Saturday came hard.
I had really looked forward to the weekend. On Friday I finished 'Behaviour Self,' a four day training on dealing with, and understanding, behaviour in people with intellectual disabilities. I had a wonderful audience and I enjoyed teaching them. Driving home after the last class felt good. I relaxed in the car and Joe and I chatted about the week and we each had a butter tart as a treat - gifts from the group. I went to bed feeling that it had been a good week and things had been accomplished.
And then came Saturday.
I have always had problems with depression and bouts of feeling utterly useless. In with that toxic brew my mind slips a dram or two of dread and a heaping tablespoon of hopelessness. I opened my eyes on a very different emotional world than the one that had been there when I closed them. The whole day was agony. We went out, did things together, but I did them without any sense of joy. Finally, giving up on the pursuit of a nice day, we went home.
I know that I choose how I feel ... at least that's what I'm told.
But it sure doesn't feel like a choice.
And I couldn't choose my way out of it.
At least I know enough to just endure and wait. These things rarely last more than a day or two and even more rarely hang on for a week. I feel for Joe when I'm like this, those who have met him know that he's a cheerful guy with a fairly positive outlook. I feel, at times like these, that I burden his soul with the weight of my sorrow. He manages to get through me getting through the darkness.
On Sunday I woke up feeling better. I was relieved to find that I looked forward to the day. We were actually fairly productive. We went out and got Joe some new shorts, which he needed. I was surprised and delighted that the Bay now carried Burton's men's clothes. I knew I was doing well simply because I was delighted at something so simple. We shop a lot at Burtons when in the UK and Joe found a terrific pair of shorts on the racks yesterday.
On our way home we stopped for an iced tea and sat on the patio on Yonge Street just a block from home. At the next table were two men, one a little older than us, the other a little younger. The younger fellow had had a very bad night and was talking, clearly upset, with his friend. I really felt for him, I could see that his day was crumbling in front of him. He admitted to his friend that he was having trouble getting back on solid emotional ground. Joe glanced at me knowing that I understood exactly where he was coming from.
I noticed, right away on seeing the two of them at the next table, that the younger fellow was wearing very cool Union Jack shoes. It seemed that we were having a fairly British Sunday and that pleased me - especially since we'd watched the Royal Flotilla and generally got into the whole Jubilee spirit. I warred inside a little bit but then, when there was a moment's silence between the two men, I asked, trying not to be creepy, where he'd got his shoes. I did this for two reasons, one, I wanted to know, two, I thought that maybe a distraction coming out of the blue might help.
He immediately grabbed on to the question with a kind of desperation. Like a life line had been thrown to him. He'd bought them just the day before at a shop just down the street. He described, in great detail, how to find the shop, he talked, in great detail, about how much he liked the shoes and how comfortable they were, he talked, in great detail, about how cool he thought they were. He pulled up his pant leg so we could get a really good boo at the boots. Both Joe and I honestly told him that they were great looking shoes.
On their way out, we were sipping our iced tea not in any rush, he stopped beside me, patted me on the arm and wished me a nice day. I felt a real warmth in his touch, like he wanted to give me a little bit of what I'd given him.
I don't like dark days.
I don't like surviving rather than living.
It was a risk to try and push the clouds away over someone else's head.
But in this case, I'm glad I did, because I noticed it was sunnier on the way home.
Oh Gosh - can I relate to the dark - the darkness that rolls over and is so oppressive. Yes - there is much to be thankful for - but some days, even weeks (dare I say years) are so dreadfully sad.
Good on ya for seeing it - not only in yourself but in others. It most likely is the intimate knowledge of the darkness that allows you to see the shadows over others.
How encouraging to see how a little interest, a little care - can change someone else's day. Let us all take up such a challenge.
When we are in that dark place sometimes all it takes is for someone to notice us ,to affirm that we are not invisible.Unfortunatly such emotions scare many people and they withdraw from the person instead of reaching out.Im glad you reached out and i hope that contact affirmed it for both of you!
Gentle hugzzz :)
Beautiful, just beautiful.
I think that depression should have a sub category called "depletion." Would that make it easier to live with--less mysterious and deadly in attack? I say this only being qualified by living with a depleter--one who give his all to each and every thing in his life, no matter what. I see the cost--and sometimes contribute by not being sensitive and asking for more than there is to give... You were so kind in throwing out that lifeline.
Getting hit with depression (especially after a particularly good day) is hard.
It's good, though, that you are self-aware enough to have cared for yourself and weathered it.
I read your blog daily, appreciating your insights into this thing that gets called "disability."
Which is why I was actually surprised when you comment that you "knew" that we "choose" how we feel.
Oh that it were so.
Unfortunately, because brains are yet another physical part of our bodies, we don't always have that kind of control, any more than I can "think" my curved spine straight or my ADHD to clear.
My own darling daughter is once again in hospital for the dark depression that hits her a couple of times a year. She is kind, conscientious, smart, accomplished, responsible - but after many years, knows that no matter how good she is feeling, one day the greyness descends and she just plain has to take care of herself, just as you would with the flu or pneumonia or how you would with a bad sprain. Sometimes that means going to the hospital, sometimes not.
I wish for all the world I could tell her to "cheer up" or to "remember all the good people in your life" and she would be magically healed. Instead, she carefully works with her doctors and every now and then, she'll have to take a week or so off for this "chronic medical condition." I admire her for her wisdom.
Now, of course, I'm not saying you should head right away to a shrink or the hospital.
Just remember, be kind and respectful toward yourself even when, like the example you gave, it's the filter through which you see the world that needs to rest and heal.
And, again, thanks for all you say and do!
The most useful metaphor (for me) for how our emotions works is this:
Emotions are like the weather. They come, go, never stay the same, and we have just as much control over them as we do the rain or the wind. You can have a surprisingly warm and sunny day in January, or a cold and wet one in July. The best we can do is dress appropriately and wait them out.
Now -- a change of pace (can't resist): Those boots were made for talking?
Sorry. I, and my bad puns, will be over here in the corner.
I too find that occasionally I get blindsided by a day or two of the down & outs. I discovered a lovely Rumi poem which I taped to my bathroom mirror. It helps to put things in perspective. Hope this is helpful...
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
People vastly overstate 'choice', don't they? As long as it's someone else's 'choice', anyway.
Besides, who's to say that 'choosing' to be depressed in a world with some vilely depressing aspects isn't quite as valid as 'choosing' not to feel depressed in a world with some vilely depressing aspects? Cheer and chipperness might not always be the most appropriate responses to reality.
I've a private theory that the black cloud days are (well, can be) a kind of recalibration of the system. If anything, I suspect that experiencing them and being gentle with oneself (not so easy) during them can help to fend off the longer, deeper, more destructive depressions.
It's still a godsend when something breaks through; or someone, stretching out a hand to as fellow-sufferer.
Thanks all for your comments and your support. It's nice to have a sense of 'not-aloneness' (which should be a word). Scribe I feel for your daughter as she journeys through darkness. I agree that it isn't a 'choice' I was only stating that I'm told that it is ... I've never found that to be so.
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