A cheerful post

Or, at least, a more cheerful post than the last few have been.  It doesn’t start out cheerful, mind, but it gets there in the end, honest.

Ok, so a little background to begin.

These last few days I’ve had a cold.  Nothing too horrendous, but it’s still not a lot of fun sitting here with a throat like sandpaper, snuffling away, and trying not to sneeze all over the keyboard.  I don’t know about you, but I hate having a “seasonal” illness in the wrong season.  It’s just wrong to find yourself shivering your way through a temperature when the sun is beating down outside and the thermometers are all wondering what it’s like up at the top end of their scales, and whether it’s worth strolling up for a look.

I know the female half of my readership may find this hard to believe, but by and large I cope quite well with minor illnesses.  “Man flu” notwithstanding, I tend not to exaggerate the severity of the symptoms whenever I’m feeling a little under the weather.  Usually, with a cold, I just dose myself up with Lemsip and carry on regardless.  Or at least, that used to be true.

One of the things I’ve found as a consequence of depression and anxiety is that I’ve lost most of my ability to cope with little things like this.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t turned into a serial GP-botherer quite yet. I haven’t made an emergency appointment in order to demand a six month course of Vancomycin and three weeks in an oxygen tent.  But there’s no question that I don’t manage to deal with things like this too well at the moment.

Partly that’s a result of straightforward anxiety.  There’s no question that a lot of the symptoms I get with a cold make me panic.  I really hate the feeling that my body is not under my conscious control, and I find it hard to cope with the idea that something alien, like a virus, is living inside me.  (And, yes, I used the word alien deliberately there – I get a picture like this in my mind when I think about this kind of thing.)  My general anxiety levels, which can get pretty high anyway, get a lot higher than they’d otherwise be, and that in itself can make me feel pretty lousy.

But, setting aside the effects of my anxiety (which, trust me, I’d love to be able to…), I think one of the reasons I find things like this hard to deal with is just because I find anything and everything hard to deal with.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before – just accomplishing the smallest tasks seems to take a huge effort.  On the form of recent weeks, you’re probably expecting me to blame myself for this, and perhaps set out on another guilt trip about it, and I was about to do so when I remembered reading this post:


I truly don’t know how people who struggle with depression keep putting one foot in front of the other. They must have to draw on such reserves of strength just to make it through each day.

I don’t think I’ve ever been depressed – not according to the clinical definition – or if I have, I’ve been lucky that it righted itself without intervention. But some days I get a taste of what it must be like to be depressed ….. I have the blues and they’re hard to shake.


To all those who suffer on not just the odd Monday morning, not just a few days here and there, but weeks and months and sometimes years on end – you are heroes. Day after day, you battle what others like myself can only imagine, while we despair of a single day of sadness.


Now, reading this makes me feel good because of the obvious compassion it contains.  The blogger concerned, jellyhead, is an Australian GP, and I think her patients are very lucky to have her.  If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been called a hero before, and that’s rather a nice thing to read as well.  But the thing that has slowly percolated through to me is that jellyhead is right.

It is a struggle for me just to do the everyday things, and it does take a lot of effort to do just the ordinary things.  I do find myself collapsed on the sofa exhausted after something as simple as a little light washing up.  And, yes, I can’t help comparing what I can do now with what I could do before, and, yes, I do feel resentful, and frustrated, and guilty, and pathetic because of that.  I don’t think I’d be human if I didn’t.

But the big breakthrough is that I’ve realised that it doesn’t make me a bad person.  It doesn’t mean I’m weak, or lazy, or lacking in moral fibre, or how ever you want to put it.  In fact, it means the opposite.  It’s a tribute to how much strength and moral fibre I have that I keep going at all.  My victories these days are on a small scale, but they’re still victories.  The fact that I change and wash my clothes every couple of days is a victory.  The fact that I manage to cook a decent meal – you know, one that has actual plants in it – a few times a week is a second victory.  The fact that I take a walk most days is a third.

