If you’re feeling blue, you could do worse than get on a bike
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.
I’ve felt blue throughout my life, but self-acceptance and good habits can help
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.
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.
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.
If I can learn to fix two busted tyres in one morning, I’m not too old to fix my life
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.
When I’m too low to sweat out The Blues, it’s time to get up to the allotment
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.