Craving Colour

The weather threw a tantrum here in Scotland last week  – snow, sleet, hailstones and sunshine – but I decided to celebrate spring in my living room anyway. I’m a bit of a cushion addict, but changing cushions and throws with the seasons and adding a few supermarket flowers is a simple pleasure that makes me ridiculously happy. The patchwork cushion is one I did with wool left over from a blanket I crocheted last year. It lives on my sofa, and every stitch, every stripe marks a victory against the low grade depression that took me away from blogging, from photography and from myself for too long.

I crocheted it for the campervan I plan on owning some day, and a few days after I finished it, we got the chance to rent a tiny van; the blanket not only took pride of place, but manifested a few colourful companions. Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed, I crave the simplicity of driftwood and a sea breeze; last year, as I dreaded the empty nest I’d be left with when my son joined my daughter at university, some wise deep instinct told me to rediscover my love of colour and build an alternative nest. I was in charge of packing for our few days away in the rented van; my husband laughed when he saw what my packing priorities were!

Van colours

Have you ever grappled with low grade, chronic depression? How did you deal with it? What helped you find your way home to yourself?

9 thoughts on “Craving Colour

  1. Hi Janice – thankfully I don’t … but I need to kick myself sometimes to get off my backside and get going – usually when I’m waiting on something difficult that will happen, but I need to wait to see where I’m going. Essentially I’m true to my name .. I’m lucky.

    Beautiful colours .. and with a bright pink sofa and Afghanny style bright russet, pink, deep cherry rugs – I agree – I need colour! Fresh air, sea breezes AND THE SUN …

    I know last week you had awful weather – when it’s like that .. I think of you! It was plain cold here, sometimes with sun .. but we had rain and heavy cloud too … the lighter days make a huge difference …

    Big hugs and wonderful colours … cheers Hilary
    Hilary recently posted…Babel of Struggling through the A-Z …My Profile

    • Hi Hilary,
      Despite all the mentions I’ve made of your cheery photo and hat over the years, that’s the first time it’s dawned on me what your name means!

      (*I’ve just added this bit, Hilary, because when I re-read my comment, it dawned on me I’d made a thought-chat leap that some readers might find odd. You’re one of the most genuinely positive folk I know and it’s so apt that your name means ‘Cheerful and gracious.’ Your blog is one of those that comforts me because it authentically, consistently adds something to my life – it’s like having a tour guide round a mini eclectic library – but I’ve never managed to have that kind of consistency in my blog, even when I do manage to keep my posts aligned with my intention to be supportive and authentic.)

      Someone asked me recently why I’m so honest about ‘negative’ stuff when I write on the blog; someone else was curious earlier today about why I have such a hard time letting go. There’s a lifetime’s worth of posts in the answers to those two questions, but I know from all the people who’ve written to me over the years that there are many, many people out there who, for one reason or another, be it circumstances, biology, illness or hormones have had periods, brief or prolonged, living in what I think of as the grey zone. My bouts have often been caused by hormones, SAD and malabsorbed minerals as well as circumstances, but I guess I write about all aspects of life because I know that part of me wants to encourage folk to be able to untangle – then talk about – their grey days as well as their grateful sunny ones; stepping aside and noticing, reaching out and talking – is half the battle.

      Driving back through the glen from the supermarket today – one half of the sky was bright blue, the other black; sunshine then hailstones, rain and now it’s sunny again! Mad weather!

  2. What wonderful colours! – makes me want to come and snuggle into your sofa surrounded by all those lovely cushions. I love throws and cushions and have to be forcibly restrained from buying more of them, but there’s nothing like a warm, inviting, colourful nest of them to cheer you up.

    As you know, of course, I do battle with chronic low-grade depression at times. What gets me through it? Knowing it won’t last forever helps, and looking after myself with homeopathy, nutritional supplements, good food, fresh air, Epsom Salts baths, and a modicum of exercise helps keep it under control, at least. The best thing for me has always been the sea – which I can’t get to easily any more – and being out in nature, in solitude. Being in wild places makes me feel that I’m part of the world and connected to it, and counteracts the disconnection I feel when I’m depressed. Writing and photography help, too, as long as I’m still OK enough to participate in these. And small things, like stroking my cat’s soft fur, and the evening light on the beech hedge, and colourful cushions.

