You know, that sounds like depression.Of course it is! Why didn't I see that before?
I've had depression before and while this is a lot milder than my previous episode - I haven't found myself rocking gently and wishing the whole world would go away and leave me alone - there are some similar symptoms. For a start, my brain isn't working properly. It was a relief to realise this is due to depression - I'd thought it was getting rusty from under-use, what with giving up my job and all. Then there are the more obvious things like not being able to face tasks that I really should be able to manage, and not having any enthusiasm for things I enjoy. I didn't feel like picking up a crochet hook for months.
It's also fairly obvious to me why I have depression now. When I had it before it was the result of stress and in spite of the New Life, I've had a few stresses over the last couple of years. Going back eighteen months or so, I was attempting to be treasurer for a large club and failing. Failing badly. That drove me to the edge of a nervous breakdown, or possibly over the edge - I'm not sure where you draw the line. Luckily a good friend and fellow committee member spotted the signs and phoned me up to say,
Would you like me to make it all go away?I wanted nothing more in the world, and I remain very grateful to those who picked up the pieces and sorted out the mess that I left.
Moving forwards to roughly this time last year, there was the heating project, then in February an even more stressful ten days helping my dad get a house in Cornwall ready for sale. The final stages of the heating project, the insulation, was unfinished when I left for Cornwall and has remained so ever since, so I have that hanging over me (or not, as the case may be. Things that should have stayed up, fell down.) More recently I've tackled the Wild West Wales project. It wasn't so much rewriting the website that freaked me out - though that was a pretty big challenge in itself - but the financial side, which reminded me too much of my failure as treasurer.
Although I faced up to that challenge and looked the bank account demons squarely in the eye, it took a lot out of me. There was an initial buzz of having achieved something, but since then I haven't felt able to face anything very much.
Knowing that this is depression is very helpful. For a start, it means that various other things are not the problem. It's not the case that my brain's going rusty from lack of use. It's not the case that the new life really isn't that great once the novelty's worn off. It's just depression. It's an illness I've had before and recovered from, and with the right management, I can recover from it this time too.
managementrather than treatment because that feels like a more appropriate word. Treatment implies a separation from the rest of my life - there's the problem, there's the treatment, apply treatment and problem will go away - whereas depression invades everything. What I need to do is manage my life so that I can recover from it. Susie at Useless Beauty wrote some excellent tips for dealing with depression. I find number 1 particularly useful - small achievable goals are good, large goals of which half may get finished are no help at all.
At the same time, some specific treatments are worth including. I've always had problems with the shorter days in winter. It's the reducing light levels that get to me, especially around the equinox, as well as the lack of light in midwinter. On sunny days I can (and must) get outside, but a lot of the time it looks like this:
On days like this, there is an alternative. For several years I've been trying to tell myself I'm over the SAD and been meaning to get rid of the daylight lamp, but didn't get round to it so I was able to dig it out of the loft and start using it again (and by the way, if I was better at decluttering, I'd be looking at spending a couple of hundred pounds to replace that).
I got Ian to help me dismantle the spare bed so there's space to use the room for things other than sleeping.
As you'll see in the picture above, I've started knooking/crocheting again. This is a good sign as I'm obviously starting to get better already. If I can just fend off the seasonal blues and avoid any challenges that are too big for the time being, then I should make it through winter ready for a new start next spring.
To cheer you up after all that, here's a gratuitous photo of a cute small child:
Edit: After I posted a link to this on facebook, friends offered various pieces of useful advice that I know, but had failed to include here. As they might be useful to other people, here they are:
1. Exercise is probably the best treatment for depression. It doesn't have to be strenuous to be worthwhile, even a ten minute walk is worth doing.
2. Eat and sleep well. The second of these is harder to control than the first. Don't beat yourself up if you can't sleep, but try to give yourself the best chance.
3. Take notice of beautiful things, which is another way of saying count your blessings. They're there, but we often overlook them. Look out for them and pay attention so they register in your conscious awareness.
4. Alcohol is bad for depression. If I had any sense I would have stopped drinking (at least temporarily) by now, but I haven't.
If the first two of these feel like far too much effort, it's probably time to talk to your doctor and consider drugs (your doctor may have other suggestions, too). I am wary of this option unless things are really bad. I've taken antidepressants before and they did help, but they also have a lot of side effects and I still have restless leg syndrome to this day, more than ten years since I stopped taking the drug. No, I don't know how that works either.