Control vs Harmony
The answer to depression will not be found up your own backside.
Depression means ‘sunken’ - to be at a place lower than the surrounding areas. At its heart, depression is a breakdown of interconnectedness: with others, with nature, with the rest of the world. The depression afflicted individual has sunken to a level where they can no longer maintain such connections. And the really cruel aspect of depression is that it will softly call to you the way a siren might lure weary seamen to rocky peril; it will whisper to you about how you would find solace, if only you’d sink just a little further. In moments of lucidity, when the poor suffering soul tries to find some sense of reason or way out of the mire, they find themselves so cut off from the outside world that the only source of information is… themselves. And at this point, with self-esteem, rational thinking, and motivation flat-lining, and with depression’s lullaby at it’s most potent, there ain’t no healthy help to found within. It’s a vicious spiral because the farther away from that connectedness you become, the more credible the depression’s argument seems: Nobody gets what I’m going through. Nobody wants to help me. I’m better off alone. The result is a retreat from the very thing that will solve the problem. In this way, depression is a very (albeit inadvertently) selfish affliction.
A crucial part of beating depression is allowing others in.
A couple of days after my final hangover, I knew change had to happen, but the weighty smothering paws of misery and self-loathing had parked me on my bed. Nothing could move forward until I broke the bearhug.
A friend of mine, Catherine, messaged me. She was (with her trademark vim and vigour) asking about alternative sources of funding we might apply for, having had an initial application for a creative project rejected. This initial rejection had been immediately weaponised by my depression; it was, through the depressive lens, yet more evidence that the world was against me and that the sum total of everything in the whole entire universe was akin to a great big steaming pile of dog shit. Catherine did not share this opinion. She had already let the disappointment of the funding rejection fade like a gentle mist on a spring morn; and she was ready to move on - positive, open-minded and up for giving other options a go.
I told her that I was feeling poorly and would like to look at other funding possibilities later. I presumed she would offer me a consolatory text message, leave me be, and then I’d be free to wallow in self-pity on my bed, muttering curses at Call of Duty. My plan was to continue to sink - and wilfully so. To become more depressed. Such is the cycle.
Catherine didn’t offer me a consolatory text, however. Instead, she gave me an instruction: 'Call me at 9:05am in the morning, once I’m back from the school run.'
My shame, perfectionism and fear all offered knee-jerk reasons why making an excuse and not phoning her was definitely the best option: speaking on the phone to a friend? What a terrible idea: such is the bewildering illogicality of the depressive mindset. I am grateful that in this moment, I was able to recognise the irrational nature of my inner monologue - it takes practice, but it’s do-able. Not heeding the inner voice, I vowed to myself that the next day, at the delightfully curious time of 9:05am, I would make the call, and listen to my friend.
At some point (perhaps during my quasi-rebellious drama-school years, or after discovering the bleak liberation of existentialist philosophy after playing Berenger in Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist belter, Rhinoceros), I came to the ridiculously naive conclusion that spirituality was a huge nonsense and that my ego and intellect were all I needed to get by and thrive. I believed that my intellect would help me learn as much as I needed to know so I would be able to adapt to any circumstance or situation, and that my ego would keep me looking cool - or, at least, not too much of an idiot - as I did so.
This notion was as useful and as right as suggesting that injecting disinfectant can cure covid. I’m just very relieved that I’ve realised how wayward this belief was - ‘cos now I get chance to correct it!
At precisely 09:05am, I called Catherine. Two hours later, my long-neglected spirituality bucket had been dug out of the broom-cupboard of my mind, cleaned and polished to a pristine level of shining brilliance, and was overflowing with promise and possibility.
“So, what’s wrong with you?” Catherine asked over the phone, “What are your symptoms?”
Now, here’s the thing about removing your own head from your ass - it involves being open and honest… with other people. If you’re the kind of person (like most) who would find this a very difficult thing to do… do it anyway! I’ve done the bottling-up thing; for decades I’d bottled it like a pro. All you end up with is a cellar in the soul flooded with joy-poison. So open up. Start with disclosing the small things and then build up; the liberation and relief and support that you’ll get back, once you do, is life-changing. With this in mind, I was open with Catherine from the off.
“I’m low, Catherine, I feel depressed and down.”
“Where do you feel the depression, in your body?”
“I feel it like a tightness in my chest. Like its a weight bearing down on me.” She paused momentarily, thinking.
