Give Us Hills, Not Pills

If you’re feeling blue, you could do worse than get on a bike

Original image: Keith Johnson/Pixabay

I FELT that I had to cycle yesterday morning: even though I was tired from riding the day before, and my bad knee was sore. Even though it was 9.30am on Monday and I ought to be working.

I was feeling moderately bad, mentally. The excitement of my birthday week and the weekend that followed it had dissipated and left me with a bad case of the Monday blues.

There’s something about the mess of a Monday – Sunday’s unwashed dishes, the pile of washing in the basket, unread emails piling up in my inbox all weekend – that unmans me, and makes me want to run away from my life.

I caught myself ruminating that maybe now that I’d reached 55, I should stop there and end it all because I’d reached the end of my usefulness. I thought about how my brother and I don’t talk and how it was probably my fault…

Then, just after I set off, I saw a pensioner and told myself: “You live like a pensioner. You don’t have the energy or the discipline to live a full life. All you’re fit for is staying at home and pottering around until you die.”

As I said, I wasn’t having a great day. But the longer I cycled, the more forgiving of myself I became.

Continue reading “Give Us Hills, Not Pills”

‘It’s just part of you’ – what I’ve learned about living with chronic depression

I’ve felt blue throughout my life, but self-acceptance and good habits can help

Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

I WOKE UP at four this morning and had trouble getting back to sleep.

I just couldn’t stop my brain from worrying – and all my usual fixes, my equivalents of counting sheep, weren’t helping.

So I tried to settle myself down by thinking about good things – any good thing, like the well-received meal I’d made a few hours before… or about how I was approaching another anniversary of coming off antidepressants.

Continue reading “‘It’s just part of you’ – what I’ve learned about living with chronic depression”

Now The Future’s Brighter, The Past Doesn’t Seem As Dark

Now I’m feeling better, I can look back on my years of depression and think I wasn’t useless, after all

Candles, poo, flowers, Keith Richards skiing

Original Images: Raph_PH (Wikimedia Commons), cathfinch73, Beverley Buckley, Erzsebet Apostal, Patrick Hodskins, Willy Sietsma (all via Pixabay)

MAYBE IT’S JUST the Spring that’s making me feel better but I feel strangely…. hopeful lately.

Just like the irises, hyacinths and daffodils starting to break through the cold earth in our front garden, little hopeful thoughts have been pushing up all around my mind.

It could be just a trick of the – fast-lengthening – daylight, but it’s beginning to feel like the end of my decades-long depression and, finally, the start of something better.

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If I Can Run The First 200 Metres, I Can Handle Anything

Today’s run is all about rediscovering confidence and willpower

A road going uphill
Image: Ave Calvar/Unsplash

Before I go on any run, I worry.  

I worry that my knee will give out…  

I worry that I won’t make it round…

I worry that I’ll do a Paula Radcliffe (and I don’t mean breaking World Records…)

But most of all, I worry about running the first 200 metres.

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Shedding Tears, Window Pains

I’ve been having a meltdown just because I’m not good at D.I.Y: it turns out that being a perfectionist is a B.A.D thing

A just-built shed

DO YOU REMEMBER that trick we all used in job interviews back in the 1980s?

“My biggest weakness? I’m afraid that I’m a bit of a perfectionist…”  

Well, I found out just recently that I wasn’t lying. It seems that I am a perfectionist and, actually, it’s been kinda ruining my life just recently. 

Continue reading “Shedding Tears, Window Pains”

Mind – Just About – Over Matter

Elite athletes and depressives have a surprising amount in common – including worrying that they just can’t do it any more

A cartoon cyclist crashes
Image: depuys/pixabay

WHEN Jonny Brownlee won gold at the World Triathlon Championship event in Edmonton just over a week ago, he admitted he wasn’t really feeling like a world-beater.

The Olympic Silver and Bronze medallist had just won the 13th World Championship race of his glittering career.

But he told the BBC that – after injury and accidents had left him without an elite-level victory in almost two years – he’d feared he might never win again.

“I’ve doubted myself a lot.,” he said. “Athletes have very short-term memories and it doesn’t really matter what you’ve done in the past.

“The last 18 months, really, I’ve thought I’m never going to get on the podium again; never mind win one of these again.”

