#Whatyoudontsee or hear or feel

Last week was Depression Awareness Week with #whatyoudontsee as the illustrative hashtag, popping up with heartening frequency across social media. Social media can feel a contradiction in terms though. I’ve been particularly active on FB over the past six months, over-sharing selected trials and tribulations, beautiful words and beautiful pictures, the antics of small animals and children, grief at the relentlessly regular passing of the gifted and famous. But what I haven’t shared is the fact that I have been ‘enjoying’ one of the longest bouts of depression I’ve ever experienced.

I’ve dithered about publishing this blogpost, though not about writing it. #whatyoudontsee needs expanding, because in my case it’s not just what you don’t see but it’s what I can’t see, hear or feel. For me it’s about not wanting to see, hear or feel, keeping the senses in a state of deprivation. To the question, “What triggered it?” I can answer that the possibilities are both obvious and possibly trite, and the webwaves are rife with notions of nurture vs nature, the nn combo, blah blah. But to be honest I don’t care what caused it, because caring suggests a strength of feeling and most days I could barely muster the inclination to decide what to have for breakfast.

I’m not convinced there is an actual cause, more a convention of obstacles and difficulties that crowds into me. The crowding effect pushes much of me out of the way. Large parts of me are squished under a clump of anthracite polystyrene, it’s not a heaviness, more a breathless emptiness – a vacuum that fills with a dread that makes me dizzy and physically nauseous. I have dreaded waking up, that split second feeling between teeth-grinding deep sleep and opening my eyes when my guts start churning in anticipation of having to somehow be in the day to come. Oddly the dullness was accompanied by relentless crying, but not about the world and its miseries, no that would be a step forward. My tears were all about me, my physical and mental ineptitude, frustration and something approaching anger at everything and nothing.

I’m covered in bruises and eczema, and every joint and muscle aches. Not much is said about the physical effects of depression but trust me, they are all too real. From its arrival around November last year I have felt a degree of frailty that is at times the only sensation open to me. Dull pain can, on those really bad days, feel like a leaden comfort blanket and oddly reassuring. I walk into things, elbows clash with door handles, ankles with the edges of car doors, dishwashers, edge of the bath and all while I can see that it just as it is going to happen. My peripheral vision shuts down as that dark something demands that the world stops doing what it’s doing. My head, neck and shoulders need to be held up by the backs of chairs, or ideally a pillow. The headaches make me physically ill and no amount of pain relief seems to work. But even noticing the occasional absence of pain isn’t as good as it should be. It isn’t anything really.

Less is everything: worthless, pointless, meaningless. Pointless is the biggie, everything can and has felt pointless, with me at the centre. And I know it isn’t true, I know I’m loved but to be honest, so what? Being loved can’t compete with being nothing. Logic becomes an odd notion because none of it makes sense. Relationships are really difficult because I don’t often have the energy to try and be kind or responsive to those that tell me IT will be over soon (will IT? Really? What the fuck do you know?). Being told that someone loves me and is there for me can feel like a responsibility I have recoiled from. Cruelty knows no bounds in depression, even if things aren’t said I’m usually thinking them. My jaw is clenched so tight most of the time that my dentist is readying herself for a break in Tuscany on the proceeds, possibly!

I knew in the midst of the interminable tears that I should do something, see my doctor, tell someone something, anything, but in this state the action of saying is near impossible. I can’t explain this thing that is beyond sadness, anger, fear – it’s all emotions rolled into something unwieldy and uncomfortable, set aside for others to enjoy but not me, and no I can’t cheer up or fight IT, or get on with things, keep busy, look on the effing bright side – because IT doesn’t have one. IT has no sides, rhyme, reason, logic, pity. IT doesn’t acknowledge reality and is lodged deep inside. I have told friends in a somewhat frenetic way that I have depression (note: I am not depressed) because it only seems fair when I’ve cancelled at the last minute or cried at the drop of a hat. It can also seem strange because I’m often quite jolly in the midst of this (note: people with depression can still smile, laugh, outwardly enjoy. Sometimes.)

My first panic attack: a non-encounter with a really nice truck driver set me running into my house where I started to shake and sob, then my breath abandoned me and all I saw was an oddly framed view of my trembling hands and the roaring in my head was deafening. I was convinced my heart was shrieking to escape my ribcage. My heart has taken to being a rather noisy over-functioning organ, but regular blood pressure checks show absurd normality. I was weeping copiously at my delightful doctor within two hours. I see him regularly and we laugh a lot.