“Okay!” she declared, decisively. “I need to look something up. Then we have to go for a walk. Can you come out? We’re gunna walk the depression out of you!”
Don’t do it! whined my depression and fear and shame. Think how awesome it would be just to sit and curdle like spoilt milk, whilst ceaselessly scrolling through different shows on Netflix but never choosing one to actually watch. Fab! My ego became an assault rifle of What Ifs. My intellect added together the sum of my depressive thinking and my ego’s aversion of shame and came to the conclusion that making an excuse not to walk was the only choice here. But, and this was my saving grace, I had an ace up my sleeve in this situation. I knew that to shake off the shackles of the depression, I had to stop listening to myself. The kind of negative self talk and inner turmoil I was the victim of represented the pernicious paths of old, the toxic routes through the cornfields of my mind; these were the paths I no longer had any interest in walking. I had to get my head out of my butt and reconnect with others.
The clarity, resolve and uplifting positivity in Catherine’s voice compared with the lacklustre, maudlin misery of my inner voices made the choice a no-brainer.
For the sake of background and context, you should know that Catherine is an exceptional musician.
Through music, she has found something that she loves to do and is excellent at; she has built her life around her talent and passion. When composing music, she tunes A to 432hz rather than the industry accepted 440hz. Why, I hear you ask? Because 432hz reverberates in perfect harmony with Fibonacci sequence. The ‘golden ratio’ of the Fibonacci sequence can be found in the formation of leaves, fruits and trees; the reproduction habits of rabbits and bees; the microscopic protein polymers in animal shells; ram horns, conch shells, and so on, and so on - just about everything in the natural world harmonises with this magical numerical sequence discovered in the 13th Century by Mr. Fibonacci. Tuning A to 432hz is just one example of how Catherine is all about harmony. Harmony over control.
She explained to me how everything in the world and universe vibrates with the energy of being. Endeavouring to harmonise oneself with this energy will solve a multitude of issues and support a life of positive manifestation. Before I had chance to fully (or even partially) process any of this, Catherine thrust a small yellow crystal towards me.
“That’s citrine,” she explained. “It’s a crystal whose energy vibrates in a way that will be absorbed through your solar plexus. It’ll help ease the heaviness you’re feeling there.” I was taken by the kindness of the gesture as well as the subtle beauty of the little gem with it’s honey-like shine. I had little time to comprehend what I was feeling (in retrospect, the leaden-blankets of depression were already starting to slip away) when, as we picked our way through a rut-laden field of hedgerow and Shetland ponies, Catherine handed me a banana. “Eat this! Yellow is an important colour to help with what you’re feeling. Its energy will help re-align the blockages in your energy.”
In releasing all control and opening myself to this very new experience, I was changing direction in the cornfield of my head, turning away from the paths of old. I was no longer choosing to listen to the toxic cognitive propaganda that my ego had, for a long time, ceaselessly spouted at me, like a mini-Goebbels of the mind.
Whatever Catherine asked, I answered. I was honest. Especially if it was something my ego and shame wanted to bottle up: I told her of my increasingly destructive problem-drinking, my driving ban, the turmoil my family was going through, and my enduring battles with my mental well-being which felt at times like fighting a subconscious fascist dictatorship that was hellbent on annexing huge swathes of my psyche.
I told her of all the things that my intellect and ego believed to be failings and signs of weakness and defect. And Catherine willingly listened, and wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions.
Catherine opened my eyes to the ideas of ‘dis-ease’ (that we can ‘think’ ourselves into illness, that an inner imbalance of spirit will manifest in physical symptoms).
“This is my new bible,” she declared, holding up a copy of You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay. “She talks a lot about ‘dis-ease’ and how to become more in harmony with yourself and life and the world around you.” I was still throwing up barriers: I bemoaned feeling fatigued as a result of having to walk to work every day because of my driving ban - in this miserable weather too! Catherine turned this into an opportunity to do something positive: “Why not listen to something that will help you feel better? You could use that walking time for growth and development! Listen to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s podcast - he’s a psychologist and spiritualist. He’ll help you learn how to embrace your strengths and manifest positivity and gratitude.”
Whatever dollop of sludgy self-pity I dredged up, Catherine was able to see opportunity and possibility. And it was all based in becoming more accepting of myself, more in harmony with my own energy and the energies around me.
