Thursday, 29 September 2011

Depression and stress

My friendly local iron man is visiting us for the weekend to run a half-marathon here and so I have been reading Marcus Trescothick's autobiography in order to finish and return it as I have had it for about two years now. 

Found the battle of Marcus' depression especially interesting and these words which he paraphrases from something he read to make sense of his condition:

"Depressive illness, or at least the commonest form, which is caused by stress, nearly always happens to one type of person.  He or she will have the following characteristics; (moral) strength, reliability, diligence, strong conscience, strong sense of responsibility, a tendency to focus on the needs of others before one's own, sensitivity, vulnerability to criticism, self-esteem dependent on the evaluation of others. 

This person is the sort to whom you would turn if you had a problem to sort out  upon which your house depended, a safe pair of hands you can trust with your life, though often somewhat taken for granted.  People are usually very surprised when he gets ill, indeed he is the last person you would expect to have a breakdown. 

But it isn't so surprising when you consider that depressive illness is a physical condition.  Think about it; give a set of stresses to a person who is weak, cynical or lazy and he will quickly give up.  So he will never get stressed enough to become ill.  A strong person, on the other hand, will react to these pressures by trying to overcome them.  After all, he has overcome every challenge he has faced in the past through diligence and effort.  So he keeps going, absorbing more and more until, inevitably, symptoms emerge.  At this point most people will say, "Hang on this is ridiculous.  I'm doing too much."  So they pull back from the brink before it is too late.  But the sensitive person, without a very solid sense of self-esteem, can't stop struggling, because he fears other people being disappointed in him.  Even more than this he fears being disappointed in himself.  So he keeps on going, on and on and on, until suddenly: BANG!  the fuse blows"  (pages 253-4 in the hardback).

This rings true of my one (very old) experience of a moderate depression and is, I think, a clear warning to all of us.  I guess, reading it from the point of view of a pastor in a church, it is a reminder of how dangerous it is to our health if we think that we can fix everyone and forget that only God can, and how it is equally dangerous to look to other people for approval when it is actually only God's approval that truly matters.  And you don't earn that, it's a gift.  Sometimes we know that in our heads but it gets stuck before it hits our hearts. 

A lesson from a cricket batsman with a Test average just shy of 44.  I think it would be wise to take note.       

No comments:

Post a Comment