bereft of energy and motivation they are the times when I was, paradoxically, completely abandoning myself while simultaneously going through the motions of trying to pull myself back from the brink.
I would read self-help books, watch videos and try my best to understand why I felt like I did, all the time amassing an armory of tools with which to make my escape. But it was years before I started digging.
When we prioritise theory over action we do little more than entrench our own hopeless position.
Stuck in a loop of self-flagellation my mind became glued to all the negative thoughts which had helped me arrive here in the first place, while any positive mitigation was cast into the winds with only the merest acknowledgment.
The human instinctive negativity bias was a vital way of surviving when we lived in caves and feared other tribes or wild beasts pillaging us in the middle of the night. But these days it needs tempering if we are to get the wheels moving and create a life worth living.
Self-criticism is an excuse which prevents us from change. It might feel like we’re taking responsibility by scolding ourselves but we’re really preserving the paralysis. Movement and progress require forgiveness for what we perceive as our deficiencies.
It’s far easier to leap from a base we are not chained to.
When the rain came this week it washed away the compelling notion that it’s too hot to get anything done. But there are always ways to sidestep our own wellbeing if we are determined to do so.
Good mental health relies on our finding reasons to keep testing and pushing against the shadows which hang about our shoulders, rather than the reasons we must fall silently into their darkness.