Hearing Brownlee talk about doubt – and only being able to remember success for a short period – made my ears prick up.

This is because I also doubt myself constantly, and tend to forget the many positive things I’ve done.

The difference between us is: I’m not a world-class athlete, but an ordinary man with depression.   

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The Story Of The Blues (Part Two)

Fireworks at Glastonbury Festival

Depression can make you think that you’re not ill at all – just an arsehole.

THE MISSUS was away at Glastonbury over the weekend, and I was delighted about that.
I’m not saying that I’m glad she wasn’t here with me and the kids.
Rather, I was excited that she and her sisters were able to go to one of her favourite places in the world.
Ever since the children were little and therefore a handful, Glasto has been her (almost) once-a-year chance to be utterly free from all her responsibilities, get a bit pissed and chill out in the sunshine.
But her going is also freeing for me, because I’m confident that she’s going to be happy.
And if I know that she’s happy, I can let go for a while of one of my big anxieties: that being married to a depressive like me is ruining her life.

Continue reading “The Story Of The Blues (Part Two)”

The Story Of The Blues (Part One)

I wanted to write about some aspects of depression that aren’t discussed quite so often – but I found it too complicated, and too upsetting. By cutting what I want to say into three upcoming blogs – about Waste, Guilt, Other People – I hope I’ll get it out. Of course, no-one is making you read, if you think them self-indulgent… 

THE FIRST THING I’d say about having depression is that it’s a terrible waste of time.

And, sometimes, it feels that I have wasted most of my life fighting it.

I visited a therapist for the first time when I was about 21, and having panic attacks. Now I’m 53 and continuing to see a shrink once a week.

I still get panic attacks sometimes, but these days I suffer more from full blown, I’m a waste–of-space depression. So, clearly, I’m not sorted out yet. 

In all of those 32 years since I first rocked up in a consulting room, I reckon that I have experienced more bad days than good. 

But I have tried to fight this illness, and in many ways this struggle has come to define my life.

Continue reading “The Story Of The Blues (Part One)”

I’m An Old Dog, But I’ve Got Some New Tricks

If I can learn to fix two busted tyres in one morning, I’m not too old to fix my life

A bike wheel and inner tube

I’VE BEEN FEELING LOW over the last week or two.
In my sessions with the psychologist, I’ve spent a lot of time crying, going on (Boo hoo!) about how washed up and useless I am and how I don’t contribute anything.
Although – if I can manage to look at my situation objectively – things are actually slightly better than they were this time last year, I still spend a lot of my time beating myself up.
Despite making better decisions these days, and making some progress towards the things I want to do, I find that I’m still derailed very easily by any setback, no matter how small.
Yesterday, I had technical problems with launching this blog and, after a brief period of angry struggle, gave up trying to fix them.
I knocked off work early and stewed, decided that I needed a couple of beers to cheer myself up and – inevitably, since this is me we’re talking about – woke up this morning feeling there was no point in doing anything whatsoever. 

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Whole Lotty Love

When I’m too low to sweat out The Blues, it’s time to get up to the allotment 

An allotment in bloom

THOSE OF US who admit to problems with our mental health are encouraged to come up with so-called ‘coping strategies’ for when things don’t go well. 

And because I’ve been struggling for years, I’ve developed quite a few, different, ways of caring for myself. 

Eating and drinking the right things helps, of course, as does getting a decent amount of sleep.

I’ve also written recently about how laying off the booze – hard as it is to do – unquestionably helps to start the next morning happily. 

On truly bad days, just putting on some shorts and big trainers and jogging up and down the hills that surround my house was my favourite form of mental alchemy – reliably turning panic into contentment and black thoughts towards silver linings. 

Now, as I continue to nurse busted knee ligaments, I’ve found that I can achieve a similar effect to running by getting on a bike and pointing it up the nearest big hill, Lifting weights, meanwhile, brings a quiet calmness, a greater happiness with myself. 

But most of those things are hard work and there are days when I really don’t have the strength for exercise that involves burning off hundreds of calories. 

It’s then that I like to put on some old, sturdy, clothes, get on my bike and pedal gently up to Lotty – the name we have given to our vegetable allotment a mile or so away. 

Continue reading “Whole Lotty Love”