Have you heard that song?? Olivia Newton-John sings it beautifully with her haunting, husky voice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWwVN2HiWyg
“Hanging around, nothing to do but frown, rainy days and Mondays always get me down”.
Not very inspiring, but it’s a song that resonates with me. As it has done for many years. As a teenager my parent’s concession to music in the car was not the top 40 station in our town. If there was going to be music, it would be Mum’s pick of classic FM or Dad’s pick of Olivia Newton-John or various country singers. And I got to love Olivia’s Indigo Women of Song album; I would pick it out to play just for myself, not just listening because someone else was choosing the music.
Probably the indigo theme and the songs resonated with me so much that first summer that I heard them because I was in a depression. I didn’t know that’s what it was. All I knew is that we were on holidays at the beach, my favourite place in all the world and everyone around me was happy. But I wasn’t happy. I was sad, I felt worthless, I felt that I was separated from all the fun, unable to engage, unmotivated, tired. I faked it, and I don’t think anyone around me knew just how terrible I was feeling. I felt like the earth was going to end. I felt like I couldn’t survive. I couldn’t sleep – I would toss and turn with my thoughts all night long, getting maybe a few fitful hours in the early morning. I felt like all these awful thoughts that were running circles in my brain were haunting me!! I couldn’t get away from them! My then-boyfriend, now amazing husband doesn’t remember me being depressed. But he remembers how many fights we had that holiday. I don’t remember any fights, all I remember is feeling so so bad and not knowing why or how to fix it.
I look back on the happy snaps, and I see the smiles into the camera and they don’t look fake. There are some real “I’m happy to be here” smiles. Was I that good at faking, or were there some great moments amongst the crippling darkness that I just didn’t notice? Were they the moments when I was able to shut my mind to the black and despairing thoughts? And truly be happy? I don’t know. It was a long time ago. I do remember good parts of that holidays to Robe, SA. Discovering the ‘Coconut Robe’ and playing chess together while eating icecream. Going for drives exploring the surrounding countryside and boogy boarding down sand dunes. Stopping off half way to check out some cool waterfalls.
There were good moments. A lesson I’ve learned this year is that even the worst days have good moments. It’s a cliche, but it really is true. So now I try to look for those moments. It takes practice, it requires you to put in an effort, and there are days when it’s so hard it seems impossible. But it’s worth it if you get there. IF.
So that was my summer of 2007. I had completed one year of uni studying pharmacy, and one year of living in the big smoke. I was going on holidays with my family of 6 and my boyfriend of 4 years. We were going somewhere new, a big occasion because every year except one we had always gone to the same beach location in NSW.
I was 19 years old. I was depressed. I did nothing about it. I thought it was some kind of punishment, or that the thoughts in my head were some kind of trial that I had to get through. I didn’t understand it was a chemical imbalance that could only be corrected by replacing the chemicals. I didn’t think to go to a doctor, a counsellor or to tell anybody. I thought it was something I had to deal with on my own. So I did. And it eventually got less and less and it did subside. It took months. MONTHS. All the while I was desperately trying to fill in my life with distractions: TV series, chocolate/chips/lollies/takeaway food, going out with friends, staying out late, listening to music loudly to block out the sound of my thoughts, taking up new hobbies etc. All the while tackling a second year of uni and life in the big smoke and expecting big achievements from myself, as always.
I was diagnosed with depression in December 2013. Nearly 6 years later. Finally a label. Finally a treatment plan. Finally someone validating the awfulness, the fear, the guilt, the terrible circulating thoughts, the exhaustion, the lack of enjoyment and motivation.
There is nothing that feels so awful as being sad in the middle of the perfect life!
I had wondered. I had thought out the fors and againsts. I’m a health professional. I know the diagnostic criteria. But of course, with the unrelenting high standards that I hold myself to, I didn’t think I was “that bad”. I had even gotten to thinking maybe I should go to a doctor and ask. But I didn’t, I said to myself “you’re just being lazy and slack, pull yourself together and stop looking for excuses”.
I look back over my life and draw a lifeline. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, looking back. From 12 years old to today. I draw in events: starting high school, getting a boyfriend, a traumatic relationship, Mum getting cancer, a terrible job, friend dying. Everyone has their own lifeline and events are more or less severe. Lots of things happen in life. But with the knowledge and experience of this beast I now see my life differently.
