‘I’ve reached it, the place people talk about. The trouble is that people talk about it after they’ve been here – after they’ve got over it, survived and returned to tell the tale. It doesn’t seem half as bad with hindsight. But when you’re in the middle of it – right here, right now – it’s shit.’ – Gary Barlow
I never really understood why depression was sometimes referred to as The Black Dog until July last summer. Work was going brilliantly, I’d slimmed down to sub 11 stone and, most importantly, one of my best friends in the world, Meagan had come to visit me and we’d had the best week together. The weather had been perfectly kind to us for once and although she was only here a week, and all we did was hang around the house, go shopping (or drinking) and catch up, we both agreed it was the best week we’d ever spent together.
After she left, the only way i know how to explain how I felt that seems to put it into some kind of sensible words is that the world felt dark. Like my eyes were on a dimmer switch and it had been turned down really low, like in the depths of winter when it never really seems to get light. And I was crying all the time, over everything, or sometimes over nothing. Eventually I saw my GP and had a long (very tearful) chat with her. She referred me to CBT and on my first session my coach said ‘So your doctor tells me you suffered a bout of depression over the summer‘. I hadn’t even realised things had gotten that bad.
That’s the problem you see, sometimes you don’t until you’ve come out the other side that that’s what you had. And anything can trigger it, for me, it was simple, I missed my best mate. We’d had such an amazing week together, poured our hearts out to each other, laughed together and cried together and now she was gone and I missed her.
I’m not sure whether it’s psychological fact or not but one thing that’s always helped me through emotional times is music. I have a theory, if you’re interested, that if you’re going through a tough time, pick a song that you love, that for that 3 and a half minutes when you listen to it, you don’t think about anything, just lose yourself in the music. You’ll find that you listen to that song almost on a constant loop in the beginning but eventually you’ll need it as a crutch less and less.
The song that helped bring me out of the dark again last summer was Thank U by Alanis Morissette.
It’s a song that’s obviously been on my radar for years and years, being a life long Alanis fan but one day on the trusty old 22 bus from work into town one drizzly Friday afternoon just before Christmas it came on my phone, and I suddenly heard the lyrics differently to before:
‘How bout them transparent dangling carrots, How bout that ever elusive kudo?’
I’ve written before that i’m a massive seeker of praise and that’s often how I define my successes. I’m trying less and less to worry about what other people think of me and and be confident enough in my own personality and ability to know I do a good job most of the time, without needed validation from others.
‘How bout me not blaming you for everything, How bout me enjoying the moment for once?’
It’s easy when you have anxiety or depression to blame it all on other people. It’s them making you feel down or it’s them who doesn’t understand. We all do it. Someone told me once that having anxiety doesn’t give you the right to be a dickhead to people, and I think that sums it up perfectly!
I also have a real problem living in the moment. All most every holiday or trip away I’ve had recently I’ve come back angry at myself because I didn’t fully switch off and worried a out what was going on back at home. Worried needlessly as well I might add because everything was fine at home. We go to Portugal again at the end of May and I’m going to make it my mission to switch off and relax.
‘How bout how good it feels to finally forgive you, How bout grieving it all one at a time?’
I’ve heard a story that elderly people in China waking up every morning and before they start their day they physically sit and count their blessings. I need to start doing that more and I’ve adopted something similar into my bedtime routine. While I’m drifting off to sleep before I start criticizing myself for what I did wrong that day, I think about what went well, what I enjoyed and what I need to forgive myself for. It makes for a much more peaceful sleep!
‘The moment I let go of it was the moment I got more than I could handle.The moment I jumped off of it was the moment I touched down’
If I ever got a tattoo it would be of these words (probably in some wanky latin script for extra hipster effect). In fact I have these lyrics next to me on my desk underneath my worry tree so I can remind myself every day that as I let go of all my little worries, the sun will keep on shining.
‘How bout no longer being masochistic. How bout remembering your divinity’
It’s 100% fact that anxiety sufferers are selfish, self involved pains in the backside. In fact I think it was my friend Carrie who (very affectionately) said after I’d been worried someone had been slagging me off ‘what makes you think you’re so important that you’re at the forefront of everyone’s mind all the time’? It’s nice to have good friends to bring you down to earth every now and again!
As if a small act of divine intervention, later on that afternoon I was in a pub with Dave and while he was at the bar I overheard a snippet of a conversation and someone said ‘you know what you need? You need to become the song you’re listening to mate’. I have no idea in what context that comment was made but I thought it was fate.
And that’s reason 6 billion why Alanis Morissette is one of my favourite human beings on the planet.
If you want to learn more about depression and other mental health conditions, BetterHelp has written a great article about music, and how it may effect your mood more than you realise.