Monday 18th January 2016 was officially Blue Monday.
Dee’s advice from 2014 holds true.
According to a number of newspapers and advertising campaigns, Monday 20th January is the most depressing day of 2014. According to some other newspapers and advertising campaigns, ‘Blue Monday’ has already happened. According to many of my friends, Blue Monday happens every Monday. Thanks to festive overindulging, overspending, cold weather and for many, the return to work, January soon becomes a miserable and challenging anti-climax to an ever increasing period of festivity for many.
As well as the inevitable post-Christmas come-down being responsible for The Most Depressing Day of the Year, there are a number of other factors to take into account. New Year’s Resolutions have to play a part, surely? We set ourselves up to try and achieve life goals that on their own would be a massive change to our lives and routines, never mind all bunched together in long list. New Year’s Resolutions are often set with little proper research on their impact or viability. We try to cut down on our drinking, stop smoking, lose weight and begin exercising more regularly – all at once no less – at a time we can still taste the delicious Christmas chocolates and suddenly have to go back to work after a period of hibernation and wait six weeks until the next pay day. Anyone else seeing a link here?
For those of us who have mental health issues, winter is often a difficult time anyway; a lack of sunlight combined with the seasonal pressures varying from social events to squeezes on our finances, Blue Monday falls at some of the most challenging times. Christmas and New Year are often incredibly difficult times for those who’ve experienced bereavement; the gap left by loved ones is rarely more glaringly obvious than during family times.
Blue Monday for me will be surprisingly chirpy, despite being in month three of my medication treatment for depression and anxiety. I spent August to November last year basically feeling totally exhausted no matter what I did. By the time I went to see my doctor, I was void of motivation or ability to concentrate. After blubbering at my doctor for quite some time, we discussed a variety of treatments and agreed that medication should be part of it. I left with a prescription for Fluoxetine, and felt relieved that I may begin to feel better.
I did what any …’normal’ person would do and Googled ‘Fluoxetine’ when I got home. I was horrified to discover it was more commonly known as Prozac. “Great, I’m mental,” was my first thought. I laughed at myself when I realised that despite having counselling a number of times in the last decade, I was still my own worst enemy when it came to mental health stigma. Many people told me during the next few days that I shouldn’t be ashamed to take medication to help to ‘fix’ my mental health. “If you broke a bone, it would be put in plaster until it healed!” said many of my friends.
Almost as if I was desperate to put this analogy to the test, I broke my ankle six days later at roller derby training. I spent the following week in a haze of Fluoxetine and Tramadol, and went back to work during week two in a cast. Having used exercise as an anti-depression self-medication for three years very effectively until this point, I was terrified of what would become of me knowing I wasn’t allowed to even put weight through my leg for at least six weeks.
Far from sliding further into an anxious and depressed spiral, my sudden immobility genuinely made me appreciate so much in life. To me, that’s the answer. I’m someone who’s experienced an Eastenders-like scale of woe and heartache during the most recent half of my life, however despite needing mental and physical crutches at times, I truly do appreciate the tiny things in life that often seem to pass others by. I genuinely feel delighted to be alive when I hear music that I love. I almost always stop at the Brecon Beacons on my frequent trips to Wales to appreciate the landscape, regardless of – often especially because of – the weather. I take time to taste my food, drink good tea (it might not solve everything but it’s a good place to start), have great chats with family and friends and whatever happens in life, I work through it until I have a positive outcome to take from it. Baths, good chocolate (you have to have some treats), art, books, really good TV shows and much, much more fall into the list of Things That Make Me Happy. If all else fails, I look on the Internet for pictures of dogs in the drivers/passenger seat of cars. Never fails.
So, Happy Monday. I’ll be at the job I love, relishing a Hereford Roller Girls win at the weekend (despite not playing), and looking forward to seeing what my week has in store. If your Monday is a blue one, please don’t blame the date. Start looking at the things you are lucky enough to have control of in life, and consider how a few tweaks here and there could make you a happier person. It’s amazing what positivity can do.