exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

here comes the sun. it’s all right.

by Jen at 3:59 pm on 28.01.2007 | 4 Comments
filed under: classic, mutterings and musings

it’s not even the end of january, and as ridiculous as it is, spring is here. i know this because i smelled it on my run this morning. you know the smell of spring – it’s the smell of earth warming, trees stretching, the thin hint of fresh greenery sharp in your nose. it’s so recognisable you can almost feel the sea change, pinpoint the exact day the seasons turn. a visceral intuitive knowledge.

it is also probably the most important day of the year for me – it’s the day i know i’m safe once again from the clutches of the wintery depressive bleakness which tries to invade my brain every year. those clouds that seep in at the edges so stealthily i rarely realise it until i find myself choking up at greeting card commercials on television.

i haven’t ever written here about my depression before. no reason, really – it’s not something i’m ashamed of or try to hide. there have been some really black moments in my life – times when i needed professional help. the first, darkest time was my first year of university when i spent 6 months contemplating throwing myself out a window. it’s amazing how twisted your thoughts can become without even being aware if it. how easily your mind turns traitor against you, sabotaging any hope, killing off signs of light. i honestly didn’t realise how bad it was until i was (thank god) well on the other side of it. but looking back, i can see what a bad place i was in. i vowed never to allow myself to go there again.

and it really is like being in a different world. a different planet. it’s impossible to see reality. there’s a blackness that seeps into your thoughts, your soul, slowly creating a kind of tunnel vision until you can’t see anything but darkness all around, and you no longer even know which way is up because all you can feel is that you’re getting pulled further and further down by the undertow. your life doesn’t work anymore, doesn’t make sense anymore. and you struggle and struggle against it, the gravity of it which is the heaviest burden you’ve ever known, it’s utterly exhausting, and in spite of all the flailing you just keep slipping further and further away from the shore, from sanity, from anything that ever mattered to you until finally all you want is to be able to stop struggling.

if you’ve never experienced it, that description doesn’t even begin to do it justice. and if you’ve ever experienced it, that description doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

so yeah, i’ve had some pretty bad depression. and after that first time, i decided that i didn’t deserve to ever have to feel that way again. since then, i’ve gotten help when i needed it. luckily, it’s been few and far between. luckily, i learned my lesson that first time. luckily, there are drugs and therapy which work for me.

but the thing is, it’s always part of my history, part of my genes and brain. there’s a “strong familial tendency” towards depression that means i will always be predisposed to that slippery slope. it’s something i am, and will always have to be, ever vigilant about. a constant temperature-taking of my emotions, never letting my guard down. awareness is everything. i can never take for granted that it’s just “the blues”, or a bad week. i can never just allow myself the luxury of melancholy.

and so, i have a love/hate relationship with winter. the shorter days, the desire to hibernate. sleep more, socialise less – it’s all very dangerous for me. that sounds a bit melodramatic, i know, but it’s a truth with which i am intimately acquainted, and i’m just not willing to risk otherwise. so i count the days until the solstice, and tell myself it can only get better from there on out. i check my eyes for tears, check my heart for dark spots, stick to the straight and narrow and steer away from any ruts or ditches.

and i hold on for this day. spring. renewal and rebirth for more than just the flowers. i smell that smell and know it means i’ve made it through to the other side, and come out alive and well. that’s something i will be forever grateful for.

spring is here. and god it feels good.

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  • 1

    Comment by gigi

    29.01.2007 @ 02:12 am

    Happy Spring, Jen. Your post reminded me of the (rather tragic, among other things) winter I lived in Norway, when this was my favorite poem and often kept me holding on (as spring there felt to arrive in about April):

    I went out on an April morning
    All alone, for my heart was high,
    I was a child of the shining meadow,
    I was a sister of the sky.

    There in the windy flood of morning
    Longing lifted its weight from me,
    Lost as a sob in the midst of cheering,
    Swept as a sea-bird out to sea.

    - Sara Teasdale

  • 2

    Comment by vanessa

    29.01.2007 @ 16:01 pm

    Whenever I hear that song I think of you. I listened to it last night- I’ve been listening to it a lot as it is on my Yoga mix, after I finish and lay down I listen to Here comes the sun. It’s nice.

    You know Feb 1 is Imbloc right? My favorite holiday b/c it describes just what you wrote about. The first signs of spring, the buds on the trtees are getting ready for warmth and sun to help them open. There is a change in the quality of light. It is the beginning of the end of winter. It is indeed a happy day.


  • 3

    Comment by Anglofille

    29.01.2007 @ 18:29 pm

    i hope you’re right that spring is here – literally and figuratively. thanks for sharing your experiences with us. only by discussing depression will the stigma lessen — a stigma that prevents so many people from getting help. i also hate winter. every year i try to avoid the “winter blues” (for lack of a better term), but they always get me. and sometimes in a very bad way. i think it’s okay to experience these blues to some extent — otherwise, we won’t appreciate the beauty and renewal of spring. the earth experiences a cycle and perhaps we need to as well. but still, this yearly ritual of getting the winter blues is dangerous for those of us who are predisposed to depression. at the very least, we can take comfort in the knowledge that even though there are very few guarantees in life, spring *will* come. that’s something.

  • 4

    Comment by Jen

    29.01.2007 @ 21:47 pm

    thanks guys. gigi, that’s a lovely poem – teasdale is an old fave. and i’d forgotten about imbolc, v. how interesting that it’s only days away.

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