The Black Dog…

Ok, so please go easy on me.

I decided to put this here – I wanted to do it yesterday, but it was April Fool’s Day, and this is not a joke. Depression is not a joke. In Ireland I’ve often seen it called the Black Dog. I get the idea that it follows you around endlessly but still …seems a little cruel on dogs. My depression sprang up like an aggressive weed six months after I gave birth to my first child. I think most people were surprised, thinking I was out of the danger zone for PND by then. I had an autumn baby which meant long winters stuck indoors at home with my baby and I was genuinely exhausted after six months and the reality of life being changed forever was really sinking in. I was grateful to God for my baby, don’t misunderstand me; I just went from feeling exhausted but happy, to exhausted but depressed; mentally paralyzed; numb; a crushing weight in my mind. It was like the tide seeping in slowly-  wave by wave until you’re drowning.

It lasted about 5 months, and then it just slowly lifted. No medication, no formal therapy, just slowly trying to tell myself that I have to be better for her. I have to make a choice – to live or….Well let’s not finish that. And so I chose to live for love. It didn’t vanish overnight. It just slowly seeped out of me until I was free of its muddy grasp. I thank God that happened. It makes a surprise visit now and then; an unwelcome visitor that I have to fight back out the door.

Anyway, I’m no poet, but I wrote this just after I started feeling better. It has a lot of personal meaning. So please, go easy on me!

The Girl In The Door

At the kitchen table

Could you see what I see?

Out the glass door

I doubt it, really

I’m not looking at flowers

I’m looking at me

Or the reflection I see

Pretending she’s me

Where did my self go

I don’t really know

She’s so dull and so dreary

There’s no healthy glow

Her skin is like ash

Her hair is like rope

Her eyes are like stones

I can no longer cope

It’s hard to say that

I wish you could guess

How low my soul is

Paralysis

The blue sky is charmless

The world is a hole

I’m sinking so swiftly

Silently, unknown

My mind is like ice

Just frozen no thoughts

Please don’t tell me

To go out for a walk

I’m empty, a shell

Trapped and voiceless

In this paralyzed hell

My tea is gone cold

Milk films on the top

How long have I been here?

Time does not stop

Except in my head

It no longer exists

Just a black space expanding

And endless grey mists

How long has she been here

The girl in the door

She whispers back at me

That she’s not really sure

But it’s been a long time

And she’s tired, heart-sore

She doesn’t want to be with me anymore

Can I leave? she asks me

Her eyes dead as stone

I can see she’s in pain

Would be cruel to say no

But the baby is crying

Right here at my breast

And she needs me so much

That I just can’t say yes

Tears on my cheeks

How long I don’t know

A dam is broken

An endless flow

My heart rises up

I look down at her face

Now peaceful, now sleeping

Innocence, grace

I must try, try, try

to get strong for her

But I’m silently haunted

By the girl in the door

I hear you come in now

I feel bad for you

I know it’s not easy

To come home to these two

One is a shadow and one is a shade

And neither are keeping the bargain we made

Your hands wipe my tears now

Your kiss soft and warm

The look in your eyes is so fretful, careworn

I can see that you know now

And I don’t have to say

How hard it is

To get through the day

You hold me and hold me

And slowly I feel

The ice starting to melt

Am I flesh, am I real?

Your love says I am

And that you still see me

Through the ash, rope and stone

To me, to ME

Am I still worth loving?

Your caress says I am

Can I get my self back?

-Yes, one step at a time

I don’t know the steps

-Just follow my lead

I lay my head on your shoulder

-One day you’ll be freed.

Relief fills my heart

I want to believe

What do you see love?

I ask you to look

And the answer you give me

Lifts my heart up

-I see my beautiful wife

-And my daughter so fine

-And I thank God each day

-That He made you both mine

And where is she gone

The girl in the door?

I don’t know, I can’t see her

She’s not here anymore

She slipped away silent

While you held me so close

In her place is a picture

Of love and repose

The girl in the picture is finally me

And the girl in the door is finally free.

 

 

 

 

 

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Color – By – Numbers

Remember those color-by-numbers books we used to play with as children? I used to spend a lot of time with those and the dot-to-dot picture books.  I’ve always been a ‘love clear instructions’ kind of person. Receiving  and especially giving. Just ask my hubsy 😉

The thing with the color-by-numbers is that the picture is already formed and visible. You don’t actually need to color it in to see the picture. Sure you have to focus a little longer to separate the important bits from the background but it’s so easy a child can do it. And yet it’s only when its colored that we class it as complete. We happily follow a set of provided instructions on what color to add into each pre-made section based on a number/color combination.

This is exactly what I see people doing to each other every day. It’s what I myself do every day. But it’s wrong.

How old is your child?

How much does he weigh?

How long does he sleep?

