The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
T.H White ‘The Once and Future King’
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that in some way or another in my life, I’m always going to be fighting depression off with a big fat stick. Now I’ve come to terms with it, I’m able to fend it off so much better, or at least keep it at bay for a time. Moreover, through the years, I’ve learnt that there are coping strategies to help keep the dreaded rain clouds at bay.
Most if these are pretty obvious, and I don’t want to sound patronising, but often it really is the most practical and simple things that will get you through the darkest of times. I strongly feel that if I’d had some genuinely sensible and sensitive advice when I first started feeling blue at the age of 19, the last 15 years of my life would have been a hell of a lot easier. *Old, wise person’s voice* ‘If I knew then, what I know now, etcetera…….’ I’m not saying these will work for everyone, and they’re certainly not foolproof, all I know is that they help me out when I’m staring into the abyss and shitting my proverbial pants. (I’m not going to include anything about medication in this post, as I’m still unsure as to whether it is a genuinely helpful solution in the long-term).
1) Get enough sleep
A tricky one this. There’s fine line between not getting enough and having too much (true of most things though, I’d say). Too much, and I feel like a member of the walking dead; not enough and I’m a jumpy, irritable mess with mad, crazy eyes popping out on stalks. It’s not always easy to strike the right balance. Find out which hours work best for you, and stick to them. Again, easier said than done, but I know full well that I’m able to function so much better having had a productive day (enough to tire me out well), followed by a relatively early night. Mornings are always the worst for me as I struggle to get going, yet by the time six o’clock in the evening comes around, I’m wide awake and raring to go. So, when I’m feeling OK (ish) I try my best to fill the day up with enough activities to ensure a decent night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed the following day. That’s the theory anyway.
2) Walking and fresh air
Again, it’s almost so obvious that it goes without saying, but if you make yourself get out and about, even if it’s once a day, once a week, once a month, just to walk for a while in the fresh air, it will only ever do you good. Get out, feel and experience something that’s outside of you, get your blood pumping around your body and feel the wind on your skin. Best of all it’s free. Get yourself to the local park, or the seaside, or the river- it doesn’t even matter where. You may not be leaping around like a deliriously happy person after five minutes, but you’ll sure as hell feel a little bit better.
There’s been so many times I’ve been sitting on a bus, train or plane and I begin to uncontrollably panic. My breathing goes crazy, my head starts spinning and I nosedive headlong into sheer gut wrenching, sweaty palms terror. See, things that are quite ordinary for the majority of people, i.e. getting on a bus or going to the cinema, seem to turn me into a mound of quivering jelly. In these situations, to prepare, all I do is take five minutes on my own before the journey to really properly breathe. Slowly and deeply, breathe in and out, telling yourself all the time that there’s nothing as frightening as fear itself. It’s mind over matter and it really does help.
4) A decent diet
Absolutely essential. I honestly don’t think I’d still be alive without having eaten well over the years. I’ve been brought up on a fairly well balanced, Mediterranean diet, with plenty of vegetables and lots of protein. All I’m going to say is that vegetables, fruit and herbs will always be your friend, they will always be there for you and they will always make you feel better. I make sure I get my 5 a day religiously, but it’s no chore because I love them so much. Plus you’ll feel very smug and pleased with yourself because you’re taking measures to be extra good to yourself. It’s a win win! Avoid junk food like the plague. As virtuous as my veg consumption is, I am constantly being tempted by the quick, feel good sugar and salt fixes of junk food and often succumb. It’s almost a buzz for me, but the sugar crash and come down is horrid. Stay away if you know what’s good for you.
5) Have a sense of humour
Absolutely flipping essential. If you’ve lost your sense of humour (or didn’t have one in the first place) you’re pretty much done for. Laughter really is the best medicine and it’s also a brilliant coping mechanism. I can’t count all the times that the shit has hit the fan and somehow from somewhere I’ve managed to raise a little chuckle or sardonic thought. I concede, it’s bloody difficult to find life amusing when you’re in the third day of a really terrible downer, (unless you can appreciate the sheer fucking absurdity of the whole damn situation) but on the days that things are a little bit more manageable, remember to keep a perspective on the situation and not to take yourself too seriously. I genuinely love it when people take the piss out of me and follow suit by taking the piss out of myself as well.
To be continued……….
Does anyone else have any tips or coping strategies they use? I’d love to hear them if so.
