Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Us Down

If you had to choose a day that qualified as the most depressing day of the year, what date would you choose? Your 30th, 40th or 50th birthday doesn't count! Do you believe that such a day exists? Who chose it and for what reason? Isn't it an awfully subjective decision?

It's news to me but apparently the saddest day of the year does exist, although I don't think it's marked on the calendar just yet! Cliff Arnall, a Welsh psychologist went to work on a formula in an attempt to come up with the most depressing day of the year. Arnall took many factors into account and came up with a trifecta for unhappiness:  bad weather blues, Monday blues and mounting debt. This melancholy culminates on the third Monday of January. For 2011, that day fell on Monday, January 17th. I'm kind of relieved I didn't find out about it until it had aleady passed. Power of suggestion and that kind of thing.

Arnall accounted for many factors to come up with this arbitrary date. Personally, I hate January and who can honestly blame me? It's a dirty month with wind, snow and rain. The snow inevitably ends up piled on the side of the street or as ugly, brown slush.

If you think about Arnall's reasons, his choice for Blue Monday makes perfect sense.  Reason #1:  it's Monday - that's a no-brainer. Reason #2:  the pretty Christmas tree is down and so are you. The decorations have been packed away for another year. That happy Christmas glow has faded and the only rosy cheeks to be found are from frostbite.  Reason #3:  people have abandoned their resolutions. You've given up on the newest diet craze. Who needs it anyway? You can still button up your trousers... the problem is sitting down in them,  The credit card bills are mounting and you wonder what you were thinking when you bought that home lipo-suction kit.  The weather is cold, grey and miserable. The newspaper headlines threaten rising mortgage rates, rising unemployment and tax hikes. Even Dr. Phil is bummed out.

No, January is definitely not known as the cheeriest month on the calendar. I can see why it makes people feel blue. Only a few weeks ago you were eating delicious food with family and friends, laughing and having a merry ole time.  Blue Monday steam rolls in and now you're a fat shopaholic with a drinking problem and  bad credit rating.

There is a big difference between Blue Monday people and truly depressed people. Blue Monday people  generally feel better within a few days and go back to their routine. Clinically depressed people are different in that every day is a Blue Monday. They don't perk up and their lives don't fall neatly back into place. I speak from experience because I'm someone who has lived with depression most of my adult life.

Depression is more widespread than most people realize. That's depressing. While people can inherit a genetic component for depression, chronic untreated stress can play a significant role in developing depression. Lucky me,  I have both components!  The majority of people with fibromyalgia suffer some level of chronic depression. Which came first - fibromyalgia or depression - isn't always clear. The chicken and egg thing. It is important to identify depression and work with your physician toward controlling it.

My depression worsened last year because my thyroid gland was severely out of whack. I underwent  changes in medications frequently. I was in such a fog and so confused that I could no longer keep track of them and handed off the chore to my dutiful husband. Way too much crap happened  in 2010 and it took me down with a hard thump. I had my first argument with my best friend and said some things I wish I hadn't. There were financial worries and a lawsuit threat against my husband. I gained more weight. I was screamed at over the phone by a former sister-in-law. It was completely unjustified and it started me on a downhill slide. It took a migraine and one entire, wasted week to shake off her venom.  I was insulted about my weight by 2 rude sales clerks while on vacation in Hawaii.  I lost a long-time friend over a silly book club dispute. That one shocked me to my core. I also was socially ostracized by a fellow book club member who left after the implosion. It wasn't that she left that bothered me, it was the snub I got afterward, socially. It was so high school, but nonetheless it stung. With the stress of Christmas fast approaching, it was particularly hard  for me because I was already speeding out of control toward shut-down mode. I had a few public meltdowns that convinced me to stay home and pass the baton of festive responsibilities to my family. My good knee morphed into a bad knee. I hobbled on it, inflamed and painful for a month, terrified at the thought of having another knee surgery. I started having anxiety attacks. I was convinced that my family would be involved in a fatal car accident whenever one of them left the house. I imagined that someone, somewhere had hexed me. I felt like the world despised me. All the while I was in pain somewhere in my body. If it wasn't fibro, then it was a migraine or knee pain or neck spasms. The flucuations from my off-kilter thyroid were either making me hot, sweaty and irritable or cold and lethargic. And fat. I was a walking hormonal pendulum. I was clinging to sanity by my hang nails when a relative blamed me over a trivial matter and blasted me but good. That was the final straw.

