Thursday, 23 December 2010

New hair day...

So it's two days on from the last blog post, and the blown fuse has been replaced. I have a lot of friends who talk a lot of sense. Sometimes they're repeating the stuff that my own logical head is telling me, but repetition reinforces the lesson, and I'm always far more willing to listen to other people than myself. Sometimes they blow me away with new things that seem so obvious, why didn't I think of them... But always they make me feel very lucky to know them.

So what's changed? The fact that after years of doing this alone I've finally opened up about it? That's certainly helped. Also I've just learned that doing something enjoyable once or twice a week makes a huge difference. I don't just mean the "typical me" scenario that goes something like:

Me: Hey, I'm ironing!
Me: Yeah, and?
Me: Well, (a) that means I can stand up and (b) I can move my arms and (c) support the weight of the iron and...
Me: Yeah yeah yeah big deal, is that it?
Me: No, I'm actually enjoying that I WANT to be doing this and that I KNOW I'm making a difference.
Me: *in a very small voice* Oh. Yeah, I see what you mean...

I mean the real enjoyment of breathing in a lungful of cold air, seeing other people's faces, hearing music from a Salvation Army band playing as the snow falls, I mean enjoying the naughty feeling of doing something trivial while the house mess is left to stew, that isn't trivial because it means I'm alive. For so long I've been in a kind of fudgy beige world where I can see stuff that needs doing all around me, but literally without knowing where to start. Where I've waited to turn an emotional and mental corner as I have done in the past, popping out of depressive episodes like a cork, full of energy and direction and motivation... this time has been the worst of all, and this time that simply didn't happen. But I'm learning, padding myself mentally, day by day hour by hour, doing stuff by rote and by pretending when I can't quite get the buttons done up on my padded mental waistcoat.

There is a popular idea about the choice to make today a better day than two days ago, that all that is needed is to step out of one day, shed it like an old skin and leave it like a pile of dirty washing on the floor that will simply evaporate if ignored. I resist that idea, because it *seems* to imply that I chose to have such a crap day that day. I know that's not the intention, but some words of "positive power" can be damaging, especially when you go back to Lesson 2 where you learn that depression twists thinking. Yes I do have a choice - I can choose to pretend today to have motivation and energy, to break down the first enormous job into doable-sized chunks, and to start. I can choose to allow the pretence to carry me through, hopefully long enough to do the job in hand in its entirety, and to move on to the next one (allowing for pacing and physical condition of course). But to do that I have to have pretence as a tool in my armoury and not everyone has it. I also have to have support, friendship and love from other people, and hope, perserverance, determination, strength... I have some of the qualities I need, and I am so lucky to have them. They will have to do the work of all the other qualities I lack - organisation, hope, perserverance... you get the idea. We're not just a walking box of tools, we're complex and complicated.

So today starts with getting downstairs. A challenge I didn't have yesterday, and one that's going to make the chores interesting! It's funny how living so long with physical pain makes it so easy to ignore, deal with, work around; emotional and mental pain feels so fresh and new with every stab. Time to try and find that padding.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Crumbling resolve

Well it's the shortest, darkest day, and I haven't had my hour in front of the SAD lamp. Too much to do, no energy or resolve to do it. Definitely a wobble day.

I'm desperately holding onto the fact that I've managed to wrap a few pressies today. Coz that's all I've done, all day. Where did the day go? I don't know, I honestly can't remember. I'm tired - well exhausted - hurting, cotton-wool-headed and feeling really really sick about something I can't even put my finger on. I'm in one of what my therapist might call my black-and-white, all-or-nothing moods. I'm behind with my coursework and it feels like I'll never catch up again - and it's only a short course. I'm struggling to do anything, including my hobbies. I just want to sleep and cry, cry and sleep. This isn't a bad day, it's an end-of-the-world day.

