Monday, January 05, 2009

The World in Gray

Gene Tierney was a beautiful and very talented actress in the 1940s and early 1950s. She was best known for her roles in the noir thriller Laura and the romantic The Ghost and Mrs. Muhr. But what many people may not know is the mental illness she struggled with for most of her life.

I once read her autobiography and I was simply in awe of the courage she had to keep going on in life when mental illness wasn't understood very well. She endured electroshock therapy and countless other barbaric "treatments" because the medical field just hadn't come very far in treating mental diseases. Yet Gene publicly spoke about her mental illness in an age where it was still kept hush-hush. That took guts. And I admire her all the more for it.

Along with her other mental illnesses, Gene also suffered from depression. I have blogged before about the link between creativity and depression and shared my own experiences with depression, and I feel the need to return to it for today's post. Why? Because my world is starting to have shades of gray in it again.

Yes, I can feel myself creeping closer and closer to the abyss of dark days and dark thoughts, of crying for no reason, of seeing nothing but gray, gray, gray in the world instead of light and joy and laughter. I don't know why it's happening, especially after I had such a few great days this weekend. I have an inkling that it might be linked to too much "alone time" since my daughter was at her dad's house for five days and I have had the place to myself. I relished those few first days. But yesterday and today have been very hard.

Maybe it's because I need people around me. Not all the time, of course, but if I am isolated from people too much, I do grow depressed. Maybe that's all this is. Maybe once I get back to work and get into the swing of things again, the fog will lift. Lord, I hope so. Then, too, there's always a certain bit of letdown after the holidays. That could be another reason.

Or maybe it's that bad side of creativity. I was intensely creative for a few days this week - lots of embroidery, and reading, and writing, and listening to music. But not in the last few days. I haven't wanted to do anything at all. And the gray is starting to creep back in. Does the well need replenished? I don't like to think that I work like that. After all, I just wrote about creativity begetting creativity.

I fear that this bout of depression may not have anything to do with creativity at all. Rather, it's probably everything going on in my personal life that is affecting me. Major life changes like the one I'm experiencing bring with it a great deal of grief and feelings of loneliness. So far, I think I've handled it just fine. But the last few days may be proving me wrong.

Anyway, this is a bit of a rambling post and I apologize for that, but I do know that writing is one of the best therapies I have in my battle against depression. I'll inevitably journal a lot during these times or create rambling blog posts. ;-)

I am confident that this, too, shall pass and the gray will disappear and the beautiful, joyful colors of life will be with me once again.


  1. I hate you're going through these feelings, Melissa. I think you've got a great frame of mind, though, and it will help that you're so open to and perceptive of what's going on. I hope it may be of benefit to remember we all have days of discouragement. And while the discouragement likely falls at different levels, know you're not alone. I bet it IS all you've mentioned; a combination of a quiet house, the after holiday letdown, that lull after a creative push - everything. I bet a jump back into your routine will perk things up. Hugs and Diet Pepsi! And if I could give you Frank Sinatra, I would!

  2. Oh, Melissa - I really feel for you. Last Monday I had the exact same feeling, and knew that from Tuesday I'd be spending much of my time in bed ... and I was right. I'm hoping it's passed now, and I hope yours doesn't stay long when it gets here. I think the being with people has lots to do with it. Had I needed to go to work, I probably would have been ok, possibly just a bit low, but generally ok.

    You know where I am if you need to email.

  3. Melissa, I admire your strength and honest to post about this issue. Know that you brighten others' "gray" by sharing your own. Praying it's just a temporary overwhelming from that combination of things you mention. Better days ahead. Be gentle with yourself till then. And, PS, I think you look like that beautiful actress. Going read your other post now.

  4. ...strength & honesty...

  5. It's probably a combination. Major life changes affect everything, and there are good days and bad days. It's not like flipping a switch, which is how, in our society, we're "supposed" to handle grief and loss. Life changes, even for the better, inherently contain grief and loss, and we have to remember that is is a PROCESS, not just a coin flip from one side to the other.

    Also, I find that when I make myself sit down and face the page on the darkest, toughest days, even if I only write 500 words or so, I feel much better. Sticking to my commitment to creativity, especially when it's difficult, lifts my mood and gets me re-balanced.

    On an aromatherapy note, citrus is mood lifter. I suggest buying some oranges to scent your room, or a citrus-scented candle (use a natural scent, not an artificial one, or you'll feel worse). You can also purchase an essential citrus oil from most drug stores and buy a plain white or yellow candle (yellow is a mood booster), rub the candle with the oil and light it, or put a few drops into an oil burner and have it going while you read, write, or watch tv.