Medication has helped, especially after the dose was doubled. But the medication does a funny thing. Emotions bubble up occasionally and I have genuinely laughed a lot of late, but tears stay encased in a grubby Perspex cube. I can sense them somewhere just out of reach and have often thought, ‘I’d be crying now if it wasn’t for the meds’. Things that would have upset me even before the depression are comfortably wrapped in something fluffy with a label that invites me to, ‘ignore and retreat because you cannot be arsed today’. IT lurks. I’ve had another panic attack in the meantime and I think I’d be worried at the thought of another but the fluffy wrapping has packaged that fear too. Meds place another layer of disassociation between me and the world, between me, my depression and the world, which is slightly odd. I know this is not real life, or the real me, but facing the world without that fluffy wrapping, just the thought of it, makes my heart beat even harder and my stomach rise, so I’m sticking with it for now.

I’m exhausted by the lessness and its lurkiness! I have no advice to offer anyone. Depression holds a limitless supply of nameless greyness. I am unlikable and unlovable and pointless while I’m liked, loved and generally quite useful. The pain is real and at times unrelenting but it is can be impossible to articulate where it hurts, why it hurts. I’m not a fighter, I’m not battling depression, my depression just is. It’s a bigger part of me than it was six months ago and it’s likely to be a smaller part of me in six months time.

I have disabled comments on this post but if you find anything that I’ve said useful please can you share in the spirit of Depression Awareness Week.

 

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Buckets on my mind

Apparently Marie Antoinette had a penchant for role playing, with the life of a milkmaid being her escapist fantasy of choice. The milkmaid fantasy was played out in suitably fantastic splendour, complete with elaborate costumes and custom built living arrangements and accessories. I’m not sure how much actual milk was involved, but a good time was reportedly had by all. My experiential equivalent is a late 60s Barbie as pneumatically cheery diner waitress. She’s wearing one of those cute pink nylon mini coveralls, frilly apron, pink high heels (what every good waitress needs if she wants to maintain that rictus grin while pampering her bunions) and has a teeny weeny pad with pencil crammed into that rigid space between her thumb and that curiously fused four finger hand arrangement. Of course Mattel has supplied the diner: a pink plastic fold up concoction with a couple of booths, a bar with a couple of stools for Ken to perch on, teeny weeny burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes, itsy bitsy cutlery, crockery, till…

Similarities between Marie Antoinette’s Pastoral World of Milkmaid and Barbie’s World of Diner stop at the use of the colour pink (very popular in the French court at the time) and the creation of a detailed, but peculiarly shiny and sanitised version of the chosen roles. Marie Antoinette’s fantasy world was life sized but, and here at long last we get the buckets of the title, the life sized milking buckets were porcelain, Sèvres no less. Porcelain buckets! And what’s to bet cake was served at elevenses.

This is not a porcelain bucket

This is not a porcelain bucket

The practicalities of death have been preoccupying my thoughts and time of late. Not dying you understand, but death and those ‘where is…?’, ‘what happens if…?’ type questions. Strangely cathartic in a getting-things-sorted type of way, and face it those questions need asking. Anyway what seems to have happened is that in a weird cognitive dissonant way buckets and their accompanying lists seem to leap out from all quarters. Scandi TV sensation The Bridge, radio quiz programmes, blogs and newspaper features, celebrity interviews. Those buckets and their lists are everywhere.  Hunting and killing one’s dinner, climbing up something high, fly somewhere exotic for breakfast, jumping down from something high, alternative sexual encounters, fame- possibly for compiling the best ever bucket list. The 100 Books to Read Before etc. The 100 Movies to See Before etc. The 100 Foods to Eat Before etc, the 100 Beaches to Walk on Barefoot at Sunset Before etc.

Several things occur to me: the average bucket list could not be funded with a payday loan or a quick call to CashWeasel; many seem to involve activities that I’ve satisfactorily avoided up to now because a) they involve ridiculous amounts of physical exertion and b) there’s a necessity to enjoy panoramic views in foreign places; they’re everywhere.