It isn't that we have no food in the house, much less Christmas stuff. It isn't that the pressies are only half wrapped, and I've missed seeing my sister yet again because of the weather; it isn't that Young Master is bored out of his mind and only wants to play computer games rather than do stuff with me; it isn't that we're looking at the most disorganised, untidy and unprepared Christmas in 25 years. It's that all this I've known would happen, all this I've been fighting, all this I've refused to let bother me because there is a reason for the mess, the untidyness; but today it's getting to me. Today I am worn out. Today I've put on so much of the weight that I've been fighting to lose for so long; today I didn't get any exercise; today I want to tell myself so badly that I've let myself down and those I love. I haven't really, but like a junky going cold turkey (and yes I know what that feels like) I almost crave the comfort of being able to beat myself up, blame myself for so much stuff that is beyond my control.

A wonderful friend just asked me if it all really mattes. No of course it doesn't; but I kind of want it to matter, because that's old and familiar. Right now I don't have the strength to be strong; I've let go the reins so far they're almost out of my reach. And I so badly want to pick them back up again.

Thursday, 9 December 2010


I'm not sure I'm supposed to my therapist laugh quite that much. Not sure how I did it really, but it was actually a joyful meeting, and my shortest one so far. I think he got more words in edgeways today than I've let him in previous encounters too. All in all I feel all glowy and happy that I can face Christmas caring about what really matters and not getting sucked in by anything that doesn't. One more session to go in the New Year, and then I really will be flying solo. But he's equipped me with some tools for the job, and I feel prepared. It's been a long 6 months or so, and although the steps are still baby steps, they're getting more and more confident.

The other day I woke up feeling grey. I mean truly grey, not black-hole-grey, not sun-almost-shining-grey, just grey. Critical-bully-me was just waiting on tiptoes, ready to pounce; I wobbled in time to thoughts of "it's all going to start again" and "I can't face it I'm off back to bed". And then from nowhere came Self-esteem-me saying "ok so you're having a bad day. So have a bad day. Tomorrow will be a new day and will bring what it brings. If you need to give in today, well then that's ok". A couple of hours later I found myself singing as I ironed. Bitch-me was silenced. "We'll see..." she muttered under her breath, "you haven't dropped the ball yet, but when you do I'll be waiting..."

Well today she's still there, eyebrows raised, foot tapping away in anticipation. But it's a worried anticipation. Today the mutter is almost inaudible, and the emphasis is very different "You haven't dropped the ball yet..."

And I just smiled.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Thanks, T P!

This just about sums up what I feel about depression, and how I picture it as it affects me.

"Your power is only rumour and lies... You bore your way into people when they are uncertain and weak and worried and frightened, and they think their enemy is other people when their enemy is, and always will be, you - the master of lies. Outside, you are fearsome; inside, you are nothing but weakness."

From I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

This ties in with twisted thinking. You know, those little twinges of uncertainty that strike when friends stop laughing as they are approached, or when the gleam in a stranger's eye seems to linger just a fraction too long on an aspect of appearance that until that moment felt comfortable. Neurosis, paranoia, self-consciousness, shyness, self-hate; depression feeds these and is in turn gorged on by them. Trust, in myself and in others, is the first and biggest victim, but because my world-view is out of kilter, is quickly re-engendered just to be shot down again every bit as quickly, because the new generation of trust was birthed on sand in a sideways world.

Taking a step back to focus on the truth takes confidence. And I have to pretend to feel confident in order even to want to take that step. But doing so makes the picture slowly right itself, back into a concrete and upright world, where I can stand with both feet on the ground and trust solidly in those whose friendship and love has never waivered, and who are still there calling me, waiting for me, listening to me and caring. Do I owe them a debt of gratitude? That's a tough question, the guilt in me would say yes every time, the unworthiness would rise up and shout yes from the rooftops, the self-hating me would demand that I consider myself unequal and unworthy.

But I say no, I owe them nothing; but I love them and care about them as much as they do me, will stand by them in their hour of need, and will be content with that not because of a debt or sense of duty, but because I consider them as worthwhile as they do me.