Play in Your Life - The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide
  • This is about play. I am a frequent attender of drum circles. It started a few years ago when I brought a single didgeridoo to a gathering just north of San Diego. Next thing, I was bringing three. Then I got a mike and portable speaker for my didge. Then I was bringing things to bang on, as well.


    Yesterday, I showed up with what I can only describe as a rig. My didge was on a miked-up stand that allowed me to keep my hands free. I sat on a box called a cajon that I could bang on in time with the drummers.


    This is what the experts - namely kids and adults who act like kids - describe as “play.” In the past, I made the fatal mistake of associating play with work. I love my work so much that I can’t believe someone is paying me, but I couldn’t understand why I kept getting depressed. Real play involves a fun activity that totally takes your mind off work and other obligations. The only purpose of play is - to play. It is also good for you.

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    Believe it or not, this is an alien concept to most. Just take a look at those who mix business with pleasure. 


    I like to joke that we don’t outgrow being kids - our toys simply grow bigger. So here I was, banging and tooting away under the trees with about 20 drummers. A frequent attender pulls up with his djembe and starts banging away. We know him as “Dr Jon” and he is a terrific drummer.


    Dr Jon also has another identity - Jon Nachison, chief psychologist at a major facility in San Diego. He is also the co-founder of Stand Down, a community-based program that has been helping homeless veterans combat life on the streets for some 26 years. Stand Down has spread nationwide. A few years ago 60 Minutes featured Jon and Stand Down. In October, NAMI San Diego will be honoring Jon as its “Inspirational Person of the Year” at its annual dinner.


    In that same drum circle is a board member of NAMI San Diego. He’s the guy tooting the didge and banging on a cajon, but we won’t mention names. No, I had nothing to do with Jon being honored by NAMI San Diego (that decision was made by a committee not connected to the board). The point I am making is that we have two people in the mental health movement attending the same drum circle. On one hand, we move in the same circles. On the other, we are part of another very important circle in our lives.


    But we don’t bring our other circles into our drum circle. We are here to play - period. Our personal mental health is way too important to be talking about - mental health. Play is the thing. Find your own play. Play on! While you’re at it - tell us about it. Question: What play works for you? 


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Published On: September 08, 2013