    Fresh flowers are also a mood enhancer. In these tough economic times, it's sometimes the easiest to let something like the fresh flowers go, but I find them vital to my mood. I'd rather forgo the chips and have the flowers, frankly. The flowers make me feel better for longer.

    Plants in the room will help keep oxygen levels up, too, and that also helps moods. Exercise (especially for me, yoga) helps, too. Combining small practical adjustments with emotional ones help in the overall balance.

    it's also the dark time of the year, when our tendency is to look inward and work through our losses and disappointments.

    Yes, you can get through it. Also, remember that, even when you are physically alone in your home, you have a strong virtual support system, and you can reach out to us at any point. We're all on this journey together.

    Feel better soon.

  6. I'm sorry you're feeling blue Melissa. But it's great that you have a handle on it, understanding and considering so many factors that affect our thinking. You mention being a people-person, and that does show on your blog. Know that you've got a lot of people here online pulling for you too, hoping you're feeling better soon!

  7. Darling,

    I think those of us who are commenting must have experienced what you are going through. It will pass. It always passes.

    Talk about it, as it will help.

    We are all here for you.

  8. You guys are just awesome. Really. I absolutely love how supportive you all are. It helps tremendously.

    Janna - That's the thing that scares me - I do have down days like everyone else, but then there are the times (like now) where that feeling is just...different. It's like you're on a downhill slide toward that full-blown depression and there's no hope at all in the world. It is a sick, horrible feeling and I hate it. My mother went through a severe depression years ago and I know my grandmother suffered from it, too, so it runs in our family. But I think you're right - getting back into the routine will hopefully help. :-) Thanks for the viritual Diet Pepsi and the hugs!

    Diane - Oh I'm so sorry you're going through this, too. It stinks, doesn't it? And all I wanted to do yesterday was just lay around, but I couldn't sleep. I also think I'm getting sick and that is probably not helping things. I'm also an email away, too, so let me know if you need anything. :-)

    Ang - You're so sweet to say that I look like Gene Tierney! Wow. I'm blushing. :-) Thanks for the prayeres. They're greatly appreciated.

    Devon - I agree - it is a process, though my brain would have me think that it's a flipping of a coin. But it's not. And I think some of that grief is beginning to penetrate my "I'm tough, I can handle this" exterior. Thanks for all the suggestions. I did receive a lovely citrus candle from one of my friends for Christmas, so I'll have to use it when I get home from work. :-)

    Joanne - Thanks so much for the kind words. I am a people person to a certain extent - I need to interact with them and have them around me, but then I definitely need my alone time. It's a balance, I think. :-)

  9. Hi Fran - I am eagerly awaiting its passing, that's for sure. :-) Thank you so much for the support!

  10. Oh, Melissa, poor you. It's such a hateful, difficult thing to deal with.

    I agree with Devon. We're all expected - and expect ourselves - to make major life changes and then just get on with it. Any changes, even those we know are good for us, are difficult to deal with.

    I crave lots of time alone in which to write. I know, though, that being on my own is bad for me. I start getting way too introspective and brooding on stuff. At those times, all I see is grey.

    Sending hugs across the pond. I hope it passes very, very soon. You know where we are if you need us.

  11. Shirley - You're right - being on my own for too long isn't a good thing. A few days is fine but more than that and I get blue. I hope that being around my co-workers and getting back into the routine will help. Thanks for the hugs - very much appreciated!

  12. I'm sorry to hear you're a bit down, and agree that it's probably a mixture of things. Like you, though, I always try to think that 'this too will pass' and it generally does.

    Sending cyber hugs. x

  13. You have a lot going on in your life and it's understandable that the pendulum may be swinging toward a low point. Have you seen your endocrinologist (or whoever you see for thyroid) lately? These levels can jump around unexpectedly and most definitely affect mood. But do seek the company of others. As much as I love my solitude, there are times when an afternoon with a friend makes all the difference. If that's not practical, a long phone conversation with a trusted old friend or relative can also make all the difference. And stay away from sad old movies! Feel better, friend. xo

  14. By golly, Angie's right! You do look like Gene!

  15. I hope the grey doesn't last too long and things turn bright again soon!

  16. I can relate... on more than one thing. My father suffered from mental illness when he was alive, and I remember being little and not understanding when he had to go away and why he was so odd when he came back. Shock treatment. Destroys the personality and the memories. They have to start over and reinvent themselves. It's an abomination and a horror.

