When a person is depressed he/she avoids eye contact with even those who care the most. One thus shuts out the opinions and influences of other people and, paradoxically, one shuts out one’s own feelings too. This may be the only way to still the pain of a very deep and terrible psychological or spiritual wound. When Funghie looked in at my personal anguish he was seeing me as not even I had been able to see myself But I did not feel afraid. I could trust him.
No matter how much I try to assess the experience of meeting a dolphin in his natural, wild, free state, I cannot define where the importance of it lay. Sometimes I think that the significance which I felt as this beautiful creature chose to swim with me was precisely that: because he was free in the sea, for him to be with me was obviously from choice. I could not do anything impressive or interesting to warrant his attention, yet there was something about me which was apparently worth his time. My sense of self esteem was so low that to suddenly feel special, and especially without doing anything to earn it, was a poignant and very powerful moment. Such feelings, however, are difficult to hold in one’s mind when years of depression have convinced one otherwise.
Sometimes I think the power of swimming with Funghie was in his acceptance of me in the water in a physical way - it did not matter what I looked like, whether I was fat or thin.
What I felt may have been a combination of these two aspects of the experience - but both require some intellectual effort to understand, and, therefore, I think that though they may have had some validity, the true power lay elsewhere, beyond words. This was the first step on the way to a recovery which I now feel capable and sure of making. Of course I still get depressed from time to time. I would be lying if I did not admit that occasionally a low feels interminable, but those around me know that I can be happy. To be reminded of my time underwater in an environment without words, but one shared by that joyful, free creature, is enough to ease me back to a position from which I can continue to make an effort. Funghie
taught me how to look at and truly face my pain. The experience was one of mutual and unconditional love and trust which perhaps only another intelligent species like the dolphin can provide. We must be humble enough to learn.
This article was written by Jemima in 1989.
An observers viewpoint by Dr. Horace Dobbs
In 1987 Jemima Biggs was anorexic, occasionally bulimic and down in the dumps. She wore dark. shapeless, baggy clothes to conceal what she thought was a bulky, ugly body. Morbid thoughts of death were penned up inside her like dark water behind a dam. Her mother was in despair. When she heard that I was proposing to investigate the possibility that dolphins could help those in depression she contacted me. What happened next is told in Dance to a Dolphin’s Song by Dr. Horace Dobbs (published Jonathan Cape 1990.
ISBN 0-224 02628-3 hard back 0-224 03076-0 paperback)