Like many women, I have struggled with depression periodically. And anxiety - although I didn't realised for a very long time that how I felt was not normal. Nor did I realise just how inhibiting the latter can be. I think anyone who has suffered with depression is familiar with the futility of how life appears. The sheer exertion of getting dressed, having a shower, holding a conversation. It is not, at least for me, a sense of sadness. It is despair. Abject despair.
The word I hate most is 'Just'. 'Just get out there' or 'Just go for a walk'. Or my personal favourite: 'Just get a man or a better job. Preferably both'. Said to me by a trained professional. Just sod off.
Nor do I have a face that 'looks depressed'. Stung by a bee and mighty pissed off - yes, one of those I have. But I don't look like Morticia on heroin. It doesn't help to be told I don't look depressed. I have mastered the dark art of 'putting a brave face on it'. It doesn't change how I feel.
Eventually, like so many people I know, I took my passport to Prozac Nation. I haven't had a bout of depression since. Yet, I fear coming off them now whilst at the same time despising the fact I am on them. I still hold out hope that one day it will just melt away, never to return. I put the moron in oxymoron: An optimistic depressant.
But anxiety I understood less about because I didn't know I had it. I thought everyone lived in the catastophe of the future whilst still hoping for the best. When you mention you have anxiety, it's quite common to here that oft-loathed platitude: At least.
'At least you can talk about it'. 'At least it doesn't stop you doing things'. Or the best of all: 'At least you have your health'.
At least, we now accept mental health is health, I suppose. Well, some of the time. At least, it's better understood than it's ever been. And at least, people are more prepared to talk about it so I might as well fess up to having it too.
I offer no solutions beyond acknowledging that I have it. My friends all me 'Lara Croft' even though my name is not Lara. Nor Croft. Being gung-ho doesn't inure one from fear. Fear suffocates and extinguishes the enjoyment of things, that's all. I can't think my way out of it. I can't 'do' my way out of it. I can't talk myself out of it either.
Nor do I have any idea why I have it. Childhood 'ishoos', growing up ishoos and grown up issues may play their part - but catastrophising isn't something everyone does. Mindfulness is supposed to help - it's readily endorsed by experts after all. Although, I'm sure I'm not alone in being too busy worrying to concentrate. Yoga helps. Meditation definitely helps. Exercise helps (they say...). Eating well helps. I eat very well. Not made a jot of difference.
It was a friend of mine who helped me learn something about depression and anxiety. It's hard to have both at the same time. Which one drives the other? It's a bit of a chicken and egg thing. I have, having spent much time pondering this, decided that my anxiety is the cause of my depression. My bouts of 'downtime' are my body (and brain's way) of shutting me down for a bit. Then, as soon as it lifts, I'm off like a jack-in-the-box, frantically trying to make up for lost time. Then, of course, I worry that....
I was talking to someone about my theory. She said 'Have you tried crystals?' I nearly said no but then I remembered that while ago, someone else had recommended I buy something to carry in my bra that I could pat whenever I felt myself going haywire. That same week, quite incidentally, I was given two very small crystals. To this day I carry them around in my back pocket. Whenever, I'm feeling a bit self-conscious, I can rub the crystals together and it seems to distract me. To the rest of the world, I probably look like I have a very itchy backside - but that is the least of my worries. At least, I don't carry them in my bra!
And then she used that third-worst of phrases: You should...
So I said, 'Well for a fee, I will do pretty much anything you tell me to do.'
So with that, I had to go and buy a crystal. Quite fortunately, a friend was also going a bit stir crazy what with all the gusty winds of late. Free of charge, I offered to do something with her one day soon.
The one day soon arrived and before confirming arrangements she asked me to assure her we were not off 'bungee jumping or skydiving.' No, I assured her. 'Crystal shopping' wasn't quite what she was expecting to hear. This Sadventure had her bemused.
We reckoned the picturesque city of Cirencester would be a way of 'just getting out' and 'At least it's not too far', and we should be able to find a crystal shop there. And so off we popped. "It's a lovely city" my friend assured me. Quite the hidden gem of the Cotswolds, she reckoned. 'Just a mere stone's throw away', I agreed.
"Don't worry," I said. "I'll drive." I have absolutely no fear of getting lost. It's one of the joys of driving for me. This is quite fortunate because I have absolutely zero sense of direction. I can even get lost in my own living room.
I punched in 'Cirencester' to the SatNav, which I call my 'higher power' and took her off for jaunt around some of Cirencester's finest, and not so finest, housing estates. Eventually, it was agreed she should be in charge of directions. She quite literally became my seeing-eye dog - I'd still be lost in the maze of all the shopping alleys today were it not for the guiding light of my friend. It's is quite the magical place - I'll definitely be going there again. It was made all the better for having a Crystal Shop, aptly called Simply Crystals.
'I want a crystal to cure my anxiety' I told the very lovely shop assistant. I'd been told something smokey should do it. As I loathe ornaments - dust collectors are simply something else to stress about. I therefore desired something natural-looking and useful. These priorities, of course, are nothing to do with the healing powers of crystals that I'd been promised. They are just me.
And so now I'm the proud owner of a lump of amethyst, which also holds a scented tea-light and is not too ornate. Apparently, it banishes away negative thoughts, emotional sadness, anxiety, aiding sleep, raises vibrations, lowers stress and helps with pain. Perhaps I should take it jogging.
Still, it hasn't caused me a jot of anxiety.