This is not sadness

black and white image of woman walking up stairs

Photo by Nic Low on Unsplash

The words ‘depressed’ and ‘depression’ get used too much. And at the same time not enough. Mental health is still not talked about enough, the support provided is still not enough and the understanding from society is still not enough.

These words though have been accepted better than any person with a mental illness. They have become part of our everyday language, become something less than what these words truly stand for.

People use them for when they are sad.

Depression is not sadness.

It does not go away after a good night’s sleep. You cannot make it disappear by ‘thinking positive or happy thoughts’. It is not a choice or someone just being miserable. It is not the feeling when your football team is not doing well or there is not enough money to go out for the night. It is not solved by ice cream, a big engulfing hug or the smiles of friends.

It is not sadness.

It will not simply go away tomorrow. It is bone crushing weight. A low that never leaves. Something that saps all things happy, positive or worthwhile out of you. It is emptiness. It is bleakness. It is despair. It is wondering whether you will ever feel that lightness in your body again. If you will wake up in the morning without that weight deep inside. It is loneliness. It is not being alone. It is not caring enough or seeing the point in bothering. It is questioning everything in your life. It is wanting to be out of your own skin. It is desperately seeking something, someone that will save you from feeling like this.

It is not an emotion. It is an illness.

Be careful using these words. Don’t take away from the weight they carry.

Everyone gets sad.

This is not sadness.

 

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And we change.

Boots on slatted wooden bridge

Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

We feel as if we stay the same. Yet we change. We change all the time. Often in little ways. Changes so small they pass unnoticed. Life is change. 

Sometimes the change is so big, it blindsides us. Makes us question who we are, have been and will be. Rocks us to our very core, shattering and knocking us off balance.

We change.

Sometimes behind a big change lies a big reason. A big loss be it death, heartbreak, work or any other of the multitude of ways in which loss makes its presence in our lives. Forcing us to revaluate, rebuild, renew.

And we change.

Sometimes it is the little things that do us in. We are undone in the whisper of a moment. The lyrics of a song, a scene in a film, a spoken conversation about nothing and everything, a caught glimpse, a stray thought. We may not even know it at the time. Until we unravel.

And we change.

Sometimes the answer for what or why is unknown. It just happens.

The question is – what are we going to do about it?

September Earworms

blue headphones on grassWriting this little post about earworms made me think about the songs that burrow into my head. Why they get there. What they give me. So in my head popped the idea of making a regular note of them. To share with you what tunes have enveloped me, burrowed into my bones and got me tapping my toes.

So I’m gonna try doing a ‘here’s my monthly earworms’ type of thing.

Until I or you get bored.

‘Back to December’ by Taylor Swift – remains my go to sleep song. I often read late into the night at the moment unable to consider sleeping until weariness sluggishly moves through me. Even then on turning out the light, my mind clicks into overdrive and sleep starts to flee. This song stops that virtually every single time.

‘Dancing with Myself’ by Billy Idol – an 80’s classic (in my oh so humble opinion) that nudged its way into my head after seeing it mentioned in a fanfiction I was reading. It set my toes a tapping for a few days and continues to have a little blast from time to time.

‘I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You‘ by Black Kids – No reason behind this one I think other than it is one of favourite tunes to have a little groove to and puts a happy little smile on my face. I heard it on my Ipod. It stayed in my head.

‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perri –  Another one of those heard-it-on-something-and-now-it won’t-leave-me-alone type of songs. Pops in and out of my head a little. Don’t think it will be a stayer.

‘There Was a Man of Double Deed’ – another example of the odd earworms my mind seems to delight in. I binge watched every single episode of The Fall recently leaving me with hearing Paul Spector reciting this poem in my head over and over again. Odd, disturbing, delivered with evil intent. It echoes round my head from time to time seeming to ground me in a way I cannot explain.

Tom Hickox – still remains wound into the fibres of my body. His music and voice often accompanies me on my walks. So I hear his stuff pretty often in my head. It can be any one of his songs though my utter favourite ‘Out of the Warzone’ is a frequent visitor as is the heartbreakingly tender ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’. My continuing obsession with his music has probably left less time for my more random earworms this month.

So that was September’s hits –  wonder what October will bring (gods! how are we in October already…)

 

Walking the black dog

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Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

I have started walking. Almost every day. I pull on my boots and head out the door. Almost in any weather.

It takes much more determination than a simple walk really ought to. As much as every sinew in my body pulls me to stay where I am, as much as my mind says ‘what is the point in doing anything’, some part of me digs deep and gets putting one foot in front of the other.

Why give so much effort?

Why do I walk?

I do it because I need to. Because otherwise I would sit here day after day never leaving these walls around me. Because I have more walls around me than the stone ones of my house. Because I need to escape.