When I’m feeling depressed or anxious (as I seem to be all the time just at the moment) it takes maybe 85 – 90 percent of my total will-power and determination to force myself to do those things.  As jellyhead says, “They must have to draw on such reserves of strength just to make it through each day.”   So, really, when a physical illness like a cold comes along, something that a “normal” person would find makes everything take more effort, it’s no surprise that it makes things damn near impossible for me.

I’ve understood this on an intellectual level for a while.  I’ve felt it applies without question to other people in similar situations to myself.  But I’ve never really “got” the fact that it applies to me too.  Or, I don’t know, I think I used to realise it applied to me, but I lost sight of it in the wave of depressive guilt and self-depreciation that’s overwhelmed me in the last month-and-a-bit.

Anyway, the important thing is that I’ve realised that, rather than beating myself up for what I can’t do, I should be patting myself on the back for what I can.

And that’s why this is a cheerful post.


{BTW, sorry if any of you caught the link to the porn site that was up for about 4 hours on this post.  Personally, I don’t have much of a problem with most porn, but I know not everyone will agree with me, and, also, this is completely the wrong context for it – for all I know, some of you may read this at work.

This is the first time I’ve had something I didn’t want left in a comment.  I won’t be rushing to pre-approval of commenters straightaway (sometimes I’m offline for a few days, and that’s a long time to wait to see a perfectly innocuous comment), but if it happens again I might have to think about it.}

This entry was posted in Anxiety, Cheerful stuff, Depression, Stuff I've read. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A cheerful post

  1. Thanks for your post, it encouraged me after having a lot of stuff going on in my head.Do you find as I do that any physical illness tends to make you feel more depressed ?
    Hope the cold goes soon.Take care.


  2. cb says:

    I think you’re absolutely right about counting the victories. I’m very glad you’ve been able to start seeing them!

  3. la says:

    >>Anyway, the important thing is that I’ve realised that, rather than beating myself up for what I can’t do, I should be patting myself on the back for what I can.

    Absolutely *penguin clap*

    If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know this is something I bang on and on about but never listen to myself.

    With a minor illness like a cold, do you ever find yourself almost enjoying it in a perverse way? Do you ever use it to legitimise your decisions? As in, it’s OK to stay in bed because you have a cold.

  4. The Chuckle says:

    Cool post and a great blog, it’s too easy to lose perspective. Drink smoothie by the bucket load, watch TV and sod everything else!

  5. I also find it very hard not to blame myself for being ill.

    Something that helps me a bit, is browsing the chronic illness communities on-line. I found I had more in common with sufferers of CFS/ME, Lupus, various types of chronic pain and disability, than I would have thought. It helps me feel I’m not the only one I guess. I mean, I know I’m not, but you know, depression makes me feel that way.

  6. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    seratonin – sorry to hear things haven’t been great, and pleased if i was able to be of some service. :o) I tend not to feel more depressed with a physical illness, but it does ramp up my anxiety a lot.

    cb – thanks for the support, and positive reinforcement. :o)

    la – i do indeed read your blog, and, yeah covincing yourself it’s true is the trick, and very difficult (impossible?) to do in the face of full-blown depression.
    To answer your question, having a physical illness doesn’t tend to make me think it’s more legitimate to stay in bed, or whatever. If i’m in a negative mood, i just view my inability to deal with physical illness as another example of my all-encompassing crapness. If, on the other hand, i’m in a less negative mood, i tend to be able to realise that it’s ok to give myself the recovery time i need for the depression and anxiety, and having (or not having) a physical illness doesn’t really affect that.

    The Chuckle – yuk! Smoothies are the work of the devil! lol ;o) Lots of tv is good though. Your blog ( http://lifeofchuckles.wordpress.com/ ) looks good, btw – i’m likely to include it in my blogroll, the next time i get around to updating it.

    DD R – It’s good browsing chronic illness communities works for you. I’ve found reading MH blogs to be an enormous help in recognising that I do have genuine problems – i guess that’s a simillar thing.



Comments are closed.