    Personally, when I read someone’s blog I want honesty from them, and I want to know about them and what’s going on for them even if it’s not all positive stuff. It’s actually a very brave thing to do, revealing our more vulnerable side in public, and if people don’t understand that, or the desire to write your truth, then they’re probably not the sort of people you need to have around you.

    What I really can’t be doing with are the blogs where the blogger’s life is presented as some sort of constantly ecstatic, perfect thing, with not a cloud to mar the sunshine. Who do they think they’re kidding? And if it makes people buy into the belief that their own lives should be like that, then it’s doing them a disservice, because life is messy and up and down and all over the place and that’s just how it is. I have a theory that there are numbers of people online who’re creating a public life for themselves that they wish they had in reality, rather than the one they do.

    Enjoy your colourful cushions, and the mad weather, and the prospect of summer!
    Take care,
    Gilly
    Gilly recently posted…52 trees – week twenty-nineMy Profile

    • Hi Gilly,
      Thank you – I will do! I’m not feeling too bright today, bad back and a threatening headache – and as it’s blowing a gale and bins are flying around, it’s yet another day for coffee breaks cosied up with the blanket. I found the best way to stop myself buying more throws and cushions is to have a ‘make one-buy one’ system. That blanket took me five or six months to make, just doing a few rows every evening. Crochet is great mindfulness practice for me as I’m not very experienced or proficient; I really have to concentrate but luckily, I love the tactile rhythm of it. The floral cushion practically leapt off the shelf at me screaming “My name’s Spring and I’ll make your homemade stuff look deliberate! 😉 ” It also reminded me of all the embroidered antimacassars I inherited from my mum, samples from her teenage days.

      I know exactly what you mean about those blogs that are almost militant in their determination to exclude anything other than positivity and gratitude from their posts and comments, and can have a chiding, almost patronising tone towards anyone who isn’t permanently upbeat. I also feel icky reading blogs where the writer has forgotten that readers have built up a database of memories from years of reading. A few years ago, I actually left my first ever slightly negative comment on a blog that had started to feel increasingly deceptive and insulting to long term readers, as if the owner had created a persona they needed to live within because they’d built up a brand and an affiliation & commission business around it.

      I’m glad you can use your creativity to help heal the phases creative people are so often prone to. And Epsom Salts, now there’s a thing… haven’t heard of them for years!! But the sea… oh, how I miss living near it. It puts so much into perspective for me.

  3. Oh I do know those sad, grey days and yes a splash of color and flowers always, always helps move me forward. It does light up my brain in different ways. Beautiful handy work. Actually, 2015 was a whole grey year for me as in March I fell and severed off a nerve ending in my spine – right foot stopped working all together except for pain. May I had surgery and now am growing a new nerve pathway to my foot. I got very sad because my hand could not use a pen, I could not drive, and I had to lay flat on a wedge for a number of hours a day.
    One of the things that helped me get back to positive was getting my walking back up to 3 miles a day and without cane or walking sticks. Exercise I just crave it now but it has taken a long time
    We are having a heat wave 88’F one day 63’F and raining the next – The prediction is that this will be our 5th hot summer in a row and it will set new records…not my cup of tea at all.

    This little phrase has been very very helpful to me. We spend the first 1/3 of our lives acquiring and the next 2/3 of our lives letting go, one needs to learn how to let go and then practice regularly. I think about that when I am mad at my partner and wanting him to comply with something I want….let go and figure out something new. This actually revs up my creative juices and makes the process fun. I got kind of “high” when my kids left for University and even more so when they got their own spots, which we can now take a trip and visit them. I wish all three had great partners but they still have too much education debt (37,33,30) When we downsized and moved in the Autumn of 2015 I had all the kiddos come home and clean out their stuff. We bought a project house for my husband and he is now looking forward to the plasterers and the roofers and when the old house sold his anxiety diminished. It takes a lot of practice to let go – Yet I can honestly say we have all found the next steps moving forward have proved to make life better and better. Wishing you well and lots and lots of color!