I don’t have a bucket list. It’s not due to any sense of my own immortality (which of course goes without saying).  I don’t even have a wish list on Amazon. Should I have a bucket list? Should one attach a budget to one’s bucket list? Does a budget defeat the object because  a bucket list  is really the ultimate wish list? I think one of the problems is that I’m a worrier, one  who is famed for never having really grasped the concept of fun. And should ticking off items on my bucket list be fun or contribute to a sense of morbid achievement – in your face grim reaper? Who would I want to include/exclude? Why am I such a horrid person by not wanting to include X,Y or ZeZe?

I find decision making near impossible because I constantly worry that by doing one thing I’m missing out on doing the other thing that I maybe should have been doing. Mental nattering to self:  I’m walking through the Grand Canyon. That’s quite nice. But maybe the Great Wall of China would have been better. Oh god my feet hurt and I’m probably missing something Scandi and fab on the telly. Something involving buckets and lists, perhaps?

My conclusions on the subject are: bucket lists seem tiring, both in the compiling and the completing and so I’m remaining bucket list free; and I’d really, really like a Sèvres bucket. Just One Porcelain Bucket to Gaze upon Before etc.

 

This is very definitely not a porcelain bucket

This is very definitely not a porcelain bucket

 

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3.06 mile snippets

Overheard, encountered and observed on this morning’s walk. In no particular order

‘Morning!’ x 5. All dogwalkers.

“Dad? Dad?” ‘MMmm?’ “Da-ad. I found a snowy stone in my trainer last yesterday.” ‘Mmm.’

A sign that read FOOTPATH CLOSED – at a totally unhelpful stage in my walk.

“Close the door. Close the bleedin’ door!”

“Excuse me, but can you tell me what the time is please?” Small strolling boy, somewhat late for school.

Diggers, lorries and assorted building site cacophony.

A well-coiffed woman, bent near double pushing a teeny child on a scooter, while simultaneously walking a fluffy white well-coiffed dog, and holding a conversation with a similarly well-coiffed woman pushing a behemoth of a pushchair within which was a well-coiffed toddler, who apparently answered to the name ‘Serenity’.

PLEASE DON’T FED (sic) THE ANIMALS. THEY WILL GET SICK.

14 For Sale signs.

Duck squawk. Goose squawk. Swan disdain. Gull squeak.
20131011_143120

“Sheila. Here Sheila. That’s a good girl. No Sheila. No! Sorry!”

“Those variegated ones like last year. I really think I’d ….”

“Woof” and variations on a theme of “woof” from assorted canines.

“Stop mucking about or you’re back in the pushchair. Stop it!”

‘UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT IN THE BAGGING AREA’

Birdsong. (Play for lovely sounds!)

Sunshine sparkling on the River Wharfe.

Sun on Wharfe

 

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A very definite first

For those of you who don’t know me, and I’m kind of hoping that several newbies will drop in for a read, I am not outdoorsy, fit, sporty, or a great fan of the clothing required for the associated activity; though I do like comfy flat shoes. This bit of biog is essential background to why I’m writing a blog post about my walk up Pen-y-Ghent – vaguely historic, and a definite first. And as further background I am agoraphobic; any views that are described as breathtaking, stunning, awe-inspiring will render me breathless, stunned and awe-struck, with a touch of panic and hysteria thrown in for that fully rounded experience. Tears and retching are often the result.  Another reason I like comfy flat shoes is that I can rapidly turn my attention to them when someone utters that terrifying phrase, “Oh! Wow! Look!”

penyghent3

I’ve decided to use the pics I took as the route through the story.  Stopping to take these was my canny method of pausing to get my breath back, though I’ll try and avoid putting the expletives that ran through my head onto the page. Please appreciate my bravery in actually  raising my mobile phone to take in the view…

snowdrops

Snowdrops in a graveyard seem rather poignant. New life in the midst of death. But always  a welcome first sign of spring; winter is behind us! But is it?!

 

A nice gentle stroll past the graveyard and past cats. Cats! In less
than five minutes I saw 12 cats. Horton-in-Ribblesdale, what is it with the cats? But forget the cats; what about this snow? It’s March. March!!more snow
Around this point we caught up with several other groups of walkers, and the cry ‘nearly at the top’ was patently a lie for us Pen-y-Ghent virgins. When we were ‘nearly at the top’ it was impossible to do anything other than concentrate on clambering up rocks and avoid looking down.

  This unprepossessing column, I am told, is a trig point.

