Depression sometimes looks and feels like a flood. The river of our emotions, that normally runs reasonably within its proper bed, swells beyond control. Of course we can build dikes that are supposed to protect us from a flood disaster. If we are used to depressions, we probably already did build them.
Antidepressant medication, a therapist, regular physical exercise, doing meaningful work or activities: these are just a few examples of standard measures that can work like dikes. They all can help to keep our depression tendencies at bay, to protect us from being washed away by an uncontrolled sea of negative and self-destructive feelings and impulses.
Still, we all know that occasionally such dikes are inadequate. In bad times, a particular strong wave of depression may break through or simply run over them. We get flooded. We lose control. The entire landscape of our life begins to look and feel like one somber, gray, monotonous, dangerous, unlivable depression sea:
So let’s be realistic. Sometimes, in such a situation, there’s little we can do but sitting it out. We temporarily become dependent from others, family or friends or neighbors or health care professionals. We may need those other people to save us from accidentally drowning in the flood of our own depression. They will have to keep reminding us that even when we ourselves think our flood will never go away, in a while it will.
And this is why, in drier times, we need to set up this kind of last-resort protection to save ourselves in advance from such a potential depression flood.
As you see I’m in a metaphorical (and somewhat low) mood today. To continue with the metaphor, here is a queer little old building that stands in the middle of nowhere not far from my home. Would you have any idea what this is?
It is a mini power station, built in 1926 to provide a nearby clay mill and some farm houses with electricity. With today’s common power grid, of course it is not in use anymore. But recently, after years of neglect, this thing was restored so it would remain standing as a kind of monument to more primitive times, to antique technology.
Back when it was built, the river dikes around here were much lower and weaker than today. As a consequence, every few years a serious flood could occur in this area.
The builders, foreseeing such uncontrollable catastrophes would be inevitable, took their measures. Their “gate” was in fact meant solely as a high kind of base, as a last-resort protection against possible floods. That’s why they built the actual power generator shed on top of it.
Thanks to better dikes, really bad floods don’t happen here anymore. So in this second photo, I did a little photoshopping: just to show you how, with its high gate-like base, this thing was very intentionally designed to survive a worst-case flood scenario.
For years on end, the high “gate” would serve no real daily purpose; in fact it was rather inconvenient – as you can see, it forced people to install a pulley for hoisting things up to the actual power shed. But for that one single critical week in years, in the rare but possible event of an uncontrollable flood, this high base would prove to be a real life saver.
I hope you got my point: essentially, it’s the same with a very bad depression. It’s the same in those catastrophic situations when the dikes of our antidepressants, good habits, whatever, prove insufficient: when we ourselves can no longer control the flood of our emotions. When, left to ourselves, we might drown in the gray and seemingly endless tide of our depression.
In such cases, other people around you (colleagues, friends, even just a neighbor) can function as a life-saving base. They may not be able to prevent the flood itself, but they may very well save you from its worst consequences.
And exactly like the designers of this strange little building invested beforehand in a brick-and-mortar flood protection base, so you as a depression-prone person should invest beforehand in building a social flood protection base.
For example, on your better days, try to make it a habit to have a chat or a drink with some neighbor on a regular basis. By doing things like this, you increase the chance that this same neighbor will keep an eye on you. This may be just one of the simple things that can help prevent a disaster, should you yourself ever happen to get completely flooded (and floored) by a severe depression.
Do you see what I mean? OK, then I’ve moralized enough for today…
Here is the well-known Georgian-British singer Katie Melua with the song The Flood from her 2010 album The House. I want to warmly recommend her; please go the official Katie Melua website for more about her and her many great songs.
A few months after she recorded this Flood song, Katie Melua herself was hospitalized for six weeks because of “a nervous breakdown”. So believe me, she really does know very well what she’s singing about here:
(click the green “Play” button – if it does not work, install Flash)
• tip: see above.
• footnote: I took the top photo of an actual flood two years ago in a nearby area that is not protected by dikes.