Depression i b: The normality of ‘rise and fall’; ‘ebb and flow’.

Let me invite you to imagine for every individual that ever lived, a kind of barometer face or dial, with a single hand pointing toward the upper vertical, i.e. twelve o’clock. On each and every dial or face, there is a span or range from approximately the “quarter to the hour”, to “fifteen minutes past the hour”. This, for the purposes of this blog, we will deploy as delineating what we might here refer to as, the range or span of human functioning, mood-wise that is. Hopefully, you are now beginning to perceive that one person’s vertical or “normal”, is unlikely to be precisely the same in every detail as that applying to another individual or group of individuals; even from within the same social or even family setting and environment.

Such (very minute in some instances) differences applying to every individual, summate to an overall aggregate or “cluster”. Thus the dial and its pointer or hand, may, (being used here, that is, solely for purposes of discussion) be likened to a barometer reflecting individual disposition at any given point in time. Everyone possesses a baseline or ‘normal’ position in that range, which in turn is a function (reflection) of day-to-day life experience, as well as of constitutional influences on behavioural response and its effect and therefore a function of mood and behaviour.

It is clear therefore that other integral and in that sense commonplace influences, i.e. who we are, how we live, what we believe/value etc., are also likely to contribute to the positioning of the pointer on the dial at any given moment in time. For example, in the case of the woman (recently referred to) who had just seen her relatives off, I gently mooted the view that such feelings were surely only natural, predictable and – yes – in an important sense, even healthy. Her response was to point to the occasional table by the side of the chair in which she was sitting. On it rested a Bible and with a ‘knowing’ look she replied, “Mum tells me it is wrong to feel that way, or as she puts it, “sorry for myself””, (which, in my view if just left there, is rather sad).

The concept of “normality”, as we can now begin to appreciate is, in reality, little more than a “statistical point”, around which our hypothetical barometer ‘reading’ clusters. Moreover, it is not the cluster or aggregate but rather each unique and idiosyncratic position within the cluster, which prescribes our own individual “normality” (and here, incidentally, is another good reason why we can never justifiably claim for another to “know how they feel”).

Hopefully, we will now be better placed to appreciate how factors and forces, from both without and within, can and sometimes do combine to influence mood, sometimes persisting to the point of becoming a state or condition. Such is life that none of us can (other than within very narrow limits) rigidly control or decide to opt in or out of life’s chances and changes, joys and sorrows. When – and where – they occur, they may be met with a response indicating expectancy, surprise, happiness, alarm or whatever, depending on the nature of the circumstance and event, is dictating the ensuing response: e.g. the birth of a baby, loss of a loved one, of one’s occupation, or the onset (especially prematurely) of the menopause. Illness too – whether it is of a fairly common viral nature (such as flu) or one possessing potential for profound physical and/or psychologic impact (such as cancer) – can and not infrequently does further ‘inflame’ matters. This is known to produce disproportional difficulties, for some more than others, in managing both their inside and outside ‘worlds’.

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