But more importantly it was the top, and I’d reached  it!  The expected fanfare was resounding in its silence. I got my partner to take a picture of me to prove my achievement, but even Photoshop couldn’t have manipulated that ruddy glow into anything pleasant, so it got deleted. You’ll need to take my word for the fact that I, me, myself took this picture. At the top of one of the Three Peaks!

summit

going down5

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this looks like a pleasant path downward. It was bleeding treacherous! Ice, snow and lots of loose shale meant that I skidded about in a very unseemly manner for at least a mile. And then there were the little hillocks of grit waiting to be raked flat to make the way a little easier – running up and over these was great fun. Though I don’t think my knees are thanking me for this bit of frolicking. Suffice to say that as the fleets of agile fell runners zipped past I wasn’t thinking, “I’m going to do that one day”. What I actually thought probably shouldn’t be repeated, so I won’t.

greenwall final
And this luscious wall could hardly be described as dry stone, could it? This green glory lined the last stretch of our trek; the totally flat, viewless stretch of our trek. Blissful!

I’m still not outdoorsy, fit, or sporty and I still don’t like the clothes much but you know what? It was as close to enjoyable as 9.8 km, mainly uphill, with panoramic views across a vast expanse of Yorkshire, is ever likely to get! But the chances of doing the other two of the Three Peaks remain fairly slim.

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Pampered calves wreak reverse revenge

I blame my gran for surely one of the most soul-destroying hours I’ve ever experienced. If I think about it I could probably blame her for some of the most-soul destroying months, nay years, of my entire life, but let’s stick with Saturday shall we?

My gran, or the Mary Nana, made many pronouncements on many things, ranging from Oliver Cromwell through teeth to shoes. Many of these same pronouncements did in fact have a vestige of truth and were rooted in her early experience of life, as the eldest girl in a large Catholic family of girls, and one poor lad. Though she was also mistress of the biting wit and searing repartee and there was no questioning how funny she could be. Oft cruel but oh so funny!

I need you to imagine the following uttered in a faux genteel Glasgow accent, her Mrs McFlannel as we called it – never to her! – “if yourrr feet arrre soore yourrr face is pure scunnered.” I realise a bit of a translation might be necessary, so for ‘scunnered’ read sour, screwed up, pained. In other words, not pretty! I first remember hearing this in a Clarks shoe shop, in October 1968, on a Saturday afternoon at about 2pm. It was the day I discovered that I had big feet, while also discovering that I could actually get slightly cooler shoes because I had big feet. The very sweet shop girl pointed to the extended choice that was now open to me and I near swooned. The rest of me was 9 years old but my feet were teenagers!  But the Mary Nana scuppered those childhood dreams, and yes several more, but perhaps more of that in another blogpost. Her pronouncement boomed out across the shoe shop, terrifying the Saturday lassies, only just coming to terms with the technology of the Clark’s foot measuring stools so recently introduced. They were being forced to consider that they alone were responsible for all the sour faced Glaswegian women stalking the streets in shoes that looked fabulous but were in fact pure agony.

And that was that. Other than a predilection for platforms shoes (which to be fair are often only flat shoes perched on scaffolding) in the 70s to this day I tend to favour comfort over fashion. I love a brogue, and I have an embarrassingly large collection of Converse, canvas supermarket cheapos and Birkenstock look-alikes. All the boots I possess all manage to look slightly threatening in their utilitarian clumpiness, and are mainly chosen for the fact that in the unlikely event that their anti-slip soles wear out my local cobbler can replace with similar. I am after all a Scot living in Yorkshire.

I can remember every instance of the ‘pure scunnered’ face where new, usually high heeled shoes, were worn: a romantic stroll around London in fabulous green Dolcis strappy, wedges; a pivotal evening in a budding relationship that should’ve involved dancing, but couldn’t…. But every so often I want to look down upon the feet of an elegant, stylish woman;  to gaze upon the pointed toe and to wear heels that let me look into the eyes of the rest of world without feeling the shame of inadequate footwear. Nah, that’s not true! But the shoe lust does occur occasionally, as testified to by the boxes under the bed…

Right, back to Saturday.  For a while now I have lusted after boots of the sort that other ‘gone blonde’ women seem to sport as a matter of course. Their legs encased in trousers from Zara, or jeans definitely not bought in Sainsbury’s, and their lower legs gleaming in fabulous boots to the knee, they stride forth taking no prisoners.  The shops are full of the damned things so clearly I need to own a pair.

It should’ve been easy. I selected five different pairs, five different makes, of sleek gorgeousness, and the Saturday girl tootled off to the dark recesses of the pain chamber and returned under a pile of large boxes. I was near breathless with trepidacious excitement at the woman I was to become.

