Winter Blues, cont.

I am always interested in the methods people use to maintain sanity when hit by depression, and its evil twin, anxiety. The post below about the Winter Blues brought a wonderful response from reader BW:

Living in the moment was a survival tool I just stumbled upon during a long night almost 40 years ago when I sat all night with the phone on my lap and my finger in the Operator hole so I could dial immediately if the panic hit again (no 911 at that time).  I discovered during those long hours that if I let my mind rest for even a moment in the past (the rear view mirror), the panic seemed to swallow me.  Same thing if I thought about the future (the windshield).  The only solution was to stick to the present--I remember counting things in my field of vision: the ceiling tiles, the planks in the paneling, anything countable.  Just like The Count on Sesame Street.  By morning I was quite calm and decided to continue with "the moment".  Over a period of weeks I became very calm and I decided that this was a pretty good way to live...

Only later, BW goes on, while watching a Catholic priest and a Buddhist monk visit on a television show, did she realize the similarity between the technique she developed on her own and meditation techniques which go back millenia, techniques which calm the mind by focusing it on the present rather than on dread of the future, or ruminations over the past.

In the long term, it seems, it can be beneficial to be hit by times which are really dark, when one is forced to take action, and to develop new ways of dealing with life's ups and downs. BW says it better:

Over the years I've come to think of my dark times as a place where I will get special gifts.  I have always come away from them with something renewed within or an insight that I don't think would have come any other way. I've found something worth keeping in many of the Eastern religions. I have also found deeper meaning in the Bible--things I had simply read before but had not really connected with in any profound or meaningful way. 

Thus, sharp pain can push one out of a rut and into something better. As such, it is a gift. It is low-level numbness that is the enemy--where one gets comfortable functioning beneath one's ability. Yet, you don't wish pain on anybody--and I won't be volunteering to undergo any myself, either!

For good measure, BW adds the following nugget:
One thing that really gets me down is dealing with mean, ignorant, selfish people. Several years ago I recalled Grandma telling me when I was a hyper- critical teenager, "You're cheating yourself when you just see the bad in people.  In every human being there is an Angel, a Genius and a Clown--if you keep looking at people as problems, you'll miss them when they come out."  I have found this to be true whenever I have sense enough to just listen to people when they get to rambling.  Sometimes it takes some waiting, but those three characters are there in everybody.

I don't often have the patience for listening to people's rambling, particularly when there is business to tend to, but when I have taken the time to hear people out, especially people who would, by conventional measures, seem to hold no promise--a stuttering hobo at a bus station, a person with Down's syndrome, even somebody in the early stages of Alzheimer's--I have found rich insights, a deep sense of humor--and nuggets of wisdom you would never hear from somebody fully engaged in the rat race.

Thanks, BW.