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How This Small Moment of Minutiae Changed the Way I See Depression Recovery

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It was a Thursday, and I was coming back from the supermarket. My arms were straining at the heavy bags of shopping on my shoulder. I was cursing myself for buying so many cans of baked beans and in turn needlessly cursing at myself for not being able to manage this current episode of depression.

I took a shortcut back home, down a little-used road, past the back of a school, a disused car park and some wasteland with weeds that had grown so high it was hard to see how they would ever be cut down. I cursed at each trying step: “Stupid bloody shopping, stupid frigging depression, stupid weeds, stupid broken head of mine.”

I stopped, slumped on the side of the pavement and let the shopping bags fall to the ground where they were much happier. To the side of me, I heard some splashing. Excellent; it was going to start raining, wasn’t it? But, as I turned I saw there were two pigeons, ordinary grey pigeons that you wouldn’t look at twice, splashing in a dirty puddle. They were in the water, plumping up their feathers in pride, scooping the water with their wings and shaking their heads as the droplets fell, shaking with pleasure. There was no concern for me watching them having their bath — I guess pigeons don’t have my body image issues — and together, they were performing their necessary ablutions but, I have no doubt, massively enjoying themselves too.

For too long, I have hoped large achievements would sustain my recovery: getting my books published, getting a job I loved, going on overseas trips. But here, sat in this neglected alley, watching these two pigeons having a bath, there was utter joy and satisfaction.

Now, I start to notice the small stuff that sustains me. Seeing an old woman, easily in her 90s, eating a coffee ice cream almost as big as herself. A dog carrying a stick in the park, grinning (as much as you can grin with a stick in your mouth) at his proud discovery. A child dressed up as fairy turning everyone she passes into pixies.

It’s in these moments of minutiae that we start recovering because our expectations are lower, because we can process small things of beauty without taxing our already befuddled minds and because they are quick, digestible, nourishing morsels of joy. With depression, that’s what we need more of.

Photo by Jack Cross on Unsplash

Originally published: April 30, 2020
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