And the result? I have calves. Properly well-developed, indeed some might say shapely, calves; moulded and rounded through years of the sole of the foot properly connecting with the ground, not honed and narrowed through years of high heel-induced perching. I couldn’t pull the pull-up variety much beyond my ankle, or zip the zip that final all-important 3cm.  Yup, not for me the gone blonde, confident, stylish woman in her fabulous 50s stride. The Saturday girl, bless, made that sound we all know and love – ‘aaaoooh’ and was clearly flummoxed by what else to offer by way of commiseration at my calf quandary. It wasn’t anything she’d encountered before apparently. Yes, that helped my self-esteem no end.

I walked through the city, heart heavy with thoughts of my leg inadequacy, but the Mary Nana’s words came back to me and I let my eyes shift from those glossy gone blonde women’s boot shod feet to their faces. My heart soared once more. Pure scunnered looking, every one.

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Knees, toes and bumpsadaisy

As much as I love the sunshine in March it means my clothing conundrum has hit slightly earlier than normal. I am a creature of habit as far as seasonal clothes are concerned. Skirts and mega dernier black tights are de rigeur pour moi in the winter months, while trousers are my leg covering of choice when the sun comes out. Oh and I don’t do leggings.

But there’s that cusp point, isn’t there? The sun comes out and my non-winter wardrobe is for the most part still in suitcases under the bed. I have a nice range of ‘tween season dresses but I cannot bring myself to wear black tights, and winter trousers just aren’t right are they?! Considerable effort is needed to put my legs out there, and my life really is not long enough.

And don’t get me started on what to wear on my feet! These feet are not for exposing to the elements just yet.

Though apparently it’s just me. A Monday morning through the streets of my hometown exposed me to much flesh, which the local populace felt they must put out there because the sun had got his hat on, hip, hip, hip, hooray and all that. Sleeveless, shirtless, legless – and less is just not more!

Don’t you love a trivial issue on a Monday?!

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Why I’m going to tell you about how this Christmas started with a pomegranate

This blog is starting to become yet another sort-of-started/not-come-to-anything thing for which I have a not inconsiderable reputation. You could name quite a lot of career possibilities and chances are I’ll have had a go  (if there are any I haven’t tried then it may have been because it didn’t occur to me, or it involved more energy than I could muster at the time. Or new clothes and he had a point that Wilde chap). I am never without ideas, and I have good intentions by the bucketful, but the actual doing bit?

Every fortnight I get a bit of a prod when my Guardian blogging case study update hits my inbox but although I read avidly and do all the doing stuff I still can’t seem to just get this out there. Fear of no readers, nasty comments, not being as good as the other blogs out there, hating confrontation (cos sure as Euroscepticism someone will hate me), waiting for my design chap to send me a logo, yadda yadda, blahdeblah. Today though I am suitably prodded by Andrea Wren’s piece on the  progress of her own blog to get going!

Currently I am under employed, ie. self-employed with not a lot of work. My couch is my office, though I have a very lovely office which I drift into occasionally to add a book to my gorgeous bookshelves (see?)

 

 

 

 

or to collect something from the printer.

When I decided to start a blog it was to use all the laptop on lap time that I was putting in, generously  sharing all the tedious notions, ideas and advice that meandered through my head. I wanted to vent my mild irritation at the adverts and suggestions for addressing my apparent need to reverse the ageing process, and I wanted to set the record straight – I did not tell Susan Boyle my story and want to disassociate myself from the content of her recent album release. I wanted to help parents deal with the vagaries of Student Finance England  and student bank accounts. I wanted to tell anyone who might be vaguely interested that empty nest syndrome was (is) horrendous, that as a parent I am quite hopeless and helpless some of the time but I think my children quite like me in between the pitying. And loads of other sage advice and warnings that you might find diverting.

Apparently my niche is ‘woman of a certain age’ and I do quite like the idea of a niche. Such a reassuring word, unless you say it too often and it starts to sound weird. Niche, niche, niche…

If you’re still with me, thank you, thank you, thank you. And if you come back I promise to both start and finish the pomegranate that started Christmas story.

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Introduction

KnowingD, a woman in her 50s, poised and ready to share what she may or may not know about anything that takes her fancy! Once she’s cracked this whole WordPress and blogging mullarkey!

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