I Can Only Deal with One Disaster at a Time

Lockdown was not an especially difficult time for me.   Despite worrying – like the rest of the planet – about catching the wretched virus there was at least no question of how to spend the days.  Stay home.  Leave the house only once for exercise.  Buy food. Wash your hands – a lot.  Don’t travel. 

Wherever you lived on the globe it was pretty much the same story. We human beings who are so varied and unique in every way were suddenly doing the same things.   And when you think about it that itself is a remarkable thing? How many times in history has everyone on the planet been thinking and behaving the same?   If only we could put our global mind towards achieving peace.

So although yes there were new anxieties, at least some of the old boring anxieties, like having to achieve and go places were alleviated.   The birds revelled in their new visibility and importance, the aviation industry sulked. I almost look back on that time with nostalgia!

Predictably, it has been harder to cope since we have gained more freedom.   Back to making decisions not only about whether it is preferable to do this or that, but also whether it is safe to do this or that – so double decision making.   Trying to strike a balance between being brave enough to help but not reckless,  between supporting business and the economy by going out, but not taking unnecessary risks. 

This has been hard for me.     Unfortunately my poor tormented brain had got so used to a relatively unchallenging daily routine, that it went into hyperdrive as soon as lockdown eased and it was forced to make decisions again.   No, it screamed.  No decisionsLets go back to bed quick!

Now the simplest shopping expedition makes my brain race with panicky reaction, followed by a slump into exhaustion and depression.  I no longer trust myself even when feeling well – I think in the midst of my paranoia that my brain is tricking me into thinking I’m well so I’ll go and do something silly! 

Enough of this my brain says.  Where can I find some peace and quiet?  Oh for a life of ease! But my heart knows it is not to be.

The eminent philosopher and historian Simon Schama recently wrote in the FT that “this time of sickness and scoundrels will pass”.   He was referring of course to Covid-19 and… well, we know who he was referring to.   But those of us who live with mental health issues know that it is a daily battle –  not only coping with the news and all the stuff daily life throws at us, not only  with whatever our brains are currently doing … in my case careening about like some out of control fairground ride … but all this overlaid with a sense of inadequacy that comes of not being ‘normal’, dealing with that dialogue, internal and external, that bureaucrat, that boss, that job, the kids,  that constant fear of failure, of impending doom,  of being judged,   and then getting up the next day and doing it all again.

This is exhausting.  I know because I have been doing it all for years. 

As a friend of mine recently said to me, I can only deal with one disaster at a time.

But I’m still here.  So here is my tip for surviving it all.  

Are you ready for this? 

Keep going. No matter how tired you get, no matter what sort of day you’ve had,  even if you have to crawl from one room to another to get the day’s chores done, or wait for hours in a surgery somewhere to get help,  celebrate the fact that you successfully made it.  Make yourself an “I’ve done”  list rather than a to-do list.  If you achieved getting out of bed and washing a few dishes, so be it. If you painted half a doorframe, or returned a book to the library – assuming you can find one that is actually open –   it goes on the list.  If you thought up half a line of poetry and crossed it out again.  It goes on the list. Baked a cake? Sent an email?    Next time your boss yells or someone is rude to you, celebrate the fact that you have a nicer temperament than they do and hope for them to feel better soon.   That goes on the list too.

Don’t give up.  Don’t let your tired and stressed brain trick you into thinking you should.   It is the heart that is important.  This is not positive thinking. Living takes courage. Living with mental health takes even more.   Most of us get down and dejected by life of course we do.  The trick is not to be defeated. 

This will end. But what kind of ‘normality’ do we want back?

If you are a bird, an ozone layer or a panda in Hong Kong, this is a good time for you.  Not for the rest of us, especially those who spend their lives negotiating the river rapids of anxiety and depression.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In a few short weeks, the engines of capitalism have been brought to a shuddering halt and countries that spend billions on defence find themselves with their useless guns and fighter jets, defenceless against this invisible enemy.

Some of us here on the Bipolar Writer spend our lives in a form of lockdown – although probably a less extreme form than we are now experiencing.  At the same time, mental illness – for those that have never had to think about such things –  is becoming if not an issue at least a consideration, a bit like a threatening sea lapping around the good maintenance of a daily schedule.

Our helpful newspapers are full of suggestions about how to be, how to think and what to do during this period, bombarding us with articles on everything from recipes to try, cocktails to mix, books to read, exercise to take,  to how to maintain relationships over Zoom.   I’ve even seen one piece advising those working from home how they should dress appropriately for a zoom meeting!  Well I suppose it is important to someone somewhere that a white shirt is laundered and ironed, despite the gruesome toll of rampaging disease beyond our windows.

