Some Thoughts On Depression

Seeing ‘no light at the end of the tunnel’ is a subject worth understanding how to think about. It can be acknowledged how difficult or even impossible, that can feel at times. A good subject for general discussion then.

Some define it as a ‘dark tunnel’ others as a ‘dark maze’ to find their way through. From a philosophical viewpoint, bringing about ‘light’ might be thought of as attempting to deliver oneself into a better place – one where one feels happier and more content. Sometimes this can be discovered in finding meaning or purpose in life in some way. So how do we do that? It can present a daunting job to many.

I would like to propose a certain ‘re-framing’ of expectations about one’s life. This doesn’t amount to ‘settling’ (for less) in my view (for this can indeed be a ‘happier’ place). It does though entail learning how to comprehend and enjoy those simple things in our lives that we sometimes find ourselves overlooking.

I often think of this change process as a stepped approach. Psychology for example can be so effective in helping with this and yet effective psychological support can be a longer process which takes time to help and re-orient people’s thought and behaviours. Rather, for me, a behavioural approach initially can be helpful – the ‘first aid’ if you like. Clearly, psychology is suited to treating deeper causes rather then just resultant effects/symptoms. However, it may take time, that’s a given. By contrast, behaviours – by using a behavioural approach can change the situation overnight and quite possibly give one the lift needed to get you on the road. Maybe we should consider some of those behavioural factors. Some of them will been overlooked because they feel ‘difficult’ for someone lacking motivation to help themselves into recovery. Nevertheless, they are worth examining.

We can focus on the fact that, yes, some days will just feel utterly rubbish. I think it’s helpful to have an acceptance of that. What we can say though is that there will be times also when that hurtful feeling will pass and you will feel more well. Remember that too.

Living in the present. We might say that in living too much in the past, there lies triggers for depression from when living though previous difficulties and times. Conversely, looking too far ahead and too often, there can lie the anxieties of not being certain about what the future holds. We can never know these things for certain. I present therefore a suggestion to live in the present as much as we can. Practice a little mindfulness and live life.

Social comparisons – try to avoid them, upwards or downwards. Downwards social comparisons (comparing yourself to others who are less fortunate in order to make you feel better about your life does not work. Indeed it can be counter-productive in the way it may make you experience guilt feelings about this. Making upward social comparisons towards people you see in a ‘better’ position than you can of course be sapping and soul destroying. I think the principle here is don’t judge yourself by others. In fact don’t judge yourself at all if you can begin to avoid doing that.

Look to those simple pleasures as much as you can and concentrate on those small things that fleetingly make life feel beautiful. Holding your child, his or her laughter and smiles and you nurturing the child to adulthood. On the note of children, I have a friend who has a picture of herself as a youngster, growing up in the country she came from. Her intention is to look after that little girl every single day as she sets off to to carry out life’s sometimes tough and demanding business.

Further, we all know the small but not insignificant things than can help us. A splash of fresh air and daylight, being active, enjoying friends and family, taking a little exercise, looking after your sleep and eating good food. Getting into ‘good habits’ as a certain football manager from these parts who was ‘the best in a group of one’ would say.

I hope some of this makes a little sense to anyone reading and doesn’t sound too fanciful. They are, for me, things that have taken a long time to understand better in some cases. this is not just through education and training but just as much through passing through a few things in my life too. Those who know me may remember that I had a personal tragedy a few years ago, the quite violent suicide of a partner, one that took a lot of thinking, hard work and yes, sheer perseverance to get through. There were certainly times when I couldn’t ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel’ either and felt like I’d be better off not living. I made mistakes (because I’m human), tried and tried again and I probably feel more content these days than I have in many a year, even through my personal losses. A huge factor in arriving at that point was finding something I could do that brought great meaning and purpose to my own life but’s another subject for another day.

Christmas Approaches

This time of year can provide a lot of difficulties. I read a Tweet with four simple helpful points yesterday and agreed with it. It was aimed at suicide survivors but I think it’s good general advice, especially for those with depression and other mental health issues:

Don’t take too much on.
Avoid being overwhelmed.
Limit your activities to those which you are interested in and able to do.
It is okay to say no.


Personally, i couldn’t stomach the thought of Christmas and New Year this year. I’ve lost too much and my life has been stood on its head and I don’t care to celebrate. Maybe that will come back one day. It’s only when you’re practising avoidance of it that you realise the subtle and continual pressures to join in, especially commercial ones. For some reason one of the worst things for me was trying to do my weekly grocery shop in Sainsbury’s and having to listen to insistent piped Christmas songs. I really couldn’t wait to get out of the place to be honest as it was making me perfectly miserable and acutely reminding me of my loss. I finished my shopping yesterday and won’t be back until the New Year. It’s all a bit cynical when you think about how many people have a rough time in the festive season.

I’ve felt the need to decline a lot of what Christmas has to offer. I’ve absolutely no wish to upset anyone, quite the contrary and in some ways it’s a very hard thing to do but this is my reality and how I am to survive, that I understand. At a very testing time I’m going to do everything in my power to protect myself. I am going to suggest to others that they look after themselves as much as possible in the same way.

I guess I just wanted to come on here and add my support towards others because it’s important to know that other people are going through this stuff as well. I want to reiterate the message that ‘keeping up appearances’ for Christmas when you’re having a bad time is not a necessity nor obligatory. I keenly feel the real significance of Christmas being a Catholic with a deep faith but even having said that I want to maintain the message that it’s just another day on the calendar in some ways and it’s important to protect oneself from the difficult feelings that can envelop one at this time. Sometimes it a ‘learn as you go’ as it appears to be with me right now.