When I’m lying in my bed, it feels safe and warm. Nestled in under the duvet, it feels like I’m protected from the world and no-one can hurt me. I spend far too much time in bed. In fact, that’s where I’ve just spent the last three days, lying still and prostrate, only getting up to visit the bathroom or perhaps make some toast. If I was feeling like really treating myself, I may have brushed my teeth or even had a wash. I don’t know because I can’t really remember. It’s just like all the other times it’s happened, one big blur. I haven’t cried, or talked to anyone- I just lay there and felt nothing.
It’s been three full days of beautiful, glorious crisp winter weather and crystal clear blue skies. Yet, there I was wasting precious time, time that I haven’t got, huddled in my bed, feeling like sodding doomsday had come. The truly ridiculous thing is that deep down, I know that this is the absolute worst, worst thing to do. The cocoon doesn’t make you feel better. It thinks it does, but in reality, it only makes things far worse. What I think is the thing protecting me, is really the thing that is making me worse. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? (Thanks Alanis.)
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Today I’ve gone into overdrive, I suspect, to make up for the guilt of wallowing around in a pit of my own seething self-pity for three days. But this is hardly healthy either is it? I’ve cleaned the house from top to toe, taken off all my sheets, including my valance and under sheet, to be washed and written to an old friend who is expecting a baby on Friday (we’ve grown apart because of my continued self- isolation and recluse-like behaviour over the years and it breaks my heart.) In short, I’ve tried to wipe all evidence from the face of the earth that the last few days have ever happened. I think I may be trying to assuage my guilt. Who knows though? I’m not a shrink.
Still, I’m going to try to make the most of this ‘being- up time.’ It’s a beautiful day outside and I’ve got some lovely, truly comforting and health- giving soup puttering away on the stove ready to be eaten. Hell, I might even brave the big wide world and go for a walk!
“Blue/Songs are like tattoos/You know I’ve been to sea before/ Crown and anchor me/ Or let me sail away”
This song is so beautiful to me. In these first lines, I love the duality of both wanting to be ‘anchored’ to something (or someone) yet, at the same time wanting to sail away in to the blue and be free. I felt like I wanted to sail away so desperately today.
Through this blog, I sincerely hope to start picking my way slowly through the last decade or so of my life, in order to make sense of some of the chaos and upheaval that has taken place in my past. I hope that, by understanding and exploring some of the major turning points in my life so far, it will help me to understand how to deal better with living with depression and to help me to, finally, express all of the feelings and emotions that have been building up inside of me for so long. I have come to believe that, ‘expression is the enemy of depression,’ and this will be my attempt at just that. I’m completely fed up with taking it lying down, so this is my stab at some kind of fight. I will probably make hundreds of mistakes, as I’m completely new to blogging, but I would very much like it to be a learning process as well as a creative and restorative one. I don’t think I will work my way chronologically through the timeline of my life (who knows? It’s an experiment.) Instead I intend to tell my stories (some happy, some extremely sad, and yes, some even funny!) as honestly and truthfully as I possibly can, sometimes in the context of songs, books, plays, art, poems that I have loved and have meant a great deal to me over the years. If it’s relevant and I’m interested in it (I’m interested in most things) then sooner or later it will probably make its way into these pages. I welcome any comments or feedback along the way, this is a completely new, and slightly intimidating, world for me! I hope you can join me on this journey (of sorts) it will be lovely to have you along.
Life’s is a funny old thing isn’t it? Today, completely out of the blue, I decided that I would like to write something down about my life. Put down something, anything, that would actually try to make some sense of the last decade (and a bit) that has changed me and my life so completely. So, with a deep breath and a heart full of apprehension, here is my first post on my first ever blog. And it’s dedicated to anyone who has ever felt depressed, not just a bit blue from time-to-time though. No, I’m talking to anyone that has ever felt as though they were standing on the outside of life, looking in at the other people, getting on with things and being happy, being ‘normal’. To anyone who has ever felt like complete shit because, yet again, for the third day running, they can’t lift their sorry, sad, aching body from their beds because the thought of facing the world is simply too terrifying to face. To anyone who has given up, dropped out, shut down, turned off. To anyone who feels that their precious voice has been taken from them because of one stupid word. To anyone who has ever felt like going to the top of a cliff and screaming at the top of their lungs, just to let the anger and sadness and pain go somewhere other than inside themselves. And to anyone who feels alone. You’re not, I feel it too.