But beyond taking normal precautions to keep in good health and good spirits, what can we do? I can only reiterate what Her Majesty the Queen said a couple of days ago on national TV – echoing the wartime sentiments of Vera Lynn’s songs –  that we will be with our friends and families again.  We will meet again.  This will end.

We all long for a return to ‘normality’.  Yet what kind of normality do we want, or can we afford to go back to?  It may be time to have the courage to imagine something new for ourselves.

A normality in which so many people suffer from poverty, sickness and despair is not one to be treasured or returned to.

Author Arundhati Roy writes in the UK Financial Times (4th April 2020):

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew.  This one is no different.  It is a portal, a gateway, between one world and the next.

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies.  Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.  And ready to fight for it.”

 

 

We Mental Health Sufferers are a Resource Free Zone

I managed to get ill recently – this dreaded virus going around or something else who knows.

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In the UK it was impossible to get tested for Corvid 19 unless you’d just arrived from somewhere that had the virus or been in direct contact with someone else who had, but the fact that other people had just arrived from somewhere with the virus and you might have sat next to them on a train without anyone knowing doesn’t yet seem to have occurred to the powers that be.  So when they say there is only such and such a number of cases in the UK, actually what they mean is they haven’t got a clue.

I got better so does it matter?

Well, yes. To me it so does. It’s my body so I like to know what’s happening to it.  Self diagnosis is not something the medical profession encourages and certainly not self treatment for obvious reasons – but once there is a crisis then it seems our governments encourage self everything because there are no resources.   Suddenly it’s all DIY.

Or if there are resources decades of neoliberalism have decided who and where the resources shall be spent. And you can bet your bottom dollar or whichever currency you use that spending is not on public health. Or public anything.

This policy of telling everyone to go home and deal with it be may have come as a surprise to some, but not to us mental health sufferers because we recognize the scenario.

Corvid is an emergency and is being rightly treated as such. But there are other more slow burn emergencies being ignored. I believe mental health is one of them.

Anxiety and depression is its own virus. It’s not seen as contagious or a physical illness so it is not seen as a public health problem but a matter for the individual.   The WHO Action Plan on Mental Health terms mental health as non-communicable diseases and compared with Corvid I9 I suppose it is – but I don’t believe that because mental health is not a virus that means it is non communicable. If anxiety did not communicate itself there would be no such thing as panic buying. The stock market would not have crashed.

The unconscious registers things that the rest of our bodies are not aware of, and goes into fight or flight mode.  We get jammed into a hyperactive state frantically trying to pedal our bikes away from the worrying back wheel, to arrive nearer the more reassuring front wheel. Yet 5000 miles later we are unsurprisingly exhausted and nothing has changed.  This is the way millions of people live.

Its only when the power structures that hold up our economies are themselves threatened does something get termed an emergency and so resources are allocated.

We mental health sufferers are a resource free zone.

All over the world millions of people are not getting the attention they need,  not getting the diagnoses they need, or the medicines. That affects global work output and costs a global fortune. And there are many costs attached to poor health that are unrelated solely to finance. It’s a crisis waiting to happen.

Looking for gold veins in black granite

How is it best to be, think, or feel,  when we are threatened by darkness, whether from external factors or whether in our own minds?  I think this is a question which concerns a lot of people now.  We look around and things are difficult, there is suffering everywhere, terrible ecological anxieties, political upheavals.    It’s easy to feel disconnected,  overwhelmed and hopeless.   Many of the support mechanisms that would have been available to more connected societies in the past – for example in the form of extended families – are no longer available to us.

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As we live in increasingly dysfunctional and disconnected societies.  We look for something to pin our hopes on, try to obliterate the stress we feel with our busy-ness.  We turn perhaps to self-help manuals, books about meditation or veganism, make New Year resolutions, go to the gym,  write more, work harder, party harder,  rush around keeping busy trying to blank things out.

Hands up if you’ve been there.

I don’t mean to imply there’s anything wrong with yoga etc but I’m not sure if these things on their own can combat the kinds of stresses we are struggling with in modern societies.

The term ‘stress’ itself originally comes from physics and refers to the deformation of a body that has been subjected to external forces.  We talk about stress testing metals for car bodies.  We do not talk about stress testing ourselves, torn as we are between our own excessive expectations and feelings of powerlessness.    But just as some metals bear up under stress differently, so do people.  We are not all the same.

