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Is it time to change your lens? Wednesday February 25, 2015

When I'm in the depths of a low, I can't help focusing on elements of myself and my life which, through the lens of depression, appear terminally horrendous. If I am able to share my feelings with close ones, they often try to draw my attention to the good things in my life, but it's no use. My lens is fixed on the bad stuff, and it's not going away.

Looking through a lens and focusing on elements of other people's lives is in fact, what I do for a living. I've just spent the entire winter inside a maximum security women's prison, getting to know six women there, filming their day to day lives and listening to their stories. Some of those stories are truly horrific, often involving abandonment, abuse and mental illness.

One might imagine that immersing myself in their worlds would be the worst thing for depression, but instead, it actually lifted me out of a low.

Some of these women have lost everything, and have nothing. Many of them have watched their lives out there disintegrate while they languish helplessly inside: their husbands moving on, their children being removed.

But never in my life have I seen such a capacity for hope, love, laughter and determination in the face of such damning circumstances. They support each other, they grow and they find ways to enjoy their days in prison. Ultimately they attempt to focus on the good things and deal with the bad things as best they can.

These women made me realise that it was time to change my lens.

What kind of lens are you looking through today?

A Moodscope member.

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Hopeful One Wed, Feb 25th 2015 @ 7:19am

Hi Anna-thanks for sharing.I felt for you straight away.Here I set out some of my thoughts and hope they help.I can only guess the reason for your low but I will wager it involves a 'loss' of some kind personal to you and in the past but may be on going.See if you can identify that.You will need to come to terms with it at some point but the depth of depression is not often the place to start.Your nearest and dearest are no doubt are trying to help you with the best of intentions but if the lens in your binoculars are of a dark tint and you are looking through the binoculars the wrong way they may not be much help as you have discovered..If they can read this then I would say to them they should just listen to what you have to say as non judgmentally as possible and do what they can in a practical way like making sure you are getting some exercise,good food and good sleep and by taking the pressure of you in any practical way.Asking you 'to snap out of' it or 'to pull your socks up' will be the least helpful.I can see a few positives.Your experience with the individuals you deal with at work have made you see that your losses are bad in your eyes but theirs are even worse.And you have realized that the way out lies in being showered with love.laughter( I tell myself a joke everyday and remember it to tell other if they want to hear it- there are numerous joke sites on the web-take your pick)and determination.But above all never,never,never never give up hope that one day you will get better and things will improve. Hopefulonexx

Anonymous Wed, Feb 25th 2015 @ 8:41am

How very interesting the picture you paint of these women, Anna. It really makes you think... I am so grateful to be me, whatever the challenges.

Julia Wed, Feb 25th 2015 @ 9:14am

Hello Anna . I have worked in prisons, male and female, and know exactly what you mean. We mostly adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Your film sounds very interesting. Will we be able to view it? I hope you feel better now.

Anonymous Wed, Feb 25th 2015 @ 11:59am

Hi Anna, what an incredible person you are,to be able to go into a prison to watch, listen and yes...learn from these women who are there not just because they have done wrong, but because through awful predicaments that life has thrown their way, they have made bad choices.
It is often through seeing other people's misery that we depressed ones, are sometimes able to help ourselves. And even though our closest and nearest and dearest 'help' with comments (thankfully not the pull yourself together sort) we can't always help or understand the way we are feeling inside of our heads. I know I am lucky to have a warm home, food, clothing, friendships etc....I don't need my nose rubbed in it...but I cannot always help or understand why I feel so bad, so down. :(
Thank you, Anna - and as Julia asks...maybe you could let us know if we can see it?
All the best Karen x

Anonymous Wed, Feb 25th 2015 @ 12:19pm

Thanks Anon. What a great comment. I bet if we took a survey, almost every one of us here at Moodscope would feel like this. Gratitude heals. And thanks so much for your blog today, Anna. susan xx

Julia Thu, Feb 26th 2015 @ 9:04am

Thinking about what lens I look through Anna. It's certainly not always rose tinted and it is often very focused on my own problems.

Julia Thu, Feb 26th 2015 @ 9:04am

Thinking about what lens I look through Anna. It's certainly not always rose tinted and it is often very focused on my own problems.

Anonymous Thu, Feb 26th 2015 @ 1:49pm

Changing lenses; what a good idea. But how do you do it? By realizing what you are up to before it gets you down. But mostly it will, I suppose, come down to pulling yourself up by your bootlaces after the event. That's what usually happens with me. But it takes time.

Julia Thu, Feb 26th 2015 @ 2:27pm

Yes same happens to me. I pick myself up dust myself down and start all over again. It DOES take time I agree!

Anonymous Tue, Mar 3rd 2015 @ 1:56pm

Thank you all for your wonderfully encouraging comments. I agree gratitide is a great healer, and sometimes someone can inspire you with their own attitude to hardship, which can cause your focus on the negative to shift. It's not magic, but it helps.
It's a new three part series going out in US and UK later this year. I'll keep you posted if possible. Although it will of course have my full name at the end so I'd be outing myself... Anna x

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