Monday, 19 August 2013

The Depressive Patchwork (or, the road back)

I'm a bit loathed to write this one - largely because when talking about personal issues I tend to think it's a slippery slope and you only realise where you are when you're doing a Liz Jones. I also do it with trepidation because people read my blog for a whole host of different reasons - some because they live near me, some because we're in the same political party and some because they were looking for funny pictures of cats and got sidetracked an hour ago. Either way, if I do start doing a Liz and telling you far more than you want to know, just holler at your boy.

PROOF - Sam Phripp. Quite good company
on a night out. 
My psychology teacher once said that psychology was like six people touching an elephant and describing what they felt. The idea being that each of them feels something different and nobody understands the whole. In a sense, that's how I'm starting to feel about depression.

Like most other people, I didn't wake up one day and think 'Jesus, I'm depressed' - it was far more gradual.

To start with, I'm not a depressive person. Even now, if you saw me in the street, I'd be just as LOL as I've ever been. I can still be funny, and I think I'm still quite good company on a night out. I didn't even recognise the hallmarks of depression either, which is difficult. Nowadays I'm learning to. Way back when, I didn't even notice that I was laughing at things but not actually connecting with what funny felt like. I didn't notice how odd it was that I was talking to people in the street and planning what platitude I'd come up with next. I also didn't notice that I'd stopped carrying out pretty basic functions.

Nowadays, I notice if I haven't cleaned my teeth, or if I've been shlupping around the house a bit too much. I realise that I've been asked to do the dishes while my partner is at work, and I still haven't talked myself into doing it when he comes home eight hours later. It doesn't mean that those things have stopped happening, it just means that I see it happening, and I think that's probably part of the fight.

Perhaps the most poignant example of this was brought to my attention by my sister the other day. We were talking about how we used to drive places together and belt out Celine Dion classix, and she mentioned how it seemed as though since I'd stopped singing I'd become progressively more sad. Not only was this an absolutely spot on comment for her to make, it also made me realise that it was another aspect of myself that I'd lost. That isn't to say that her saying it was devastating, but it reminded me of a version of myself that I hadn't seen in a while. It all comes down to the same thing - I can tell that I'm getting better, because it feels like I'm learning to be who I am again. Not the person who only sings when he's doing an impression of Heather Small, but a person who sings because he's happy.

Hooking into the early hours...
One of the ways that I've been trying to mark my own progress is through a craft that I love - crochet. I've been a bit of a dabbler in yarn-related doings for some time, but my current project is my first big one. I decided, on the same day that I entered therapy that I'd do a kind of depressive crochet along, creating something as I went. I decided that I wanted some way of quietly marking what was happening - a visual and physical version of personal growth. I want something that I can keep hold of, and when my child turns to me and asks where I got the blanket from, I can tell them that I made it one summer while everyone else was busy getting on with their lives and I wasn't very well at all. (The pattern, and inspiration - for those interested - is available from the wonderful According to Matt)

'Yet still, I rise'
The other kind of place marker, is one that I decided upon a month or so ago and one which caused a bit of a stir on my Facebook page this week. It's nothing more than an excerpt from a very good poem, tattooed onto the forearm of somebody old enough and wise enough to know what he was doing, yet, you might be forgiven for thinking I'd gone over the Mona Lisa with a dry-wipe marker. If I'm honest, I'm not really the tattooey type. If you were to imagine somebody with an anchor tattooed on his bicep with the name 'Brenda' next to it, that person and I don't have much in common. However, I wanted to challenge myself, and also, I wanted a lasting reminder of how I felt at this point and the place I was in. I've been told that I shouldn't let voters see it, I've been told that it might give the impression that I'm a drug lord, but I like it and it makes me smile every single time I look at it - so there.

All of these things feel to me like signs that I'm getting better. No, I won't be getting a tattoo a week until I feel that I'm on tip top form. No, I don't think that I'm quite out of the woods yet, but, I think I'm definitely turning a corner. The blanket will continue to grow, and undoubtedly it will tell a story. Too often when discussing depression cliches are used - I don't feel like there's a light at the end of the tunnel, because I don't feel like I'm in a tunnel. I'm in Frome. What it does feel like, is that there are fewer clouds, and that the sun is making me stronger.

I've also realised that my sister was absolutely right, and I sang earlier on for the first time in ages. Properly sang - not singing in the voice of Cher - but singing like I meant it and, let me tell you, it was like a bird taking flight.


Anyway, that's enough mushy stuff for a while.

Find below :
1. A picture of my dog Bentley with a comedy hat on to cheer you up
2. The text of my favourite stanza from 'Still I Rise' by Dr Maya Angelou
3. 'Silenced by the night' by Keane, which feels like the most hopeful song ever.

Not actually his birthday, he was just seeking attention.

'You may write me down in history, 
with your bitter, twisted lies,
you may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.'
                          Dr Maya Angelou





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