We need to hang on to our dreams and we need to hang on to hope.

Elie Wiesel who won the Nobel Peace prize 1986 said in his acceptance speech:

“Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future. Does this mean that our future can be built on a rejection of the past? Surely such a choice is not necessary. The two are not incompatible. The opposite of the past is not the future but the absence of future; the opposite of the future is not the past but the absence of past. The loss of one is equivalent to the sacrifice of the other.”

(https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1986/wiesel-lecture.html)

Wiesel was of course talking about a very specific past, the holocaust.

But how much suffering stems from past mistakes, problems, agonies, losses.  We should not forget them, not even try.  But sometimes forgetting seems like the only possible solution.  How to cope with stress without resorting to harmful thought patterns and behaviours like blotting out activities?  This I believe is one of the great challenges of our times.   How to build a future that is not built on a rejection of the past?    And though, yes, Wiesel was speaking at a societal level, what are societies but gatherings of individual people?

His speech continues with a personal memory:

“A recollection. The time: After the war. The place: Paris. A young man struggles to readjust to life. His mother, his father, his small sister are gone. He is alone. On the verge of despair. And yet he does not give up. On the contrary, he strives to find a place among the living. He acquires a new language. He makes a few friends who, like himself, believe that the memory of evil will serve as a shield against evil; that the memory of death will serve as a shield against death.”

In the reading I have done around this subject, two  factors have emerged as important in maintaining hope in the future.  Those two factors are keeping our eyes fixed on our own goals, and offering support to others.   Self and others, the banner of a connected humanity.

Hope as Daisaku Ikeda says, is a decision.

“Hans Selye. Who pioneered the field of stress research offered the following advice based on his own experience of battling cancer:  first, establish and maintain your own goals in life.  Second, live so that we are necessary to others – such a way of life is ultimately beneficial to yourself.”

(Hope is a Decision, EG Press, 2017)

What Selye describes is what we call empathy.  I think I am right in saying that of the major world religions, all place emphasis on empathy.  Whether you subscribe to a faith or not, this is the gold vein in all that black granite of our suffering.

This doesn’t always feel logical or even possible.  When we are suffering we want to curl up and lick our own wounds not be worrying about someone else’s.   Nevertheless.

“The Buddhist sutras contain this well known parable:  One day, Shakyamuni Buddha was approached by a woman wracked by grief at the loss of her child.  She begged him to bring her baby back to life. Shakyamuni comforted her and offered to prepare medicine that would revive her child.  To make this, he would need a mustard seed he said, which he instructed her to find in a nearby village.  This mustard seed however would have to come from a home that had never experienced the death of a family member.

The woman searched from house to house but nowhere could she find a home that had never known death.  As she continued her quest, the woman accepted that her child had died and began to realise her suffering was something shared by all people.  She returned to Shakyamuni determined not to be overwhelmed by grief.”

( Daisaku Ikeda, Hope is a Decision, 2017)

We do not carry the burden of our grief alone.   This is a good time to remember that.

Sources

Hope is a Decision: Selected Essays of Daisaku Ikeda Eternal Ganges Press, 2017

Elie Wiesel Nobel Lecture December 11, 1986

Do you ever have a normal day?

Has anyone  ever seen the film I Robot starring Will Smith? It’s based on a story by Isaac Asimov.  Smith plays his  typical action man role with misbehaving robots added.  The ultimate premise of the tale is how does one keep humanity safe – not from sci-fi’s ubiquitous invading aliens, no not even killer robots which someone has to program  – but from itself?   There is a line in the film where a scientist says to Will Smith’s character,  Do you ever have a normal day?  He replies: I did once.

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That is how it feels to be a mental health sufferer.  If you have a normal day you remember it. I shall remember November 18th for that reason because I got three quarters of the way through it before thinking.  Why don’t I feel ill, exhausted, depressed, agitated, fed up, sick?  Perm any one from five thousand, you know how it is.

I’m hoping I can keep this up, this whatever passes for the new normality. Not because I have to save humanity from awry robots, but just so as I can be and do the things I normally want to be and do without it being quite so much effort.

I am writing again which is good news, going out more, protesting about iniquitous politicians and am generally much busier than I was, in a good way of course.  Still it’s necessary to watch the business thing (or ‘busy-ness’ thing) because that can lead back down to the vortex.  But so can sitting about doing nothing I guess.  The trick is  as always  to find a balance.   Sometimes I work 24/7 to save myself from staring down the black hole.

