Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows

Well, the summer has finally shown up here in the UK. I like the good weather, but unfortunately the way I'm feeling is far from wonderful.


I suppose my mood has been going downhill slowly over recent weeks, largely due to work related stresses. I had my PhD transfer viva last week; for those of you who don't know about the PhD process, it's basically an oral examination on my research thesis to see if I've done enough and will be able to complete the PhD or not. I'd been working really hard all month in the anticipation that the viva would be sometime this month, then it was scheduled at less than a weeks notice and my anxiety went into overdrive.


The stupid thing is, as much as I was terrified before hand (my legs were shaking so much on the day I nearly fell down the stairs), the actual viva went well, to be honest, really well. I wasn't asked anything I couldn't answer or given any criticism that wasn't fair and constructive. I actually left on quite a high.


Yet somehow, despite that high, I have returned to the downward course I was on before.


Over the last month I have noticed myself getting more withdrawn socially. Aside from the fact that I have spent as many days in the office this month as most of the rest of the year, I haven't had any social contact with people other than my boyfriend (not that that's a complaint about him, he's great). Even the office doesn't feel that sociable anymore, as more of the people I know leave and those remaining are as busy as I am. I've pulled out of two big social events at the last minute, for reasons ranging from having too much work, being too stressed, too tired, too poor and just generally too grumpy/miserable to be motivated. The problem is, after-the-fact I'm left feeling guilty and wretched and like I'm going to lose all my friends because of it. The latest of those is today, when I should have been going to the New Forest Show with some of my WI friends. As well as it being a bit too expensive for me right now, I just really couldn't face it. I love those girls and I really feel like I'm missing out on a great day. I feel so guilty and stupid for pulling out, even though I know beating myself up over it is only making me feel worse. I've even text them to apologise, explain and they have said they aren't angry with me, but my depressed brain seems convinced that they will now hate me forever and never want to do anything with me again. 


I make myself so angry sometimes. 


If I was talking this through with my therapist I know exactly what he would tell me to do; think about why I think they will hate me then look at the actual evidence. I think they will hate me and not want to be my friends anymore because I have lost so many friends in the past in similar circumstances. Looking at the actual, current evidence, these girls are great and lovely and have said in so many words that they are not annoyed with me.


That actually helped just to type that out. I feel a bit calmer.


It's my birthday party this weekend and to be honest, the way I was feeling, I just wanted to cancel. I won't, because I know it's not really the right thing to do, also I know my boyfriend won't let me (bless him). I'm in the sort of mood where I just can't understand why anyone would want to see me or be my friend at all, like I'm the most miserable, boring, unlikable, unreliable person and totally incapable of having a good time. 


What I really need to do is focus on picking myself up, dusting myself off and getting myself in the mood to have a good time with my friends on Saturday. I'll let you know how I get on with that :/


Thanks for listening,
Betty
x

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Sunscreen

Funnily enough, this isn't a post about the 'wonderful' July weather. I am yet to break out the sunscreen this year.


Sunscreen actually refers to the Baz Lurhman song "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" that topped the UK singles chart all the way back in 1999! I don't know why, but this song came into my head the other day and I remembered how much I liked it and how poignant the lyrics are. (It's probably only fair to point out that the 'lyrics' are actually taken from an article published in The Chicago Tribune in 1997, entitled "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young".)


Anyway, I wanted to just take some time to consider the article/song as I think it contains a lot of really good advice. I did try to do this for the whole thing, but it turned into a bit of an epic post, so I've just picked my favourite sections, but I recommend you listen to the song in full.


"Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you imagine."

While I am still young and would still consider myself to have my youth (no wrinkles or grey hairs yet), I have enough wherewithal to recognise the wisdom of this statement. In modern times and in our western culture, we tend to waste so much of our youth worrying about how we look rather than enjoying it. I am as guilty of this as anyone. When you are depressed it is even easier to spend too much time worrying about things and not being able to enjoy things. I think it is really important to focus efforts on finding things you enjoy as it is these things that will buoy you up when you start to feel low again.  Enjoy the moment, not just the memory, that's what life is for.

"Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday."

