The 4 Principles of Life

Taming the Black Dog, A Practical Manual for Sufferers by Patrick Ellverton

Life is tough at times but having depression can make it seem unbearable. Yet whether you have depression or not, in the book Taming the Black Dog Patrick Ellverton reminds us about some facts of life that we just cannot change.

Principle 1: Everything in our world is changing - continuously. Even as I am typing this blog the clouds in the sky are already changing formation, new things are happening, and opinions are changing. New opportunities and threats are forever entering our lives. Nothing stays the same.

Principle 2: Your past is dead. You cannot do anything to change what has happened in the past. There will be things that you learn from what happens, but ruminating about what has happened just ends up feeding your own depression. Stop looking at the past and start focusing on the now.

Principle 3: Your time is finite. Do not waste your life. Every time you are looking at the past you are not focusing on the present. Make the most of here and now.

Principle 4: What you do today creates your future. Your actions and thoughts create your life tomorrow, next week, or next year. What you do today has the power to create your own happiness, joy, success and peace not just for you, but for those around you.

Many of you do not suffer from depression, but someone close to you is suffering and trying to understand them has been difficult. So how can you? First of all, if you have not suffered from depression it is extremely difficult to understand all the symptoms such as lack of motivation and energy, irritability, hopelessness, helplessness, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, sadness and at times thoughts about death and suicide. So what can you do to help?

Taming the Black Dog suggests that you encourage your loved one to seek help, such as taking them to their primary care doctor, or seeing a therapist or psychiatrist. Sometimes just talking about the symptoms you are seeing in your loved one, together with you reading up about depression can start the conversation toward the road to healing.

Change your habits along with your loved one, such as starting a new exercise regime of walking in the mornings, or eating healthy foods, limiting alcohol, drinking more water and engaging in a new hobby with them.

Do not expect the healing of depression to go like a straight line in a graph. There will be peaks and valleys and at times your loved one’s depression may spark negative feelings within you. Take time for yourself, also giving them space to hopefully help them move from their dark mood towards the light. None of us are responsible for another person’s thoughts and feelings, but we can walk beside them in their journey as they engage in what makes them feel better. Remember if you are working harder than your loved one, you need to take a step back.

Maybe you suspect your child of having depression, what do you do? Children do not have the ability to communicate how they feel so it is important that as a parent you need to watch their behaviors. Parents need to look out for changes in their grades at school, excessive tiredness, social isolation; staying in their bedrooms and not engaging with their friends or family. Does your child no longer want to try new things or want to go to new places? Most children are open to exploring so this could also be a sign of depression.

It is also important for parents of children that have depression to engage the help of their primary care doctor together with their child’s teacher. It really does take a village to raise a child and having eyes on your child will help them to feel supported, heard and seen.