The Fine Art of Surfacing from Depression

Girl on dock looking at water depression

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Back, many years ago, when I was a teenager, my sister introduced me to an album by the group called The Boomtown Rats called “The Fine Art of Surfacing”. It was an amazing album with Sir Bob Geldof singing lead and songs I found heart in. But something always bothered me. On the cover was a swimmer and the title of The Fine Art of Surfacing still didn’t make sense to me. That is, until recently.

I always figured that the title had something to do with diving but I think it means more than I thought. Why would surfacing be a fine art? As I recently listened to the album and lyrics again, it made me realize that the fine art of surfacing may just be an allegory to surfacing from many problems. For me, that would be like depression that people deal with.

So what does it mean to have a fine art to surfacing from depression or really any mental health issue I might have been going through. Surfacing from underneath mean that you have been holding your breath and struggling to get to the surface. How many times did I try and fail to surface from depression? More than I would like to count. Surfacing required me to understand that I was underwater and could drown unless I broke the top of the water and breathed again. In order to do this, I would have to find the right way or fine art to surface from my depression that would allow for my recovery.

The first several tries I made failed, as I might have gulped an air of freedom, but then was under water again, feeling the pressure of depression pulling me down. How did I find a fine art to surfacing that worked for me? The first thing I needed was to give me a coach to teach me the fine art. A coach might be a psychiatrist, therapist, or professional coach. These “coaches” taught me the techniques and supported me in learning the fine art of surfacing.

Then there was the practice it took. I continued to fail to surface from my depression for a long time. I had to open my thoughts, learn from my coaches, and take my time to try and try again, never giving up. I do remember the first time I did emerge, surfacing from my depression, with the fine art of learning how to stay above water.

I learned how to breath when I emerged, but not just breath, breath correctly, with deep and controlled diaphragmatic breathing. I learned to control my thoughts and emotions, so the next dive under would allow me to use the fine art of surfacing I learned from my coaches. I learned that practice won’t necessarily make perfect, but will allow me to get better and better at the fine art of surfacing.

Finally, I learned what it truly meant to surface from whatever ails me now. I have techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and journaling that are habits that help me to surface. Like all methods of learning, none of this happened quickly. It took some years of practice and help to develop the fine art that I now know is surfacing from a dive down below that water line, where I couldn’t breath, struggled, and emerged without at first learning how.

I get it now. The Boomtown Rats came up with the title of an album that explains how to get through tough times, and challenges in life. There is a fine art to surfacing from my problems, such as depression, stress, and anxiety. No, I’m not at an Olympic level on these issues of surfacing, but I work toward it daily. It is practice to get there. Thanks to the Boomtown Rats for making me realize this almost 40 years after the release of the album and title. Sometimes, it just takes us a while to learn what we need to at the time we need to learn it.

Anyway, in case you never heard of the Boomtown Rats or their songs, here’s one of my favorites, although not the happiest of the bunch. But it fits this site well.

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About Alan Eisenberg

Alan Eisenberg is a Certified Life Coach, Bullying Recovery activist and author of "A Ladder In The Dark: My journey from bullying to self-acceptance" and "Crossing the Line". He has been writing and speaking to various audiences about the issue of C-PTSD and Bullying Recovery. Mr. Eisenberg has been featured on several print, radio shows and podcasts on this issue, including NPR and in the Boston Globe. He is currently working toward his Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling.
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