When we think of a physically demanding occupation like soldiering we visualise the stereo typical soldier. A fine figure of a man, physically strong and exuding qualities such as stamina, perseverance and fearlessness in the face of danger, to name but a few.
A word that might sum these traits up could be robustness. Soldiers need to be robust to get their job done.
Now what can we take from these fine traits and apply to our every day fight to defeat depression?
Firstly, for those who suffer depression it can, indeed often is, a daily battle to stay positive. We therefore could do with developing a robustness of our mental faculties.
Fine words, but how on earth do we make that happen I hear you ask?
Well not by magic you might be surprised to hear.
A soldier is not normally born an all singing all dancing combat expert? Very few underwater knife fighting ninjas come out of the maternity unit. They take time to develop and build the skills, qualities and knowledge. Most of all they need practise, lots and lots of practise.
The process begins with the basics and works up to the more complex demanding aspects of soldiery.
We can do similar with our development of our mental robustness. Starting with small and most importantly achievable goals sets us on the right track. Gaining success early leads to engagement and willingness to persist, another soldierly trait.
I used physical exercise as my mental crutch and launching point. It was something I was solely in control of. If I turned up and did a session then I succeeded. If I avoided a session then there was a challenge for me to overcome.
In having that stable controllable starting point I could work to test and expand my envelope of robustness. The willingness to keep going when the odds seem stacked against you.
Roughly eighteen months on from my ‘D’ day you would not imagine where I am sat typing this message. More to the point you would not believe that I am sat on the step that I am and in the strong solid state of mind that I am. Considering the physical threats and dangers around me, the strange and harsh environment I am working in and the challenges I am facing back home, I’m doing pretty well. A damn sight better than that cold January day when I made the mental decision that depression was not going to have me. I was going to stand and I was going to fight.. Damned hard!
So my advice on mental robustness is this…
Start small and achievable. No matter how simple or trivial you think it is. It may be to go make yourself that cup of coffee or tea you want or to take a walk to the park. As long as by the time you finish you have a sense of achievement then good for you. And do you know what, in taking that first step you have taken the hardest step. You my friend are a pathfinder. You have taken the first step on your journey to a better place for you.
Now you need to build on that self-belief. There will be times when you will trip up. There will inevitably be stumbling points. For each and every one of these I ask you to simply stand up, dust yourself down, learn from the experience and redouble your efforts to avoid the fall again. Please do not fall into the trap of beating yourself up about something you have little control over.
The main thing is to take the first step and make a start. The rest is up to you my friend…
Drop me a line or leave a comment if you have any questions, thoughts or contributions.