Is Depression a mental disorder? Or is it a healthy response to now?

August 18, 2020 by Catherine Rowan

On the BBC lunchtime news there was an item of how in a survey of 3,500 adults in the UK almost 1 in 5 people reported experiencing depressive symptoms now compared to 1 in 10 pre-pandemic.  Interestingly the new item continued: “Prof Elaine Fox at the University of Oxford, said: “It is important to remember that this does not give a diagnosis but rather an indication of everyday depressive feelings and behaviours”.” 

In other words perhaps feeling low, de-energised, pessimistic are situation-appropriate emotional responses given our current life experiencing on a planet dealing with a pandemic, climate change, a rise in political dictatorship and corruption, war and many people still not having access to clean drinking water … this is just the start of the list of challenges we are all facing.

Last night I happened upon, on Facebook, an article on the Forbes website in which it reports on the publication of an important new paper by biological anthropologists, which calls us to take a different perspective on mental health. That, rather seeing it as an illness due to biochemical imbalance, they instead suggest that depression and PTSD are responses to adversity. I would add that from my experience depression and PTSD are not just responses to adversity but are actually highly appropriate and “healthy” survival responses to situations which are overwhelming and in which one is powerless and cannot escape. 

I have had a life with a lot of this type of experience arising from various circumstances. In my journeying with and into places of depression and trauma what I have found is more of myself, what I really feel and who I truly am below and beneath the well-used masks of coping and smiling survival. 

And I have also come to realise just how important those well-used masks of coping and smiling survival are not only for me but also in a variety of forms for most of us: because the reality of life is, for all of us, at least in part about suffering grief and loss. These are givens. Similarly trauma, by which I mean experiencing a situation in which you are overwhelmed, powerless, cannot escape and so ones neurology defaults into freeze survival mode, is also a given. 

If we are lucky we have people to be with us when life brings us grief and trauma. People who are able to be with us in a restorative and reparative way with our grief-loss and our traumatised states. People who can just be alongside, to listen to us, whose neurology is calm and caring, who just are compassionate. People who are not scared of fear, deep seemingly never ending sadness and incandescent rage but see these states as just part of the life flowing through us to enable us to grow more within ourselves through suffering and pain. And our bodies recognise this loving support, our bodies take it in and then they, at their own pace and timing, respond and repair. Trauma and loss are not necessarily permanent fixtures which have to remain stuck within us as raw triggering unhealed reactive wounds. 

What we need for this not to be the case and people understand who understand that the grief and trauma they are accompanying is not requiring them to fix things or help us find “closure”. It is much simpler than that: the suffering person just needs to be held in love, to feel felt and unjudged and cared-for. Through this we heal and we grow and we become people who can then sit with other people who are struggling with loss and trauma. And we help them recover and heal. And in this way we support each other. 

For me this is what I believe Coronaplaza.Life platform is all about: just people being with other people who are suffering and holding them in non-judgemental compassionate love. I have found it ironic that n recent years with the expansion of relational neurobiology what science is actually studying, and endeavouring to provide evidence-based research on, is that we all need to be loved! To me this just illustrates the craziness of our lopsided left-brain skewed world. My 3 year old grandson’s left cortex is not very developed but his right cortex knows all about love and does not need research to justify it to him. He just gives and receives love: period!