Tending towards depression

I’m struggling a bit with life just now, feeling myself quietly withdrawing a little from the world, probably for a while at least.

Sadly I do occasionally tend towards melancholia, but with a lifelong history of debilitating depression I’ve grown to understand my mental proclivities and know my best bet is just to allow my mind to close itself off as it needs, function on my old familiar minimalist autopilot for the duration, and simply let it pass in its own good time.

So if I have rather long gaps between somewhat sporadic posts for the next few weeks, don’t worry, it’s only a temporary glitch and no doubt I’ll be back in full flow soon enough…

Daily Prompt: Tend


Daily Prompt: Agile

At fifty-four I’m not anywhere near as agile as I used to be, and I haven’t yet fully got my head around that sadly indisputable fact. I do recognise that some everyday things I used to do without a second thought I struggle a bit more with these days – even simple things like straightening up again after picking something up off the floor, or getting off the sofa quickly, or opening jars. I can still do it, but more slowly and a lot less elegantly, and not without a few creaking complaints from my painful stiffening joints.

I still feel a bit resistant to accepting my new reality – sheer stubbornness I suppose. I was exactly the same with my declining eyesight, it took me such a long time to accept that I really needed reading glasses. Part of my problem with accepting the gradual reduction of free movement in my joints is probably down to the fact I’ve been experiencing a lot of temporary joint pains over the last few years as part of my ongoing menopausal symptoms – and however extreme it got on each individual occasion, it always passed in time.

But although the ebb and flow of those random here today, gone tomorrow fluctuating hormonal aches and pains have almost totally subsided now, the ever-present difficulty with strength and suppleness and everyday movement in my hips and my hands has remained problematic. I’m not at all impressed. My husband has suggested it’s time I saw my GP again, and I have to admit, however grudgingly, that he’s right. I have had frequent mechanical issues with my right hip over the years, so I may indeed be in need of another physiotherapy referral.

To be honest, though, deep down it’s the constant aches and pains in my hands that concern me most. I do work hard to keep my basic range of movement going as best as I can, but my fine motor skills are definitely losing their delicate touch. I can see I’m getting old lady hands, wrinkly skin with liver spots and knobbly joints, and right now they hurt all the time. Sometimes they’re swollen, sometimes not, but either way I’m permanantly aware of my hands, and even when lying in bed resting I feel them throbbing, and it’s getting me down.

I don’t feel at all ready to exchange feeling agile for fragile, but ignoring it all and just getting on with life doesn’t seem to be working for me any more. So like it or not it’s time I admitted defeat and made an appointment. I really don’t like making a fuss, but it’s really beginning to get in the way of enjoying life, and is causing me problems at work, so  I guess needs must… sigh!

Daily Prompt: Agile 

JusJoJan: Contemplation

Walking in nature is my favourite way of encouraging contemplation in my soul. Whatever concerns may be troubling me I always feels less frantic after a walk. There’s just something calming about the hypnotic rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other in the fresh air – it facilitates the release of troublesome thoughts in a gentle, fluid flow and allows for a softening and soothing of fractious feelings… ❤

JusJoJan: Contemplation


The Birth of Hope…

It’s an important yet bittersweet anniversary for me today. Thirty years ago tonight I sat down in my living room after everyone else was in bed asleep, and swallowed a bottle of Valium (diazepam) with the best part of a bottle of paracetamol and washed it all down with neat vodka. I was a mentally fragile 24-year-old mum of three small kids in a desperately unhappy marriage, and all I wanted was for the emotional pain of living to stop, one way or another.

I was already receiving treatment for longterm depression, and as well as being under psychiatric care as an outpatient I had been taking Valium daily for a good couple of years. I think many unhappy housewives were prescribed it at that time yet ironically nowadays my history of depression would be a clear contra-indication. It didn’t really make me feel any less depressed, instead it turned me into a spaced-out zombie running on autopilot. From the outside I perhaps seemed quieter and more pliable but inside I still felt like a complete failure of a human being.

Trust me when I tell you it’s not easy getting that volume of dry pills and neat alcohol down your throat – your natural gag reflex kicks in early on, but you persevere, determined. You retch and bring some up but swallow it all back down again, and take even more. It burns like hell, but you do it anyway, choking on tears and tablets until you just can’t take any more of any of it and start to lose focus, both physically and mentally.

Yet just at that precarious not-quite-conscious, not-quite-unconscious point I remember suddenly calling the Samaritans – my best friend had been visiting a couple of weeks previously and, worried about my mental health, she had looked up the number and left it by the phone for me incase I ever needed it. So I saw the number sitting there and as I didn’t want to die alone I called them up and I remember speaking to a soft-voiced guy named Martin…

The next conscious memory I have is waking up in a hospital bed feeling dead, except I wasn’t. And my insides felt raw and violated from my throat downwards – having your stomach pumped out is neither a delicate nor a glamourous procedure, and not surprisingly it hurts like hell. Once I came to various professional people came and spoke to me, and although somewhere along the way I had lost a day I still had my life and I was eventually allowed to go home with my mum and dad – but not to my husband.

