Monday, May 19, 2014

Birthdays and Depression and Light, Sweet Light . . .

What a difference light makes! Above, the absence of sunlight mimics the flatness I felt over the past few days. Below (and in other photos I posted last week) the same maple tree demonstrates a lively spirit, as I hope to be doing myself soon.
The flatness or light-dimming started to descend last week, but I thought I could ward it off through yoga classes. In fact, Thursday's class released a flood of tears, not easily wiped away, so I doubled my efforts on Friday, running before yoga. And I thought I was moving myself out of the danger zone, away from the edge of the Slough of Despond.

But Saturday morning, my birthday, I woke early, as usual, and found myself in tears with my cup of tea down by the beach. Some morning meditation. . . . Paul woke later, came to wish me Happy Birthday thinking I'd left behind the threatening sadness, and instead found a wife who was raining on her own parade. "It's my Birthday and I'll cry if I want to" to echo that old song. . .

Luckily, though, if a bit oddly, there was no triggering outside event to fuss over. The flatness felt more physical-emotional than psychological, and there was none of the horrid sobbing, general snottiness, and, above all, the self-loathing and real despair that have accompanied my dives into despond in the past. I suspect this is why I was able to cajole myself into yet more activity in an effort to avoid sinking further. Certainly, I know that it's not always possible, or even wise, to stave off depression by springing into action. For me, though, perhaps touched by the morning sunshine, it seemed worth a try.

So we did this. . . .
 Paddled to a nearby island that's a provincial park and ran its beautiful trails, breathing that hopeful mixture of salt air and humus and forest foliage, our minds and bodies united in each moment to the task of concentrating on each step so as to avoid tripping on the many tree roots and rocks. Another day, we would have chatted as we ran, but I wasn't up to conversation and Paul is the perfect companion in such a case.

 Paddling home afterward, a good exhaustion beginning to nudge the flatness aside. Not enough to continue with earlier plans for a restaurant lunch down island. But enough to know that I wanted to stay home. Earlier, the decision had confounded me; I couldn't know, or tell, what I preferred.


















So Paul went happily to town for groceries. And I stayed home and did not much of anything.

 I'm not going to lie. Doing not much of anything is not my strength. But I practiced. Later, when Pater got home, there were the weekend newspapers to read.



















and some birthday cake substitutes to eat, after a lovely dinner.






















and some phone chats with my kids and a text message that began Happy Birthday Momma! which somehow made me inordinately happy, in one sharp burst. And Nola phoned and sang Happy Birthday dear Nana, trying unsuccesfully to get her younger cousin, wee Harriet, to join in. My ability to respond to all these cumulative joys reassured me and cheered me, almost as much as the joys themselves. I've only been skirting a depression, it appears, and seem to have avoided its quicksand suction. I'm not taking the warning lightly, though, and will be working on filling my reserves over the next little while. Trying not to feel guilty about not doing. . . .

And as part of that effort, today was wonderfully lazy in an indulgent way rather than in an I-haven't-the-energy-to-budge way. Some weeding and pruning, some knitting in the sunshine, and
 even a picnic by the beach
 I let myself be spoiled
even more than I usually am,

and by the end of the day, I was feeling some of my usual energy returning. Relieved to find that I'm looking forward to going to bed with a mystery novel, whereas I haven't wanted to read all weekend (very unusual for me).

And noticing, just out the window after dinner, as the evening sunlight slanted sharply through the trees. . . .
 It's back!
 There's that blessed light!
 Such a difference it makes. . . .


27 comments:

  1. The light can make such a difference. Down here, we've been waiting for the threatened rain all weekend only to find sunshine every morning, lasting through to sundown. The plans for a rainy weekend have had to be adjusted each day and I have been able to adjust as well - not my strong suit.
    I've learned such a lot from reading blogs in the past few years. I was never very good at sharing experience or feelings and never knew that others could feel what you have described so well in this post - that awareness of the the Slough of Despond (love it!) creeping closer and knowing that there are strategies for keeping it at bay until all is well again and the light comes back. So, here I am, late to the party again, but glad to know there are others out there - and that you are inching back from that murky shore.

