Tag Archives: depression

Summer Lows

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“Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.”  ~Richard Bach

“Nobody likes me; everybody hates me/ I’m gonna eat some worms!”   ~nursery rhyme

“Keep it up, and I’ll give you something to cry about!”   ~my Dad

I have nothing to be unhappy about. I live in reasonable comfort on a beautiful island. My health is good. People like me. I have nice neighbors, good friends, and a wonderful family. I have a decent job that supports me. I have two sweet dogs that adore me. And yet, difficult as it may seem, at times I can manage to be downright miserable. It happened this last weekend.

I’d had a particularly busy week at work. My already long days were made longer because I was staying after-hours to cut plexiglas to fit frames for a series of collages. I was tired, and looking forward to my days off. I was scheduled to have a three day weekend, my first Sunday off since April. It would do me good, and allow me to catch up on yard work and finish getting my artwork ready to show.

Saturday, I ran down to meet the ferry boat when it came in to our harbor. I expected my niece to be on it. It turned out I was mistaken about the date, and she was not there. I didn’t realize, until then, how much I’d been looking forward to seeing her. What a disappointment!

Later that day, I overheard my co-worker making plans for Sunday. “You know, you’re scheduled to work on Sunday,” I reminded him. Clearly he had not remembered; obviously, he was unhappy about it. I offered to work in his place. It wasn’t a big deal; I work almost every single Sunday all year ’round. I’m used to it. Still, something like that is perfect fodder when my mood wants to dip into the self-pity realm.

Sunday morning, up early, I sat down at the computer to write my blog. Turning to week #28 in my 52 Lists for Happiness book, I found, “List the projects you have been meaning to work on and finish.” What?!? I, the queen of good intentions and unfinished projects, could write an encyclopedia on the subject, not simply a list! What kind of exercise in humiliation is this? By that time, it seemed that even “the 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project” had turned on me! I spewed out one good example before heading out the door for work.

Sunday was busy, with lots of customers and in-coming freight. I mixed fourteen gallons of paint, cut several keys, and put together an extensive special order for eavestrough. I had a dozen customers come in after closing time. Then, when I was finally able to lock the door and turn out the lights, I clocked out, then went to the basement to finish my plexiglas.

By the time I got home, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I took the dogs to Fox Lake, made a simple supper, and was in bed before 9 PM. Wide awake at 2 AM, I read, paced the floor, worried about a hundred nonsensical things, and did some journal writing. I was finally able to sleep for a couple hours at dawn. By Monday morning, I was a mess: sad, sorry, depressed, full of self-pity and certain that everybody was picking on me.

It happens just that quickly. Life is normal, even happy, going along on an even keel. Then, a series of small occurrences cause imbalance. Lack of sleep. Disappointment. Physical tiredness. Stress. I know the contributing factors. It used to be, those low moods would last for weeks, or even months. Not anymore.

I know how to take care off myself, when I feel depression coming. I know how to get through it, too. Self-care is important. A soothing cup of tea, a hot bath, an afternoon nap, a good “comfort food” meal: what seems like indulgence is simply taking care of myself. Physical exertion, whether through exercise or, for instance, scrubbing a floor can go a long way to alleviate  feeling low.

It’s helpful to remember to NOT  take this time to vent to others. It’s okay to say “I’m depressed (or frustrated, disappointed or sad),” and to ask for understanding or help. It’s not a good idea to try to place blame on others for my own feelings. Any attempts to do that will only necessitate apologies later.

Beyond that, I reassure myself that the mood won’t last…and it won’t. Even at the worst of times, my life is pretty darn good…and I know it.

 

Monday, Monday…

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A cloud of sadness – instead of sleep – came over me last night, and stayed.

I’ve been here before. As someone who has dealt with depression throughout my life, I am fairly clinical about it. Sometimes it’s an imbalance issue; sometimes a true and good reaction to what life hands out.

I look to possible reasons. Lack of sleep or exercise, tiredness, and a feeling of being overwhelmed could all play a part. There is also the “teeter-totter” effect.  When my mood is chipper almost to the breaking point, when everything seems perfect and I laugh harder than I’ve laughed in years…I can expect that the balance will shift, and I’ll want to cry.

I’ve just finished a five-day work cycle. Business has been brisk, and the hardware was a little under-staffed. In addition, I’ve had meetings and interviews, writing, bookkeeping and banking and a dozen other extracurricular activities. I’m tired. I’m behind in everything. I don’t know which task to tackle first. Of course, I can’t sleep!

Two dear friends lost their mother yesterday. I know how devoted these brothers are to their family, and what a wonderful presence their mother was in their lives. Feelings of sympathy combine with empathy, and the loss of my own mother – almost five years ago – is brought right up to the present, as my heart goes out to them.

