Friday, December 01, 2006

The Choice that I Make

There was a brief time in my life when I experienced depression – or not, depending on your definition. Some might define depression as a lifelong struggle that requires medical treatment. If that's your definition, then I was never depressed. What I mean, however, is that when this state of mind occurred in my life there were months when I felt depressed, felt sad and woebegone.

I had been teaching for ten years, but, as the student population began to decline and as my subject area began to decline even faster, I became redundant to my school. I will never appreciate the way in which I was told. The principal stopped me in the hall – in the hall if you please – with the typical good news/bad news scenario. The good news was that I had a job: the bad that it was at another school – out in the county, a rural school to which I would have commute. It would also involve some teaching outside of my subject area. At the time, particularly in view of the manner of the telling, it was hard for not to see it as a form of rejection. Of course, it was strictly a numbers game and nothing personal, but it sure felt personal at the time.

When I got to the new school in the following September, I was greeted by less than ideal circumstances. Up until then, I had always had my own room, but in this school my six classes were held in four different rooms. One of the rooms was my department head's. Most of the time, he wouldn't even bother to acknowledge or greet me when I came in. He was insane. He really was and admitted as much years later after he had spent time in prison for attempted murder. It wasn't easy, you see. I was wrenched away from a happy situation and plunked into a highly miserable one.

So, yes, I was depressed, to a greater or lesser degree, for maybe six months. Eventually, I escaped into a fantasy land – well almost, or the next best thing. I went to Narnia in the CS Lewis chronicles, and then I went to Middle Earth with hobbits and elves and dwarfs and other manner of creatures. I can remember crawling into bath or bed and devouring The Lord of the Rings in every spare minute. It was a total holiday and escape: not really total because I still had my day job, but it felt close to total as long as I was in Narnia or Middle Earth.

My reading didn't stop there. I also read a book about depression. The thrust of it, as I recall it now, was that for most people (those not clinically depressed), happiness is a choice. Oh, it probably gave all sorts of advice about how to get from one state of mind to the other, but I can't remember any of that. What I did get was that for me happiness is a choice. While, I have never taken it in a Pollyanish sort of way, I did buy into the essential concept.

I have found that it works. To an extremely large degree, I am responsible for my own attitude and my own happiness. I don't go through life with a silly and giddy expression on my face, but I do experience much contentment and very little dissatisfaction and envy. Although I can't remember when the last one occurred, there are days when a black mood comes upon me, but I try not to permit these moods to last for very long, and it has usually worked for me.


Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad,
Other things just make you swear and curse,
When you're chewing life's gristle,
Don't grumble,
Give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best.

Always look on the bright side of life.
Always look on the light side of life.

the complete lyrics, Wikipedia


Granny said...

The other thing I try to remember is that I can start a new 24 hours anytime I wish.

Leann said...

thanks for your comment on my blog for my mom,s passing.and for the post you have.sorry to hear you went thorough a sad time to.depression is hard.Iam glad your doing good now.I try like granny to remember what it says in the word.the Lords mercys are new every morning!!that gives me a fresh new start every day.God bless you.

Cathy said...

Depression. Such a huge topic. When does common misery become cinical depression? It is interesting that recent studies (hope I've got this right) indicate that talk therapy over a period of some time is as effective or more so than mere anti-depressant medication.
Sounds as though you were able to martial inner resources to lift yourself out of the doldrums. You're right - look on the bright side of life.

Anonymous said...

As one who has clinical depression, I would say that it is something that requires certain life choices, kind of like choosing appropriate foods if you're a diabetic. If someone had told me at the time to just buck up and change my mind, it would have been like telling a person with no legs to just get up and walk ~ and furthermore ~ if you really want to, you will.

That never worked and never will. Where I do have choices is in choosing to make the lifestyle and nutritional changes that work with the chemical imbalance in a practical way.

I am truly glad to know you have never had that kind of depression. Everyone has down times. It's part of living. My thought would be to go with it. It will go away when it's time for it to go away. We have these cycles for a reason.




mreddie said...

When the ugly bird of gloom
lights and poops upon your head
don't just stand there in a mess
clean it off instead.
It has pooped on other heads
so this is just a test
light up the joy that's deep inside
and don't let it build a nest. ec

Gina said...

