Monday, 31 March 2008

O what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!*

I said in my last post I would attempt to explain my recent absence. The question is, are we allowed to discuss depression on blogs? The truth is I was in an ugly trough betwixt and between. Hence the gap.

I don't suffer from what might be described as clinical depression, unlike a very close friend (and what hell that must be), but I used to go through regular lows in my teens and early twenties.

I thought it had all ended when, one day walking down St. Martins Lane in London, I sensed the dark cloud hovering on the horizon and knew that it would be over me for the coming twelve weeks when the happy thought occurred to me that, actually, it would all be over in twelve weeks. (My depression was pretty well organised and would last for a finite time before going off to upset some other poor soul.) Anyway, the effect was as if my fairy godmother had waved her wand and instantly dispelled the cloud. Because the first happy thought was followed by a second. If the cloud was to disappear in twelve weeks why should I bother walking under it now. With a neat sidestep, which Jonny Wilkinson, (or should that be Danny_Cipriani now?), would have approved of, I dummied the cloud and left it behind me. And it never reappeared.

When I say never, I mean not in the sense that it used to until now. Though even now it is not the same. However, in the months leading up to Christmas I was not so much under a dark cloud but certainly in the middle of a thick fog, which only in retrospect did I realise had severely obscured my vision. Looking back, I can see that I had withdrawn into a smaller and smaller shell. To a degree I can attribute it to circumstances; I was, comme d' habitude, struggling to pay the rent, struggling to earn money, and generally just struggling. My unfortunate response to such pressures is to cut myself off from everything and everyone. It is what I fondly call the whirlpool strategy of coping. The more I ignore the root cause of my problems, the more they pile up, so the more I retreat into the fog. Beautifully circular.

Clarity in the understanding of your predicament in no way helps alleviate it. Rationality and depression are as water and oil. In the middle of this smog you lose all sense of direction. Your SatNav reveals only that all roads leading to Rome are blocked. You are overwhelmed by a sense of complete helplessness and ineptitude. For anyone who has never suffered this condition, it sounds pathetic. Even to yourself it sounds pathetic. Even in the midst of the swirling tendrils enwrapping you, you understand it to be pathetic - in the pejorative sense of the word as it helps confirm your sense of worthlessness. But then you are pathetic. The word comes from the Greek, pathetikos, meaning sensitive, itself derived from pathos meaning suffering. In the context, pathetic is apposite.

There is a simple solution; action. Doing anything, and I mean literally anything, helps bring you to the surface, however, the effort required is often beyond you. The tendrils don't just enwrap and blind you but also hold and bind you. Friends may cajole and encourage but, as mentioned, you tend to cut yourself off from contact or, if forced to converse, do not admit your condition as you pretend there is no condition to admit or as yet are unaware of the depths to which you have sunk. Alternatively, if you do confess that you are not feeling totally pukka, the advice they offer seems only to reinforce the fact that they don't really understand your predicament. It is a very self-destructive cycle that skirts around being self-pitying.

I was lucky. In a way, I was saved by my desire to write. I wasn't writing and knew that the only way I would ever succeed would be to get myself into a virtuous routine. It was sufficient to encourage me to make the effort and seek out part-time work. So I got a part-time job, a very boring part-time job, nonetheless it gave my week a structure that was lacking before.

And behold! After a couple of weeks, I glanced over my shoulder and, with marked surprise, I saw clearly, for the first time, the fog from which I had but recently emerged.

* Orphelia, Hamlet, Act III, Scene I


Gary Smailes said...

Welcome back

DOT said...

Thanks, Gary, and so good to hear from you again. Hope your army of thought is moving forward in a progressive fashion.

Anonymous said...

Cure for depression:
Blame your hormones!!! works everytime. Em xx

DOT said...

Darling Em is my younger daughter who is about to give birth to her second in April so big kisses to her:))

Jon M said...

Depression, even mild, can be a bugger to sidestep but I'm glad you recognised it and took action. I was in a similar boat a year or so back and once I recognised it I went on the offensive, chemical, counselling and exercise...I even changed jobs but writing is a great tonic, methinks. Keep on looking over that shoulder!