I had a meeting last evening, with a lively, young and beautiful family. We talked and laughed and exchanged ideas. Their life looks much  the way I expected my life to be like when I came here with my family nearly  forty years ago. The long list of things that changed the course of those plans could cause anyone a bit of melancholy. Also, as often happens in those circumstances, I shared more personal information than I am comfortable with. I was cringing about that, by the time I got home. Finally, the outcome – though not bad – was not exactly what I’d hoped for. Any of these things could have contributed to my change in mood.

I know the things to do, to lift the cloud of depression. There are baby steps to help alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed. I make lists, finish one task, create a plan. There are distractions that sometimes work. At three o’clock this morning, I made a cup of tea and watched a movie. At five o’clock I decided that a few hours of sleep – if sleep would come – would be better than none at all, and I took to the couch.

Now, here is Monday.

 

 

Where’s the Joy?

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It seems that I have dropped into my – almost annual – birthday funk.

It is not my birthday yet…but it’s coming.

There have been a few years where the day has come and gone without the usual feelings of depression and sadness   but they are a rare exception.

It’s not the age that bothers me.

Sometimes it’s the lack of accomplishment, though that was more pertinent when I was younger. I had a whole list of things I had hoped to accomplish by the time I turned thirty – or even forty – but I never really thought I’d have anything left to accomplish if I was still around at this age (I’ll be turning 63), so I am not disappointed. Still being here, I guess, is an accomplishment!

Sometimes it’s loneliness. My mother used to say I was ” the most anti-social” of all of her children (I’m sure she meant that in the nicest possible way!), and she was probably right. Usually, I’m not bothered by being alone; often I relish it. Not on Christmas, though, and not on my birthday.

Sometimes it’s just that I am generally overwhelmed and exhausted.

Sometimes it’s remembering other years, and the losses that have marked the passage of time.

Sometimes it’s just habit.

I have just had an entire frenzied month that included two trips to the mainland, an open house, a class reunion, a memorial for a dear uncle and three weeks with my granddaughter here on the island. All of my sisters have been here for a wonderful, fun week, as well as nieces and nephews and friends and cousins…and I’m tired.

This is a busy time of year here on Beaver Island. The Fourth of July festivities were followed in quick succession by the Beaver Island Music Fest; Museum Week, including an art show that I participate in; “Baroque on Beaver” concerts and activities; a Bike Fest; “Meet the Artists” at Livingstone Studio, which I also participate in; Home-Coming Weekend, and now Jazz Fest. Add to that the people that come for birding, kayaking and camping, or just the basic warm weather and  beautiful beaches. Visitors to the island mean customers in the stores. Though we appreciate the business and love to see the people come, all who work in the service industries feel the strain by the time August rolls around.

Clearly, I have too much on my plate. I wonder about my sanity in taking on the Beaver Beacon. Even with good help – and my partners are wonderful – it is a huge responsibility that seems overwhelming much of the time. I cut my hours at the hardware to make time for the news magazine, so my income hasn’t changed – except for the things I’ve had to purchase and the times I’ve had to supplement it’s bank account out of my personal funds – but my stress level certainly has.

This month, that features many birthdays and wedding anniversaries in my family, also holds the sad memories of many losses. Both of my parents died in August. So did my sister, Sheila. My Grandma Thelma died around the end of August, when I was a child.

Though I loved my Grandma, I was a selfish child. Her death affected me mostly because I didn’t get a birthday party that year. My poor, harried mother – with seven little children and another on the way, with a husband who worked long hours and didn’t like hospitals, with no brothers or sisters to help, with her mother dying in the hospital – gave me a hug, handed me an unwrapped chapter book (my precious Heidi, that I treasure, still) and said, “This year, this will have to do…happy birthday!”

What?! No party? No balloons? No festivities? Does nobody love me? Does no one care? Am I the least favorite child in this whole family? I embarked on a major “Feeling Sorry For Myself” jag that became so enjoyable in it’s intensity, it became habit, and an almost annual tradition. It is with me, still. I recognize it, and even laugh at myself most of the time for my childish mournfulness (“My sisters will all be gone by my birthday, and I’ll be alone…and my kids will probably forget to call…and I have to work…”)…but I know to be careful, too. What starts as a little self-indulgent self pity can turn into a major depression if I let it go on unchecked.

Clearly, I have matured. I work at avoiding depression; I look for joy. I spend my birthday with good intentions and good memories.

This year, in fact, I think I’ll mark my birthday with a list of 63 joyful things I’d still like to accomplish in this life!

