Finding The Music

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Plato

Image


Monkey and I were temporarily stranded in our car the other day on account of a veritable monsoon outside. Trees seemed to bend at unnatural angles nearby as rain smashed horizontally into my windscreen. The sky was a menacing and murky shade of black and mid-morning looked very much like dusk.

Like a stuck record I found myself sighing, complaining and moaning about the weather, as we waited for a gap in the downpour lengthy enough to allow us to dash from car to shop and hopefully back again.

It was at this point that my little boy said:
“I like the sound of the rain on the roof, mummy. It sounds like music“.

Music
? I hadn’t thought of that. The soundtrack to my bad mood was in fact melodic to his ears. Despite the grey, the cold and the wet he had somehow found the music. Found harmony. Exacted some joy from the situation.

I think children are incredible teachers if we can only learn to listen to their lessons, but in order to do so we need to slow down. In actual fact, on that rainy day recently we were in no particular hurry. It really didn’t matter if we spent five minutes longer in the car. It wasn’t necessary for me to huff and puff and moan. I could’ve just enjoyed some one-on-one time with my son and made the most of it. Tuned in to life’s radio, turned the volume up and sang along, as it were.
Life can be so fast paced. Dashing between drop-offs, panicking over pick-ups, hurrying through homework, procuring presents for parties and worrying about work. I sometimes think that if this phase of my life were to have a soundtrack it would be the Flight of the Bumblebee. Go go go… Don’t stop! Press on! Hurry!

In actual fact, musical moments are everywhere if only we can make ourselves slow down enough to hear them. We race through life at warp speed without pausing to listen to it’s harmonies.

Obviously the sweet sounding laughter of my babies and their words of love and affection are like music to my soul. But in all honesty, sometimes the sound of my husband’s key in the door is the sweetest music to my ears, with the words “Goodnight Mummy” coming in at number two in the chart.

As I sit writing today, it’s almost 11am on a Monday morning. It’s quiet. Both children are in school. I can hear the clock ticking quietly, the gentle hum of the fridge and birdsong from outside. These sounds are peaceful. Undisturbed. Mundane, even. But alongside the rhythmic, understated percussion from my tapping keyboard they make an uplifting melody. Their tones resonate positivity after several weeks of silent, whispered apathy.

I’m able to write again, which means I’m in a better place. The keystrokes a tip-tap of positivity and hope. Of words which, until recently, had been drowned out by the din of self-doubt, deafening depression and audible anxiety. But as I sit here now, in this moment. I hear calm and I feel more peaceful than I have in weeks, if not months. And really, this moment, this verse and this note is all that matters. All that ever matters. Hearing the harmonies, listening to life’s lyrics. Slowing down, seeking out and taking in those few joyful moments a day. One day at a time.

Because let’s face it; All the world may be a stage but we aren’t characters in a musical.

We won’t skip from place to place with orchestral accompaniment, joyfully and gleefully dancing our way from one blissfully perfect day to the next; Merrily separating our fighting children and going about our daily chores with palpable ebullience. (In fact, if this is the case, we might need to speak to the doctor about getting our meds changed again).

Life is not always up-tempo. Sometimes the backing track will be more melancholy than mellifluous. Now and then you might find ear-splitting death-metal will be the anthem of the day and even locking yourself in the bathroom won’t afford you a nanosecond’s peace and quiet from your little monsters.

We can’t expect symphonic raptures all day, every day. But if we can stop and find the music every so often… if we can fill our ears with their polyphonic laughter and their gentle, sleeping breaths, allowing the music to sink in to our souls once in a while, I think we’re winning.

Some days life’s orchestra is pitch perfect. Others are more attuned to a beginner’s recorder recital but there’s meaning in the music and melody in the moments, if we listen hard enough for it.

So this week, try to keep your internal jukebox in check, Avoid discordant stuck records and negative thoughts if you can. Turn the volume down on them. Crank up the bass on a tune that makes you smile and dance with your children until they begin to look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Make your own music if you can’t find any. Listen out for the joy.

Advertisements

Truth

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life flow no longer in our souls.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (November 12, 1815 – October 26, 1902) in her speech to the National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1890.

Truth. This word means a lot to me. I’m having to face a lot of truths at the moment. Truth can be painful. Speaking truth can leave you feeling vulnerable. Vulnerability is frightening. Truth can be terrifying.

But fearless truth telling can heal. Not only myself, but others who hear (or in this case read) it.

The truth of the matter is, my depression has been back and there has been absolutely nothing that I could do to stop it. No amount of late night over-thinking, crying, pretending, talking or remaining silent has managed to keep the Black Dog from my door.