I learned afterwards that my husband had woken up in the middle of the night and had found me incoherent but still on the phone to the Samaritans, so in a panic he had called my parents and it was they who drove me straight to hospital, who explained to the A&E staff that I was a psychiatric outpatient being treated for depression. And it was my parents who eventually took me and my children home with them for the time being. After that catastrophic turning point, I never again returned to my marriage…

The gnawing guilt I still feel at almost abandoning my children in the most extreme way has never left me, but I have finally forgiven myself for being young and helpless and struggling with a longterm condition I had no idea how to handle and that was never openly discussed in public. Mental Health problems were still taboo, so my overdose was just swept under the carpet like an embarrassing glitch and family life just carried on for all of us, but never quite in the same way as before.

Anyway, the point of me telling you all of this is that although part of me died that night, something new was born, and that something was hope. The whole horrendous experience of my overdose and its decades-long nuclear-fallout aftermath has taught me that even when everything else in life feels like a barren wasteland, the smallest glimmer of hope always remains and with that glint of hope comes so many potential possibilities for a brighter and better future – eventually.

So every year I mark the anniversary of my overdose with enormous regret that I ever let things get that bad in my life, but with intense relief that I’m still here, thirty years on, and thankfully still have a close relationship with all of my adult children. Happily remarried I’ve also completed a degree and now have five beautiful, precious grandchildren to add to my wonderful family. I still struggle with life from time to time, still experience bad bouts of depression, but I just sit tight because I always know I’ll get through it somehow, because I’ll always have hope for a brighter tomorrow… ❤

An Extravaganza of Heartache

I’ve had a very uneasy relationship with the forced fake frivolity of Christmas celebrations for most of my adult life.

This year will be my 55th Christmas on this earth and I think it’s probably time I sorted it all out for myself psychologically once and for all. Basically the generally recognised concept of a traditional family Christmas represents for me an extravaganza of heartache, not happiness. The main issue seems to be that in my head I long ago internalised a highly idealised, fixed-focus view of how Christmas should be that is truly troublesome for me; a view I dispute and disagree with fundamentally and that has never been my personal desired reality anyway.

My extrovert mum loves (and has always loved) all the surface trappings and trimmings of a traditional family Christmas – the bigger the better. She puts up several different-sized Christmas trees over the entire house, creates Christmas dioramas, adds copious amounts of Christmas decorations all over, and really goes to town with a flurry of festive present-planning and seasonal socialising. Her vision has always been that everyone joins in harmoniously and ‘does their bit’ to help her create and fulfil her ideal dream of a wonderfully happy family life – the more the merrier in all things Christmassy.

However anyone who doesn’t share her overly-enthusiastic view – and ‘anyone’ here historically means her introvert depressive daughter, in other words, me – rather than being left alone in peace to do their own thing is accused of deliberately ‘spoiling Christmas for everyone else’. Yet another nit-picking nail added to my life-long ‘not good enough’ coffin. So it has aways felt to me that my birth family’s one-size-fits-all, over-the-top approach to Christmas celebrations was created as an added challenge to force people-pleasing me yet again to consider others’ desires while ignoring my own personal preferences.

Over the years, as my own children grew up and created their own scattered versions of Christmas after their father and I divorced, it gradually became far easier for me simply to say ‘I don’t do Christmas’ and to withdraw from it all wholesale than to stand up and say to my parents ‘I won’t continue to be party to the painful pretence of perfection that requires the aggressive application of emotional blackmail and behavioural manipulation channeled in my direction in order to create an illusion of familial festive fun for the rest of you at the cost of my personal sense of worth’. Because after all, why spoil things for everyone else…

But surely by now and at my age there should be ample room in my head for many different, equally legitimate ways to spend Christmas? Why in my mind’s eye does it still have to be an extrovert extravaganza or nothing? Why isn’t the offer of peace and goodwill to all men a two-way street in my brain, why should I continue to feel I should always be the one expected to sacrifice my peace and offer my goodwill all the time to make others feel better? What’s wrong with me as a depressive introvert preferring to spend Christmas quietly, intimately, differently, and not necessarily alone – but still being allowed to celebrate Christmas in my own way? And the answer, of course, is ‘nothing’.

I’ve been working so hard this year to try to finally lay that old ‘not good enough’ coffin to rest, and part of that ongoing exercise is to re-evaulate my difficult and decidedly dysfunctional relationship with all things Christmas. So this year I’m going to try to resist the resistance and actively embrace the concept of Christmas with compassion and consideration for my own happiness, and see where my newborn confidence takes me… ❤

Daily Prompt: Age

It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I’m going to be 54 years old.