Now this is one I am definitely guilty of, and I suspect I am not alone in that fact. Depression makes the future seem so desolate and unwelcoming, how can we do anything but worry about it? However, stopping worrying about the future can actually be part of the road to recovery, learning to recognise and appreciate the good things that happen day to day and breaking down the big impossible problem of 'the future' into more manageable days or hours. Worry doesn't fix anything, it just makes problems seem worse and solutions harder to come by and put into action.

"Do one thing everyday that scares you"

Now, I've thought a lot about this one. Doing something that scares you everyday seems like an awfully bog task. I do also know that mostly this phrase is used as an analogy for challenging yourself and stretching yourself in you life, rather than literally expecting you to do something scary everyday. It is probably easier to think of the phrase literally when you're depressed. When you are depressed, even the 'little', 'everyday' things that most people do can be scary and challenging - from leaving the house to getting out of bed, answering the phone or speaking to your doctor. When you are depressed, these things do count as challenges, and making attempts to overcome them is a huge achievement you should be proud of. If the idea of something scary everyday is a bit overwhelming, try to think of it as doing something everyday that you can write down as an achievement to be proud of. Over time these achievements will all group together and result in getting you better.

"Sing" 

Absolutely do this one! In the shower, in the car, with people or on your own. It doesn't matter if it's an epic ballad that gets your blood pumping and lifts your mood, or something heavier that lets you scream out some of your frustrations. Singing is cathartic. I always feel better after belting out a 'tune'. 


"Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes 

you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with 

yourself. Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you 
succeed in doing this, tell me how."

I'm not sure if jealousy is the right word, when you're depressed it's probably more like envy or resentment. Envy and resentment against those who aren't suffering with depression, who are happy and enjoy life and who don't seem to understand or care about you or what you're going through. This is never helpful and will only ever make you feel worse - don't waste your time. Invest your time and energy in making yourself feel good, it'll have a much bigger, better payout. Remembering compliments and forgetting insults is particularly difficult when you are depressed. I can't give you a secret formula for this one, it's about strength and persistence. I write down good things that happen, it's the only way I can guarantee I will remember.

"Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements." 

Another one I don't think you need to take totally literally. Hold on to the good experiences and discard the bad. It's good advice for everyone, but especially important when you have depression.

"Stretch" 

Physically and mentally. It's generally accepted that physical activity can help in the fight against depression. You don't have to run a marathon, maybe just try a little yoga and see if you don't feel better for it.

"Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t."

I think this is a great one. I have no idea what I want to do 'with my life', career wise anyway. Remember there is more to life than a career though. A life is just a collection of days that make weeks that make months that make years. Ultimately, what I want to do with my life is enjoy it - another piece of advice that is good for everyone, but essential for people suffering with depression. Focus on feeling better and everything else will seem less important.

"Get plenty of calcium"

Calcium is good for your health and good health is important for good moods. I'm also pretty sure there is calcium in ice cream. No further discussion required.


"Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children,maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s."

This is pretty much a repeat of earlier points. Don't worry about what will happen in the future, make the most of everyday as it comes and one day you'll realise the future worked out to be pretty good after all. I'm also pretty sure the funky chicken should be a compulsory dance at all 75th wedding anniversaries.

"Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.. Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room."

Loving yourself seems like the most unlikely thing when you are depressed. Start by finding one thing about yourself you like, or at least don't hate, and build up from there. Dancing, like singing can be a great release and can help you enjoy being you.

"Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them."

This one makes me smile. You don't always have to do what you're told, life can be more fun that way. You don't have to enjoy the things people say you should, you don't have to look the way people say you should, you don't have to want the things people say you should. However, always follow the instructions on medications, that one's non-negotiable.

"Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly."

No-one has he right to tell you you're not good enough or make you think you should be something other than who you are. You can't begin to see how beautiful and wonderful you are if you're surrounded by fake images of what is 'right'. If you do read them, always remember that the pictures are fake and the expectations are all wrong.



I know, when we are at a particularly low ebb, it can be hard to listen to anything positive or take in any sort of advice, but I hope you can find some hope in these messages. 
Also, remember that more people than you realise will relate to these things than you think. Some of them might be particularly relevant for those of us with depression, but worries and difficulties are all part of life for pretty much everyone - you are not broken or wrong or defective. 

Do you have a particular song that helps pick you up when you're feeling down? 

I hope you're all doing ok.

Love,
Betty
x