So I am going to share my truth here. It might be painful to read and to write, but if nobody talks openly about taboo subjects like this, more and more people will suffer in silence. If one person reads this, and in doing so feels less alone, or seeks help it will be worth the emotional effort that writing a post like this involves.

Each time it returns, my depression seems to have mutated. Like a germ that’s become immune to antibiotics. Like something from a zombie film, lurking where you least expect it.

Seven months ago my biggest problem was anxiety. Crippling, physical, exhausting anxiety. Talk-based CBT helped this, as did medication, and now it’s not such an issue. This time around the relapse has involved a lot more paranoia and the darkest of thoughts. Feelings of being worthless, a burden, a disappointment.

Depression is a very cruel illness. It robs you of the ability to take on board any rational advice or listen to logic. You just can’t believe anything good about yourself at all. You seem to feel too much of everything and at the same time, not enough. Nothing makes sense in my experience, when it comes to depression. Thoughts which to any other person are ridiculous, horrifying or absurd seem perfectly acceptable. During a conversation with a friend who was once sectioned for her own safety, for example, I felt that perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing to happen. At least there would be rest. And quiet. And help.

Last week I had a long conversation with my doctor. He increased my medication and referred me for more Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. During my assessment I answered several questions which gave a picture of where I am on a depression scale. Despite all of the feelings I’d been battling I was still crushed to hear that based on the answers I gave, I’m considered to be seriously depressed. The fact that I felt surprised by this news is ridiculous as I’ve been living with this for weeks now. But the truth is, I keep expecting someone to tell me that this has all been a mistake, I’m just a bit tired and no, I haven’t actually got a mental illness after-all.

One of the doctor’s questions covered suicidal feelings. Not a conversation I ever expected to have. But I answered truthfully. My truth is that whilst I would never, ever put my family through it, I can, at this point in my life, understand why people do choose to end their lives as a result of depression. I’m sorry if this is painful and shocking to read, but this post is about truth.

I am speaking my truth here, in the hope that saying this things aloud (or on screen, as it were) will banish them away. In my darkest moments, I truly believed that the world would be better off without me, and that my husband and children would be better off with a different wife and mother. I feel I should stress again, before anyone calls an ambulance, that at no point did I ever plan to act on these dark thoughts. There are too many people whom I love for me to ever do that. But what I am saying is when I read news stories about women who’ve ended their lives, I can understand the feelings of desperate desolation that must have driven them.

After leaving the doctor’s, feeling very fragile indeed, I messaged a good friend who has personal experience of depression herself. I explained my feelings to her. Her response contained the following wise words:

“Please try not to be heartbroken- we both know depression is always there in the background and it’s inevitable that there will be relapses throughout our lives. What’s important it how we deal with them”.

She went on to commend me for getting help. Her message was of great comfort to me at a time where I just wanted to take to my bed and howl.

But here’s the thing. Each time my depression comes under control again, I think it’s gone forever. When it returns, it comes as a massive shock to me. In writing this I realise how ridiculous this sounds, but it’s the truth. I can’t seem to accept the fact that this may in all likeliness be something that comes back again and again throughout my life. The thought terrifies me. I can’t really even bear to think about it.

As I write this, I am thinking about the people who I know, who may read this. What on earth is possessing me to write down my very darkest thoughts and share them on the internet? What will people think? Will it look as it I’m attention-seeking? But then I re-examine my reasons for this post. I am writing not only to help myself, but to try to help others. Not just those suffering from depression themselves, but those trying to support loved ones going through it.

20130316-223452.jpg
I “came out’ about my depression through this blog. Before doing so, only a couple of people knew about it. My closest friends weren’t even aware. They sent me incredible messages of support once they’d read my first post. But I admit, and so will they, that after that it became somewhat of an elephant in the room. No-one liked to broach the subject and I couldn’t seem to bring it up. I began to feel paranoid that I’d alienated myself from my friends, who were becoming used to reading my inner thoughts rather than hearing them in person.

I find the subject far easier to write about than to speak about and I’m very good at putting on a brave face to the outside world. But last week, on the insistence of a close friend, my friends and I finally had the conversation. I struggled not to fall to pieces in a busy restaurant whilst discussing it. They offered support and suggestions. They were relieved and so was I. I hope that next time (and I really hope there is never a next time) I’ll be able to reach out to them more and let them in.

20130316-223603.jpg
I sometimes wonder whether I actually feel too much. Too much of other people’s pain as well as my own. At the moment I have close friends going through horrendous divorce, serious ill-health and parental cancer. I spend so much time worrying about them whilst feeling incredible guilt for not being a supportive enough friend. Because at some point, like this past few weeks or so, I can only focus on myself and my family. I have to put our needs first but that feels so selfish. I have to concentrate on myself more and stop worrying so much about others.

