My Take

Taking stock

Its that time of the year again where you sit by the fireplace and contemplate how much further you have come while walking the path of life. Taking stock, some may say. Evaluating where you stand and where you plan to be.

A few days ago I went through that process. I have to admit, while I was surprised at how many career enhancing moments I could count – I was terrified after realizing how much I had neglected my health. Basically my main complaints against my own health regiment include the kind of diet I indulge in (70% junk) and not exercising. However, this year I did one more thing to harm myself – neglecting my mental health. Essentially, I was unable to carve out enough time to detox my mind every now and then from the stress bug.

Somewhere along the way, running between classes and other commitments I lost the opportunity to care for myself. Dedicating even twenty minutes a day to yoga or meditation may have prevented the total burn out I faced towards the end of 2015.

Am I happy with what I have achieved? Most certainly. It gives me great joy.

But, does the sacrifice seem 100% worth it? That is the question I am struggling with as I write this.

We all become caught up with trying to be the best in the field we choose to work in, to have the best material life possible and pushing ourselves to achieve our goals. While I was busy doing these things I forgot to take out a few minutes every day to reflect on what has transpired – and what I have learnt from it. To give myself a breather and not think about stressful situations.

As I go into the new year, I have made changes to allow myself the opportunity to have that room. Putting aside the fear of falling behind I realize that I set the pace of my journey – no one else. I decide how fast or slow I want to drive and which stops on the way are worth it.

What does your stock taking reveal? It may surprise you!

Photo / www.tieniemaritz.co.za

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My Take

Drowning

A few weeks ago, someone very close to me began suffering from depression. Nothing in particular triggered it. It is not a reaction to a painstaking event which unfolded out of thin air. At least not something starkly visible.

This person is in his 7th week of this ordeal. He has been diagnosed with “severe depression”.

I may look at this person as a separate entity from myself. As someone “other” from my own flesh. But what he is feeling and cannot express pains me as if it is my mind which is drowning itself in this disease. With an almost domino-like effect, all those people who try and try to keep him afloat are drowning in this ocean of despair he is immersed  within.

Depression is a disease. A disease with causes, symptoms and treatments. Yet, many members of society look upon it as a mental prison of choosing. Countless people come and tell a depressed person – “You need to stop thinking this way. Its all in your mind”.

Photo / www.danielfryer.com

I admit to being one of those people not too long ago. I fully believe in the power of positive thinking and good vibes. But, depression is a disease. It is not just someone having a bad day which they can snap out off. Medicines take time, healing is a process and coping with this disease requires tools. Ironically when you have a cold no one says – “hey, stop thinking about a running nose and wasting so many tissues and you will be fine”.

Why? Because we can see what is happening. We can hear the person cough and see green tinged mucus.

As I began the journey to understanding depression (a disease) I discovered a vast arena of literature on the subject. While speaking to people, stories of themselves or people they know who have suffered similarly began to emerge. It is confounding just how widespread this disease really is. Medical practitioners and laymen alike suggest that the growing mental pressure people have to cope with in todays complex world can be attributed for the rise in depression.

Depression entails persistently low moods which in most cases render people dysfunctional in daily life. It is a chore to get out of bed, read a book, take a walk or even shower. Anxiety is also a dear friend of depression and together they can stay for a long time lodging (rent free) in the mind. The degree of severity can vary from mild to severe. Symptoms may include things such as lack of motivation and appetite, memory issues, low concentration span, hallucinations and more. Treatment options are multiple and work subjectively.

Next time somebody tells you they have been diagnosed with depression- restrain the urge to wave it off as a “phase”. Educate yourself first and tell them they can get through this. It is real and it will heal. But do not dismiss them or act like it is a figment of their imagination. Your assurance goes a long way even if you cannot see an immediate effect.

Sometimes it feels as if there is a bottomless pool into which all your motivational talk is drowning. There is no difference as the person forgets what you have said five minutes ago and is back to being unresponsive.

I believe that it is a well which must fill up sooner or later. Empathy and patience are the rain drops that gradually fill it to the brink. Slowly, but surely.

Photo / www.hamishlow.net