I see that summer when I thought I was going to have to go to high school with the bullies from primary school and I see now that I was withdrawn, awfulising (my GP’s word), ruminating, I lacked interest in events around me, I couldn’t enjoy the holidays. I was depressed. This wasn’t just a fear that is logical. This was obsessing day and night, can’t sleep, expecting the worst, sure that life is going to be terrible.
This is not normal. I have to keep this thought in the front of my mind now. I have lived with this monster for so long, and thought it was just a part of life for so long that I expect so much of myself in very adverse circumstances.
I see the winter of 2004 when I was dating my then-boyfriend-now-husband but was obsessed with thoughts of the past, felt worthless, undeserving of him, unmotivated and like nobody could love me. I was depressed.
This is not normal. Starting to date someone should be a time filled with happiness, enjoyment of life, fun and games. Which is what I was on the surface but underneath I was tortured. I thought I should tell him I can’t keep dating you because I am so unworthy, so damaged, so broken. Not normal.
The song calls them rainy days. Today is a rainy day. Not literally, although it’s meant to rain and hail later in the afternoon. I actually woke up to bright sunshine shining on the eucalypt trees outside my window. No sunshine comes into my bedroom in the morning. There are no rays of light shining onto my floor, my bed, my face. I wake up, and then look out to see what kind of day it is. I would like it so much more if I had an east-facing bedroom window, so that the sunshine could come right in and shine on my face to wake to me. But it is what it is.
“What I’ve got, they used to call the blues, nothing is really wrong, feeling like I don’t belong, walking around, some kind of lonely clown, rainy days and Mondays always get me down”.
The blues. Sounds lovely to me, determined as I am to avoid the blacks, the midnight navy, the deep greys and even the light greys. Colours are a great representation but I think that label “the blues” trivialises the condition that is depression.
There is a deep dark difference between having the blues, feeling blue, feeling down, having a rough day, and being depressed. Not to make light of anyone who feels down, it’s never nice, but “the blues” and depression are not interchangeable describing words.
So a rainy day. This isn’t a day of depression as such, it’s a day of in-between. Not feeling good, not feeling great, just not feeling too much. A ‘meh’ or ‘blergh’ or ‘ish’ day. Unmotivated, energy-poor, wanting to stay in bed all day, not bothered to do too much, can’t see the point in much. Leaking tears every now and then, otherwise just going “okay”. Kind of sitting on the brink of okay and not okay. Nothing really wrong, just not where I want to be over there with everyone else enjoying their day.
“What I feel has come and gone before, no need to talk it out, we know what it’s all about…”
It’s just one of those days. I’ve had them before, I guess I’ll have them again. Nothing tragic has happened, but the world is just tinged blueish. I know it’s just a result of the chemistry being not quite right. Partly my fault. I’m taking a regime of antidepressants where I have one at 7am, one at 11am and one at 2pm. Not the easier to remember so I have my life set to alarms to help me remember. However I went into the city at 10am yesterday and forgot all about taking the tablets with me. So I missed 11am, then I missed 2pm then by the time I got home at 3.30pm I wasn’t sure whether to take them so I didn’t. Not a great move, by 6pm I was a dreary little raincloud sitting around the house waiting for something to go wrong, and waiting to rain. Which I did. So then I figured I didn’t care if I didn’t sleep, I would take one late anyway. And it helped.
The fact that missing a tablet or taking a tablet can change my day shows how fragile the balance of chemistry still is. I’m a ways off being stable. But patience, patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, etc. I just want to rush the process of getting stable. 9 weeks off work, sitting around the house all day – sounds like fun to someone working full time but I am not finding it fun anymore. It’s more tedious than fun.
But, still I have to try to find the fun, find the benefits, find the happiness in each day. Every day is a gift, whether it feels like it or not. It’s up to me to see the silver lining, the cup half full, the upside etc.
So what is it today?? Some TLC from my great husband, lunch out together at a bakery on the river, a bit of birdwatching, doing some chores together. Gotta keep looking past the rainy days and Mondays to find the sunny days, even the cloudy days without rain. Seeing the good inside the bad is a good plan, a sound plan. It’s one that I have on a poster on the wall because it’s hard to remember. Still, I keep trying. And that’s what counts, isn’t it?