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  2. Here, too, it's been a treat to have the expected rain replaced by a day of sunshine.
    Like you, I've found it helpful to know that others go through these periods as well. I'd never want to say that depression can always be kept at bay through the strategies that work for me, but so far, I've been glad to develop some awareness of how to avoid those depths. Whenever I get close, or even occasionally sink in for a few difficult days, I am struck with immense sympathy for those who go through prolonged, frequent bouts or descend into a chronic depression (two of my aunts, one on each side, spent the last years of their lives in such a state, both having been lively, lovely women through most of their earlier lives). And my mother really struggled . . .

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  3. Hi Mater. I am happy to read you are getting better. Your post made me smile when you mention (twice!) how hard it is to do absolutely nothing without feeling guilty. It IS hard to do nothing, but it may be what works best for you right now. Doing nothing at all is actually what meditation is all about and it is good for you. Enjoy the light!

    Dominique

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    1. I'm not so good at just sitting, but I can tell that's what I need to do. Perhaps if I call it meditation, that will make it easier . . . ;-)

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  4. Hi Mater, we are in house hunting mode, so I don't have much energy for a deep reply - but I'm glad to hear that you are inching out of the morass. For myself, I feel like I have spent the last 3 years there - but right now much happier being in our old town with old friends, looking at possible houses and imagining the fun we will have.

    I'm glad you let yourself be spoiled - Pater is so good to you!

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    1. And if I remember correctly, Patricia, this may be a move that you can really settle into, with no moves obviously imminent in the next decade. If I'm right, I can imagine that might be quite wonderful for you to embrace. . . .

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  5. I can so sympathize with you about that "black dog" nipping at your heels! This has been something I also have experience with. It sounds like taking it easy and being spoiled, along with some sunshine, has helped. Sometimes it takes a while to swim back up to the surface but it sounds like you are doing it! Sending good thoughts your way.

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    1. I'm not quite there, but I'm definitely on my way back up to the surface. Thanks for the positive energy and the sympathy!

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  6. Glad you had such a good day. BTW that kayak becomes you...you look fabulous in that shot. :)

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    1. I was actually a bit cranky about the photo-taking, given that my hair was far too au naturel under that hat. . . ;-) so thank you!

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  7. The light is so important. I know how difficult it is to deal with sadness when one is down for the count. I really love how you got to go paddling and then picnic on your very own beach! It turned out to be a wonderful birthday celebration....belated birthday wishes.

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    1. I'm so lucky being able to paddle and picnic so close to home! Thanks for the birthday wishes. (and haven't we had the loveliest weather!)

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  8. So glad you are beginning to feel better! It seems you spent you birthday in the best possible way. Paddling is not exactly doing NOTHING, but enjoying the sun, the views, the sounds of the water, the presence of various animals and all the things that are THERE is a healthy contrast to our habit of actively working in order to create or at least to deserve what we get.
    And you are right, the light is so important. Over here the sun came out yesterday and today it is even getting a bit warmer, after several weeks of cold rain. It makes all the difference in the world!

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    1. In fact, as I read your second sentence, I see the paddling and the enjoyment of nature as forms of meditation, if more active ones than I might normally think of.
      Enjoy that sunshine and warmth!

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  9. I am glad that you are feeling a little better. Sadness comes and usually it disappears like a black cloud. I have found through my small group at church and through my friendships personal and through blogging that there are many who suffer from depression. As the partner of a bipolar person, I feel particularly vulnerable because I am never sure what is coming next. If we are at least aware of our own needs and we
    withdraw from the demands of the world for a bit, most likely the sadness will pass. After some tough days, M. and I were able to speak about how Victoria Week-end has been a difficult one for us through the years. He has experienced at least 3 hospitalizations at this time and my return from Europe has been marked by a general feeling of anxiety. By our seventh decade, we recognize our own patterns and those of our family. My own mother suffers from General Anxiety Disorder and can be debilitated by fear and my father took diazepam for much of his life. Happy belated birthday and wishes for sunnier days!