People say you’re only as old as you feel, that age is just a number, but I disagree. I think there’s a lot to be said for accepting our chronological reality just as it is. My body certainly knows it’s 54 years old – my joints ache a lot more these days, my skin is wrinkled and sagging, my hair is visibly greying, and I’m kind of ok with that.

My children are now 35, 34, and 32, and my grandchildren are aged 15, six, four, and we also have two two-year-olds born three months apart. I remember even when I was a young adult always expecting there to be an older, wiser, more sensible adult around – but I can’t remember the last time I felt that way, and I’m kind of ok with that, too.

Part of the problem of living in a capitalist, consumer-driven culture is that we only tend to value people properly during their financially-productive years. Children don’t matter, and retired people are immaterial, unless they’re rich of course – and as for unemployed people, well… basically money talks, and without it we are socially silenced, disempowered.

So many of us strive to build our identities and generate our feelings of self-worth based only on what we do for a living rather than how we choose to live our lives with others, as if our individual social status – our financial worth – is our all. But I’m really not ok with that – where is the common community spirit, the compassion for others, the concern for humanity, the love?

In a world of rampant individualism, where we all want to be seen to be the biggest, the best, the richest, the most powerful, I think we’ve lost some of the inherent beauty in welcoming ageing within our natural lifespan and the absolute joy that can bring. We feel we need to look the part of a productive player at all times, so create the illusion of continued youthfulness at all costs.

Yet here I am, a happily-ageing mother and grandmother, extremely proud of my beautiful children and my grandchildren above all else I may have achieved in my life – they are my preferred markers of wealth, my precious human capital, and personally I feel all the richer for their existence… ❤

Daily Prompt: Age 


Bread & Butter Blogging

I’m feeling a bit stuck at the moment – stuck with my life and stuck with my blog. When things get tough in the real world I tend to close in on myself a bit, withdraw to the essentials, and as my virtual me is very much part of my flesh-and-bones me I find I’m really having to try hard with a conscious determination to create any words or images worthy of sharing in my blog world.

So what you all see here just now is a kind of half-hearted bread & butter style of basic blogging – posting nothing much of interest beyond the barest minimum standard for survival. I’m going to keep slogging away at it all though, because I’d rather keep things ticking over with my boring old blog until real life gives me a break and I feel able to embrace everything fun with my full attention once more.

I might even shake everything up a bit experimentally in the interim, try altering what and when and why I post to see if that helps stimulate my creative motivation. Get away from the same old routines and habits that right now feel like ruts in the road, find something new to do with my camera or my crochet hook or paintbrush or pen and share the results, good and bad.

Because the bottom line is that there needs to be more to living than simply existing, and sometimes it’s all too easy for me to forget that simple fact…

Hormones, Headaches & Hot Flushes

Earlier this year I’d hoped my menopausal hot flushes were becoming more and more infrequent and finally fading away as my female hormone levels depleted further, but although I’ve probably had a good six months or so without experiencing much thermostatic discomfort at all I’m recently finding myself having annoyingly regular hot flushes again. Not as bad or happening as often as before, but they are proving to be exceedingly irksome nonetheless.

I so dislike that uncomfortably sticky feeling of being saturated head to toe in a slick sheen of salty sweat regardless of external temperatures. Even my hair roots feel soaked and errant droplets trickle ticklishly down my spine. When I first feel the flush racing through me I try to strip off as much as I can for the duration in an attempt to cool off – not possible to do at work – but even at home there is generally little relief to be had. And as the dank dampness dries off my skin soon starts to itch all over, adding a further external dimension to my already surging internal irritation.

And as if that wasn’t enough to contend with, a flurry of frequent hot flushes inevitably coincides with an increase in hormonally-charged headaches, leaving me hot and bothered and grumpy – not a pleasant combination. I can’t help but wonder if my glaring stress levels are linked somehow to my flaring hormone levels, because it’s as if the more my stress has built up, the more my hormones have been playing up, too…

As with everything else going on in life at the moment, I know that this situation too shall pass, but oh how I wish it would all just hurry the hell up and get on with it! 🙂

Daily Post: Gremlins

Life feels beset by gremlins right now. Frustrating financial and long-term legal gremlins, hateful health gremlins, pernicious past gremlins, all ganging up together all at once chattering with impish glee and giving me a horrendous headache of epic proportions. It feels like time is playing gremlin games with me too – good things whipping past over the top of my head spinning like a whirlwind, bad things sucking me down slowly, thick as treacle and just as troublesome. I tell myself something has to give soon, and I just hope above hope that ‘thing’ does not turn out to be me…

Daily Post: Gremlins