I woke up with the Black Dog this morning. The bastard canine creeps up on me occasionally with no warning. These days I get it comparatively lightly compared with how I used to. No long months staring at walls, unable to move, unable to think, frozen like a rabbit in the headlights by the overwhelming misery of knowing, really knowing, that my life is a waste of time, that I am a burden to everybody, and I'd be much better off dead. No, I am lucky. That time is over.
But it still comes to me sometimes. The leaden heart. The sense of wishing I could cry but not being able to. The physical pain of sheer, bottomless sadness.
However, after thirty years of dealing with it, I have some habits that help. Three pages of A4 paper written longhand (Julia Cameron's famous 'Morning Pages') help to leech the poison out. Listening to Monty Python songs (I can't help but smile when I listen to Michael Palin warbling 'Finland, Finland, Finland, the country where I want to beeeeeee'). Singing. Very loudly. (This takes the place of screaming which, for psychological reasons, I am incapable of). Mozart's Magic Flute or Carmen is pretty good for this. And a bunch of other stuff.
Today, after scribbling in my morning pages book, I realised that what was really getting to me was this 40th birthday party we are going to on Saturday. I don't get to go out very often, and that means dressing up is important to me. But I've got no money to buy new clothes. That £55 Monsoon chiffon top would be perfect (except that I'd have to buy jeans to go with it), but its out of my league. I was so miserable about having nothing to wear. Then it occurred to me that we would probably only be there for a couple of hours, so why buy something new for that? What have I got in my wardrobe?
Cue trying-on session.
Out came old faithful, the black jersey dress. Okay, I never wear black these days because I feel like it makes me look about 100. Nevertheless, it makes me look very curvy and goes with everything.
Then, the master stroke. I remembered I had these shoes:
Now, you may say, how can a person forget she owns such a perfect pair of shoes. Exactly. Just look at them. Red satin. Aren't they just fantastic??? And believe me, they feel even better on! How could I look at these and feel gloomy?
So I am going to wear these, and my black dress, and I am going to go out this afternoon and buy myself a big red silk rose to go in my hair. 'Simples'.
Which brings me to my point. When I am sad, I find something that I really, really like, to look at, to contemplate. Something that makes my heart sing. Like the shoes.
I take a leaf from my niece, Amelia's, book. Last year, when we were moving house, and I was having my 'mini-breakdown', I got a parcel from her, out of the blue. Inside there was a label, which said 'No one can be sad with pants in the post'. And when I opened the tissue paper enclosed, this is what I found:
How could you not laugh? Every time I feel blue now, I look at my 'Pants in the Post'. They please me. Right to the roots. Not just because of her thoughtfulness, but because they genuinely are fantastic things. What fun. Red frilly pants. And then life seems just a little bit easier.