Brightening my Day

We’ve just had Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020) and I’m very aware that my mental health is not great just now.

My motivation for doing anything much, in tandem with my melancholy mood, has been pretty low lately. I’ve been pushing myself to do ‘fun’ things to try to force myself out of it, bringing temporary relief at times but overall I feel I’m failing miserably at keeping my head above water. So while the weather is nice today I’m simply spending time pottering about aimlessly in the garden, letting go of the stranglehold grip on my own feelings and just letting the colours and smells and sounds of nature work their magic on me.

We had a lot of rain over the last week so all the flowers are looking bright and plump and the foliage is a really rich green; everything looks sated and content. I notice the old roses I cut back so drastically before the winter are finally starting to bud, and I’m relieved to see the large fuchsia bush by the gate I also hard-pruned almost to the ground is filling out nicely. Not having killed off either the fuchsia or the roses the first year we live here is certainly a good reason to bring a soft smile to my face.

As well as the ‘frequent flyer’ wood pigeons, seagulls and crows never far from sight we also have several blackbirds visiting regularly, the drab brown understated females as well as the striking black males with their orange beaks. And for the past couple of days I’ve also seen a few delicately-tinted blue tits flitting about hither and thither, pale yellow breasts and soft blue backs catching the sunlight as they dart about. Learning anew to recognise some of the childhood birds I now see regularly again makes me smile a little, too.

So in a week where I’ve been struggling to smile much at all without frantically forcing it through sheer willpower and definace against the lingering lure of depression, today I’m finding surprising solace in my garden by simply letting myself be – allowing myself to feel down when I feel down, and in turn feeling powerfully rewarded by the magic of nature’s own remedy helping to brighten my day.

Weekly Smile

Anxiety, Boredom and Creative Doom

Day 53 of lockdown, and I’m having a crap day. I just can’t be bloody bothered to try to be anything other than meh. My anxiety levels are simmering at just below screaming, my brain is bored of nothing but the same old, same old, day in, day out. And my motivation to be creative, which has been faltering fast lately, seems to have flat-lined completely.

So far today I’ve showered and washed my hair, I’ve done a load of washing and have hung it outside on the line, and I’ve tried to generate enough enthusiasm to take some photographs of a vase of flowers but honestly, my heart is just not in it today. I can’t even find the emotional wherewithal to go out for a walk, and that’s almost unheard of for me.

Do I wanna read? Nope. Do I wanna cook something nice? Nope. Do I just wanna sit here and stew in my own juice? Um… no, not really, but it’s what I seem to be doing. Enough already with the lockdown limbo blues, I’ve got no business feeling so down. Thankfully no-one I love has even caught coronavirus never mind died from it. Things could be so much worse.

But yet I feel increasingly dissatisfied, frustrated, tearful, angry, and on top of all of those feelings I feel guilty for struggling so much with having to spend a few measly weeks at home. In the grander scheme of things I know it’s really not such a lot to ask, but oh, how I want it to end soon. A month I was prepared for, even six weeks at a push. But two months feels like too much.

Physically I feel fine, mentally, not so great. Too much time to think with nowhere to go to get away from myself. No daily distractions from my depressive demons. Nothing to mask my melancholy misery. Just full-on me, annoying and irritating myself, getting in my own face 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m holding on so far, but for how much longer… who knows 😦

Tipping Point

Most of the time, me and depression have a long-standing uneasy truce. I recognise it, respect its existence, but in general I try to keep my most erratic errant emotions in check using all the coping mechanisms and other psychological tricks of the trade I’ve learned over a lifetime of mental confusion and distress.

Mapped out mathematically, graphically on an x and y axis of up-and-down emotion to linear time, life for me to date has been a parabolic undulation of relative highs and lows in perpetuity, a never-ending oscillating sine wave of sentient surfing. And as with real surfing it’s all about maintaining balance, and when I do fall off, keeping my wits about me and my head above water for the duration.

So on the surface I go about life as normal as it can be, getting on, getting everyday things done quietly and slowly, not making a fuss or drawing attention to myself but looking the part. I enjoy these good times, when life feels easy and I’m on top of the world. But there’s inevitably a point where I feel myself start to wobble, when I feel myself having to fight frantically just to continue to keep myself upright.

This is my own personal tipping point in life. Sometimes I can manage successfully to right my balance and stabilise my sure footing all by myself – hoorah, misery averted! But at other times I know there’s no stopping my roller-coaster crashing descent into darkness, gulping and gasping for air in drowning desperation.

These days I find that once I’m falling, it’s easier if I stop fighting and flailing. I feel a rush of relief and release from all that steely tension, then nothing. I simply let my body go with the flow, let my mind drift, metaphorically hold my breath and trust in life on autopilot to take me back up to the surface again when the time is right.

I’m feeling the same thing right now, five weeks into lockdown limbo. I began it all as positively as I could in the circumstances, but right now am currently having a huge wobble. My head tells me sensibly this is where we need to be in life just now, but deep down my heart is silently screaming, pounding in panic and pained with antsy anxiety.

I feel myself once more tantalisingly close to my tipping point. I feel myself holding on tight, tense and taut, wavering and waiting to see which way it goes. For now it feels about fifty-fifty, on the absolute cusp, hanging precariously in the balance…

Weekly Prompt: Tipping Point

More Stagnant than Dormant

Of all of the many words I could use to describe my life at the moment, hectic is not one of them. Life for me, as for so many just now, is quiet, on hold, just waiting… too quiet, too much on hold, so that things feel more stagnant than dormant. The days are long, without any real pressure to do anything in particular but frustratingly are neither truly calm nor peaceful. To feel calm and peaceful I would need to be choosing to stay confined at home, choosing not to see my family or friends, choosing to restrict my favoured leisurely wandering and pondering to the recommended walking for exercise.

