Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rediscovering Berries

One of the problems associated with depression is lack of motivation, lack of energy, lack of interest. Over the last 18 months, as I have struggled with depression and spent a lot of time working to learn to deal with it, many things have been neglected. One is my berry garden.

This is my raspberry patch. Truly - there are raspberry plants in there somewhere! You can see how tall the grass is, by comparing it to the ordinary garden fork stuck in the ground.
This morning I started the renewal programme by uncovering the blueberry and currant bushes which were similarly hidden. They have been affected by the neglect: three were dead, and some of the remaining bushes don't look at all healthy - I will have to buy more this autumn - but we will get a few blueberries soon.
 This is the result of my morning's labours! It will compost down and then I will spread the resulting humus around the bushes.
 How could I have neglected them so? Especially when working my gardens and orchards leaves me feeling so good.

Dealing With Depression

The past 18 months have been a long journey for me - and I'm not there yet. In fact I know I'll never be 'there', because this life of mine is a constant journey. However, following a massive attack of depression in June 2010 I have been working on learning to train this black dog of mine. I've been to a clinical psychologist, read many books, explored dozens of websites, but the two things that have helped me most have  been John Kirwan's website, and keeping a journeyjournal. The latter helps me remember what it feels like to be at the bottom, but also reminds me of the things that help me - when I'm down, I find it hard to remember.

 On Tuesday night Jeff told us he and Konny had found a house in town and would be moving in this weekend. I slept badly that night, feeling sad. It's not like we have 'had' much of him the last six months, as he has been too busy with Konny and university and all the other stuff that goes with being a young adult, but I felt the loss of him strongly that night and next morning. I got up on Wednesday still feeling very sad,  and while eating breakfast, chipped a tooth. My old style was to assume the worst, that the tooth was cracked right through, was going to cause untold pain, and cost baskets full of money to repair. Instead I told myself, 'maybe it is just a chip,' and put it aside to deal with another day. But still felt sad.

I mucked about dismally all morning and part of the afternoon until I finally got myself into gear and headed into town to pick Steven up. As I drove into Hamilton I realised that I had started to withdraw into my grey bubble. I made myself look out at the world and see the same things I had seen a couple of days earlier when they had made my heart sing - the wild flowers, the stripes of young green maize in the fields, the harriers gliding over the trees, the gorgeous, wild clouds - and I saw that they were no different. It was me that was different. I made a real effort to observe and appreciate the beauty and slowly my mood lifted a little.

I got to The Base at Te Rapa (huge shopping complex) and decided to go buy myself some earphones for my mp3 player so I can have music in my car, instead of feeling miserable because my car cd player has broken. Yay! Music! I felt my mood rise a little more.

I collected Steve and headed for Auckland. Very slow traffic. Bad. Lots of time to talk with Steve. Good. I put missing Jeff out of my mind and concentrated on enjoying being with the son that was present.We got to Ceracell just 10 minutes before closing, to collect pre-ordered bee gear for me, and for Jacqueline. Good. Oh, they had forgotten to make up Jacqueline's order. Bad. Instead of getting annoyed, and worrying about how much time it was taking, I reminded myself, 'relax, there's no hurry.'

Three-quarters of an hour later......we were on the road again. The traffic was even worse. When we got to the Greenlane off ramp after half an hour driving in first gear, we decided to leave the motorway and go get takeaways for dinner and take them to eat at my sister's place hoping for a cup of tea. Not only were she and Graham there, but also her daughters, son-in-law and grandson. Claire was heading off on a holiday in Asia so they were having a Christmas dinner and presents opening for her.  So glad we called in - that bad traffic turned into something good.

Then off to CJC (Creative Jazz Club) in central Auckland. During a break between sets I turned around to ask the woman on the desk behind a question - my glasses flew off and I knelt on them resulting in a very twisted arm which meant I could only wear them if I had major cosmetic surgery on my head! I went to text Mac to tell him I would have to stay the night at Steve's place - and my phone died! It just kept turning off, even though the battery wasn't flat.

But the music was totally awesome! So I just focused on that. In the past I would have been berating myself for days. Instead I focused on the good.

Steve drove us back home to his place, and I stayed the night. The bed's not as comfortable as mine, and there's no curtain and they live next to a very busy road that trucks use as a bypass, so having gone to bed at 1.30am, I woke up at 10 to 7!  Hanging on to the joy by the skin of my teeth....

I checked my phone again - planning to pull it to bits and put it back together again - no need! It had revived!

At 9am I  woke Steve because I had to be in Raglan at 1pm. He got up and made me scrambled eggs for breakfast - what a treat!  Then off to the opticians. Having gotten a reminder two days earlier that I was due for my 2 yearly check up, I made an appointment, then produced my glasses. She was sorry but they wouldn't be able to fix them - well, she'd give it a go, but were sure the arm would break when she tried to bend it back into shape. A couple of minutes later she came out beaming and said, "I WON!"

Home. Oh, I haven't mentioned the rain. It had been raining for abut a week.  But that day it poured. I got soaked and covered in mud as I filled the van's radiator with water, and attached the trailer. Changed clothes. Into Raglan to the garage for Warrant of Fitness checks for both. Rain. Down to Black Sands for tea and bagel for lunch. Feeling damp and a bit sad again. Just as I was nearly finished, half a dozen Maori came in, all ages, sat down with milk shakes from somewhere else, didn't buy anything. After about 5 minutes one of the waitresses asked, "would you like me to take your order?" "Oh, no thanks, we're just waiting for someone else," said the oldest woman. The waitress didn't know what to do, but as the place was almost empty, she said no more. A few more minutes and I was about to leave, when another half dozen joined them, complete with several guitars and a 6 string ukulele - and Dave Maybee, a local musician. They started singing carols and it was very cool. (And they ordered food and drinks once they were all there.) The cafe filled up with people drawn by the music. I stayed and listened and had another drink.

The van and trailer both got warrants, and home I went. Got soaked and muddy again as I did country chores.

Today I went back into town for my eye exam and yay! my eyes haven't changed, there's no sign of glaucoma, and she said my eyes look very healthy, and have great muscle tone - I didn't even realise eyes could have muscle tone!

Whilst in town I witness two very near accidents, 3 cars pulled out in front of me, and one guy stopped his car in the middle of the road to answer his phone - while I, and the driver of another car stopped in the middle of the road behind him and practised out road rage!

That's a long and boring tale, I know, but it is also a wondrous tale. Two years ago I would have been driven into the ground by the sadness, the annoying things, the horrid things. Driven so far down that I would not, no, could not, see the good stuff that happened. I would have been catastrophizing (is there such a word? my spell checker thinks not!) from the very start of the day. By the time I left that club in Auckland I would have been spiralling down into a bout of depression - over what are really very trivial things. And I could feel the pressure, I could feel the perverse desire to wallow in misery, tempting me to take the familiar 'easy' route. But I didn't. I kept focusing on the moment, focusing on the beauty, no matter how small, that I see around me every day.

I don't think I'm good enough at this happiness thing yet to cope with the sort of stuff that hit me in June last year, but I am getting so much better. I used to hate people who said, 'count your blessings,' as it seemed to me that thinking about the little joys somehow trivialised the big things. Now I realise that those little things form the anchor that keeps me from the rocks. And I have also come to recognise that this kind of conscious effort to control over how I feel about things is going to be my life's work - I cannot let up for a minute, or I start to fall. Is it my innate disposition? Or is it a very bad habit? I don't know, but I'm trying my best to overcome it, and life is definitely much much better - I can honestly say that I have been happy since June this year.