I suffer with depression. Not to the degree I am on medication or in any form of therapy but I also don’t mean depression in the sense of feeling sorry for myself or a little down.
Many people don’t understand depression. It is a silent illness, those with it rarely talk about it and many don’t even understand what they are experiencing. Depression is difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Depression is difficult to make sense of full stop. I know when the black dog days are coming since one of the sure signs is that everything sounds loud and irritates. I hadn’t understood that this was an indicator for me until I read Monty Don’s The Jewel Garden about 5 years ago in which he talked about his depression and how exaggerated hearing was an indicator. It was one of those light bulb moments for me and I found myself nodding as I read the book, finally someone else who experienced what I did.
For years my depression has been labelled as PMT or tiredness bringing up two children on my own or feeling sorry for myself. I was told to count my blessings, appreciate how lucky I was etc. The trouble is depression is irrational and you know, if you are lucky enough to be able to recognise it, that it is irrational. You know that you are seeing demons where there aren’t any but that doesn’t make them go away. It’s not like a bad dream where if you open your eyes, read a book, the dream won’t come back. You have to wait and go through it, you can’t fight it. It’s like a kind of mist that clouds everything but you can’t grasp hold of it as it slips through your fingers.
Monty said in his book that there are certain times of the year which are bad for him. My depression hasn’t had a real pattern, well not one that I have noticed, until now. I have today realised that the trigger, and there is often a trigger of some kind, for me is loneliness. I am a single parent, a real single parent there were no weekends off while the visited their father etc. I am used to being independent and resourceful in fact I have prided myself on it. I have worked hard to change our fortunes and I have always put my sons first to get them established and following their desired careers. There have been relationships but none lasted long. I’m difficult. I won’t play the little woman, I will stand up for myself and I desperately need my own space.
But that is what is so strange as it is loneliness which now triggers my depression. I used to end relationships as I felt suffocated and losing my identity. Now my sons are men and following their own lives and I find that I have more time to fill. For the past two or three years I have been busy rushing around visiting gardens, meeting people to do with gardening etc etc. It was a form of running away all to do with my sister’s death which I won’t go into now. However, I have felt recently like I have turned a corner and can face day-to-day life a little more but this week I have realised that another problem has crept up on me – an empty nest! My eldest lives at home but has been away this week and my second son although home from University has been working. I have booked two weeks annual leave to use up holiday (I can’t believe after all those years off trying to stretch annual leave to cover school holidays I am now struggling to use it up) and the weather hasn’t been great and I am bored and lonely. I am embarrassed at that – it is pathetic. I am an intelligent capable woman I should be able to entertain myself.
But it’s not that simple, not when the black dog of depression is snapping at your heels. The slightest thing that goes wrong becomes a failure on the grand scale. I have been trying to knit a jumper for four months, I am good at knitting but this pattern has been a nightmare and today I have concluded it has a mistake somewhere and I am going to just give up – a failure. I have decided to give up the allotment – another failure. I’m dis-satisfied with the top and skirt I made over the summer and consider the amount of money I spent on them a waste – a failure. I dislike my cottage garden border it is dull and empty and failing to deliver. I go out in the garden when the sun shines and just can’t be bothered. I have run out of books to read and can’t be bothered to get another one and then there was nothing to watch on TV for the umpteenth evening running. I have no real friends so no one to go out with. I am a failure – I will never be good at anything, I am just marking time, I might as well give up now.
My sons, bless them, understand my depression. They know the signs as well. They give me space and then try to talk me back into the real world. We talk about many things, we end up laughing about silly things, agreeing some people are idiots, etc. They think I need a new hobby preferably one non-garden related. This is amusing when there is so much written about how gardening is good for you physically and mentally. I would be the first to agree with this, I have seen the positive impact on my mother but I think that as gardening is so much a part of me, of who I am, that when the depression hits you try to run away from who you are and that means running away from the garden – if that makes sense. Maybe they are right. They tell me I am good at things – the garden is often commented on, the blog gets lots of visitors, I did a good job bringing them up on my own etc but whilst I know in my sensible head that much of what they say is right it doesn’t make the mist clear.
Nothing makes it clear apart from time, rest and peace. I need to try to let the mist flow over me and away and be kind to myself, this is not the time to make big decisions or commitments. When the mist clears everything will be better, I will feel more positive, my old self. But until then this is not a sensible logical time – these are black dog days.