“The Rwandan prescription for Depression: Sun, drum, dance, community. “We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave. They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better, there was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again, there was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy, there was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again. Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.” ~A Rwandan talking to a western writer, Andrew Solomon, about his experience with western mental health and depression.”
It is important that I first say that not all depression is going to respond to just ‘sun, drum, dance, and community’. Clinical depression is not that simple. This is not about severe and persistent clinical depression that requires actual medical treatment. If you feel you may have long term clinical depression, please be sure to see your doctor and look into appropriate medication and therapy options for you.
Situational depression is very responsive to these kinds of activities. Situational depression is a short-term form of depression. It can occur after you have a traumatic change in your life, such as divorce, retirement, loss of a job, or the death of a relative or close friend. This is also sometimes called adjustment disorder.
To me, ‘sun, drum, dance, and community’ is also known as ‘finding your happy place’. This may or may not involve an actual ‘place’, but it does involve getting into a state of being that takes you outside of your everyday self. You might find your happy place alone in meditation, coloring, painting, crafting, music, books – anything that allows you to journey into a different, creative, and more joyful mindset. You might find your happy place with others who are doing things you enjoy – community events, festivals, concerts, drum circles, or religious events are some examples. You may find your happy place in service to others – volunteering, caring for those who are ill or dying, community gardening, public art, picking up litter, or gathering donations of clothing or food.
The key is to find that which will ‘lift you up and bring you back to joy’.
Finding This Key
How do you find that particular key? Get involved with life! Make an action plan. Here are some ways to start:
Go on the internet – Facebook, MeetUp, and other similar sites are great places to start. Find things you might like and go try them out. Ask friends to go with you – but go anyway even if you have to go alone. Ask people for ideas about what to do in your area. Most cities and towns have websites or event calendars which show local upcoming events and group meetings.
Try new and different things – and try them more than once before you decide if they are for you or not. Try new art – YouTube and Instructables have a huge number of tutorials on doing any sort of art or craft you might imagine, and probably quite a few you haven’t! Read new books – there are many websites that offer free books that you can download or read online. For example, you can download the Kindle app at no cost from Amazon, and there are a huge number of free and inexpensive books available there. Your library system likely has a huge number of opportunities that you may have never explored – not only books, but also movies, games, classes, meetings, art, crafts, and community events.
Try small things first and work your way up. So, maybe face to face with folks you don’t know well might be a bit much to start out. How about talking to them on the internet first? There are huge numbers of online groups where you can message people who are interested in things you might enjoy. Message in these groups first to get to know other people a bit and to gather some information to help you feel more comfortable. Facebook is a great resource for this path. There is also an online chat program called Discord where you can meet and talk to people who have similar interests
There are some things to be aware of about this plan of action.
Yes, I know you don’t feel like it. I know you have a hard time just getting up, dressed, and out of the house some days. Start where you are and work toward a goal. You may need to start with a coloring book and work your way up to going to a event with other people. That’s ok – start from where you are, but plan to move forward too.
Be prepared to try and to fail – many times perhaps. You are not likely to make a great work of art the first time and maybe not ever – but you might. You are not likely to suddenly make a bunch of new friends at your first community event – but you might. You might not drum and dance in joy at the first drum circle you attend – but you might. It’s worth the effort to try, even if you fail for awhile. If you keep trying, you will find the things that bring you joy. If you don’t try (and fail), you most certainly won’t find what you are looking for.
One of the very best ways to find a happy place is to volunteer. Attending an event is fun. Being a part of an event and making it happen is a whole new level of enjoyment. It is hard and takes work to be a volunteer, but the return on your investment of your time and energy is amazing. You are far more likely to enjoy yourself and make new friends while helping. You may start by helping ‘behind the scenes’ – like sending emails, mailers, posting event information to the internet, cleaning up, setting up – but you will find these to be very important and fulfilling ways to help.
For the most part, people are supportive and helpful at community events. Most people are there for fun and are just like you. They may be a little scared too. Granted, there are going to be some people that are not fun and not supportive. Don’t let them run you away from doing something you want to try! There will be many, many more people who will be kind and supportive than the ones who are not.
It will take a certain amount of brave to find the key to your happy place. Being brave does not mean you are not afraid. Brave means that you are afraid – but you do it anyway!
Now – Be brave, journey onward, and find that key!