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


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… ❤

Daily Prompt: Glaring

One glaring omission from my personality seems to be a naturally happy gene – it’s not that I’m never capable of feeling happiness, more that it requires a deliberately proactive shift in my internal emotional mechanism for me to seek out those rare moments of satisfaction and joy and contentment and truly appreciate them for what they are – it feels to me like happy is just not my natural state of being.

I once began studying for a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, and in spite of really looking forward to the academic challenge, emotionally I struggled with the troubling feelings it raised within me right from the very start. Sitting in a class of bright, cheerful, positively motivated people, it soon became clear to me that – just as I’d always felt in childhood – my brain simply didn’t function in quite the same way as everyone else around me.

We completed a lot of personality tests and suchlike as part of our course, and as usual everything we explored seemed to indicate towards me having a depressive personality with bells on. It was as if my brainwaves resonate on a completely different frequency to the rest of the class – no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t fit in to the prescribed mould for successful students of this subject. And the more time passed, the more depressed I felt about it all, so I chose not to study my Master’s degree to completion – I gave it up for good, only one third of the way through.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I sit around all day permanantly wringing my hands in an oh-woe-is-me kind of way, or can’t function like any other adult in the outside world when I have to. It’s more that where the general level for feeling happiness sits flirtatiously within comfortable reach for the majority of the population, for me it remains consistently and tantalisingly elusive, well beyond my natural grasp, and can only be reached after a concerted effort on my part.

It feels to me that at heart my parabolic range of everyday emotional peaks and troughs plots overwhelmingly below average on a regular basis. In a world of Winnie-the-Poohs and Piglets and bouncy Tiggers, I’m definitely one of life’s Eeyores – but I suppose at least now I’m an Eeyore with a Post-Graduate Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Glaring

Writing Bravely: A Day in My Life

Inspired by Damyanti’s post on the Daily (W)rite I thought I’d share a day in my life just now, with the idea of writing bravely however much it hurts to admit to…

A Day in My Life…

Life does not come easy to me right now. I’m doing my best to struggle through my myopic misery by dealing with it all the best way I know how – I deliberately reduce what’s required of me with regard to daily tasks to the barest minimum for survival, and forcibly push my creativity to balance out the myriad greyness of it all with whatever miniscule splashes of the brightest ribbons of colour I can find.

I make sure we have food and clean clothes and a reasonably presentable home; I put on my public mask and go to work with a smile; I cry a lot in private. And I make myself take photographs, write poetry, crochet, draw – I keep my blog going and hope, know, deep in my soul that however low it gets this particular dismal trough in the constant parabola of life’s ups and downs won’t last forever – they never do. Always, in time, I know that this too shall pass.

It never ceases to amaze me that in one sense I am at my most creative when mired in the unfathomable depths of despair – it’s as if I cling on to life’s fragile beauty in the only way I know how, by holding on to the hope that exists in giving life to images and words, if not drawing myself upwards out of depression then at least stopping myself from drowning in it. I feel the oppressive weight bearing down, the dense pressure crushing my chest, but as always I focus on my brightest hope and just breathe through it all as best I can… ❤

In Need of Understanding…

In Need of Understanding…

When depression feeds dark thoughts of dying

Fills my days with exhaustion and crying

And I’m struggling so bad

Give me space to feel sad

Understand that I really am trying…

I’m not someone for whom the art of living comes easily, and have struggled with recurring depression on and off since childhood. I’ve seen one psychiatrist (after surviving an overdose in my early twenties) and have visited countless psychotherapists over the years since, but however much I struggle to search out solutions to try to increase my psychological understanding (including earning a degree in Psychology and Sociology as a mature student), I still don’t feel any happier at source about life.

When it comes to medication I’ve tried multiple variations of anti-depressants since my teens and was even on valium for the longest time (when my children were small and I was stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship with their father, who I have since divorced), but I find that although chemical sedatives in general do tend to curtail the worst of my negative emotions, they also flatten out any slight spark of positive emotions, too, leaving me a bit like an inert zombie. So medication for me really is a last resort.