Keep surviving. When you’re on your knees, get up again and proceed slowly with care. We are charged with looking after ourselves. That is the important thing even at this special time of year.

God Bless, good luck and peace to all.

What next for Paul Gascoigne?

I was saddened to read of yesterday’s news story about Paul Gascoigne being detained under the Mental Health Act after an incident in a Gateshead hotel. It seems as thought the mercurial former England international footballer is never to be found far from problems or controversy. Indeed this latest report possibly shocks very few observers.

Gascoigne attracts very polarised views from the public, his image is that of a troubled yet cheeky chappy. A sad clown and one who possessed a serious talent for the game of football but struggles endlessly with the more serious game of life.

It would be repetitive to further relay some of the quirks, the twists and turns his life seems to have always taken. I have to confess to having been no admirer of his in the past, aside from his footballing skills. Here was a self-confessed wife-beater and alcoholic. In many lesser ways he has upset a myriad of people with his daft-as-a-brush mentality and just general ignorance. Infamously and ominously his former Newcastle United chairman in his early years as a young professional referred to him as like George Best without the brains. I wonder how hard we should be on him though?

What changed my opinion about Paul Gascoigne was the last book he co-wrote, Being Gazza. I picked the book up for two pounds in a discount shop after hearing someone along the way claim it to be an interesting read. Perhaps not my usual choice in literature but worth a gamble for so little money. I found the book extremely difficult to read, not in understanding it but in its nature. I wanted to understand if there was anything I could learn from Paul Gascoigne’s experiences and observations.

The book was partly written by Gascoigne along with Hunter Davies and the ex-football player’s long-time therapist, John McKeown. It takes the form of a case history of Gascoigne’s recent turbulent years with notes from him interspersed by notes from therapist, McKeown. A strong first point to note is for those who talk about his problems being solely those of alcoholism and bipolar depression. This is by no means the case. One glimpse on the book’s back cover refers also to the following issues which he apparently battles with, amongst others:

Gambling addiction


Drug abuse



Obsessive compulsive


Anxiety disorder


Physical injuries


Mood swings

Now some may point to that long list and state that many other lesser-known individuals suffer from these various problems – often without diagnosis. That would be true and for me, obviously also as sad. The book goes on to chronicle many incidents and experiences which were the product of one or a combination of the many health issues above, most of these whilst Gazza flounders around trying to comprehend what is happening to him. At times he appears as an innocent child who doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions. Not in a bad or evil way but rather in an almost endearing, childlike way. I did mention that my attitude towards him had changed after reading the book.

Throughout Being Gazza a constant feature are his many trips to a rehabilitation clinic in the USA. At times it seems as though this is the only place where he is able to find peace. I’m not sure how many of these long visits are known in the public domain aside from the book but I for one was surprised at the quantity and regularity of them.

Gascoigne often points towards a tragic incident in his younger years when a younger boy he was detailed to look after was killed in a road accident. Paul talks of his guilt and of picking up the boy’s ‘broken body’ from the road – an image that was to haunt him through his life. Who can say how great was the psychological influence this incidence had on him, but I’d like to offer that he is a far more sensitive individual than his public persona indicates. I feel that moment in his young life may underline what has happened, and to be fair, he has allowed to happen since.

His friends from back in Newcastle receive no slack at all from the public and the media. They are referred to as ‘sycophants’ and ‘hangers-on’ repeatedly and are often blamed in part for Gascoigne’s roller-coaster ride towards his demise. However, I am not sure if this is so. I believe that his well-known friend, Jimmy Gardner would have been his friend, fame and fortune or not. These friends fulfilled a need for Gazza. He never particularly wanted to leave his own  people behind and was always just as happy having a few pints down the working men’s clubs back home as swaggering among the glitterati in London or elsewhere.

Similarly people talk of him being ‘his own worst enemy’ and abusing and wasting his talent. When Gascoigne talks of his school days and first getting into football though his main focus always seemed to be in making money in order to support his family. I believe he stayed true to his roots in that respect and don’t believe that he threw it all away without caring. To think so shows neither compassion nor understanding of what makes the man tick.

When Paul Gascoigne talks about his recent achievements or lack of them in his last book, his words are often directed towards the ill-fated short stay he had as a manager at Kettering Town Football Club. In my view it is a great shame that for whatever reason this venture did not succeed, (the cynical may say it was never going to but I’m not so sure). The one thing that the man understands is the game of football which has been his life for so long now. He seems a husk of a man without the game to focus his thoughts on.

When I see Paul Gascoigne in the media these days his appearance worries me. Gone is the weight and stockiness which characterised much of his playing days. He now appears a gaunt and haunted-looking individual, a strange-looking man uncomfortable to focus on. It is so sad but his face amply belies his many troubles.

So as I write, we wait for further news on his most recent incident and a report about his ‘sectioning’. No doubt the pressmen and photographers will be working hard to bring us the latest piece of harrowing news and images of this tortured and mixed-up man. They are certainly not without blame themselves for the current situation he finds himself in. In my words here I could mention some of Gascoigne’s less salubrious acts, the self destruction, the aggression and the apparent stupidity but what I truly believe is that he deserves understanding and further help. Reading into the man did change my views about him but it was what was rather between the lines than the lines themselves. Paul Gascoigne needs compassion for his has become a most difficult life to live.

I wish him well whilst sadly fearing the worst.