When I get very busy I can feel my brain speeding up telling me now this needs doing, now this, now this, now this!! I start to panic at the overwhelming amount of stuff that I need to get done – and without Will Smith or robotic assistance, there is sadly only me to do it.  This is not helped by the internet and constant online-ness of everything but I do not think that has been the cause.  I have always tried to outrun father time, but he just shakes his head sadly behind my shoulder.

The fragility of being a mere human being.   I’ve been told that this kind of  thinking is a result of lack of confidence – that people who lack confidence in themselves feel that nothing they achieve could ever be enough so they drive on and on and wear themselves to a raveling.  Well I’m no psych person but it sounds logical to me and certainly reflects my life tendencies. The fear inside, the need for an unattainable perfection.  Setting small daily goals helps because it’s valuable to concentrate on what has been achieved rather that thinking of the distance still to run.

But this is how I see it.  I’ve been given my brain and if it works or if it doesn’t work it’s mine to cope with.  But also it’s mine to use to the best of my ability.  I read somewhere that the average human being (that’s pretty much most of us except for Stephen Hawking RIP and a few others) uses only around 30%  of his/her potential brain power.  Imagine that!  Only one-third. We’ve still got two-thirds to go guys – and there’s a planet to save.

Firefighting under the Sun

I  was lucky to be able to take a holiday recently – not everyone is able to afford either the time or the money but on this occasion I could, and I did.   It was a much needed break.    It felt like the longest time since I’d taken the sort of holiday which is a real rest; a  nothing much to do and nowhere much to be sort of holiday.   Usually, if I’m away from home,  I feel compelled to do worthy things like visit museums and architectural sites,  but not this time.

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Mood swings and sadness should not be part of a holiday.   One feels that they should be put in a box and labelled “deal with this some other time because I’m on holiday now”.

But sadly, they still show up, those old mood swings.  Or should I say they still showed up and down,  despite the lovely views, the sunny weather and nice relaxing time we were having.   My appetite diminished to zero just when we were surrounded by lovely healthy fish and feast style food.

Eating nice food is usually part of a holiday.    I find restaurants very difficult – it’s a first world problem I know – but I simply can’t face the amount of food they tend to offer.  A restaurant’s idea of a main course is my idea of a week’s food. Then the waiters look crestfallen when you don’t finish their food and ask anxiously what was wrong with it which makes me feel guilty because there wasn’t anything wrong with the food I try to explain, it’s just me.

It’s hard to do nothing in this modern world.  We are confronted 24 hours a day by a million images of the things some advertiser feels we should be doing (ie buying) or achieving (ie buying).   However many yoga classes we go to or deep breathing exercises we do, however much we like to feel ourselves immune, it is almost impossible not to be affected by some of those images and ideas.  From being bombarded by all the supposed things we should be doing, the ways we should supposedly be looking,  and the supposed things we should be achieving it’s easy to feel not good enough in some way.  Throw in a few health, work, money and relationship worries which most of us suffer from in some shape or form and hey presto!

After that  it’s a short step from to anxiety and depression.  Although of course not everyone succumbs but stress affects people in different ways.   No, not everyone succumbs to depression and that can add to the problem, it  can feel like another failure.    We should be stronger, wiser, get over ourselves more, think of others less fortunate, pull ourselves together!  Although I have no medical knowledge I believe that there are a number of factors which cause pre-disposition to depression and perhaps even bipolar but because these are not looked for in health checks, it is unsurprising that they are not found.  Once the disease is present, it’s a firefight.

I wonder how much depression is caused by or started by poor self image?  In my own case I am convinced this is part of the problem. Low self esteem and low self confidence. I suppose the second follows on from the first.  I know I should have a positive self image and this would certainly help in some ways but thinking I’m great is not something that has ever come easily to me – I’m afraid ageing hasn’t improved that!

Also I have to remember that if I had been diagnosed with a blood disorder (I haven’t) no-one would suggest that I should pull myself together.  I apologise if I’ve said this before – which I have on this blog somewhere – but I do feel strongly that there is still a long long way to go before recognition of mental illness gets the same attention from within health services as does recognition of the physical illness from which people suffer.     The difficulty comes when those two things are treated as entirely separate.  They are not and never can be.  It is all part of the same organism – the same being – the same person.

Everyone has their own mission.  Everyone has their own unique individuality and talents to create value on our beautiful blue planet.   The trick is to remember it, and keep remembering it even on days when our internal barometer is pointing to storms.  Perhaps especially on those days.