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    1. It is good to be aware of patterns, isn't it? and to have a few strategies for nudging those patterns in more positive directions. We always found that what we called "re-entry" periods -- the transition days of first being together after extended times apart -- could be especially tough. The expectations so high, the reality of adjustment, fatigue, etc. Take care. . . and thank you for the birthday wishes.

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  10. It's good to hear a stronger voice through this post. The recap of your day seems to contain that elusive balance of space and intimacy - both so vital to our well-being.
    The photos are - as always - simply beautiful. We've seen glimpses of your place from the inside but (at least for me) this is the first view of things from the outside. It's stunning! I'd love to know (if you don't mind)(and of course at your convenience) what brought you here, how/why/when did you choose this lovely spot and the accompanying island lifestyle? Maybe you've told the story elsewhere, if so just direct me along, or tell me it's none of my business :-)

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos -- I think I've been asked about how we ended up here on our island by a reader in the past (perhaps yourself?) and never got around to answering with a proper post. I could do that -- in fact, I promise to try and get to that before too long. Thanks for letting me know you'd find it interesting.

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  11. Very beautiful photos, and fun for me to see your house from the water. I feel both empathy for your black dog, and happiness for your nice husband and the sun. I hope it's gotten better and better today.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. I'm feeling better, yes, although that brings the danger of wanting to succumb to guilt and get busy again. . . taking it easy is hard!

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  12. I think that you are doing something profoundly useful - stepping back, observing and cataloging the feelings,and then, the range of endorphin-releasing activities that are on your slate, just enough. And yay for unapologetic spoiling- the picnic looks wonderful!
    As I age, and get away from post-menopause, I find that my doldrums have so far been gentler.
    And- light is always helpful!

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Megs. In some ways, I find the mood swings much gentler post-menopause. I do find that anxiety/depression have been troubling over the last year, but I wonder if that may partly be a final settling out of some hormonal cycling. . . .

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  13. I'm glad to hear that you were able to manage and mitigate what was going on with the hovering depression. I think sometimes just recognizing/naming what those feelings are can be so helpful. I'm wondering if part or most of it isn't just a release from all of the intensity and effort of the last few weeks. Even stuff we enjoy can take it out of us when it's all happening like falling dominoes. (I've had the experience of working on much loved and anticipated BIG projects, and then needing to "crash" a bit emotionally immediately afterward.) I can't pretend to know what a full-scale depression feels like; my few bouts have been mild and something I can think my way through. I appreciate and respect your honesty in sharing some of the more difficult days and feelings. And what a blessing to have a partner who can understand what you need and abide the space and silence. The photos are wonderful. Your beach picnic looks relaxing and restorative. Just being out in nature is such a tonic.

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    1. I think you're right -- even as a student, and even more as an instructor, I generally find that my body will hang on 'til the end of term before giving in to some virus or other. I've never experienced a full-on depression either, although I've been brought down for a few days at a time. I have huge sympathy and admiration for those who have to cope with the bio-chemical realities I've glancingly experienced. I know I'm lucky to have such great support, and I wish all sufferers were so lucky.

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  14. So late getting "over here" to wish you Happy Birthday! Looks like a nice one in spite of the funk. Glad it has passed! When reading your post, I wondered if it had something to do with the intense period of training for the marathon and the aftermath of completing your goal. Like you and many others who have responded, I periodically slip into a bit of depression. Luckily I can pull myself out before tumbling into the abyss but some days I wonder.... Have a great weekend!

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    1. Thanks, Smith (can I call you Smith? ;-) It's a worry getting close enough to that edge to sense its depths, isn't it? But so far, I've generally been lucky as well, able to claw my way back up the wall, not having fallen too far. And yes, I'm up for a good weekend now. You have one too, okay?

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  15. Mater...whilst pottering round my quiet house while a cool spring rainfall keeps me indoors, it suddenly came to me that you might be ready to think about a new running aim. Take a look at Foulees de la Soie - French ultramarathon. I did it in 2002, very slowly indeed (the last one every time!) and spent two wonderful weeks in China with people I had never met before. A life changer. Plus, I improved my French!

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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