    • Hi Patricia! You have no idea how nostalgic it makes me feel to see your ladybird and Hilary’s hat in the same comments boxes!

      Thank you for sharing how you’re growing a new nerve pathway to your foot – amazing thing the human body! – and for letting us know that you’re now walking again and “craving exercise”; that’s pretty inspiring! With all the glorious scenery where you live, I’m sure it must be a huge relief for you to be out and about again. I wish you lots of further triumphs and full restoration to health!

      Letting go has always been hard for me, but it’s why I specialised in homelife coaching and decluttering. I don’t know if you remember my pieces on it from years ago, but during the times I felt it hard to let go of my own stuff, I read so many good books on how to do it, the theories spilled over and helped me help others, even when I found it tough to do myself. Some folk take one look at my fairly minimal living room and wonder what on earth I’m on about, but I used to – literally – live out of a suitcase when I worked and travelled abroad and part of me remembers the freedom that came with sparse, white, sun drenched rooms and only a few useful and precious, portable belongings. That was pre-kids. SO much changed when I had the kids.

      Thanks for sharing your empty nest experience; another one of my friends got that “high” you mentioned and used it to remodel her home and create a completely new nest, much like my desire to create a cosy wee campervan. It’s so interesting for me to hear lots of different experiences of it. Luckily for me, another two friends both shared my frightening experience of empty nest as mini-death & grief and we were able to comfort each other, reassure each other that we weren’t going mad. I had my kids very late on and I was a stay at home mum, which didn’t help. I think nature tries to help by making sure most parents can deal with the totally natural and healthy process of ‘letting kids go’ by timing it to happen before menopause and the age where friends and family start getting ill or passing away. Too much enforced letting go all at once and you start to resist and resent, which makes the process so much harder. I’m glad to hear you’re at the happy end of the letting go tunnel!

      Enjoy the remodelling of your new home – I love that stage, where the eggs for the omelette are broken and in the bowl. Good luck – and keep walking!

  4. I absolute love your photos in this post, Janice! And I covet your crewel embroidered pillow. It’s exquisite.

    I think if more people talked about depression we would come to understand just how common, and debilitating, it is. I liked the comment above from the reader who says she reminds herself that it will pass – because it has passed before.
    Barbra recently posted…How to Write a Professional Bio for a WriterMy Profile

  5. Thank you, Barbra! The photos were all the more sweet because I’m so technologically challenged that it takes me ages to get round to uploading photos. I nearly wobbled and walked away from blogging again last week when I realised that the root domain change had ‘broken’ my ability to put any new photos in my blog. If I’d been in one of my grey phases, I probably would have walked, but I’ve reconnected with my writing again, with my desire to commune with like-minded folk, and that’s a very positive driving force that keeps my head above water. After three unsuccessful, hair-pulling out days trying to get the server support team to help, it was finally my husband who found a solution online that enabled me to fix the problem. I went a bit giddy afterwards and created a whole draft post based on…a gallery of photos! I mention this because it’s so relevant to what we’ve been saying about depression.

    That sweetness, as if a fog had lifted, as if someone had cleaned an oil painting, or tuned a radio channel in clearly, or switched the sun back on, or opened a window and the smell of home-cooking had wafted out, is also what I feel whenever I emerge from a bout of low grade depression. And I’m careful to call it low grade as well as chronic; chronic because the spells last for weeks, months even, but low-grade because they’re debilitating but never accute enough to merit immediate professional help or intervention.

    And you and Gilly are right, Barbra – it does pass. Talking, listening, reading, writing, photography, painting, craft, cooking, walking – in fact, doing anything helps; any brief moment of movement, mindfulness, self cherishing or the memory of a joy can stop us sinking under the weight of growing depression to the bottom of some vast ocean of silent despair.

  6. Just a PS. Found this today on Twitter; I may use it in a post later, but just in case I don’t… thank you to Hilary, Gilly, Patricia and Barbra for your comments.

    While vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experiences we long for — love, belonging, joy, creativity, and trust, to name a few — the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are. ~ Brené Brown

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