Saturday, 13 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness Week or am I just mad?

I can't watch the news at the moment. War and bloodshed, murder and disease. Flood and pestilence. First world problems can suck you down into the mire, and I finally see that it's not just me. I can now see and understand that there are many people out there who struggle with depression, and maybe that recognition is a sign of my own recovery. People who say "I'm fine" and just get on with things, but the struggle is there if you know the signs. 

I get warnings signs through sleepless nights, tossing and turning 'mind churning anxieties'. I don't want to go out, interact, avoid the phone, get dressed even. Despite those triggers that foretell a period of depression, it's not just a case of mind over matter. I cannot force myself to "get on with it" no matter how much I may want to. I LOVE walking with my gorgeous dogs, LOVE being outside, in all weathers, but sometimes I just can't drag myself. Don't get me started on the guilt. 

It's not a bad life, just a bad day. Looking for the positives, practising gratitude. I kept up a personal diary for more than a month, well 38 days to be exact. Found ten 'things' to be grateful for each day. Ten.... multiplied by 38, so Three Hundred and Eighty fabulous, heartwarming events to cheer me along. 

  • waking up in my own bed - priceless
  • day stretching out ahead - promising
  • coffee in my favourite cup watching birds in the garden
  • the virginia creeper is changing colour as I watch
  • shower and fresh clothes, smelling sweet, clean hair
  • Ikea, getting lost, but hey, got there in the end
  • a frame for my textile piece
  • autumn walk with the doods, loving my orange coat
  • catching up on Downton Abbey
  • blog loving

I wish I could tell you that's the answer - hey just write a diary. But my diary was written well over eighteen months ago. The feel good did not last. Relapse is painful, all the more when you feel it coming on, that black dog on my shoulder, ever present. Medication helps, sometimes, supportive and loving friends and family helps, sometimes. Talking therapy helps, sometimes.

For me, exercise helps, sometimes. Counting my blessings helps, sometimes.
Gardening helps, knitting, crochet, craftwork all help, sometimes. And sometimes it just doesn't. The chances are I will be grumpy, and tired and unable to do even simple things. The last few days have been like that. Grim, and miserable. Endless cups of coffee, games of patience, daytime television. Sweaty pj's and ratty hair. No concentration, no purpose, no sleep. No joy. No appetite. 

I write this at 4.17am, another sleepless night. But despite that I am determined to get up at 7am, shower and dress, drink hot water with lemon and walk my dogs in the woods listening to bird song, and then crack on with the day, energised, revitalised, self confident. I KNOW I would feel better, that the first step is the hardest, and that for me....that's the way forward. Get out there, get on with it. Live my life. My one and only precious life. 

If you suffer from depression how do you get through it? What are your secrets?
Some people seem to be able to cope, the wonderful Stephen Fry for instance, but others, well we are all saddened by the deaths of people who can't cope. I loved Robin Williams, his genius, his sheer personality. 

I have often been described as having a "bright personality" in the past, and certainly many people would not believe that underneath the friendliness and chatter, lies a depressive. Bluff and bluster, I really do try to stave off the awful feelings of worthlessness by concentrating (very hard) on making the best of situations. Waiting for a bus? I chat to people. I try to have a laugh, and show real interest in my fellow human beings. We are all in this together. 

I have tried to read myself through depression, trying anything on offer from Paul McKenna's books to the bible, but really it's just not that easy. My doctor suggested a book recently, Sunbathing in the rain : A cheerful book about depression by Gwyneth Lewis. I wish I could tell you it solved my problems, but it didn't. However, it did describe depression really well, better than I've heard before and that was comforting, because I am beginning to understand. At last, I'm not the only one, this is MY normal.

Whether it's a chemical imbalance, or life events, or even genetic disposition who knows what causes depression. One cannot snap out of it, but I am aware that sometimes I can give in to it, when maybe, with support I can hang on, to.... well to life I suppose. Eating properly, sleeping well, looking for the positives, avoiding stress and taking on too much, lots of exercise. Doing lots of the things that make me happy. Little things. Listening to music, reading poetry, visiting art galleries and museums, gardening and growing plants and helping the people in my life have some fun. I am enjoying going to "the pictures" more recently, and can honestly say spending a few hours immersed in other worlds is  beneficial. 

My normal. It's not a bad life, I am very lucky. I am loved. It may be a bad day, but there is always tomorrow. It will get better. I hope I haven't left you, dear reader, with a bad taste after reading this post, but I hoped to say, we are not alone in this. The politicians seem to be making a mess of things, and the world news is frightening, but if I can help anyone realise we are "normal" to feel down sometimes. We are, normal. Or mad as a hatter which ever you prefer!

Love Mary Xxx

This post was written a long time ago, but stayed on my hard drive - I decided to publish now to share my story in recognition of Mental Health Awareness week. Actually I am quite well at the moment but it really doesn't take a lot to change that. 

PS please feel free to leave a comment or contact me through email as I would love to hear from you. 


  1. I think you've described depression beautifully. The bottom line is that it's a complex illness, which presents itself in unique ways to the person suffering from it. I have tools to help me live with my black dog periods, but there are times that none of them work and I sort of give into it.
    I've likened it on a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago, as smiling while jamming a fork into the back of my hand. Most people wouldn't know about my struggles with my mental health, because my energy is used up being 'normal' in their company! Perhaps those awful black, foggy days, weeks, months are a form of respite for our exhausted minds. It can heal through the despair. Winston Churchill said "if you find yourself walking through hell, keep walking." That's what I try to do, knowing it will pass, I will get to the other side, I will wake up and see the beauty in my life.
    I wish you well. It helps to share. It helps to know that you aren't alone, a freak, weak and all the rest. It takes great strength and resolve to live with mental illness. Thank you for being so open and candid.
    Leanne xx

    1. Thank you so much for your response Leanne - I am aware that none of us is immune - the problem today is the very long wait for support with "talking therapies" but that's a political issue and probably the topic for another blog post altogether.

  2. I have had enough glimpses into that world to know exactly how it feels. In my case it is mostly seasonal. I hate the winter cold and short grey days. The times when it's difficult to get outside and garden which is my main means of stress release. I'm glad the Black Dog is leaving you alone for now. Long may it continue x

  3. Thank you Jessica for your lovely comment - and yay, getting out into the natural world is the key I am sure, exercise, fresh air, bird song and dirt under my fingernails! Heaven..... and when those grey, colder days come, well there are always blogs like your own to remind us all of the joys. Long may it continue

  4. indeed! I missed out the last word....and I do like to have the last word! So, Long may it continue indeed!