In Part 1 of this article, I introduced you to Blue. Blue was someone who had been labelled Male, and Blue was someone I met one Christmas when I was working at a homeless shelter. By the following Christmas, Blue had died by suicide.
Blue is often the colour of the Male Label, but it is also used to represent Depression. And yet often the Male Labelled are assumed to be impenetrable by Depression. The trouble is, when we do not expect to see something, we often miss what is standing right in front of us.
Perhaps that is what happened to Blue. Perhaps he showed all the warning signs to the people around him, but they missed his life-threatening Depression because he was carrying the Male Label. I will never really know the answer to this, but I will never forget the wisdom Blue shared with me. I hope that by sharing this wisdom, I will prevent other people from slipping Beyond the Blue of Depression, and beyond the reach of any help.
Blue told me that they had been living homeless near St Paul’s Cathedral (in London) for about a year. During that time, Blue would spend each morning watching the office workers rushing to work. If Blue reached out to ask for spare change, the office workers would shrink away, perhaps fearful that Blue’s bad luck was somehow contagious.
‘One missed rent or mortgage payment’ Blue would declare. ‘That is all that separates those office workers from me.’
And Blue was right. Blue was right about the financial aspect, but the same can be said for the Depression. Too many of us shrink away from mental illness as if it is a contagious disease. And yet as we travel through life’s journey, it only takes one misplaced foot, and we too may find ourselves toppling over the edge and into that rocky ravine.
So how can we Survive the Blue?
Here are Four Red Flags that we need to look out for, so we don’t end up toppling over the cliff and into the Blue of Depression –
B stands for Beliefs, about yourself, others, and the world around you. If you hold onto restrictive, inflexible beliefs about how you, others, and the world should be, the easier it is to slip into Depression. Life’s journey is unpredictable, and we are learning all the time. If you accept this as true, you will need balanced and flexible beliefs to respond to such uncertainty.
L stands for Love (and the lack of it). The less love we experience, whether it is love for ourselves or others, the more vulnerable we are to the Blue of Depression.
Yet these days we devalue love in favour of transactions. If we have clicked like, or shared a photo, we delude ourselves into believing that this is enough.
True love is a true human connection, an eye-balling moment that involves more than just one of our five senses. We don’t even have to agree with the person, let alone ‘like’ them, but we should savour the special quality of the moment with that person. We should live and breathe it.
U stands for Urgency, and the rush of life today. The more we get caught up in it, and we lose a sense of ourselves, the more we are likely to fall into the Blue of Depression.
We barely have a moment to breathe because of the number of multi-layered interactions we are engaged in. We are consumed by instant messages, sharing, liking, and this is not just confined to our social lives. Our work life is equally multi-layered so that our every working day becomes threadbare and devoid of substance.
Calm yourself to one thing at a time, no matter how much the urgency tries to convince you to do otherwise.
E stands for Escape from the swirl of chaos that is our current state of interaction. With all this second-guessing, and loss of tone of voice with emails and text messages, so much is misunderstood or lost entirely. Our minds end up shutting down, because we have gone into sensory overload, and there is a danger that we will end up escaping via unhealthy means, such as a blank-eyed state using alcohol, drugs, or food.
Instead of trying to escape, acknowledge the present moment. Mindfulness can help with this, where we remain aware of our thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, but we do not try to push them away or hold onto them, because ultimately they will lose their intensity.
I wish Blue had survived to get help for their Depression, but I hope Blue’s wisdom can help you, or even someone you know.
So what do you think?
Does any of this resonate with you? Get in touch by sending me a message privately via the Contact Page, or add a public comment below, and engage in the debate
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC
Therapist, writer, educator, and LGBTQ+ advocate