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What’s up with Eeyore?

“If it is a good morning, which I doubt.” ~ Eeyore. How could one not feel just a little bit sad for a character like downhearted little Eeyore, or did we all just think he was AA Milne’s grumpy donkey and feel like he just needed to cheer up once in a while.

It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.

“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.

“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.

“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”

Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”

Pooh looked and Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.

Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”

“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”

“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.

Because Pooh and Piglet were There. No more; no less.

A.A. Milne

When you innocently read children’s books, they’re more often than not cute little tales that leave you feeling warm inside and optimistic about the future; except for Roald Dahl’s, The Witches, which quite frankly was the most terrifying story I’ve ever read that left me petrified of being transformed into a mouse.

But what did we miss in these children’s books? What were some of the hidden meanings amidst these cute little tales? By no means do I want to scrutinise the stories to change their gentle and warming impact, but I do think it is important, as mental health is an ever growing issue, that we recognise characters that could be indirectly teaching us, and the children of today, valuable lessons about or mental health.

Since seeing this image a month or so ago, I have referred to it several times in presentations and it has sparked some particularly insightful conversations.

Personally I never wondered or questioned why Eeyore was so grumpy or pessimistic despite having all his lovely friends around him, but this image fully

opened that can of worms and I got lost in thought of what this could mean, and how this might be represented by us humans.

  • What was wrong with Eeyore?

  • What did I put it down to?

  • Are we too quick to put people, including ourselves into a category? That’s just what I’m like, that’s just what they’re like!

So after some research I discovered that this darling fictional character had a diagnosis of Dysthmia ~ persistent mild depression, and many have written about Eeyore representing gloominess, and the symptoms he displays leading researchers to this diagnosis.

As a naturally empathetic and sympathetic person, I remember always feeling sad for Eeyore, but in the same breath feeling reassured that he had his friends around him and therefore never wondered if anything was wrong. One of the things that stood out to me as thought provoking in this meme is the highlighting of the subject of, loneliness despite not being alone. Can you think of anyone around you that might be lonely? Perhaps in your office, in your friendship group, in your sports team.

That’s just what they’re like!

Did we miss an important lesson from Eeyore because we thought ‘That’s just what he’s like!’?

This question for me was probably the most important. Are we sometimes to quick to categorise people as grumpy, as miserable, as pessimistic, should we perhaps spend more time considering why this might be or ask more questions of both ourselves and others?

It is far easier in life to just categorise, as it almost gives reason to behaviours and characteristics and validates these traits, subsequently requiring no change. However particularly with the negative behaviours I believe there is a need for questions, a need to know why and a need for change.

In order to adapt, develop and prevent we must have a clear picture and understanding of why certain behaviours and mindsets are established and demonstrated, we then, using our mental health tool kits, are able to try and alter these mindsets to enhance wellbeing.

If Eeyore was my friend

All of the above led me to think what I would, could and should do if Eeyore was my friend.

Recognition of his ’gloominess’ ~ I would need to recognise that although we have always thought him somewhat miserable, that it doesn’t mean he is content just being the miserable one, just because he gets on with it and that’s just what he’s always been like, does that make it ok?

Acknowledgement ~ It is then important to acknowledge that he is seen, he is noticed and that we as his friends are here.

Acknowledging his behaviours and pessimism needs to be done cautiously and in an appropriate manner. Some people may respond well to a one on one conversations with a friend, others may feel more comfortable being signposted to support of a more formal capacity. Creating that safe space is crucial at this point and is very specific for each person, so be aware when deciding on a route of support.

Stay on top of it ~ Once my friend Eeyore feels heard, feels noticed and support is in place, in whichever form suits him, I would need to ensure that the approach to our friendship is consistent and that I remain vigilant of behaviour changes whilst being mindful that Eeyore, like most, will not want to feel like a burden.

It is so easy in this fast paced world to miss signs, not only in your friends but in yourself. It is therefore vitally important that we undertake regular check-ins, much like we do with our physical health (Ladies, check the boobs and brain, Gents, you know the score) .

Try to lose the phrase ‘That’s just what I’m/they’re like’, and instead question whether there is a need for action.

Thought for the read ~ Have you got a friend who’s a little bit Eeyore?

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