You are all amazing.  Take a holiday now and again.  Try and eat some delicious food.  Nibble fruit.  Find a book, curl up.  Believe.

A life in three halves

I apologise for the lack of recent posts.  A combination of overwork, overstress and … well, you know.   I don’t need to say because everyone on this site knows.

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I love this image it feels like a perfect reflection of my current state of mind – half mad half elated, half depressed.   A life in three halves.

I recently went – or rather than use the mundane word ‘went’– I would say I recently crawled to my GP, feeling so ill that it seemed nothing short of a miracle to me that I got there and was able to negotiate the stairs, sit in a chair opposite this clipped, professional person and string a few sentences together that may or may not have made sense.  When in my 8 minute allotted window of GP time I tried to explain I thought I was suffering from stress (haha, who am I kidding).     I was met with the reply ‘do you have much stress in your life?’

Perhaps the inference was ‘you’re not a GP and if you were a GP you would know the meaning of the word stress.’

Next please.

Sometimes I worry less about stress than I do about losing the plot completely.  I worry that I’ll end up like poor Bertha Mason striding up and down Mr. Rochester’s attic and I really hope not because that didn’t end well for anyone.  Well, Jane Eyre perhaps.

Anyway I have succeeded in drafting out a novel so not all is disaster.  Not all is disaster all of the time.  And carrying on the books theme because books are mostly my life when I get depressed.  Also when I don’t.    I would like to point folks in the direction of this amazing work by Vietnamese American writer Ocean Vuong  called On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous(Jonathan Cape, 2019).  He has amazing thing to say about bipolar disorder in this letter to his mother:

It’s the chemicals in our brains, they say, I got the wrong chemicals Ma. Or rather I don’t get enough of one or the other. They have a pill for it.  They have an industry.  They make millions.  Did you know people get rich off of sadness?  I want to meet the millionaire of American sadness.  I want to look him in the eye, shake his hand and say, “It’s been an honor to serve my country.”

The thing is I don’t want my sadness to be othered from me just as I don’t want my happiness to be othered.  They’re both mine.  I made them dammit.  What if the elation I feel is not another “bipolar episode” but something I fought hard for?

I don’t know whether the author suffers from this disorder or not, or whether he takes medication or not.  I’m not quoting this to come down on one side or another of the medication argument, but everything he writes is so beautiful and feels true to me so I thought I would share it.

Sometimes I agree that any sense of elation is something to be fought for – even though we are inclined to think we’re not supposed to experience that because there is a depressive episode coming.  Who knows?  Not the GP obviously.

Loneliness: the 21st century epidemic

I was listening to the radio this morning when the commentator – talking about violinist Nigel Kennedy – said that the latter despite having a vibrant career in classical music and being the first violinist to acquire almost popstar status – had no computer, didn’t own one and was reported to have said that he saw no benefit from them to people’s lives.

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What do others think of this?  I am inclined to agree in some ways.  How have computers helped us with all the profound problems that humanity faces. Despite our reliance on them – have they really made a single thing better?  Is researching a book on the internet better than having to go to a library? Almost certainly not yet I suspect many of us now work that way.    Do computers help us as mental health sufferers or make everything worse?      Do they even partially cause some of the problems from which we suffer?

We are all (hopefully) gathered here today on this blogpost that I am writing and you are reading, and another tomorrow that you will be writing and I will be reading, and that itself is a huge benefit.  It’s good to share as someone said once on some ad.   But there were support groups long before the internet.  They tended to be local which is a good thing too for people feeling isolated.    Feeling isolated is a symptom of depression anyway but do we treat our computers as comfort blankets when the connections they appear to offer are illusory?  Or are these connections merely digitised versions of what we used to call ‘pen pals’.

Interestingly I tried to write a letter – I mean a proper handwritten one – the other day and struggled with it.  I found I had to compose a draft of the letter on screen and then write it out by hand. Yet when I first started using a computer back in the 80s it was completely the other way around.  I had to compose by hand and then type up the result. This shows the extent of brain rewiring that has gone on in a short space of time.  What else is there that we do not know about?  In the tiny space of thirty years or so computers and the net have come to dominate every aspect of our lives and yet research on how they have affected us physically and mentally is very much in its infancy.

