What side of the River are you on?


One day a young man heading home came to a wide and wild river. He stared and stared and stared, wondering how he was going to get across. It was impossible.

Just as he was about to give up and turn back he saw someone on the other side of the river.

The young man called over to the person on the other side of the river.

– Can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?

The other person thought for a moment, looking up and down the river and then called back.

– You are on the other side.

(I copied this from a blog run by a mentor of mine – I know he won’t mind if I use it. I’d state the source, but I’m not going public yet)


How is it that I can sit in despair with all the good things in my life, while people on the outside scratch their heads thinking I should be happy?

The discussion here is about Parallax. A basic definition is that parallax is the difference of perception with respect to position (keep in mind that the word is used to describe other things as well). Parallax describes how I can look at something from one position and see one thing, but someone could look at the same thing, and by virtue of being in a different position, see a different thing.

So, everyone perceives things based on their position; just like in the example above of being on one side of a river, or in the case of the ‘impossible triangle’ in Perth Australia, seeing a triangle or just bent metal.


People also perceive things based on their bias – and we all have a bias. We all have a way of filtering the constant flow of information hitting our brains, and so we make judgments based on this. For example, if you have been attacked by a dog, you’ll probably be a little wary around other dogs. Experience changes perception. If you have ever bought a car, for the next week (or forever) you’ll notice that type of car being everywhere when you never noticed them before.

There are other things that go into how we ‘see’ the world around us, but these are the biggies: Parallax, and Bias.


So, what am I driving at? Well, I was asked recently by a well meaning family member about my moods, and how I just need to find a way to ‘Cheer up’. Let’s be honest here: if someone asks you, why you are being grumpy, even if you weren’t grumpy up to that point, you probably just got there. (Oh, I can show you grumpy 🙂 )

So this relative was looking at my mood disorder through their position in life and their experience. I’d like to think that he was just trying to put himself in my shoes and offered up the best advice he could think of. He doesn’t know about my diagnosis. I give him credit for trying, even if it did rub me the wrong way.

So . . . my relative was on the other side of the river. (I’ll forgive him for that 🙂 )

So many times, we people with mood disorders need to have even more patient with these well meaning friends and relatives that think that our problem is just a matter of a lack of cheeriness, or being too excited. Of course this isn’t the case at all. Our parallax is dysfunctional.

Most people can find ways to fix their parallax, maybe go out with some friends or go for a run, and change their mood. People with mood disorders cannot do this as well or at all. More importantly, people with mood disorders often can’t see the mood change coming, so when their mood crashes or soars, they don’t have the time to rationally think of solutions – this is the disease.

Also, for people with a mood disorder, our bias can make things worse. Quite often, for us, our bias is skewed to a negative extent. I can’t speak for everyone with a mood disorder, but I can say that all the people with BP that I’ve talked to, all have a tendency to fall to a negative state and struggle daily to keep positive. For me, every day in the last few years I have woken up and had to force myself to avoid the negativity (I fail miserably sometimes) that keeps me buried.

I really really really want this shirt

I really really really want this shirt

So, when people are on the ‘happy’ or ‘stable’ side of the moody river, and they look at people with mood disorders and wonder why they are on the opposite bank, it’s because people with mood disorders often cannot find a way to cross the river. Sometimes they can’t even tell where the river is.

Often we cannot even imagine the other side of the river. Often we are paralyzed and believe that even if the other side existed, we’d never get there. Sometimes we feel like we don’t deserve to be on the other side. Sometimes we are afraid to even see the people from the other side of the river because a horrible shame falls on us for being so awful.

These are some of the major symptoms of our disease: Our parallax is defective. Our bias is skewed. This isn’t choice, it’s pathology.

I’m not sure if I cleared anything up, but it felt good to say it. I hope it made sense and it helps people understand us/ourselves better.

Lots of love for you all 🙂

2 Responses to “What side of the River are you on?”

  1. The last few paragraphs really sound like my experience … the shame, hopelessness, and self-loathing are very difficult for me to overcome. Sometimes I don’t believe the happy side of the river exists for me, yet I see happy people, and it feels so unfair in those dark times. I know it is the depression talking, and it lies, but all too often I believe the lies from my inner monologue.

    • I know what you mean. It’s like being in a fog chasing shadows; you aren’t sure if they are real, and you get tired of running.
      I’m pretty happy that we have these blogs to share together 🙂

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