– Shutting Down

I’ve been re-reading NATURE CURE by Richard Mabey. Part nature writing, part thesis on how we are all responsible for destroying the planet, and partly too about his nervous breakdown. A recommended read to anyone who needs inspiring, even if he (along with Edward Goldsmith of THE ECOLOGIST) are among those who are most to blame for the hastening ecologic crisis (it is after all unsustainable personal wealth and our spending of it that is to solely blame). The part which describes his breakdown was what I was after, in order to find ways to tell close friends how I feel and that despite their kind offers of accommodation/ shelter if things here got too bad, I would never be unable to accept them.

Here is the quote that best sums it up. He’s talking about how all nature’s creatures react in the same way when stressed, it is a survival tactic programmed into our DNA. That what we have come to call “depression” is no more than a shared “response to trouble, the stratagem Oliver Sachs has referred to as ‘vegetative retreat’. When fight or flight is impossible or inappropriate, or maybe not properly learned, organisms lie doggo. Possums ‘play possum’. hedgehogs curl up. Barn owls faint. They all pass, for self-defence, into states resembling death or sleep, where decision-making and even movement are put on hold. Even nestling swifts do it (admittedly for different reasons), going into a state of torpor when their parents are away for long periods on feeding expeditions. Vegetative retreat means safe harbourage, a period when inward, protective processes take precedence over all that adrenalin-pumping. It’s an entirely sensible response by any creature to a threat which stumps it, a kind of ur-depression (sic). In humans, prolonged unhappiness or disappointment also seems to provoke it. In nature it’s meant to be a short-term tactic, and to dissolve when danger passes. But mine didn’t, and I clearly thought some unspecified danger was still there”.

I also have had another kind of revelation, about the loneliness of being single. Touching and being touched. Yesterday, when I went to get the bath towel from drying in the sun, I did something I never do. It’s one of those big thick types, and after folding it to put away, for some reason hugged the bundle to my chest, and suddenly there was Maureen again, what it was to hold her.

Recently both Nacho & Flaminio have been getting a lot of hugs from me too (sorry guys!), because I need them. But the towel was different. That took me right back, for the first time in eight months, to who I used to be before the glass wall came down. The life and other person I used to share, and now don’t.

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1 comment
  1. I’ve not seen that description before Phil, thanks for sharing. It makes sense. My interpretation is that hibernating (depression) is necessary for survival at times when there is a critical shortage outside our control (food, shelter, love, etc). Those key shortages look very similar to those in the fundamental level in Markov’s Hierarchy of Needs.

    Understanding that some bouts of depression are natural and healthy, makes me feel more positive about the experience.

    For you out there in Spain I hope every day, week or month is better than the last.

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