I suspect there may be more posts in this series. Or maybe not, I mean, what’s the point? Of anything?. Oh wait, that’s Part 2. Or 3.
The other night as L and I lay on the sofa next to the woodburner we talked about mornings. More specifically, early mornings, when suffering from depression. The type of depression isn’t so pronounced that being off work or school would be justified. And in L’s case, it would be odd to phone into her day patient adolescent mental health unit and say she wasn’t coming in because she was too depressed. In my case, not being at work is pretty serious, generally requiring completely horizontal symptoms. Depression on its own is nowhere near enough. At least not at the middling level it currently is.
But mornings, for L and I are generally tough. Environmental factors don’t help. Cold. Dark. Rain. But even if these were eliminated, there is the Invisible Rock of Despair. This is the boulder which lies flatly on top of you. At this level of depression it is the weight of four or five large heavy suitcases. At more severe levels, it is as heavy as a family car. Lorry weight would generally require inpatient treatment. But it is not the weight, it is the atmosphere. Weight would just be irritating and inconvenient. The Invisible Rock of Despair causes you to think that any effort will just make the Rock heavier. That everything outside your bed will be difficult and painful. That getting out of bed will only expose your inadequacy and amplify the Self Loathing Voice, currently at whispering level only.
The Invisible Rock of Despair – let’s call it IROD – is not invincible. But brute force doesn’t work. I have tried enormous efforts to actually leap out of bed and stretch, saying something wildly positive. The sudden disequilibrium may well topple you back into bed immediately. These are my IROD Combat Tips.
1. Take it Slowly, if necessary waking up much earlier. Yes it will be darker, but then you can give yourself a ten minute lie in. Under no circumstances should IROD ever be tackled immediately on waking. Acknowledge presence of IROD. It may even help to say Good Morning, but I would advise this is followed by an insult – e.g. Good Morning IROD. Bastard. That kind of thing. Lie on pillows, snooze for a few minutes and plan your escape slowly.
2. Tea or Coffee before leaving bed is a wonderful thing. Some years ago I was given a tea maker alarm. C mocked and scoffed, but no longer. The alarm goes off (in the half hour of sleep you always manage after three or four hours staring at the ceiling) and tea is brewed. It will create dependency, be warned, but this is manageable dependency. And hot tea, without leaving your bed. Think about that.
3. Eliminate unnecessary decisions. Clothes laid out will help. Make sure they fit the day – today I have a meeting with around 40 colleagues and due to the bizarre circumstances which led me to becoming their boss, I am guessing track suit bottoms and a hoodie would send the wrong message. Today I need armour. Clothes that say Look, I am a Leader! Bright Colours are particularly helpful for these distractions. Today, I am in a silky emerald green dress. No one will suspect. No one.
4. Pack your bag the night before. Your mum was right about this every time and it applies to work just as much as school. Every item you forget will give Self Loathing Voice (SLV) the chance to shout Loser! Repeatedly. Remembering every single one, will give you a sense of achievement and however small, this sense is to be clutched as one would clutch a cross against a vampire.
5. Eat breakfast. The nicer the better. Again, planning helps. By this time, there should still be evidence of IROD. Probably in a sense of downward pressure on your head. Or you may inadvertently have swallowed it and IROD will now weigh heavily in your stomach. It will probably growl that there is no room for food. Ignore it as you would a badly behaved child. Note that the consumption of medication is not a ‘tip’, it is essential.
6. At some stage, Self Loathing Voice may see your battle against IROD winning. The whispering may start, you are no good, you are hopeless, your day is going to be so hard. Acknowledge SLV in a perfunctory way, again imagining a badly behaved child helps. Keep moving.
7. When you eventually arrive at work, congratulate yourself. You are there. You did it.
The problem with depression is that this may be every single morning. Again and again. It may lessen then come back. For some it never goes away. You will have no temperature or croaky voice with which to convince your colleagues you should avoid work. And sometimes, battling IROD and SLV or what ever identity this illness has will be impossible. Sometimes the only advice is to stay in bed and seek help. I am not advocating keeping going at all costs. But those who wait for a time when everything just feels wonderful may wait a long time. The problem with depression is it just doesn’t know when or how to let go.