Sunday, 30 September 2018

Hello Autumn, Goodbye Mental Health

Well hello!

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This week, we crept into autumn.  For most of my life, it's been my favourite season - the tumble of leaves, the kaleidoscope of colours, the blessed relief of cooler temperatures and (yes, I was that child), the excitement of going back to school.

Autumn always felt like the season that matched my soul.  In many ways it was like the rebirth of my year (echoes of back to school, I think) and I used to adore the slow, thrilling slide towards Christmas and all things darker (including the season of the witch).

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Nearly 20 years ago that all changed when my mother died, and now, Autumn is just a long, drawn out, painful echo of everything I lost when she died, and it puts me in a 4 month funk that is really hard to break.  It leaves me weak, and depression gleefully sneaks into my cracks.

So why specifically does Autumn break me?  Well, for a start the Autumn Equinox is on September 23rd, my mother's birthday.  It's like the very shift of the season rings a death bell and peels the scab off my loss.  It's September 23rd, welcome to absence.

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Then the nights begin to darken, the days get shorter,and the mornings arrive in a shroud of gloom.   Some days, it's very hard to get out of bed and greet the dark, especially when you know that for 3 solid months, it's just going to get darker every day.  And suddenly, just like that, my mood syncs with the season, and each day gets darker, duller, drearier.

I used to laugh at people who claimed they had SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but do you know what?  These days, I love spring.  I crave the crawl towards April and the moment the days get brighter and lighter - and I mean lighter in both senses of the word.  It's as if the greater stamina of the sun lifts my soul.

So on we trawl through autumn, days getting darker, and markers of death at every turn - grandparents no longer here, relationships that ripped me to pieces, last memories of my mother.  It all accumulates.  Every day on dark roads filled with wankers and potholes, I feel I dodge my death as I travel back and forth to work.  Me and the A1 and darkness, it's a combination which scares the crap out of me.

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And then it's December 3rd, the anniversary of the day my mother died, and when my life changed forever.  I didn't just lose a parent.  I lost a best friend, a soulmate, a sounding board - my sanity.   As the years have passed, this day passes more easily, but occasionally there will be a little pyschic hiccup to remind me of the pain.

What keeps me going at this point is that we're only 3 weeks from the Winter Solstice, the official shortest, darkest day.  Once we hit here, I know it gets better.  Everything will begin to lift and lighten ...  as long as I get through Christmas.

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Christmas used to bring me so much pleasure.  Decorating the tree, picking exciting presents, drinking snowballs, driving people mad with my impatience.   All that changes when you get divorced and you no longer get to have the child every Christmas.  Even though you didn't choose to separate, you get to pay the price, and who wants to sit alone in a house where Christmas mocks you?

So I no longer do Christmas.   Of course I buy gifts for the daughter, but I don't do the hoopla.  It's pretty much like any other week in our house.  I can't even be arsed with Christmas music anymore - they represent a happiness that is no longer mine, and frankly, they just piss me off.

So on Christmas Day, we eat what we want.  One year we had sausage and mash, another year, curry (I'm not a fan of roasts).   We treat ourselves, but non-traditionally, and as for Beth, well she gets the whole hoopla at the other house, so she's fine.  And once Christmas is gone, (and the icy death trap roads are clear) things get easier.  I know I'm past the worst, and soon Spring will be here.

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So how am I today?  Well, scattered.  Scattered is my first stage symptom, where it's a battle to keep my mind on track, fearless, and WHOLE.  It's when it gets hard to focus, do stuff and COMMIT to living (and I don't mean that not committing to living means wanting to die; no,it means wanting to do nothing).

But today I am a little brighter than yesterday (hence why there was no blog post yesterday), and with each year that passes I understand more how to keep myself on an even keel.   Anxiety however, doesn't like to be left out, so currently my stomach is in knots waiting to get my car through it's MOT and the house through its inspection, and the extension of my tenancy.

But Matt Haig has helped.   I've mentioned his book, Notes on a Nervous Planet, so often, but it's almost a form of medicine.   My car gets MOT'd on Wednesday.  Sat here on Sunday, there is NOTHING I can do to affect that outcome.   I need to enjoy the moment until the moment changes, and not worry about it 1 second before.   Of course that is sooooooooo much easier said than done, but at least I recognise it now, and I can try and keep the panic in the box.

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Now for those of you who actually see me on a daily basis, you probably won't notice any change in me.  One of the things about depression - we are MASTERS at having a game face.  We're actors.   We know how to cover the cracks externally whilst we're weeping and bleeding on the inside.

So, autumn.  Bit shit.  Christmas, can't be arsed.   But soon, soon it will be Spring.  And the darkest hour is ALWAYS before dawn.

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