Saturday, 6 February 2010

Winter Depression

Since I had my first child I have suffered from winter depression every year. It is slowly getting milder and shorter and I hope one day it will go away entirely. It usually starts sometime in the second half of January or early February if I'm lucky. It slowly sneaks up on me and I'm never sure if it's just a bad day, or the annual thing starting. When the bad days start to outnumber the good ones, I know it's coming.

I've written about depression before and it's a difficult thing to describe to people who haven't had it. There are two elements for me. Firstly there's the background bringing down of everything: When I think about something that last month I considered OK, now it's grim or boring or depressing. Anything that was exciting is now OK and everything that was pretty crap is now totally awful. My optimism about things slinks away and I find I am living one day at a time in an effort to contain these negative feelings. If I only think about what is happening today, then there is a limit to how much I have to not look forward to. When that's been around for a while and sunk into my mental bones, usually the emotional breakdowns come. I had my first of 2010 on Friday. I was at my dance class and a different instructor was taking it. I wasn't in touch with her style and found the routines very challenging. Instead of laughing at myself and trying to concentrate more, I started to feel tearful. I didn't want to make a fool of myself so I left suddenly, halfway through the session. I just knew I couldn't handle it, and if anyone had asked me if I was OK, I would have caused a very embarassing scene by bursting into tears, so I fled. Later that day I had a very uncomfortable phone call to make and after that I cried on and off for an hour. Then I knew that I was having one of my breakdowns and the winter depression had begun in earnest.

But I handled it differently this year to previously. In my class, for example, last year I would have soldiered on and ended up in tears. But I exercised 'extreme self-care' and left with my dignity intact. And I resorted to food, which I always do at such time, but instead of eating and eating until I felt ill, and feeling no better emotionally I ate what I wanted, didn't beat myself up about it, and loved myself through it. I knew that I was doing what I could for myself. I couldn't take the depression away, I couldn't take the heart-ache over the phone call away, but I could eat something I enjoy, even though I didn't need it, and that would help me feel better. And it did, way before I got to feeling ill.

I think I under-appreciate my general optimism when I have it. That feeling when you look at what you have on today, this week, this month. That feeling of looking forward to something, but not just one big thing that you can build up to. Generally looking forward to the day, the week, the experience of being me at this time. Scheduling fun things to do is really lovely and I can anticipate them but one massage in a week of tedious activities is not enough to keep me from unhappiness. It's not the big events I need, it's the background optimism and that's what leaves me in the last 6 weeks of winter.

Update on Concept Based Courses

After the first couple of classes of my first CBC I realised that I couldn't teach the old way any more. I can still see topic-based courses being taught and evaluate them as before, but for me, I can't do it any more. I have finished my 2nd daytime CBC and found that this group were very different. With 2 women in the group that were likely to be offered induction, they were a group already focused on intervention and they did want a lot of information. But the CBC approach still worked and the evaluations were even better than normal.

What strikes me is the presents. I sometimes get a gift from the group when we finish the course and sometimes I get one at reunions and on occasion I have had both but more often than not I get neither. This is no issue for me - I am paid after all! But the presents I get tend to be flowers or toiletries or gift vouchers. The 2 CBC groups have both bought me presents and they have been well thought out and carefully considered. The first group noticed that I drink copious amounts of green tea all day so bought me a beautiful huge mug and saucer, some loose green tea and a strainer, some chocolates and a bottle of wine. They were so excited about the gifts they wanted me to open them before I left. They had so carefully considered what I would want, I was really touched. And then this 2nd group bought me a lovely purple scarf. They had noticed that I always wear a scarf and I love purple. It may just be coincidence, but such consideration from 2 groups in a row is really surprising.

So, I am still happy with this style and will be developing my version of it for several years to come.