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Michael Abrahams | Mental energy conversion

Published:Monday | July 29, 2019 | 12:00 AM

One of the most important principles I learnt in science class in school is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can be converted from one type to another.For example, solar energy can be converted to heat energy, chemical energy, and electrical energy. Energy just does not come from nowhere.

Later in life, I came to realize that mental energy is a real entity. We can all relate to the concept of feeling mentally drained. And we carry energy around with us. Unlike the energy the JPS (Jamaica Public Service) charges us for, we cannot measure this type of energy, but we know it is there. Have you ever been in a room, and someone enters and starts talking and you feel hyped up and energised? And have you ever been somewhere, and a person enters your space and you feel drained and want to get the hell out of there? If you can relate to these scenarios you understand what I am talking about. Some people carry positive energy and others bring negative energy with them.

Why am I talking about this? I raise this issue because negative energy is not good for our health. Negative energy is associated with pessimism and depression and is a hindrance to our well-being. However, as energy can be converted, it is possible to convert this energy from negative to positive.

I engage in a lot of reflection and introspection and have come to realize that one of the tactics I use to maintain the little sanity I have is mental energy conversion. Allow me to explain. I have depression. I have had it for years, and I am not alone. There are many folks with depression around us, and lots of them are suffering in silence. Depression can be extremely debilitating. It sucks your energy and causes you to have a negative and gloomy view not only of life, but of yourself. At its mildest it can make you simply have a low mood, but at its worst it can be fatal, leading people to take their own lives.

Having depression is usually viewed as being a negative thing, but I have converted that negativity into something positive. This may sound strange, but I am extremely grateful that I have depression. I am a physician, and therefore encounter scores of people who have been diagnosed with depression, as well as several I diagnose myself at my practice. The condition is a global health problem, responsible for much morbidity.

So, why on earth would I be grateful for such a horrendous malady? The main reason is that being afflicted with the condition enables me to be of much more use to people affected by it. Having depression helps me to empathize with patients with the disorder at a much greater level than I would be able to, had I not been affected. I am a male gynaecologist. This means that I look after patients who possess some body parts that I do not, and who will therefore suffer from diseases I will never get. For example, when I see a woman with endometriosis, I can empathise with her. I have studied the disorder extensively and managed many women with it and I feel for them.

But when I see someone with depression, I can shift my chair from behind my desk, sit directly in front of them, hold their hand, look directly into their eyes and say, “I understand”.When I do this, reel off the symptoms and explain my personal journey with depression, I can see the look of relief on their faces. They know I understand. They know I am not judging them. They know my office is a safe space where they will be listened to and empathized with. As a physician, my job is to help people heal, and having this condition assists me in this regard.

Just last week I had a conversation with a patient of mine who had sunken into severe depression. She confessed that she had stopped taking her medication because she felt embarrassed about having the disorder and being treated for it. I reassured her that there is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. I told her that if I am a physician and a public figure, and I am not embarrassed to talk about my depression, she ought not to. She agreed and vowed to be compliant with her meds. The next day I saw another patient who was also non-compliant. I warned her not to mess around with her health, shared my experience with her and showed her a bottle containing the medication I take. She read the label, sheepishly smiled and told me that it was the same medication prescribed for her by another physician, and that she had some at home, but they had expired. I wrote her a new prescription and she promised to be compliant this time around.

Positivity is important for your physical, mental and social well-being. Try your best not to get caught up in an abyss of negative emotions.Endeavour to learn from your negative experiences and see how you can convert your energy positively.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to and, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.