Saturday, 28 March 2020

The only way is up

I dithered between two titles for this post. Having opted for "The only way is up" I discarded "Things can only get better." I'm unsure quite why, perhaps on some subliminal level my brain drifts back to it as the anthem for New Labour and a brave new dawn of opportunities, justice and equality...

To be honest this is being written from the comfort of my bed and I perhaps ought to be asleep. It is so hard, I would dare to say impossible, to explain to anyone who is not themselves a writer, the importance of doing this. I may have mentioned previously that when my son was taken ill on a school trip to Venezuela I had to fly halfway round the world at such short notice that I had nothing on me with which to document all that took place, and help me to unravel my thoughts. I remember clearly being asked by one of the many people who assisted me if I needed anything and my answer was simple - pen and paper. Never mind another change of clothing, something to eat or a Yorkshire Brew...

Why was today so very bad? To the extent that much of it was spent in tears and not responding to messages or requests for a chat. It's really not easy to say why, perhaps there is no reason other than as part of that cycle of grief today was D Day. If D is for Depression (ooh - where did those capitals come from, how very assertive of Depression to make itself felt like that) then today was the day when it hit.

People often say that they are depressed (let's uncapitalize it now and put it in its place). More recently there seems to be an awareness and understanding that it is natural to feel sad about some things, that sadness is transitory, and can often be helped by a good cry, a chat with a friend and a Yorkshire Brew. Depression on the other hand can come from nowhere - or somewhere - and its effects can be insidious, long lasting and devastating.

Depression has been a familiar "friend" since I was around 12 years old. That's my earliest recollection of it knocking at the door of my life. It took up semi permanent residence when as a sixteen year old I stopped eating. To the extent I was hospitalised for three months and luckily escaped organ failure. At that time Anorexia Nervosa was "the slimming disease" and the cure was basically a high calorie diet, practically force feeding, and privileges removed and re-introduced as "rewards" for weight gain. All whilst on high doses of Largactil - a drug worth a google if you are interested in how dissident citizens may have been treated in some parts of the world...

With such a tendency to the D word, post natal depression was hard to avoid. But then there was the trauma of major spinal surgery (scroll back to 2010 to read what a barrel of laughs THAT was!) and more recently the stress and anxiety of running a small business. Please believe me when I say I do know what it is to be depressed, when I am and when I am not. And today has been a very tricky one.

Part of the issue seems to me to be the many well meaning folk telling me to enjoy this enforced rest from what has been an absolutely manic chapter of long hours and hard work at The Kitchen. I love the idea in theory but find it way too hard to relax when the news is full of how many people are dying. When some of my closest friends are really sick. When others are working so hard for us and at any other time in my life I would have been out there volunteering to help. This feeling of helplessness, perhaps associated with a lack of control, is definitely a trigger to feelings of depression and anxiety in my own experience.

And then there is the randomness of how we found ourselves where we are "when the music stopped". Just as in a game of musical chairs there we all were moving around and living our lives then "STOP" and that was it. In some ways I feel so fortunate. Our youngest son is living back at home now - or he would have been away from us on the Isle of Wight. But then I see others with children/grandchildren to distract them whilst our first grandchild will be born into a world very different from that which we expected when we heard the wonderful news they were on the way! We have a lovely garden for which I am grateful but I wish our daughter was here and not in a flat with no outside space. Blessings to be counted, alongside situations to grieve - cancelled holidays, a postponed wedding, jobs lost and a business that may not survive.

For someone whose daily worklife involves countless interactions with customers, colleagues, suppliers and friends to suddenly be cut off from them all is difficult to deal with. I was thinking about this only today. For those of us working from home as part of a large organisation there are still the calls, video conferences, emails and other interactions. For some people who are perhaps older, maybe retired, the loss of social gatherings must hurt badly, especially if they are unfamiliar with the type of technology many use to keep in touch. Young families with children will no doubt be thankful for the abundance of resources online such as films, educational materials, and the means to speak to wider family whilst also seeing them. Everyone's circumstances are so different but if when the music stopped you found yourself sharing these surreal weeks with others whose circumstances are very different then a heck of a lot of patience and understanding may be needed to get us through.

This is a long post and has only just begun to touch on some of why today was so tough. But I have somehow dumped enough to make sleep seem a possibility. Or perhaps the analgesics (back pain never helped depression) or beta blockers (pre-existing anxiety came in handy when it came to a prescription) are kicking in. Whoever said that the drugs don't work?!

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