Excuse me but can I talk with you for while? In this lonely city I felt you when you came close to me. I felt your warmth and I could smell you as you stepped from their world and into mine.
In one of his Ted speeches Andrew Solomon relates a story of when he visited Rwanda. One of the locals told him …
‘… we’ve had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers, especially the ones who came right after the genocide.”… they would do this bizarre thing. They didn’t take people out in the sunshine where you begin to feel better. They didn’t include drumming or music to get people’s blood going. They didn’t involve the whole community. They didn’t externalize the depression as an invasive spirit. Instead what they did was they took people one at a time into dingy little rooms and had them talk for an hour about bad things that had happened to them. … we had to ask them to leave the country.”
I don’t often go into the city, but we went in today and spent some time just walking around, hanging out.
After a while I could feel my mood change. On a beautiful sunny day in the city, the clouds came in, I hadn’t felt them for a while.
It may have been the noise, the crowds, the loneliness. It may have been nostalgia; I have spent many years in this city but have rarely gone in there lately.
My mood got lower and lower and no one knew, and no one cared. All of them people and no one cared.
They were good people, if they knew they may have cared, but they didn’t.
Then when I was browsing in a shop, trying to distract my mind, killing time, I felt a woman stood close to me and I felt a warmth. It was like she had somehow stepped into some other dimension where only her and I stood. She would be patient enough to want to listen, she would understand and she’d know just what to say. I wanted to talk to her, but I couldn’t.
Instead, in this city at a time when the sun was disappearing behind the buildings I sought out the few remaining patches of sunshine, to feel its warmth on my face and my skin.
It got me through until it was time to come home.
For me there is plenty of truth in the ‘Rwandan’ idea of the value of feeling the sun on your face for both preventing the low moods and for correcting them There is also truth in the idea of feeling the energy of the right person standing alongside you.
Standing alongside you but not intruding on you.
“Loneliness is a crowded room
Full of open hearts turned to stone
All together, all alone …” – Bryan Ferry
Life for many people must be desperately frightening, alone and trapped. We need our space but sometimes in avoiding others we are denying ourselves that positive energy that we need.
It seems that the modern medications used to deal with depression are barbaric, but they are the best that we have and if they give you your life back they may be worth it. I have avoided going down this line. I don’t feel that I am that bad (probably a common mistake that so many make), a decision that I hope I will never regret.
I seek instead to understand what makes me feel better in both the prevention of and correction of the low moods. The struggle is being disciplined enough to follow through on these things.
Getting enough sun on my face, setting aside quiet times, reducing unnecessary noise and life clutter. Allowing myself to think but not too much., just enough to allow me to slowly work things out. Seeking solitude. Learning to say no to things we don’t want and yes to the things that we really do.
So many of these things sneak up on us undetected until suddenly we become aware that they are there.
There are traps all around us, traps they draw us in. In allowing ourselves to think, we can be drawn in too deeply. We can suddenly find ourselves in the middle of a crowd when we just wanted to be with one person. Noise creeps in all the time. To block out unnecessary noise I used to play music in my headphones until I realised that all I was doing was replacing one noise with another.
In avoiding people in the pursuit of solitude we deprive ourselves of the positive energy that some people bring. When we open ourselves up to express our feelings we make ourselves more emotionally vulnerable to the people and world around us.
Maybe there are angels walking among us. Angels whose energy brings us the warmth of the sun when there is no sun around. Who let us know that we are not alone in the middle of a crowd, but who at the same time do not impeach on our privacy and solitude. Angels who will listen if we want to talk. Angels whose positive energies we can feel and who can enter our world when and like no one else can. To me these are not the souls of dead ancestors nor are they descended from heaven. They are just people, special people (although even they may not realise it) who have a knack of being present at a time and a place when we need them. We all know them.
My support, the beautiful woman who has always been at my side, was not with me for a brief while in the city, but an angel stepped in to look after me.