No need for extra words. This is one side of a board seen in downtown New Plymouth. In a country with appalling rates of youth suicide, anything that supports and encourages better mental health is very welcome.
There is quite a lot of evidence that engaging in creative activities improves health — mental and physical. Writing, drawing, painting, making crafts or music, even doodling and colouring in — they can all help to focus our thoughts, increase our happiness, boost our immune systems and even help treat dementia.
I’ve experienced periods of depression for most of my adult life. Of all the treatments I’ve tried, what seems to work best is making stuff; focusing my mind and hands and energy on some creative project, however small. At the moment, it’s Christmas cards.
I’m always a bit reluctant to recommend anything, especially for something as serious as mental health, but there is a significant body of research behind this — and it works for me.
It seems that July just hasn’t been a photographic month for me. Which I think is really a way of saying I haven’t felt inclined to lift my eyes and gaze upon the world.
It’s not that I’ve totally abandoned my camera. More that I’m disappointed in both the quantity and quality of the shots I’ve taken. Knee pain has kept me from the morning walks that provide both inspiration and some inner calm, while the struggles of those I love best have occupied my consciousness and spilled over into the darker recesses of my own psyche.
My July has not been a visual feast, but I’ve reached August knowing that I have enough. Enough strength and enough sunlight and enough support to stay aloft.
Like the flower, I am attached — though neither you nor I quite see how.
The Changing Seasons is a blogging challenge hosted by Cardinal Guzman with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month.
These are the rules, but they’re not written in stone – you can always improvise, mix & match to suit your own liking:
The Changing Seasons V1:
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
The Changing Seasons V2:
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
It’s 1984 and I’m in a state of metamorphosis. The life I’ve fallen into since leaving my parents’ home has become as constraining and ill-fitting as that which I originally fled.
I cut my hair very short and bleach it very blonde. I acquire a wardrobe of vintage clothes; oversize men’s shirts, pencil skirts and beaded cardigans.
I catch glimpses of an unfamiliar woman in the mirror and wonder why she doesn’t look happy. Some days the world beyond my bed is a void I’m afraid that I will fall into and become lost forever.
I listen to a lot of music. Sometimes it makes me feel better.
Personal and political; Paul Weller’s thirty-year old hit ‘My Ever Changing Moods’ nicely captures how I’m feeling right now.
I wish we’d come to our senses and see there is no truth
In those who promote the confusion
For this ever changing mood, yeah
The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods
The mountains and the sea. I’m neither climber nor great swimmer, but give me proximity to New Zealand’s snow-crusted volcanic cones, or to a stretch of its coastline, and light begins to filter through chinks in even the darkest despair.
I have probably said it before, but I am a “glass half empty” person. In truth I usually feel that my glass is three-quarters empty — but that doesn’t make much sense as a pithy observation.
I have a profound capacity to see and dwell upon anything negative in a situation, even whilst those around me experience great joy. The best I can say about this is that I’ve gradually learned to keep my mouth shut (usually), so I don’t spoil others’ pleasure.
The American musician and comic Oscar Levant said that happiness isn’t something you experience, but something you remember. While I subscribe wholeheartedly to that view, I often struggle to even remember happiness, such is my Eeyore-like nature.
So my personal challenge for this week’s Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge has been to bring together the things that make for a good day; those things that get me out of bed and willing to try on a happy face.
In choosing these images I am paying tribute to the scenes, moments, rituals, and above all people, whose presence contribute to a good day — if only I let myself see it.
The title for the post comes from Paul Simon’s Slip Slidin’ Away. I could be the woman, but am trying to choose not to be.
I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain’t got no rain
She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been
Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away
Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away
As part of my depression self-help programme I’m trying to consciously enjoy the fleeting and ephemeral instead of just fearing their loss. I’m also dancing like there’s no-one watching (albeit because I make sure there IS no-one watching). Here’s what I’m dancing to today.
It’s Mothers’ Day; but today I’m off-duty. My son is on his first solo out-of-town trip, visiting a friend in Wellington.
Last night his friend’s mother sent me an email thanking me for having a fantastic son who is a pleasure to have around and has become a good friend to her son.
That’s my Mothers’ Day present, and it’s probably the best I’ve ever had (sorry kiddo). It doesn’t take anything away from my son’s ability to manage his own actions and choices, but acknowledges that I have played a role in raising a child who can go out into the world and be a credit to himself and his family.
This is important to me for a whole bunch of reasons; not least because I’ve been a “stay at home” mother to my only child. I don’t regret that at all; in fact I believe that both the boy-child and I are better people because of our time together. But the choices that were made when he was little have come at a cost to our family. I suffer from depression and it impacts on us all.
I was diagnosed with post-natal depression 17 years ago, and although circumstances have changed, I don’t think I’ve never really recovered. I have weeks and months when things seem fine; I function as a fairly competent human being. Then the gloom descends and my world falls apart.
I’ve talked to various GPs about this in the past, but only in a general “let’s wait and see” sort of way, mainly because of my reluctance to buy into any sort of pharmaceutical solution (I’m like this generally — about most ailments). But last weekend I hit a new low and sought help.
I’m not really sure what I expected, but my doctor has prescribed anti-depressants (and some other stuff that I’m still thinking about). I came home and did some research on the particular medication (I have a library degree, so I mean actual research – not Google); and I’ve decided not to fill the prescription. The thought of what the chemicals can do to my body actually makes me more depressed. But I think more importantly, it makes me feel that I’m relinquishing control over my situation and I’m not ready to do that. I know that antidepressants do a whole lot of good for many people and I’m not ruling them out forever. I just want to look for alternatives first.
Medication also treats the symptoms, and I really, really need to address the causes. I feel like my life is shit because – well, objectively, a lot of my life is shit. Taking drugs won’t fix that I’m overweight, unemployed, have a relationship in crisis and feel like my brain is turning to mush from under-use.
So I’ve decided to deal with this the way I tackle most things; by doing research, analysing the information I find, doing some more research, and making a plan that involves taking charge of things myself.
Yes, I am a control freak; but actually that’s a part of me I can live with.
I’m also a writer; and have realised over the years that writing is how I make sense of the world. I’ve never been one of those people who plans something out and then writes it down. I start writing, then read what I’ve written and change it a bit, then I write some more, and repeat this process over and over again until I’ve created meaning out of all the thoughts and connections that whiz around my head like ingredients in the pantry, waiting to be turned into a cake or a casserole or whatever.
Even as I’m writing this, I’m not sure that my blog is the right place for this process. But the fact is, part of dealing with depression is acknowledging that it exists. My blogging community is no less real than any other I belong to and it would feel disingenuous to continue posting with a phoney “happy face.”
I have no intention of turning ZimmerBitch into a chronicle of depression. One of the things I derive real pleasure from is photography, and the blog will still be principally a place for my images and the thoughts that go with them. But I guess I’d also like to use the structure and discipline of writing a blog to explore some of the stuff I need to think about.
I will provide warnings on all DEPRESSION content, and if you start abandoning me in droves, I’ll see the error of my ways and find alternative forums for my angst!
In the meantime, I’m taking baby steps. So I’m off to get ready for a date with the Big T; dinner and An Evening with Noel Fielding.