What Do Women and Depression Have in Common?

I’ve been collecting information like a scientist. What could be viewed as a social experiment – inviting women to a workshop called The Art of Depression – is as close to scientific experimentation as The Babyfacedassassin gets. While the workshop’s first and foremost intention was to provide techniques on how to overcome depression, it was rich with other learning. And since we are in the sector of scientific findings on emotional behaviour i.e. the backbone of psychiatric diagnoses, I’m interested to see how my measurements measured up. We have 2 groups, 70 women, 70 minds and 70 wonderfully open hearts.

The Art of Depression facilitated at the annual Seven Sisters Festival was held 2 weeks ago, and over that time striking evidence of commonality has revealed itself in the form of ¬†freedom of speech. Dialogue during the workshop and conversations thereafter have been noted down for my own interest, in this ever-growing learning curve about depression and how it features in people’s lives. I find it fascinating that this dark force has so many faces and yet ultimately, is only looking for one need fulfilled. (Revealed in finding #5)

The 5 Findings

1. Depression Brings Gifts

That’s right, you read it correctly. The harrowing, sufferable mood we would rather not talk about apparently is riddled with treasures, be they character building, life affirming or of the personal growth ilk. This was the most common shared belief among the women, which begs the question: how on earth did it gain such high status as disease? I’m well aware of the universal understanding that suffering and sickness can corner us into growth and transformation, but depression, to be held so regally, as a force of nature we can be grateful for? As an experience that may even arrive with our best interest in mind? Indeed it was inspiring and utterly refreshing to hear how women have created a relationship with their depression that focused on how it strengthened their connection to life, despite the kicking and screaming it can take to arrive at: ‘Thank you, Depression.’ Marvellous! This is one finding I will definitely bank for future reference.

2. Self-Care Comes Guilt-Ridden

Perhaps an under-developed area that points to self-worth and the permission to ‘let oneself off the hook’ when depression just gets too much, many women expressed difficulty in enacting self-care guilt free. Taking time-out and staying tucked-in, or redirecting social commitments for another day, all in the name of trying to bare this (perceived) untamable beast, doesn’t seem to flow naturally for women, even though it may be the first advice they give to a darling friend. I’m wondering if this is universal in our hardened, fast-pace world or if we have mistakenly taken our competitive spirits into realms that are not races. Depression, when it arrives, consumes tremendously. It has an appetite unbeknowst to your happy, carefree self. So you gotta do whatya gotta do to ensure you are safe while doing your best. If you are unable to do it self-lovingly, then the next step is to do it guilt free.

3. Space for Expression is Awarded

At the workshop, I may well have just opened the shed, lit a candle and set the timer. Simply the very opportunity to share ones black dog experience in a safe, non-judgemental, label-free environment, proved to be healing in itself and enough for a woman to place some distance between her soul and the overwhelming narrative of their depression. I see the need for more sacred spaces where we can empty ourselves of this story in a supported environment, and collectively reignite our lust for life as we listen to each others findings, of the many ways of navigating black spells on our journey.

4. Private Suffering is a Shared Experience

It’s an illusion – the belief that you are alone when you suffer – and unfortunately this quirk of the human condition lends itself to isolation. Depression by nature feels like a solo plight. It wants us to think we are disconnected from existence; it loves us to believe we are the only one in pain. It thrives on poor-me. While it’s not pleasurable to think of our fellow friends as suffering, for the purpose of this experiment it’s been recorded as a factual truth, that from time to time they do, and quite often it bares the hallmark of despair and shame. For me personally, having a substantial audience at my workshop was a comfort, for I now know that this sweet life of mine is sometimes thwarted by the same obstacles we face collectively.

5. Depression Needs Love

And not the doting kind nor the glamorisation of existential brooding. (Self-indulging in depression is depression.) Cast aside every healing method and offer self-love as the number one prescriptive treatment for this beast, and you have a majority rules in favour of gentleness, compassion, the warm and fuzzies, as the almighty companion alongside your trip to the dark side. Women unanimously voted: self-love will show the way. And while I do not think for a moment that this disregards the healing modalities available to relieve depression, isn’t it empowering to know that the power of self-love invested in ALL of us, is available to us ALL whenever we chose?

Seven Sisters Festival 2014 Art of Depression workshop

The Art of Depression Workshop at Seven Sisters Festival 2014
Photo by Pauline Langmead

Conclusion

I don’t think women walked away from my workshop with their problems solved because solving depression like a problem is not what I preach. Approaching depression like an art form as it comes and goes and morphs and grows and subsides and yes, eventually passes, is a conscious and masterful way of experiencing this challenging state of being.

To summarise, I will conclude  this experiment with parallel rhymes from my book. All together does the sum of our experience begin:

From opening the door to welcome strategies of Science

Takes me on a flight of hopefulness beyond defiance

For that is the best medicine that I could ask for Now

Hope – that is what I crave, regardless of the How

It’s a better Choice than taking to my wrist

It’s a Choice that I uphold, bolstered by my fist

Planted on the breastplate, united with my Heart

That’s telling me I’ve got the strength to make another start

(From Chapter 6: Mission Introspection, Rhymes for the Recently Dis-Eased, pg.55)

 

With thanks to all the women who came and listened, participated and gave so generously of themselves at The Art of Depression.

C.C. Myers

The Babyfacedassassin

Are you concerned about depression or concerned about a friend? Contact C.C. Myers.

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