I’m not predisposed to depression. That’s not to say that I’m a generally cheery person either. I’d class myself as a bit of a moody bitch, but lacking the commitment for long term mental illness.
But there have been dark times. After taking the children to school following the Christmas holidays this week, I went off to the allotment to do some non-specific, but much needed digging around the plot.
Thing with digging is that it requires so little mental involvement that your mind can’t help going deep into a reverie of its own. Not like ironing or cooking which requires some attention just to make sure nothing sets alight, or sitting in a meeting where you have to focus your entire being on staying awake.
“Where shall I dig? How about here?” is just about all that’s required of the head, right up to, “I reckon I’ll stop now”. Leaving you free to deconstruct your last awkward conversation, pretend that you’re in a real life documentary about Amazing Women Who Do Incredible Things And Are Generally Fucking Brilliant- or in my case on this particular morning, wallow about really shitty stuff.
My usual gripes revolve around not having a job; how no one gets how creative and talented I am just because I’ve never shown any talent or creativity; about other kids being mean to my kids; about not having any money; about not living in Yorkshire and so on.. I still think about all that crap, but now it has been somewhat overshadowed by my dad’s brain tumour, what I like to think of- in my own little self-obsessed way- as the worst thing I have ever had to deal with.
It’s not good, I won’t go into details, but it’s not good.
Suddenly I don’t have three small boys around to distract me. I have free will to choose what I do with my time, and apparently I’m choosing to do nothing. I don’t want to stand here digging. I want to go to bed.
On my way home I begin to realise that I’ve never felt so empty. Not sad, not angry, just tired and hollow. I begin to wonder if this is how it starts. One minute you’re going to bed at ten in the morning, the next you’re stashing bottles of gin under the sink.
So instead when I get home I go into the garden, pick up a spade and start digging.
After a while I start to make plans. I measure out the area where I’ll put up a greenhouse and start digging up the turf, while I imagine what I’ll grow and in the allotment this year and try to figure out if I have space for chickens in the garden. After a couple of hours, I break for lunch feeling a hell of a lot better. Not cheerful exactly, but not hopeless anymore.
I probably needed to do something constructive, something positive to drag myself out of the slump of self-pity. Sadly shopping, drugs or gambling aren’t an option; housework would only make things worse. Digging and shouting at the kids. That’s what I’m good at and that’s what works for me.
I’m glad I invested in a decent spade as I think the poor thing’s going to see a lot of action in the following months.