But then again I know I’m luckier than many: I do have beautiful places nearby to go for walks, I do have a lovely garden to spend time in, I do enjoy my own company and spending time doing my own thing. My husband is still going out to work, so we do still have some semblance of normal routine in all of this, and we also have each other which helps us feel a little less isolated. I can always find little moments of fleeting pleasure throughout the day, little rays of hope, but always behind the glint of sunshine hovers this ominous dark cloud of coronavirus, tainting whatever happiness I can find.

Right now I feel very much like I feel when depression seeps through me, chilling my bones – I carry on with everyday things as far as possible but half-heartedly, heavy-limbed. I find I’m simply going through the motions as best I can, trying to find meaning in my actions and struggling to silence the voice that whispers so seductively ‘What’s the point?’. So I practice telling myself what I tell myself when I feel lost in the midst of depression – just let it be, sit with it and see it though, take comfort in those little moments of sunshine and hold them close because you know that sooner or later the darkness will pass and life will feel better again…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Practice

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Hectic

Daydreamer

I’ve always been a daydreamer, mind dawdling along some long and winding path with my head in the clouds instead of focusing straight ahead with eyes-on-the-prize. My precious creativity comes from that wonderful wandering place of childlike curiosity, imperceptibly imaginative in its productive playfulness.

It’s one of the ways I know when I’m becoming depressed; I start to lose my idling internal vision, no more lingering within my mind’s eye, no more beautiful blending of chaotic colours as I paint my wistful world of hopes and dreams. Just darkening grey closed-in-ness as my inner light fades and lies dormant for a while.

So I just sit tight and wait it out, hibernate and hide for the duration, until the wonderful day dawns when I can find my wandering way again… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Daydream

Emotional Oblivion

Emotional Oblivion…

If only I could capture how it feels
Describe destructive passions as they rise
Record their tightening grip with strength so real
Write down in words my silent, strangled cries.

Such visceral sensations surge and fall
Emotion sickness, writhing hard and fast
Internally I cannot think at all
So overwhelmed by feelings, urgent, vast…

But then the raging storm inside runs still
And empty spirit, hollowed out, bereft
Of every sense and feeling, waits until
A germ of hope can heal whatever’s left.

For now with heavy heart and soulless sigh
Emotional oblivion creeps by…

The Power of Colour

‘Colour is a power which directly influences the soul’

Wassily Kandinsky

I wonder sometimes why I love being surrounded with colour so much, and frequently the answer that comes most often straight to mind is ‘Because your internal life is so grey’. I choose to colour my world in bright and strong and vibrant hues, almost proving a point to myself that yes, I can do colour, while inside I regularly feel nothing more than shrouded in a subdued, moody monochrome.

Depression does not provide a sunny-day-colour internal landscape, nor even allow for a veiled silvery sheen like muted moonlight in a clear night sky. Instead it smears my soul with thick, sticky mud, soaks my very fabric with foul, clouded misery until the sheer weight drags me down and I feel chilled to the bone, infused with a deadly damp that refuses to warm my sad, aching heart.

But I refuse to be beaten. And so I keep trying hard to bring colour to my life on the outside, in the hope that some of it may seep inward slightly, brightening the edges my dark dull mood…

One Liner Wednesday & JusJoJan 22

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Refuse

Escapist Colouring Club

Inflicting my Affliction

All my life I’ve struggled on and off with depression. My first blog was, in fact, an exercise in giving myself a voice, a way of talking openly about it, and to begin with it felt truly liberating. But all too soon feeling obliged to voice my pain so regularly became nothing more than a stressful chore and I yearned to choose silence again, so once my blog became a millstone around my neck I quietly withdrew, and that was that.

My second blog was an attempt to move beyond a depression-based narrative, but still I found I focused too much on my melancholic misery, so that blog, too, soon hit the buffers. My third blog was a deliberate move away from navel-gazing, focusing mainly on poetry and photography, but eventually that tack floundered too.

So here I am on my fourth blog, trying hard not to inflict my affliction on you all in my virtual world while still allowing for the ebb and flow of emotional floods and droughts. Here I try to keep my creative channels open as far as possible and avoid posting the worst of my laments and dirges, however low and down I feel.

Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t, so thank you all for sticking by me through my successes and my silences, it’s very much appreciated 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Inflict

Could Do Better…

I was due to attend a regular check-up appointment with my GP yesterday, to discuss the ongoing progress of my current depressive episode, and how I’m finding my medication this time around. Depression has been a recurring issue for me over my lifetime, so I’m used to these uncomfortable appointments and the kinds of difficult converations they require.

I told my GP I was feeling much better than last time we met, and he asked me how much better – if my first visit a couple of months ago had been scored at zero percent, and perfectly well again would be 100%, what percentage did I feel at right now? I thought about it, and answered quite honestly – about 50%. We had a frank chat about this and the upshot is my medication strength has been increased – apparently after this length of time on my current dose I would ideally be sitting at about 80-85%.

So I left with a new prescription and a seeping sinking feeling of failure, as if in spite of my best efforts I had just received a progress report saying ‘Could do better’… I went home and went straight to bed in tears, upset not to be improving more. But my husband hugged me close and reminded me that however disappointed I felt, what matters most is I’m voluntarily getting the help I need to get better again, whatever it takes.

And sure enough after yesterday’s misery the world looks a little brighter today. It may be a bitter pill for me to swallow but I took my required increase in medication without a fuss this morning and am just getting on quietly with getting myself better the best way I can… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Due