What size does he wear?

How old are you?

How much do you(or your husband) earn?

How long have you been married?

How long are you in your job?

What did you pay for your house?

How much weight have you lost?

How much did those jeans cost?

You think you know me because of my set of numbers? You think you know my child? We slot those answers into an overall pre-made picture, based on our initial impression.

How about  – what hobbies do you like? Does your child like art or music? What are your dreams? What keeps you awake at night? What are your beliefs?

We don’t need the numbers to get the picture, we just need to focus a bit harder on what’s staring us straight in the face.

That’s what makes color-by-numbers different and more enjoyable than a standard coloring book. There’s a set of instructions, and how we love to follow them. Conversations are the social color-by-numbers.

The art of conversation seems to have gone out the window. Conversations have become shallow trading of number-based-facts like those kids’ card trading games where each character’s number represents a power.

Sometimes I see a lonely looking stranger and I want to ask ‘what is your story?’. People find it cathartic to get things off their chest. These days we’re all afraid to ask the right questions as it’s uncomfortable. There’s no map for that conversation.  So we leave the person be, we leave them in their loneliness. It’s too uncomfortable because it strays from the narrative we’re used to telling and reading.  Social media has trained us against sharing anything deeply meaningful as we try to limit ourselves to 140 characters. Brevity is, depth is self-indulgent; make the long story short will you?

There have been times in my life when I was young where I felt like the loneliest person in the world despite living in a capital city. I suffered a lot from depression.

If anyone had asked me ‘Are you ok?’ while sitting on a park bench I would have answered ‘Yeah thanks, fine’ as I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to feel burdened. I would have thought – and still do react this way today – that it’s too uncomfortable for the other person if I say ‘No I’m not ok’. It’s not shame; it’s simply not wanting to push someone else into that uncomfortable tangent off the standard narrative we are all so used to.

But if someone had followed up with ‘it’s ok to share if you want to, I’m happy to listen if you want to talk’ then maybe I would have swallowed hard and taken a few courageous steps to talk.

It’s my belief that mental health problems are so huge around the world today because we are all unused to sharing more than we should. Which is a paradox since social media has us sharing more than ever. Let’s stop yapping on social media and start talking to the person on your street that looks sad. Or just have an actual meaningful conversation with your neighbor.

What’s the worst that can happen?

If you misjudged the situation and I’m fine, I’m going to respect you for asking. Maybe that’s just me.

 

 

 

Our SMART TV is making me stupid

I fall into these bad habits from time to time. One of them is watching too much TV. I have to cut it out. It was my hubsy’s birthday recently and I struggled to decide what to get him since after nearly a decade together he has all the clothes, cologne, watches etc etc a man could want. I remembered him giving out about our old-fashioned (but perfectly good) LCD TV so a Sony Bravia Smart TV came to live with us after I handed over a shed load of money. We downloaded Kodi through the Google Play store so now we have literally everything at our fingertips for free – no NetFlix required.

The problem is this – TV in general is just such a waste of time. For every one educational programme, there are a thousand brainless ones. I love brainless TV;  I’m an Alibi channel addict – any and all detective/mystery shows are what I want to be watching. Sometimes when I’m watching a bit of telly, I pick an actor and wonder what he or she is doing now. Probably they are laughing at how their pockets are lined by people like me watching them pretend to be a detective, drug dealer or serial rapist. Yes, they are out there actually having a life while I waste my time watching them in their pretend life. Ughhh 

Here’s the real kicker though: after a couple of hours watching TV I start to feel depressed. I’m not sure why this is. I think it’s because my subconscious knows that I’ve just wasted a few precious hours of life on total trash. Even if I’ve enjoyed the programmes themselves, they haven’t enhanced my life, I haven’t refined any talent (other than how to dip a biscuit in a cup of tea just enough so it doesn’t fall into a soggy mess)  or engaged my reasoning abilities. I haven’t had an ‘experience’. I realise that this sounds weird but let me try to explain a bit.

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I bought this box a while back, you can get them in lots of stores. The idea is to put little pieces of paper into it recording happy times, kindnesses done and received and at the end of the year empty them all out and enjoy the flurry of good memories. When myself and hubsy are having coffee on a winter afternoon we love to trawl through our mental log of good times, not chat about what TV programmes were enjoyable. I suppose I could go off on a big tangent here about what constitutes happiness but I’ll resist. This is about our stupid SMART TV.

To be fair I suppose the problem would exist no matter whether it was a SMART TV or not. I love telly, I give in to it too much, but I always regret it. That’s why it’s making me stupid. I’m well educated, I had a career in IT up until recently, I’m a spiritual person. Instead of spending time in some productive, creative, reflective, educational  or happiness-inducing activity – I give in, and the SMART TV makes a fool of me.