Sometimes I feel that if it isn't chronic depression, then it can be a reminder of what it really means to be happy. If there are no lows, then how do we know what a "high" is?

Dale said...

Thanks for this post, AC. You know how I feel, don't you? Anyway, I'm off to the library to get some CS Lewis. Hey, it can't hurt.

Anonymous said...

I am one of the fortunate ones as well. I am able to "think myself happy” nearly all of the time. It took a great deal of soul searching and an amazing therapist, but I eventually came to the conclusion that in my case, being content was a choice. I realize that it isn’t an option for a lot of people, but for me it is, and I choose to be happy.

Ginnie said...

Hi AC, I, too, can think myself happy (or at least content) but it took lots of hard work and has become a habit that I practice every day. Each morning I plan my day and then say to whoever or whatever is a power greater than me, "This is my plan, but if it isn't to be...just let me accept what comes". Sounds silly, but it works for me.

robin andrea said...

I've been reading your comments at Wondering! and I thought I'd stop by to say how much I appreciate them. I remember a while back seeing your comments at another site, but I can't remember where. You always have something interesting to contribute.

Sarah Elaine said...

Some people should never be given jobs as school principals. Or even department heads.

swamp4me said...

Nothing profound to add, just wanted to thank you for that earworm. It will be with me the rest of the day ;)
"Always look on the bright side of life."

karla said...

I couldn't agree with you more AC. For most of us, happiness is a choice and a frame of mind and I think unfortunately, too many people forget that.

At the beginning of this pregnancy I remember having a hard time dealing with the flood of emotions that came rushing back about Ava so I sought some help from a psycologist to talk things over. I was floored when their solution was antidepressants. Just floored! Of course, if one is clinically depressed then I can see the need for medicine, but that just really reiterated to me how overprescribed medical happiness is.

If only more people could make the choice for happiness themselves and shift their own perspective to the positive.

PBS said...

What a coincidence that I'm reading "Lessons of a Lakota: A Young Man's Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding". It's a great little book which has the lessons in story-form. I learned in school when taking psych classes to be a counselor that there are two forms of depression: one is situation depression, when a person is sad or down because of a loss or something that has happened. The other and tougher to treat type is chronic depression, the person is sad or down for no outside discernable reason. It reminds me of my Mom's reaction when she hears about someone being depressed, "What happened to them that they are sad?" Sometimes, nothing has happened, she doesn't understand that. Many people don't. Glad that you turned yours around for the best!

Anonymous said...

I too have lived with "dark" days.. I often blame it on my Irish heritage. Over the years I have come to acknowledge these days and can accept them for what they are knowing that the following day.. or the day after that.. my mood will most certainly improve. I often feel badly for those who do suffer with clinical depression. For them relief is not so easily obtained.

Anonymous said...

This is my first, but not my last visit to your blog. Sharing and writing about times when I feel down or depressed has often helped me get through the worst parts. so does a sense of humor.

I will be back to visit your very interesting blog soon.

Sarah Elaine said...

I must say, I have been waiting for someone to comment on the Monty Python song "Always look on the bright side of life". Until your blog post, I didn't know there really was ANOTHER version! (Seriously!)

Sarah Elaine said...

I must say, I have been waiting for someone to comment on the Monty Python song "Always look on the bright side of life". Until your blog post, I didn't know there really was ANOTHER version! (Seriously!)

Anonymous said...

Anvil, what I mean about the fonts is that I no longer have a tool bar at the top of the template in Blogger. No uploading pictures and no controlling the font or spacing. I have to go back and forth between Mozilla and IE, both of them lacking one thing or another. It has been this way for the past few days. I have no idea how to fix it. :)



Anonymous said...

Anvil, the tool bar is missing from the top of the blogger template. :)



luna pie said...

Juncle -
I couldn't agree with you more. We are all (more or less) responsible for our attitude and emotions. That realization has kept me in check a time or two!!!

I am going to have that song stuck in my head all night for sure! Thanks. :)

Sarah xo

Anonymous said...

Depression! It's a fiendish curse! I once was so depressed that I could not answer my wife's question as to whether I wanted tea or coffee! What's that all about??!?
Stupid thing is that when you are depressed, often people who want to help are not helping because they are too close (or too cheery).
Luckily we now have blog friends! :-)