Shadows of Gratitude

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My friend Kathy, who writes from her little house in the woods of Michigan’s upper peninsula, yesterday wrote about gratitude.

She was inspired by the writing of two others, and she was pretty inspirational herself.

If I could remember how to link to things, or if I had the stamina to figure it out, I’d link to all three.

It’s an important thing to remember,  to be thankful.

About twenty years ago, my mother was similarly inspired when she heard Sarah Ban Breathnach speak on the Oprah show about her book, Simple Abundance; a Daybook of Gratitude and Joy. She really took it to heart. For the rest of her life, Mom counted her blessings. She had always been one to “look at the bright side” so it was a subtle change, but important to her. Mom gave Breathnach’s book to me and several of my sisters that year for Christmas.  I remember, too, a short but heartfelt lecture about it.

“Just read it, Cindy, and sincerely give it a try! Just give it a chance, and see if your life doesn’t improve…”

I say things like that to my daughters when it seems they are struggling or unhappy. I suggest books or programs that might help to make sense of the chaos their lives seem – to me, from this distance – to be in. Even over the telephone, I can almost hear the sound of their eyes rolling, they do it with such vehemence!

A talk like that was rare from my mother, though, and I listened.

I read the book, as she requested, and started a “gratitude journal.” Not being one to throw away perfectly good paper, I have it still.  It looks like I was pretty faithful about writing down the things I was thankful for  from April 9, 1996 through May 10, 1996. There is one entry in December of that year, then a long interval until July 24, 2001…then February 3, 2002…then February 1, 2005, where the first entry is, “I’m grateful I didn’t let 3 entire years go by without keeping up with this.” Very funny. I kept up the daily practice, then, for another five days. That’s it. I’m not even a quarter of the way through the book!

What is even more startling than my lack of dedication to the task, is my pathetically negative attitude.

I have my moments.

“I am glad to have two beautiful, sweet daughters”

“…my friends and family”

“…my grandchildren”

These sentiments repeat frequently enough, as well as gratitude for a package, a letter, a good book, a sunny day, a fresh snow, a warm cat curled beside me, the arrival of Girl Scout cookies…

I’m grateful that I at least noted these good things because mostly my gratitude journal is shameful.

“I wasn’t totally depressed today”

“I’m so glad the tire didn’t go completely flat”

“My hair looked okay for a change.”

“I did not sit home alone feeling sorry for myself tonight”

“I’m glad I left the party before I got even more depressed”

“I am grateful to have made it through the day”

“I feel okay today”

“I’m glad the green paint doesn’t look so bad on the bed frame”

This is like the “Dark Side” of gratitude!

It’s no wonder I didn’t keep up with it…I was horrible at it!

Freshly inspired by Kathy’s enthusiasm, I think I’ll try again.

I still have plenty of pages to fill, after all!

My Dreary Day

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This is my life on Beaver Island, as illustrated by my seven year old grandson, Brandon.

There’s my little house, and car, the grape arbor (Brandon used to call it the “Gray Barber”) with a child inside, the big maple tree with two swings and two rope swings hanging from its branches…it’s all here.

In the background, then, you can see the Beaver Island ferry, filled with smiling and waving passengers. In the sky above is the Island airplane (note the shamrocks on the wings) also filled with grinning passengers.

It is being escorted in by an Army plane, that is dropping some pretty scary fire bombs all over the landscape. What?!

Well, perhaps to a seven year old boy, that element of dangerous excitement is the only thing this island is missing…so he put it in. A little bit of fiery wings on our island plane would make for a more thrilling ride, I guess.

Brandon is older now. Though he continues to amaze me with his artwork, this drawing perfectly suited my mood yesterday.

I woke up with a feeling of dread and depression that could neither be explained nor wished away. I had lots to do, and I kept plugging away at my list, but felt that I was fighting my way through thick sludge…waiting for the bombs to drop. I once heard depression described as a feeling of being covered with a heavy, wet wool blanket; that person knows depression. It covers you over…it is not a choice. There’s always the fear that it won’t go away.

Of course, I know all the things to do. Get out in the fresh air, get exercise. Don’t dwell on it. Keep working at everyday activities. Keep a list of accomplishments; keep marking things off the list as they are completed. Go easy.

So, I took long walks with the dogs, morning and evening. I spent several hours in fairly mindless but worthwhile activity in the garden, and several more hours in the studio. I did not vacuum the rugs, do my exercise video or write. I ate only leftovers. I went to bed early.

Today, the sun is shining here on Beaver Island. We got a rain shower overnight, and everything looks fresh. My clouds have lifted, too.

On to another day!