I have really enjoyed John McManamy’s recent articles on play, and how it is absolutely crucial that we have some fun. So I invited him to elaborate a little here on that point.
Hi, Therese. Many thanks for having me here. As you know, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the whole topic of play-fun-happiness. I have to confess, I tend to be an expert in the very opposite, and so – I suspect – do most of your readers and my readers. In fact, I have more words for my depressions than an Eskimo has for snow, ranging from my “mental water torture” depressions to my “Mount Everest death zone” depressions.
Play or fun or happiness is much more difficult for me to wrap my frontal lobes around, but I am able to tap into childhood memories, and I know you’ve written about this too. For instance, I recall playing ball on those summer evenings with the neighborhood kids. Or maybe it’s hide and seek. Or maybe we’re poking around in places we’re not supposed to be in. Literally, we’re enjoying ourselves so much that we can stay out there forever. Then, one by one, our moms call us in.
Hold that thought – after all these years I’ve finally figured out that my state of mind on those summer evenings way back when Eisenhower or Kennedy was President is what I need to be shooting for right now. For me, it’s more than just a life choice. When depression gets the upper hand, literally, life stops. With fun, we’re talking the very opposite.
Looking back on my adolescent and adult life, I can attribute a lot of my loneliness and isolation and depressions to my own folly. I’ll give you one example:
Back in the late 80s, I moved to Melbourne, Australia to take up a feature writing position on the business pages of a newspaper there. I found a great apartment in an unbelievable locale surrounded by parks and gardens, I was working with a super editor, my colleagues were fantastic, and slowly but surely I was getting recognition in my new environment. In short, my work life and social life were going great.
How did I blow that? Easy. I failed to live in the present. I fretted about the future. I got over-anxious. Instead of being the kid who could have played ball all evening with my friends, I was more like my mom worried about getting me into pajamas for the night. So, in a practically perfect situation, I managed to convince myself I was miserable. Mental illness thrives in these conditions. My bipolar was undiagnosed and I was a sitting duck. In nothing flat, I was a stranger in a strange land with no job, no friends, no income, no prospects.
So fun is far from frivolous. This is smart living we’re talking about here. More than smart – vital.
To read more Beyond Blue, go to http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.