Loneliness is becoming a 21stcentury epidemic.  How big a part does the internet and social media in this?  Also it could be said that the use to which people put technology is down to us.  Technology is neutral.  It cannot think or feel the way that humans can.  Algorithms know millions of things but they will only know millions of things based on mathematical probability.   Deep Blue may have beaten Gary Kasparov years back, but it couldn’t respond to a sunset.   Technology has no philosophy and no sentience.   It is deeply and implacably dangerous in the wrong hands.

I don’t really have any answers but would be interested to hear what others think.

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We warriors need a bit of time out …

May has come and gone and here is June.  It’s been a few weeks since I posted on here.  Things have been going quite well and I’m grateful.  We all need a break from worrying about how we feel so its lovely not to have to for this window of peace.   I’m keeping up with my exercise programme which is easier in the Summer when the mornings are light and sunny.

When I feel well my thoughts turn to writing.  Just as,  I suppose,  my thoughts also turn to writing when I don’t feel well but in this latter case it is much harder to engage with the process.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I suppose what I mean is that writing about victory over  struggle is more interesting than writing about a nice day when nothing much happens,  although I am so glad to have a few days of calm when nothing much happens and I suspect I’m not alone!

I recently took part in a mental health focus group where the discussion ranged over many topics including: ‘What do we mean by mental health?’ and safeguarding for organisations. It was an interesting experience but it struck me that we were trying to discuss how to handle ‘mental illness’ ie in the safeguarding aspect,  when we had not even agreed on what we meant by mental health.   This is not unlike trying to measure the distance of a course run by a runner,  when you have no idea where and when he or she started the course.

This focus group consisted of non experts in the medical sense but most of us had either personally suffered or had experience of living with mental illness which in my view is about as expert as it gets.    If I went to a Doctor for treatment I don’t think I would really want one that had not the slightest idea of the reality that I mostly live with, although it seems to my limited experience that this is often the case.  On the other hand no -one wants to be treated by someone who is so depressed they can’t think straight.

I’m not sure what the answer is.  If I go to a Doctor with a broken arm I don’t expect the person treating me to have personally broken a limb in order to qualify to set my arm in a cast! Hopefully, the experience of setting other arms in casts is enough.  But that is not the case with mental health because everyone’s experience is different and because there are not always visible symptoms or a known healing sequence: X-ray;  broken bone; plaster cast; bone sets; move on.

We wish.   I’m sure there are plenty of definitions and diagnoses and learned tomes out there as well as empirical evidence.  But how woefully little is still known about this aspect of human health.

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Colours of a limited palette

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It’s been a difficult time again.  A ‘low period’ as various healthcare professional like to call it – don’t you just love the power of understatement.  What a ‘low period’ means for me is a blackness – I heard someone on TV the other day calling depression a blackness and there is simply no other colour that will do.   Red is angry. Grey, black and washed out are the colours we have in our limited palette to describe something that is hard to describe, a situation where there seems nothing to hope for.  But also it is a time when the physical act of placing one foot in front of the other acquires a level of difficulty that leaves me in awe of others who seem able to do it.

Interestingly I heard on the radio this morning an item about the lamentable under-diagnoses of PTSD available to members of the police forces. Some of the symptoms described were nightmares,  a sense of isolation, and irritability.  I have all those in spades so maybe?    Being currently anti-google I looked ‘depression’ up in a dictionary (remember those) and found: the action of pressing down, or fact of being pressed down; the action of lowering or process of sinking, the condition of being lowered.

When I am in a depression I am in a condition of being lowered into a pit somewhere where it does not seem worth the effort of crawling out.  Whereas ‘depressive’ is described as  tending to press or force down.   This is not a medical dictionary.  It is just the Shorter Oxford that I had had on my bookshelf left over from the time when people still used dictionaries and wiki wasn’t born or thought of.

This simple act of looking brought up a very interesting distinction.   Whereas ‘depression’ is an action described as happening from the outside upon the object (that’s me); for the definition of  ‘depressive’ it appears that the object (that’s me again) is itself the force that is doing the tending, or the pressing down.    Is this just a formal reiteration of the tired old clichés like ‘pull yourself together’?  The very thought makes the mind boggle. Just words, but words matter don’t they? Language is all we have to make sense of what happens to us both from the outside and the inside and sometimes even that isn’t enough.

Bear with me for a few more sentences I am about to say something a little more upbeat!  In my dictionary I find something else.   For we know that depression can mean a dip in the land. But  did you know that it is also a term in astronomy meaning the angular distance of a star below the horizon; the angular distance of the visible horizon below the true horizontal plane?   I find I like these definitions better.    I can cope with being a star beneath the horizon.

Also the star shines out in an infinite blackness, does it not?

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