Pop quiz: what does today – the third Monday in January; supposedly the single most depressing day of the year – have in common with Marmite? Take a second.
I bet your mind went straight to the love/hate thing, right? And you’re wrong, but you’re not wrong. What Blue Monday and Marmite have in common is a discourse that has slipped into the public consciousness, but was actually invented by a PR company. In the case of Blue Monday, it’s a thing that originally existed to sell you a holiday; preferably from Sky Travel, who claimed to have calculated the date using an equation which factored in the weather, your bank balance, the time since Christmas, and a need to take control of your situation, among other things. As for the Marmite thing? I guess they had to throw their hands up and admit you might hate it, because they had no other way of selling you a salty, black goop made from a single-cell fungus (for the record, I am #teamyeahmarmiteisokayiguess. Take that, consumerism).
But yes, it’s a difficult time of year. You’ve put on weight, you’re probably getting less sunshine than you need, and I’m sure Sky Travel weren’t wrong when they figured we were packing in our New Year’s resolutions right around now. One of mine was to practise yoga regularly, and I could count my practises so far on one hand even if I didn’t have fingers. But I take issue with today being labelled the most depressing for several reasons. Firstly – and I hope my sarcasm translates here – oh here’s a great idea, just in case there’s anyone out there doubting what a heap of trash this freezing, debt-filled, non-festive working Monday is, let’s go ahead and make a big deal about how it literally does not get worse than this. I mean, is there anything more depressing than the most depressing day of the entire year? You don’t need to answer that.
And secondly, please accept my sworn guarantee that this will not be the most depressing day of your year. Okay, you have a one in three hundred and sixty-five chance that it is, but I like those odds. Because life is going to happen to you. There’ll be tears. There’ll be bad news and awful fights and crushing disappointments. You will get ill. You will log on to Twitter and see another heartbreaking hashtag, or a news story that makes you want to punch a wall. And maybe some days, the sun will be shining, your wallet will be heavy, your summer holiday will be booked, your workload will be your bitch, and it’ll still be your Blue Monday. Because whether or not you’re in sterling mental health, the human experience is more complex than an equation about money and the weather. You are more complex than that equation.
Let’s bring this back to me being a massive New Year’s Nerd, because my third point is that this time of year gets a bad rep. I don’t want to be the loser who loves January, but I have got it’s back when people start hating. This is your clean slate, and I get it: it’s hard to swallow when you first scuff it up a bit, or when all the build-up is over you’re still just you, in the same place and the same job, with the same character flaws. But just like all this unexpected bad stuff is going to hit you over the course of 2017, so is the good. Things change – they can change in a second, like the year. Your new beginning doesn’t have to be January first.
In a few short months you’ll be wondering how the year has passed you by, so enjoy January for being the only time all the stuff you’re looking forward to is yet to come. Here, I made a list:
Your birthday, most probably
Valentine’s Day, if you’re gross
All those bank holidays crammed into May
Pink, shirtless men with muffin tops and cans of Carling the first day it’s fifteen degrees outside
Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast, out March 17. No, I’m not sponsored, I’ve just had it in my diary since 2015.
Daffodils, boys and girls. DAFFODILS!
I’ve been doing well recently. I don’t think much about the dread, and for the first time in months and months I’ve been genuinely busy prepping to launch my e-book. The fact that it’s summer helps, although this year the British weather is endeavouring to be very little help at all. As if to spite me, it has started thundering at this very moment.
It’s no secret that sunny days are good for everyone’s mood, whether you suffer from depression or are just feeling a little blue, but no one fully understands why. It’s often chalked up to getting more sunlight, or some residual evolutionary function that has us winding down in colder months, kind of like hibernation.
Here are some unscientific observations on other things I think help:
Spending more time outdoors, surrounded by nature, instead of inside glued to a screen
Wearing fewer clothes, which makes us physically lighter (AND SEXIER)
Brighter colours, courtesy of blue skies and rapeseed flowers. Think Kansas versus Oz.
Ice cream – the universal comfort food. It’s like mood medicine.
Unfortunately, this year I’ve spent more days in slippers and cardigans than I have out of them, the rainclouds are casting a near-constant gloom, and ice cream just doesn’t appeal when simply glancing skywards is enough to make me shiver OK FINE I JUST ATE HALF A TUB OF HAAGEN-DAZS.
I confess, I am a hopeless victim of the seasons. I know it’s not an affliction specific to people with depression, but when you’re already teetering that much closer to the brink of cowering under your duvet in the foetal position, then like me, you may feel a little like summer 2016 is shitting all over you. This is meant to be my sweet spot; the annual genesis of enough inspiration and cheer to see me through the December-February danger zone. You could say I’m solar-charged, and I’m running low on juice.
The unfortunate truth is that for as long as I can remember, I get as much as 70% of my work done in the summer months. I know, it’s a joke. Why does a beautiful sunny day inspire me to hole myself away and write? But it’s true. And this year, I’ll be lucky to be a third as productive. If I’m totally honest, it’s only now that I’m getting around to publishing my e-book because I’m trying to distract from the fact I’m barely writing at all. Just look how spaced out these posts are getting!
I’m on edge. I feel I might trigger my own downward spiral by waiting a little to eagerly on a good stretch of summery weather; by convincing myself I need it.
I don’t need it. I need the people who love me. I need my creative outlet. I need my medication. The rest just helps. Besides, there will be other mood boosters. There will be other mood villains too. The key to handling my depression is to find ways to cope with both, without seesawing dramatically between rain and shine, like this terrible, terrible summer.