Yesterday my friend’s one year old daughter broke her ankle for no apparent reason. The photo of her in her cast was enough to have me feeling low for an entire morning today. Other people would of course worry about a baby in distress. But for me, it seems to consume me. I internalise it and find it hard to switch off the worry. I suppose this is something for me to address once the therapy resumes again.

I’m really struggling with whether or not to publish this post. It still feels to raw and I’m worried about upsetting my family and friends. I’m also worried about what acquaintances will think.

So I’ll share this quote, to give myself a bit more courage:
“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”
Bernard Baruch (Often incorrectly attributed to Dr. Seuss, apparently).

So, if you’re a friend or acquaintance of mine and you’re reading this, don’t feel awkward when you see me next. I’m determined to get through this again and raising awareness is part of the process for me, it seems. In writing this I can feel a few subtle sparks of positivity somewhere deep inside, some flickering enthusiasm building slowly. It will be OK again. I will get through this again, bit by bit with the support of my loved ones. I have asked for help, and of that I am proud.

Before I hit publish, I’m going to take a deep breath and remind myself once again of my reasons for sharing this. To help myself to heal, and to help heal others.

If you’re reading this and you’re suffering, please do get help. Speak to someone. If you’re worried about someone, please offer support. Only by being supportive to one another can we break the stigma and help one another. And that’s the Truth.

20130316-223721.jpg
All pictures credited to the Brave Girls Club

Easier Said Than Done.

I feel the need to write this down so that hopefully I’ll feel better afterwards. I have a knot of emotion in my chest and I need it to go away. Whilst it doesn’t feel as if the Black Dog is looming, I do feel as if I good cry is on the horizon.

The past month has been very tough. My PND relapse episode lasted a full fortnight and immediately afterwards followed two weeks of the usual childhood illnesses that come with winter time. I don’t recall my last good night’s sleep.

Now, even in writing this, I feel the need to apologise to the millions of other parents out there who have children who don’t sleep. It comes with the territory, I know. But it feels like I’m the only one staring at a computer screen on the verge of tears.

But then I remember that others don’t have the monopoly on exhaustion. I am entitled to feel how I do. I’m not alone in feeling this way. It’s OK not to feel OK sometimes, remember?

Sleep deprivation does magnify things, and when I’m feeling a bit emotionally fragile, this is even more apparent.

You see, Monkey has been behaving like a cross between a surly teenager and a Tasmanian devil for the past couple of weeks. It has been meltdown central in our house and I have heard lots of “I don’t like you, mummy. I don’t want you. Go away from me”. I do know these are not his true feelings. He is three and a half. I’m the one he runs to when he is sick or hurt and I know he loves me. But still, words like this cut like a knife to my heart.

20130227-141032.jpg
I know that Monkey feeds off my energy and I’m pretty sure my energy has been off-kilter during the past month. What this boils down to is I feel his behaviour is my fault. But if my energy causes his meltdowns and his tantrums cause me to feel even worse, how will this stop? It’s a vicious cycle, surely?

There are lots of strategies I employ to cope with meltdowns. I like to lead by example by not shouting over him when he is losing it, as I don’t think that teaches anything. In fact I prefer to drop my voice very low when he is screaming and shouting. I try to head the tantrums off-at-the-pass if I can and will intervene if I see one coming. This often works. I also like to use humour to distract him from a diva strop, and I’ve been known to return from the shops on a make-believe broomstick to prevent an outburst. But sometimes nothing works. I guess sometimes he just behaves like a normal three and a half year old boy, who is recovering from a nasty virus and several nights of broken sleep.

Even in telling you these tricks and strategies I realise that I am trying to prove something. I am trying to show you, dear readers, and remind myself, that I am a conscientious parent. I’m demonstrating that I am not a bad mum. That I’m not modelling aggressive behaviour and in doing so creating a future menace to society.

I’m trying to tell myself that my own struggles are not damaging my child.

I don’t think there is a parent in the world who has not had to deal with a meltdown from their child. I know that it is normal, developmental behaviour. I also know lots of parents of children with special needs who cope with far more difficult situations and make it look easy.

I suppose what I really need to do is read back through my previous posts, have a word with myself, take some of my own advice and practice what I preach. So here goes…

“I will be true and authentic and not pretend all is perfect at all times”. Check.

“I will always remember that I’m the best mum for my children, that I know them better than anyone else. I will discount any thoughts that suggest otherwise”. Hmmm. Perhaps I need to read this one a few more times.

“I will remember that it’s OK not to be OK sometimes”. Yes.

“I will be kind to myself.” Easier said than done, though, isn’t it?

20130227-141436.jpg