Instead these days I find it better just to sit tight through the depressive episodes when they come, whenever I can, knowing that however bad I feel it does always get better in time even if I do nothing – no medication, no therapy, just let it work itself out. But I do find it exhausting, trying to continue to behave as far as possible like a ‘normal’ adult in public for the duration. And I find I’m always really tired and emotionally drained at home while I’m feeling at my lowest.

So when I start to feel the familiar feelings gnawing in my gut I’ll try to fight it for so long, forcing myself to do those things in life I know I enjoy in the hope of avoiding falling in too deep. But sadly there usually comes a point where I have to just accept it’s upon me once more, and I go into a kind of emotional autopilot. I function as far as possible, and then I fall temporarily into limbo until I have to function again, and this pattern simply continues day in, day out until I start to feel properly human again.

The thing is, so many people try to tell me if I feel depressed I should be going to the doctor to get some medication, or be referred for therapy to ‘sort myself out’, but the trouble with that is that it feels like they’re telling me I need to be fixed, that I’m not good enough as I am. Because at my core this is who I am, who I have always been – I simply don’t know anything different, know no other way to be in the world. After all this time I know my own body, and more importantly I know my own mind – I know what works for me, and what I need most is understanding, and for people to trust me.

If things get bad enough for me that I need to seek medical help again, trust me I will. But the only person who knows when that point is reached is me. Luckily for me my husband is very understanding, as is my GP – both have put their trust in me, allowing me the space to feel whatever I feel, preparing to be my safety net should I fall unexpectedly but otherwise letting me try my best to get through it all in my own organic way… ❤

Folding Out the Light…

Folding Out the Light…

I feel my life is closing in on me

Like origami folding out the light

Forever turning inwards, silently

I sense my shrinking soul fade out of sight…

Depression makes an unrelenting thief

Steals everything but hope time and again

I let it be, held fast by stagnant grief

As soothing tides of tears wash through old pain…

But given time my sun does shine once more

Hard shell of bleakness cast off like a husk

As day by day life feels less like a chore

Bright dawns replace the monochrome of dusk

Till once again I feel life’s vibrant smile

And know I’m whole again – just for a while…

Discover Challenge: Speak Out


On the surface, at a quick glance, we see nothing but what we expect to see, a shallow millimetre or so of rainwater pooled into a puddle. We know this is what we are looking at, and can even see the pavement texture mottled beneath the water, so we walk on by, untroubled and unconcerned. But if we were to stop to look again, looking beyond what is immediately visible, we may be able to see so much more reflected back at us, however elusive and intangible that reflection may be.

Sometimes I feel a bit like that puddle in the road, non-descript yet so much more nuanced than at first I seem to be. On the surface I look like any other middle-aged mother and grandmother, and indeed in many ways I am just that woman, so easily passed by in the street like so many others. But look beyond the shallow surface view and you may just see a shadowy hint of the drizzling depression that lurks constantly in my depths, its long sinewy tendrils reaching up out of the darkness, always threatening to pull me down again, drowning me, choking me, suffocating me.

I live with those fluid fingers always beckoning on the farthest edge of my peripheral vision, watching and waiting for me to falter in my daily life, and I am wary and watchful in return. It has ever been thus, I know nothing different. Sometimes I speak out about my demons, brave and defiant, and sometimes I remain silent, cowed and shamed. There is often no rhyme nor reason to how I feel about it, I simply choose to drift on the breeze and flit this way and that, either floating with the winds of change or fighting them as I see fit…

Discover Challenge: Speak Out

Discovering a New Path


Once more in my life I feel myself to be fluctuating emotionally in a difficult place of transition, flitting hither and thither through erratic highs and lows, fully formed neither in one place nor another, torn in two, pulled apart by conflicting desires. I feel confused, on the cusp of depression, teetering precariously on the brink.

At this moment my personal path forward into the future is not clear. Its outline remains as blurry and unrecognisable as this abstract image of a moving train passing in the night, taken from another moving train passing in the opposite direction on a parallel track as I was travelling from one end of the country to the other.

But nevertheless there is often an unusual beauty to be found in the abstract if we stop looking only for what we know as recognisable and familiar, and instead simply accept what is unfolding in front of us in all its conceptual glory, discovering new perspectives, inevitably seeing the world through new eyes…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Path

Daily Prompt: Discover