Read about dealing with depression or anxiety and you will see exercise mentioned as a-good-thing-to-do. And it does work. It connects me to the world outside. Reminds me that there is more than the narrowed existence in my head. The world breathes with me and I with it. I live. I move. Ideas pop and songs repeat in my head.

And it does work.

Until it doesn’t

I seek escape yet my feet tread the same path over and over again. Taking me back to where I started. Nothing has changed. I walk and I want to keep walking almost as if I feel that I can out walk myself. But I can’t. What troubles me is not within the walls of my house, it is within my own walls.

I walk and the black dog walks with me.

Getting the words out

I need a blog post.

I need to write.

I have ideas in my head, scribbled down on what is to hand when the thoughts occur. Yet I am stuck. Again. The words are there, I can feel them. Thrumming away under my skin in a need-to-get-out-but-I-don’t-know-how kinda way.

Where does this come from? This need to write. I suppose words on paper, on screen, have always been my way of communicating.

Ask me to speak to someone and words flee from me like I have asked them to face their worst fears. I stutter, stumble over my words. Spending my time in my head overthinking every word I say. Wondering why I cannot be more interesting, more funny, more full of words.

Written down though it feels like my words come alive. Like I can actually get out the me that lives inside. The one that needs to speak. The one that usually hides because it is too shy, too scared, too doubtful.

It is the one thing that I have always felt I can do. That deep down I know I am good at even if the doubter in me sometimes disagrees.

I am always telling people with mental health issues to talk to someone, to share what they are going through. Yet I know how difficult this feels to do. I know that feeling far too well. The fear of what the reaction might be, the worry that you will lay yourself bare only to be let down or rejected, the knowledge that no one can fix you. The impossibility of putting it into words.

This is only part of what stops me talking to others. I find when I try to speak about how I feel that the words simply don’t come out right. That what I say fails time and time. That I can’t get out of me what it really feels like to be me. That I end either saying nothing or only scratch the surface. Passing off how I am really feeling as something much more superficial.

I can’t do that with writing.

I have to be honest. I type without pause, without censor. I am honest even if sometimes it feels brutal. I can ‘speak’ this way because no one is watching, I am not watching them. People can read or not read. They can respond if they want or they can ignore it and carry on as they were. I don’t feel the rejection and the words in the end always come out.  

Appearances can be deceptive

 

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Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

 

I catch that look in their eyes. The disbelief as they register what I have said to them. I know to look for it.

I have seen it many times before.

You see I hide it well. The face I present to the world is not always how I feel. It rarely is. The bone aching tiredness, bleakness and emotions that live within me are not easy to share. It is easier to hide them away. To pretend that everything is okay. That my world is not falling apart around me. That I can’t breathe sometimes because of what the anxiety is doing to me.

That sometimes the depression overwhelms and sometimes it empties me of everything.

This is not something I do because I want it to appear like I have an awesome life. I fill up my Instagram and Facebook feed with happy things because it is easier. Because I don’t want to make people worry, feel awkward, walk away from me. Because I find it difficult to talk, to share.

And because sometimes I need reminding that I do have good things in my life.

From the outside I can see how it must look like I am okay, that I am happy with life. After all I get up every day. I shower, I brush my teeth. I talk to people and I go out. I laugh, I smile.

You don’t see me when I’m alone.

You don’t see is the effort it costs me. How I have to build myself up to do it all. How I have a social ‘hangover’ from spending time with people. How it drains me. The pretence of enjoyment when all I want is a quiet corner to myself. How I hide away in toilets sometimes steeling myself to rejoin the people outside. The physical need to be alone.

I still function.

Some days though that is all I can do. And it takes everything I have. Sometimes simply functioning exhausts me. Sometimes I can only do it because I feel I have to. Because not doing it is sometimes so inviting it scares me. Because I don’t want people to worry.

So yes I understand why I see that look in people’s eyes when I tell them I have anxiety and depression. I understand why people find it strange when I tell them I am struggling. I understand how I act around others makes it difficult to see. I can’t blame people for not seeing it when I do such a good job at acting like everything is okay.

High functioning anxiety and depression is cruel. No one can see what is going on. Unless you tell them. So if someone does tell you that they are struggling, try to control that reaction. You have no idea how much it has cost them to say that to you.

And don’t then slip back to believing them when they take up the role again that everything is okay.

When it slips away

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I woke up this morning, dragged myself out of my cosy camper bed, to sit out in the cold, because I felt the urgent pulling need for a sit on my own.

A sit to write in.

And now I am here.

I don’t know what needs to come out. Something does. I can feel it. Pushing out against my skin, put pressure on every single atom of me. There is an urge so strong that I am sitting here writing frantically, desperately trying to drag it out of me.

What is it? What am I trying to say? What needs to come out?

I can feel it slipping away, dissipating inside me as I watch birds flit over the Scottish fell.

* I wrote this last week whilst camping in Scotland. It kinda captures the pull of writing, the pull of being on my own. And the agony when the writing slips away *