    And I too understand that wave of gray. Mine is more like a craving of blackness. Does that make sense? Just now and then, I feel it come on and I yearn to sit in a dark room and just absorb the blackness. I don't follow through on that yearning anymore, haven't in years, but it's there, nonetheless.

    So I feel ya! And know that you aren't alone, not only do some of us KNOW what you're going through, but also we're just HERE. This writing world and online craziness has blessed us all with friends from all over that we would never have otherwise. I treasure you all.

  17. Debs - Thanks so much for the hugs. Greatly appreciated. :-)

    Lisa - I am taking synthroid for my thyroid, so hopefully that is all ok. But I do see my doc tomorrow and may discuss it with her. I crave my solitude, too, but have come to learn that too much of it is not good! Guess I could never work at home full-time. :-)

    Aw, Janna, thanks! To be compared to such a beauty as Gene is humbling!

    Kelly - Thanks for the good thoughts. :-)

    Sharla - Thanks so much for the support and for sharing your thoughts. Wow. Your poor father. I can't imagine going through those shock therapies. Horrible! My mother used to tell me about my grandmother's severe depressions. And then when my mother went throught her depression, I witnessed her suffering. Thankfully, my mother was able to help me with my depression, so that was a blessing. We're both on antidepressants now, but it still isn't 100% guaranteed that we won't get depressed - it just keeps you from getting into that black hole for days and days on end. The bad episodes I have usually only last a few days, thank the Lord.

  18. I think this is also the time for depression. The shorter days, the let down after the holidays, the sudden disappearance of activity.

    The link between creativity, especially writing, and depression is pretty well documented. David Foster Wallace suffered extreme depression all his life until he ended it. He and his family tried so many different treatments and none of them worked. William Styron has written about his crippling depression as well.

    I think being aware of it is the biggest step and understanding the warning signs is helpful. Its a storm you weathered before and you have some extra issues to deal with. I've seen you go through it before and I honestly think your depression will not be as deep or as long as before. You've lost a big piece of baggage which helped drag you down.

  19. Rene - I don't think it will last long either, thank goodness. And I agree - the letdown after the holidays and the cold, winter months are a breeding ground for depression. I usually thrive during these months, though, and suffer bluer days during the summer. I know, I'm all crazy-mixed up.

  20. Your honesty and openness is a admirable. Thank you for sharing this post. I too, like so many others have struggled with depression my entire life. I've no advise that you have not heard or thought of yourself. My remedy for the "gray days" is to meet them head on. I run into problems when I ignore the warning signs and pretend that all is well.

    I have made your post the Featured Post at Worth a Thousand Words. Thanks again for your openness.

  21. Chris - Wow, thanks so much. I am truly humbled. :-)

    I like your advice of just meeting those gray days head on. Much better than burying your head under the covers, though I have done that a time or two, as well. :-)

  22. Melissa, you are doing the right thing by sharing and talking about it. For me, when I am alone alot I get down too. But I want to be alone when I'm down, so I have to force myself to get around others.

    I am thinking of you and rooting for you. Hang in there, whichever way this goes, it sounds like you have a good handle on how to help yourself through. And don't be hard on yourself...the changes in your personal life are significant and your body, mind, and emotions are still processing.

  23. Melissa, you are doing the right thing by sharing and talking about it. For me, when I am alone alot I get down too. But I want to be alone when I'm down, so I have to force myself to get around others.

    I am thinking of you and rooting for you. Hang in there, whichever way this goes, it sounds like you have a good handle on how to help yourself through. And don't be hard on yourself...the changes in your personal life are significant and your body, mind, and emotions are still processing.

  24. One of the blessings of the modern day is that we do understand more about depression. Kudos to you, Melissa, for your openness. You have inspired many people. My thoughts are with you--I hope this gray spell is fleeting as a morning fog.

  25. Heidi - Thanks so much for the good wishes. And you're absolutely right -when I'm going through these depressions, I want to be alone - but that is the worst thing to do for me. I actually forced myself to go shopping the other day just to be around people.

    Christine - It is definitely a blessing that we understood mental illness much better now. It scares me to think what my life would be like if I lived back during a time when it wasn't understood.

  26. I think all your maybes could be it --holidays, lonliness etc. But thank heavens you said you are better today! We all go through the grey days---have had my share of them this year but at least we know God is there for us. Take care!

  27. Terri - God is the one that gets me through these days, that's for sure!

  28. Hi Melissa, You are blessed to have so many wonderful friends. You will overcome and get through this time. God is with you. ~~Olivia

  29. Thank you so much, Olivia. I am truly blessed in so many ways. :-)


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