Tuesday, 15 March 2011

State of Mind

Tuesday 8th March 2011

Just over a week ago, on a gloomy Monday, I felt as fragile as a glass bauble hanging too close to the end of a Christmas tree branch. My heart felt swollen and about to explode and every aspect of my life was overwhelming me. My spirit and will to go on was as low as in the worst days of my depression and the only constructive thing I could do was sob uncontrollably. Today could not be more different. It is a stunning day outside: the sun is out, the garden filled with light and shadow and the air is alive with birdsong. Three chickens, two pheasants and a squirrel are going about their business on the lawn. The atmosphere is one of hope and joy. I have just come off the phone to my parents and learnt the glad news that my father does not apparently have the myeloma that a recent blood test and prolonged lower back problems had possibly suggested and there was a whole new lightness in his voice after weeks of introspection. He is 83 this year. I realise all over again the comfort that my parents bring. We do not see eachother often, they being down the southern end of the country - a fact that bothers me greatly now they are in their later years and given we have the only grandchildren; but when I learned that my mother is going to a meeting about doing the Easter flowers in church this afternoon and that she has been out weeding the rockery, and when my father signed off saying they were about to have their cup of coffee, I was infused with a sense of wellbeing. They were continuing their lives, busying themselves with inconsequential domestic and community tasks. Is this not really what it is all about?

Last Monday, a grey damp lifeless day, that sense of wellbeing was utterly absent. It is the surest sign of depression when you feel like that - not fleetingly, no, but when the feeling simply will not go away, whatever the weather is doing, whatever you are doing and when you can find nothing that will bring even small crumbs of comfort. When you are well, you can find comfort in a cup of tea and a biscuit, a chat with a friend, in cooking supper or sometimes, gasp, in doing the laundry. It is about feeling on top of things, feeling there is a point and a purpose to it all; feeling you have a future and there are things in it to look forward to.

State of mind is a curious thing. Is it a subtle set of chemical balances in the human brain or is it the state of your soul? The truth has to be a mixture of the two as, surely, they are inextricably linked. I know that when I was so severely depressed over so many years, it was due to exhaustion and defeat: the seratonin (the 'feel good' chemical) in my brain had reached such low levels that my own body was no longer able to reproduce it. The way I always describe this is to use the petrol tank analogy from a motor bike: you have the main tank and a reserve tank. If the main tank is dry, you switch to reserve. But if you let that run dry then the machine stops functioning. Your body cannot then reproduce seratonin by itself - and that is when you have to have it artificially replenished with drugs. There should be no shame in this. It is a simple fact.

But I will not go on with this today as we will begin to wade through dark waters and it is too beautiful a day to do that, and my mood is too good for me to want to destroy it. I will go out into my garden and join with the forces of nature. I will listen to the birdsong and see the new shoots of life emerging. I will smell the soil and the air and revel in the continuing cycle of life in all its emerging beauty.


Pondside said...

I'm glad that it has passed for now. I've come to know that days like this can come out of nowhere and will pass if I can just let the bleakness wash over and past.
I too have parents in their 80's and what you wrote about your feeling of satisfaction at the knowledge that they are going about their still-busy lives mirrors what I feel.
Good post today - thank you.

Deanna said...

Sorry to hear that you were having such a tough time. Hoping things continue to look up for you. Beautiful photo. :)

Mark said...

Good, but take care.

I think self awareness is the most important tool in managing depression and anxiety - like a red light warning you when you're approaching the reserve tank.

Last week I glimpsed a rosy bullfinch as I was out cycling - in that single moment I felt Spring had arrived.

Exmoorjane said...

Oh dear heart...last week was very very strange. I swear there was some cosmic something going on. And, as for your question, I think that sometimes it is chemical but sometimes it is soul sickness...
But I am very very glad that you're brighter now than then...you know I share this particular battle... Janexxxxx

mum in meltdown said...

Hoping you start to feel better soon. It seems its been a long winter and when you feel as bad as you do it's hard to focus on what is good in your life. Here's hoping for some sunshine and a well needed lift in your mood.

toady said...

As Jane says there was something going on last week!! I've been pretty down again all year and the Doc has doubled up my dose. Just feel I need a kick start. Probably be bouncing off the walls by this time next week.

Milla said...

yeah, last week WAS bad. I thought it was because I'd had a birthday the week before and being Bloody Old was sinking in (but without presents to ameliorate things).
You and me, we're clever with nowhere to put our brains. That's our problem!

elizabethm said...

Mine was the week before last week. Not a chemical depression but just a profound sense of running on empty after all the last few months has thrown at us. I am lucky in that I was able to find ways to look after myself. I am very aware that this is not the case for everyone. And now my daffodils are out and everything looks brighter. Hope it continues to do so for you too.


Thanks everyone for your comments - really great :-).

I think I can broadly reply to you all together as you all said very similar things. Certainly many people have told me subsequently that the last couple of weeks have been odd. I find comfort in that. Maybe it is not therefore just chemicals and soul - but universe too. Strange forces. Moons. Planets. Gravitational pulls. We should ask Professor Brian Cox!

Pondie - wise words indeed :-).

Milla - great to see you dropped by and made me laugh as usual! Belated happy birthday - sorry it escaped my notice on F/B. Tsk, tsk.

Deanna - thank you :-)

Mark - you are spot on. I've learnt to see the signs and head them off. Usually works, but just occasionally it doesn't and, as Pondside says, I usually wake up the next day feeling much better again. Rest and sleep are paramount.

Jane - lovely to hear from you! You're right about the cosmic stuff I think. Hope you're not suffering at the mo. xxxxx

Mum in Meltdown - hello and thank you :-). You are right, sunshine makes a HUGE difference. It adds all the necessary contrasts to make the world come to life.

Toady - thank you too for popping by and I'm sorry to hear you've been having a rough time. Do hope the Doc's dosage has helped...

Hi Elizabeth - your 'down-ness' sounds like mine and knowing ways to look after yourself is so vital. Glad you got through it and roll on Spring :-).

Ireland said...

All I want to say is, yes! Yes! Yes! Youre so right. I want to get behind this so much.

Nutty Gnome said...

So much of what you wrote today struck a chord with me. I too have had depression and regonise when it's trying to creep up on me again - hence why I left my job in the NHS (that alone is enough to give anyone depression!).

I still have low days and off days, but I know they will pass ...and I also have really happy days when I'm working away in the garden, the sun is shining,the birds are singing and all is right with the world .....perhaps I'm just a menopausal old bag at the moment?!

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