It’s been a terrible year, work wise. Apart from teaching a course at the OU which I think will be fun, and stretch me a bit, it’s been the Year of the Knockback so far. No nobody asked me to do this and nobody owes me a living but repeating that stuff to yourself doesn’t help. Neither does ‘it’s not personal’. If managing to make a living in the creative field (said in poncey voice) is about climbing a ladder, last year I steadily climbed without looking down. This year, it’s as though somebody slathered the ladder rungs with Vaseline and my legs are dangling.
It feels much like the current weather. Grey and dull and sluggish. I remember reading one of Dorothy Rowe’s brilliant books on depression and at one point she suggested describing the depression because by giving it a feel, a name, a tangible sense of being, it could help recognising its encroaching tentacles. I thought about this and decided my form of depression was greyness, a sense of being frozen and immobile. It’s one of the reasons I try to keep moving, both figuratively and literally. Going to the gym, or if you hate that, go for a walk. I don’t count my blessings but I do, on the advice of a mate, keep a Nice Things File. Very simple – you write down every single nice thing anyone has said about you or your work. Sounds cheesier than Welsh Rarebit but it’s funny how we can always remember with startling clarity the rotten, shitty thing that spotty Alan in primary school said: “Eurrghh – I wouldn’t go out with her if you paid me!” (acned little turd – and he was only 9) but we dismiss the really great things that people say.
The other thing is The Boy. When he was a baby, I was racked with PND. As a result I think he’s very attuned to my moods. If I’m feeling low and he asks how I am, I try to tell him the truth. Why lie? If you do, you’re telling the child to mistrust their own instincts. My mother used to retire to her room with ‘headaches’. Both my sister and I knew there was something else but we didn’t have the vocabulary and there was far less information and understanding about depression. But even when we were tiny, we knew it was more than a headache. And we were left feeling confused because mum would say she was fine but she looked so bleak and sad.
So I say I’m feeling bad, give as few details as possible and we hug. I think it’s better than putting on a brittle smile when it’s obvious that I’m not happy. That’s not to say I burden him with it – I’m always careful to reassure him that it’s got nothing to do with him. And it usually works because a few minutes later he’s usually his normal stroppy self.
Just flicked through my Nice Things File and both that, and writing this has made my mood inch up. But then I look out the window and see the sky, the off white grubby shade of ancient knickers, and it sinks again. Never mind matching your underwear to your clothes, my mood matches the sky.