My intellect had for so long poo-pooed such ways of thinking and being. The rational, logical part of my brain had always wanted to champion qualifications, promotions, corporate ambition, material gain; doing what society says you should do. But my intellect had had its turn and led me only to a car-crash career, a failed marriage, financial stagnation and mental health problems. It had coerced me into sacrificing that which brings me joy, and substituting my passion for a perpetual and increasingly burdensome sense of purposelessness, and the stress, anxiety and depression associated therewith.
So I was done with ‘thinking’. It was time to feel.
In our 21st Century world the act of feeling is derided - success, wealth, and prosperity are all linked to the use of our rational, intellectual brains. “Head over heart”. This is the way we are conditioned to be, from a very early age. This kind of life is based on establishing a fictional sense of control. We ‘control’ our financial futures by sacrificing doing what we love for ‘secure’ jobs. We ‘control’ our fear of loneliness by getting involved in relationships with people with whom we aren’t compatible. We ‘control’ feeling embarrassed by casting blame and judgement onto others. We ‘control’ our inner deregulation with drink and drugs, or with pills and tablets manufactured in pharmaceutical labs, because we are conditioned to believe that talking about it is great big stinking no-no!
Control is the thorny offspring of fear.
We delude ourselves into thinking that this sense of make-believe control safeguards us against embarrassment, financial ruin, poor health, toxic relationships, and so on. And the irony is, the more we seek control, the more we open ourselves up to the jeopardy of that which we are afeared. To live a life clutching for control is to forsake our spirituality - our connectedness with others and the world. And we do so at our own peril.
If we listened more to how we feel, rather than what we think, then we would start to live more and more in harmony with ourselves; then the rest of it (career, love, money, health, anything) will fall into place.
And this was the staggering realisation to which my eyes had been suddenly opened that morning. Catherine had offered me a glimpse of what life with harmony instead of control could be like. I was awakening to the concepts of self-acceptance and self-care, of developing my ability to show gratitude and be more giving. And opening my self to more joy.
Sitting on a cold wall, with the weak wintery sun softly peeking through hazy clouds, Catherine asked me a very simple question: “What’s stopping you from enjoying this moment right now?” My ego tried to spew up a slurry of vague notions: a lack of will power, family issues, career-woes, mental health struggles, alcohol abuse, but none of these murmurings held weight anymore. The real answer was crystal clear: the only thing stopping me from finding something to appreciate in that particular moment / any given future moment, was / will be… me. To choose to fixate on a negative thought, to believe that a depressive spell defines who I am, to choose to get drunk - all of these choices are my own. These are the choices that block the ability to harmonise with the energies within and all around.
In that particular moment, finding something to appreciate was easy: I could appreciate the efforts and support of my kind and selfless friend. And Catherine makes appreciation easy because she lives the life she loves. She is energetic and upbeat and vibrant - she is all about wholeheartedness, self-determination and self-acceptance. In contrast, I had become a quasi-alcoholic, pallid, dishevelled shell of what I could be and I was living a life I hated. I was fatigued and lethargic and as bright-eyed as a dead dory. She was spiritualism and openness. I was ego and intellect, too busy looking for enlightenment up my own arse to notice the elegant shift and swoon of the clouds above or the dancing iridescence in the reflection of the puddle by my feet. So, when considering how to move forward, there wasn’t really a choice to make. Even though it was new and different and a little bit overwhelming, I was happy to embrace it all: bananas, citrine, energy, spirituality, manifestation, ‘dis-ease’, the podcasts, the books, the mindset… all of it - I was going to go all in.
Over the following days I started embedding several new habits.
Self-help reading at breakfast (Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection is a fantastic place to start). On the walk to work, I binge-listened to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s podcast. I quit drinking. I started eating more healthily. I began meditating proactively - twice a day. If you’re aware if my last blog entry, you’ll know I was rigorously replacing my NATS with positive affirmations. I was actively practising gratitude. And the impact was revelatory. I very soon felt lighter and far more open to the possibility of joy. My anxiety and stress eased. I was less irritable and much more calm. The depression was lifting. All because of the kindness of a good friend; and because I made the choice to pull my head out of my butt, ignore the grumblings of my ego and the assertions of intellect, and get back out into the world.
Moving with harmony, releasing control…
So, tell me, what’s stopping you enjoying this moment right now!?
(Part 3 coming soon…)
You can follow Catherine on Instagram: @catherinerannusmusic and @belightful_music
Her website is: www.belightfulmusic.co.uk
and you can check out her music on Spotify on the Belightful Music channel.