Just Keep Swimming!
Sometimes I’m sad, y’all.
I know that may seem an odd way to begin a piece in a summer edition. After all, summer is practically synonymous with happiness. It’s the season of near endless sunshine, with many a day spent outdoors enjoying food and fellowship with family and friends, the stresses of work and reality distant concerns.
Yet, the fact remains that while the sun beams bright, some days my smile does not.
I’m not alone. According to a 2015 study conducted by the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide suffer from some type of depression, whether it’s situational, seasonal or caused by a wide ranging variety of factors. In many cases, depression is more than just occasionally feeling blue; it is a debilitating, even disabling condition.
I feel grateful my own bouts of depression are mostly short lived and manageable.
Full disclosure, I am not by any means a mental health professional and am not qualified to diagnose or treat anyone. I’ve never even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express!
Still, I find for me the magical elixir that alleviates unhappiness is work. In the periods of greatest sadness in my life, I’ve discovered the best method for combating depression is to stay busy, even if that meant I had to seek out or outright invent an activity.
It’s difficult to remain in an emotional funk when your mind is engaged. The action you take doesn’t even have to be especially meaningful. It just has to be purposeful. I do some of my best thinking – and, by extension, problem solving – when I’m performing some simple, repetitive task like washing dishes, chopping vegetables or folding laundry.
My husband is probably reading this and wishing I’d spend more time cooking and cleaning my way to bliss, but that’s another issue. As it stands, when he arrives home to an immaculate house and the aroma of a meal simmering on the stove, more often than not he knows I’ve had a rough day.
It’s the act of doing, and not necessarily the intention, that soothes my soul and clears my mind. I retreat inwards until I locate that place of strength I am always amazed to discover.
To borrow the mantra of an animated fish named Dory we first met in 2003, I “just keep swimming.”
I focus on the aspects of life I can control, and just keep moving forward. I know that at the end of the day, what matters is not always whether I’m joyful or discontent. What matters is what I accomplished in that span of time, in spite of my emotions.
“Just keep swimming,” I tell myself in times of distress. The alternative is to drown.
“Just keep swimming.” It may not be the cure all for all of life’s unpleasantness, but the opposite of activity is inertia, a state in which nothing positive can be accomplished.
We’ve crammed this issue full, almost to the point of bursting, with profiles of people and organizations that have kept going, often in the face of adversity. May they inspire you to do the same!
Until next time, Carla E. Anderton