 I stopped functioning. I climbed into my bed and didn't come out. When I wasn't gazing vacantly into space, I cried and cried. Even my dreams offered no refuge as they were extremely violent and dark. I wanted to be out of pain so badly, that I started to fixate on ways to commit suicide. The thought of leaving my daughters motherless was the only thing that stopped me. My husband said I was having a nervous breakdown. I was in big trouble and needed help, fast.  My husband, a physician, intervened and took control of my medications. After eliminating two drugs entirely and altering my thyroid medication, I slowly started to see a  dim light in the distance. But it took weeks to even get to that point. I'm still struggling to get back to 'normal' or where I was before the medication mishaps plunged me into darkness.

Every day is still a battle. It's difficult to concentrate for any length of time when you have depression.  On one hand, it is cathartic for me to write this blog to purge my thoughts. On the other hand, it takes a lot of motivation for me to sit down and focus. I've already broken my one and only resolution by not blogging regularly. Trying to be creative while in the throes of depression is a tough feat to pull off.  At least it is for me. 

We're halfway through the month of January and my current stressor is coping with a teenager {who is not particularly good with numbers, just like her mother} studying  for a Provincial math examination. It's always something, isn't it?

Sometimes I've turned to poetry to express my pain. I'd like to share a poem I wrote a few years ago when I was paralyzed by depression, yet again.

            Shades of Grey

     No smile. No sun. No hope.
     Imagine yourself at emotional ground zero, every day.
     Walk in my shoes and you're living life in shades of grey.

     Get up. Go on. Get by.
     If I tell you 'I'm fine'
     Don't believe me
     It's a lie, my love,
     A cheap imitation of life
     Not even a reasonable facsimile, thereof.

     Pale and ashen. A dullness, so grey.
     I am most definitely barren,
     What a waste,
     To exist without a shred of passion.

      Crouched down in the corner of life
      The volume set on mute -
      I want to live life in techni-colour
     With magnificent surround sound.

      Reclaim my soul from the box labelled Lost
      And hold it high -
      Proclaim it Found.

If you suspect you might be depressed, don't wait until it's too late. Seek help from your physician as soon as possible. Don't settle for life in the shadows. Everyone has the right to live in techni-colour.

Thanks for reading, friends.


  1. I can totally relate to this blog Cathy! I'm so sorry you have to live it as well.
    This past Monday I did have a melt down and began to cry while with a client. I had to stop and call a nurse to get myself together long enough to finish the day. Now I know it wasn't just me but that particular Monday had a role to play in my collapse.
    Be strong for your self Cathy! You are lucky to have a support team! I have no one, but, have learned to do the best I can and the hell with what ever.

  2. I suspect there are many many people that struggle with depression but hide it due to stigma, etc. I'm very sorry to hear that you're feeling poorly. We have to take it a day at a time - sometimes when it's really bad, even an hour at a time. Yes, I do have a good support system but I'm concerned that you don't. Why don't you contact me further so we can become F/B friends? We all need to stick together and support each other as much as we can. Thanks for writing.

  3. Hi there,
    If I wasn't depressed before reading that, I am That poem was excellent..I loved it. It sounded so much like something I would write.
    Anyway, once the depression sets in, I might as well just forget it. Nothing matteres. I cannot allow myself to stay in the darkness for a prolonged period of time. It is to excruciating. So I fight really hard to climb out of the pit. Actually, I feel like I'm fighting for my life.
    Don't stay like whatever you have to and whatever you can to get back into the light.
    Good luck to you. Maureen

  4. Maureen, thank you for your comments. I laughed at the first line. Yeah, it's kinda hard to write about depression with wit and humour! lol Anyone who has been severely depressed can relate the darkness, the loss of hope, the pain. It is very hard to climb out of the abyss, I know. But, somehow, each time I've had a bad depression, I've managed to drag my ass out eventually. I'm aiming not to have any more free falls back into that hole. I'm glad you liked the poem and warm wishes for you to stay in the light, always.

  5. Oh Cathy I am so sorry for all you have gone through and continue to. I am glad that you have Dale and things are coming around for you. I know you know that even with all the health problems you are one very lucky lady to have such a loving family surrounding you.

    Excellent blog and I know you have helped many people with your honesty, let's us all know that we are not alone out here.

    Keep up the good work and take care and know that you are loved by many from all over the world.