Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Keeping sane in an insane world

According to Gwyneth Lewis, National Poet of Wales in 2005-6, we should expand our concept of what is healthy to include depression, because it is "an important corrective mechanism for keeping us sane in an insane world". Gwyneth was talking on the BBC Radio 4 programme You and Yours today - here is a deep link to the talk - hope it is still functioning when you click it!

The programme invited several well-known people to talk about What disability means to me. Gwyneth was resistant to considering herself as disabled, even though the symptoms of clinical depression are indeed disabling while they last. On the contrary, despite dreading any signs of a possible impending attack, she looks at the positive effects depression can have, of getting things into context and escaping the tyranny of expectations that we should all be "high-earning, athletic-looking, brand-wearing consumers".

I have a number of good friends who are, like me, recovering depressives (or should that be depressives in remission?!) and sometimes we sit in a coffee shop and watch people rushing by, and wonder how many of them are in touch with their souls and how many are quietly desperate but haven't yet faced up to their problems or even realised they have them. Depression is not something to be wished on anyone - except maybe the idiots who say "Pull yourself together and get on with life" - but it does indeed have the upside of helping us see the world as it really is. That could be depressing in itself, but we know that we aren't the crazies - the crazies are the people who rush around in "the insane world" without ever finding out what life is for.

If someone in your life has or seems to have depression, I strongly recommend Gwyneth Lewis's book Sunbathing in the Rain, a cheerful book about depression!