Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Depression and Assessing Yourself

This post comes after an interesting evening with a friend who has recently suffered from depression. He has been to see a counsellor and talked through his issues with them.

Essentially, he had worked out what his personal values are and then which areas of his life he uses them in - i.e. a check that the way he is living is in line with his values. He described that for some of his values the situation he was in meant that he was not getting the stimulation/challenge that he wanted, and that this may have been a factor in his depression.

The conversation got me thinking, and reminded me that there is some research showing that people with HSP are sometimes more depressed than the general population ( Joining these two thoughts together it might be that where some people have personal values which are met with physical activity the general deterioration of mobility with HSP, this might mean that they are no longer able to live their lives as much in line with those values.

For example, a person may have immense pride in the quality of what they do for a living - one of their values is around completing tasks to a high quality. If their job is a physical/mobile one - say a teacher/mechanic/tour guide (etc.) then they will be acutely aware of the changes in their mobility and the actual or potential for how this might change the way they undertake their work, and affect their values. Equally, this might be true for any of the other HSP symptoms affecting any other aspect of life.

It occurs to me this approach  might be very useful for others, and so I outline links and things to read/do:

The first thing which you need to do is to understand your own values. There are plenty of ways of doing this, and you can read one here: I also recommend Steven Coveys Seven Habits of Highly Effective People ( which has more on this, and there is another method at the beginning of the second thing to do.

My own method for finding my values was to take a list, like the one in the mindtools link. I copied these and added a few more about being a parent and husband (etc.) to the list, so there were over 50 to start with. I then looked at the list and marked each one as "high", "medium" or "low" according to how important/relevant it was to me. I then repeated this process, re-scoring the ones that were "high". After 5 iterations I was down to 13 "high" values, and looking at those I prioritised into 8 themes:
  • Being knowledgeable, thorough and accurate
  • Being responsible
  • Being professional, having integrity and communicating appropriately
  • Being honest
  • Being ambitious
  • Being perceptive
  • Being happy and positive
  • Being a loving father and husband 
The second step is to place these values into a "bulls eye". The bulls eye splits life into four areas: work/education, relationships, personal growth/health and leisure. For each value you identify you should identify which sector your value sits. This splitting of life into four areas might cause you to think of some more values or some changes to those values, and that is fair enough - you're simply trying to describe yourself. The important thing is to be honest and to have "something" in each sector. (Note - I've not actually done this for myself yet)

You score each value (or each area) by putting an X close to the centre if you are living fully by those/that value and close to the edge if you are acting inconsistently with those values. The bullseye is on page 2 of this link, with other pointers on values on page 1.

The "clever" part is thinking about those values which are close to the edge of the target and what you can do go get them closer to the centre of the target. This is potentially a hard question to answer, but my take on it is that you need to find a different way of living the same value(s). You could do one or more of these things:
  • Re-focus so that you change the areas of your life where you live by your values
  • Find a new/alternative way of doing the same thing to get the same result
  • Move your self from the "do-er" to the "trainer" and transfer your values onto others
  • Take up a new hobby/activity/job/career to get new stimulation
  • Stop doing some things and move away from the consequent problems
There are probably other approaches you can take, and if that is the case do let me know! You may wish to do this in personal reflection, by discussion with someone you trust, or indeed by writing about it in a blog!

This article, by Kathy Charmaz, Loss of self: a fundamental form of suffering in the chronically ill, actually describes the "problem" that I attempt to describe, but in the general context of  chronic illness. There are some obvious parallels between what she writes and experiences with HSP.

The abstract is: "Physical pain, psychological distress and the deleterious effects of medical procedures all cause the chronically ill to suffer as they experience their illnesses. However, a narrow medicalized view of suffering, solely defined as physical discomfort, ignores or minimizes the broader significance of the suffering experienced by debilitated chronically ill adults. A fundamental form of that suffering is the loss of self in chronically ill persons who observe their former self-images crumbling away without the simultaneous development of equally valued new ones. As a result of their illnesses, these individuals suffer from (1) leading restricted lives, (2) experiencing social isolation, (3) being discredited and (4) burdening others. Each of these four scores of suffering is analysed in relation to its effects on the consciousness of the ill person. The data are drawn from a qualitative study of 57 chronically ill persons with varied diagnoses."

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