Thanks for the expressions of concern, but no, I’m not depressed myself, just hoping to shed light on that baffling illness we call depression. I have to write up some old notes on civil war in Cabinda and elsewhere and war is something I find impossible to write about, so the effort to try and convey that kind of impossibility — how it might have felt for those forced to live through war — makes me queasy and heartsick.
While drinking litres of hot milkfree tea, I’m reading about what are called third wave therapies:
In cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) circles, what’s come to be known as “third-wave” therapies have been tracking along this path for a number of years now. Interestingly, they have greatly downplayed the importance of diagnostic categories, noting that, across diagnoses, people tend to engage in “experiential avoidance,” such as calling in sick to avoid giving a presentation or using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of depression. The problem (which they will bring to your attention repeatedly in therapy) is that the effort to control or get rid of unpleasant emotions often compromises quality of life more than the emotions themselves. What we most need to do is learn to accept our feelings and then get on with our lives.
More specifically, the agenda (again, regardless of diagnosis) is to pay attention to thoughts and feelings (remember Dr. Allen’s comments on mentalizing?), learn to regard our thoughts as mental activity rather than absolute truth (“Don’t believe everything you think”), and commit to living life according to our most deeply held values (such as being good parents) rather than trying so hard to get rid of unpleasant feelings (such as spoiling a toddler to avoid his or her wrath).
It makes perfect sense. But is it doable?
And I have stopped rolling out thinner and thinner sheets of pasta dough in order to quell my inner demons. Instead I am squeezing out juice from a glut of lemons and freezing it so I can have lemony ice cubes in summer. There must be 101 things I can do with 80+ lemon juice ice cubes.
There are plovers on the far side of the road and I hear them giving warning cries at night, clinking, like small hammers on an anvil. Blacksmith plovers. Bird calls are so varied and numerous out here in the countryside. I hear almost human phrases sometimes — as in Gaelic, the cry of the oystercatcher is said to call ‘Be wise, be wise!’ in that high-pitched double syllable cry of urgency.
Another cold front is moving up from the coast, the wind has a bite like ice. But the sheltered back garden has lizards sunning themselves on the gravel and the wild fennel is rushing up to meet the sky, giving off a sun-warmed fragrance of aniseed sweetness, green liquorice. We need rain before the spring begins or it will be a bleached and brown landscape in September. The local farners walk around pausing every now and then to look up at the skies as if hoping to detect signs of rain, but the skies are blue and cloudless. What will be will be.