The dog days aren’t over – but I’m OK

13 Mar

I wouldn't really want to be a wall


This morning I wanted to be a wall. Not any old wall though. I wanted to be the old familiar brick wall at the end of our garden, that was being expertly knocked down by burly builders, its bricks dusted off and put into neat piles to be re-used again.

Our wall was bowing. The 60-year-old skin of ivy that clung to it like leprosy had caused the bricks to dip dangerously in the middle, and my children weren’t allowed near it in case it suddenly collapsed and fell in on them. After months of haranguing Lambeth Council I’d finally convinced them that the partition– their responsibility – needed urgent attention. A year after first contact, the work has begun. A simple problem and a simple solution, one that I’d love to be able to apply to my own life at times.

The last few days have been particularly hard. I have felt overwhelmed, at times completely useless and at my worst out of control. Things have been building and mounting and settling in a very unpleasing fashion. All I can visualise is a bad game of high-speed, top-level Tetris. The pieces of my life are not slotting together in the manner in which they should be.  I would love to have somebody over to break me down then start rebuilding me from scratch: all the components would be mine, but they’d be put back in the right order, and the malfunctioning bits would be made good.

Alas, no such thing can happen. I could call up an expensive therapist or  I could wait the time it takes for my sad period to lift, descend, then lift again before being given a free referral from my GP. At the same time I could probably squeeze some good old happy pills out of one of them. I could go shopping at H&M and buy some cheap, too–young–for–the–likes–of–me sportswear in a fit of panic, or push the boat out like I did last week and buy some of their guest designer wear. But no amount of cut-price high street Marni (in my case £600 of ill-fitting patent leather and batik, all of which has been returned when the sane part of my brain woke up ) could lift the heavy fug that had settled on me.

“Write about it” said my husband this evening, as I was sitting on the sofa, unable even to muster the energy to kiss the children goodnight. I smiled for the first time all evening at the thought. Images of OK! celebrities, looking out from the covers of  the middle-shelf confessionals at my local newsagent screamed out at me to back off their turf. I’m not famous. I haven’t been dumped by Darren Day. I don’t pose – in babydoll dress and heels – with my children, by my faux Grecian swimming pool in my Esher mansion. I could tell you what feeling blue is like, but I haven’t got a journalist feigning concern by prompting me with all the right questions.

This morning, I didn’t wake up feeling like I wanted to die, but this afternoon I was already counting the hours until bed, just because I wanted the day to be over. When a problem presents itself, I don’t run away from help anymore, but sometimes it takes me a few days longer than it should to admit to someone that I’m not coping. I don’t look at my children anymore and think “God help you for having a mother like me.” I know that when I’m not functioning as well as I should be, my husband or my sister or my mother is on hand. I am one of the lucky ones.

Luck, unfortunately doesn’t always have the power to penetrate the thick skin that is depression. It is lucky though that I almost have to remind myself now that I ever really suffered from it at all. But I did, and sometimes I still do, and it’s particularly hard to admit because I know I have so many things going for me.

It’s hard to pinpoint when the feeling begins and when it ends exactly, because I’m able to function most of the time now. I can take the children to school, I can work, I can cook and I can sometimes even manage to clear up after myself. When the mood has lifted, I can only feel grateful that I’m not on a hospital ward. I can feel happy that I know, or indeed care what day it is. There have been times when knowing anything seemed useless. I wanted to die. Now I actively go out of my way to escape an early death. I actually really like living. Now, each time the familiar feelings return, often out of the blue and out of time with the rest of my life, I review the situation once it has passed. This is my way of dealing with it, and so far it ‘s working.

Tonight, when the children had gone to bed, I ate a sandwich. I tried to think about why I was feeling so damn unhappy. Everything is OK. Then I tried not to think about it. Then I had dinner. Then I had some of my husband’s dinner. Sometimes feeling sad makes me eat a lot, and sometimes it makes me want to eat nothing at all. I drank a glass of wine and then another. I then thought about watching Newsnight, but wondered if writing this would be more helpful. And it has been.

I’ve been able to remind myself of the things I think about in times when I need to feel OK again. They are not a panacea for all that ails me, more a slow release of something that brings me back to being level again. It’s not always useful to list the things in my life I should be grateful for, and in my darker, more self-destructive days I didn’t, but I’m able to now and it can be helpful. I remind myself that I am a healthy young woman with freedom of speech. I can get up, go out to work, have an opinion and speak out about anything I care to. My children are all well. I can wear what the hell I like. I have both my kidneys and my lungs aren’t bad looking, despite my chain-smoking teens and twenties. I have all of my hair, for now. Things are pretty good on the physical front.

I also know that things pass. They can be deconstructed, rebuilt, reassessed or just left alone. They may not always go away completely, but they change. Even in the 1000 or so words that have come between me wanting to be a wall, and the end of this post, I’ve changed my opinion and I even feel better for it: I’m glad to be made of flesh and blood.


One Response to “The dog days aren’t over – but I’m OK”

  1. Leanne White March 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    I for one am glad you are a living breathing woman. Everyone should read you….its good for the soul xxx

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