No I’m not always cheerful

Depression is something I have lived with my whole life but you don’t want to know that. Nobody wants to know that. I bet you want to stop reading now but it is not the fact that I get depressed but I live with it and haven’t died from it. Though there have been times…

People tell me I am always smiling and cheerful and funny. It’s not funny being funny.

It is a defence mechanism that I had acquired at at an early age and a sense of humour that’s part of our family, it is in the genes.

It was actually watching on YouTube -yes YouTube Again – video by the Osmonds and how they always put a brave face on things that triggered this train of thought.

My first memory of ‘being emotionally overwrought’ (leading to depression?) was that age 10 being been bedbound for a couple of days following the dancing show that our Dance Academy had put on at a local theatre over a couple of nights.

I never seemed to know exactly what was going on, when I was to be on or what I was to do but somehow I got through it but the back of my mind where all the cogs were turning must have blown a head gasket. I was really worried – we now say stressed – over the whole time though I loved the physival dancing part. The catalyst was being pushed onstage by the coordinator at the last minute to replace someone for the eightsome reel who had taken ill. I hadnt rehearsed for this! I remember the final curtain call and some people getting presents, then the letdown. Nothing then but a couple of days in bed, tuned out.

Looking back when depression in children wasnt a recognised thing it was moving house and moving town which meant a complete change of lifestyle that triggered my depression.

I correct: I will not own it- it was not my depression it was some depression.

The disconnection suddenly from Friends, School, familiar places; left me feeling like I was standing on a narrow plank over a gaping hole.

Sitting in my bedroom on the newly-made double bed which didn’t yet have its bedcover on, holding onto the arm of my beloved teddy bear, my blue Grey threadbare teddy bear that over the years I would learn to patch with needle and wool. Then having to go out to a new school new uniform new faces new teachers new school dinners new bus stops New buses. Trying to remember where to get off for my new house. Im sure at first someone would have been with me, but the next time (that is still with me).

It is all taken it’s toll. Every time my dad got the better job it came with a better place to live. But then deep sadness at not having familiar people around. Of being totally alone yet in the midst of a family. I’mjust thinking aloud, this is my train of thought. A therapy session maybe. The emotion is sloshing about in that puddle of despair that is no longer a well. I don’t really know if it is something that can’t be cured. ‘What can’t be cured must be endured’ they used to say. That is no longer the case.

Luckily each time I have met new people made lovely friends and when we do get in touch it’s just really like we have never been apart.

The worst time was when we left Ayr in Scotland which was a great place in which to grow up. I was 11 and the nauseous car journey down to England was a long one. The new house was very nice but on moving day my father was hospitalized with a burst ulcer and there we were not knowing if he was going to come home.

To cope with my inner isolation I just used to go into my bedroom and play with my dolls and read books and draw. Mum would have been looking after my little sister who was 3 years younger. I At that time I would feel apart from them. At age 25 I was 12,000 mules apart from them. life went on. Start again.

I’m not the therapist, perhaps you can work it out.

When you go somewhere new and if you show that you are feeling anxious and frightened and worried (is worry the same as anxiety, it seems less aggressive?) people will not approach you except maybe the new teacher, but if you are smiling and look happy people will smile back and you make a connection and often they will speak to you. This is how I learnt to cope. Just the way I think and say things makes people laugh which is a real blessing, it doesn’t matter how I feel underneath. I remember a famous British comedian Tony Hancock dying and everyone Saying after how depressed he always was even though he was making thousands of people laugh on his TV comedy programme. That’s stuck with me all these years.

Another life happening that is connected to my underlying depression is marked by one incident. My sister and I were told that if we did really well at school we would get my prize from my parents at the end of the year. I was usually in the top half of my class. My sister was always near the top if not the top of her class. My parents never recognised that the different levels of Intelligence in our classes could not be matched against each other. There were some really really smart people in my class who have done very well academically and I know I did really well keeping up with them. In actuality my IQ at age 11 was 112 which is pretty good but it never got me prizes at all because my report cards always said “Eunice could do better”. Was this supposed to be encouragement? To me kt was an accusation of failure. My father thought so too. Because my well-meaning father who was Dux of his school at the time, but sent out to work age 14 because he was one of 8 children and he knew I was smart and he wanted me to get somewhere in life. He meant well. He wasnt intentionally cruel. We didn’t have TV programs on good parenting back then. This was before television arrived. You had childden. You did what you knew. He had a strict father and his Mother died after years of diabetes-related illnes. My Grandad was consumed with grief. My Dad enlisted in ww2 in tge RAF aged 18 and was self-educated from then on. We Nkw I see his frustration at my lack of academic ambition. I didnt go to University till 2000, when I was hungry for knowledge and ready for challenge.

But it was in the 1950’s, I had put in a big effort all year. I hsd moved up in class. I thought I had done well. My sister came top in hers. She got a portable radio. I got nothing. Not a well done, not even a new pencil for effort.

That was when I gave up trying. Nothing I did would ever be good enough. The feeling os sadness and rejection was immense. I never said anything. Never let it show. Just carried on but lacking that drive to succeed, certain someone would say ‘Eunice could do better’. They would be right.

The turning point came when I realised that actually I was doing ok as I was. I could do better but the struggle chewed me up. Now I set myself doable goals each day. Each little achievement raises my endorphins. Endorphins counterract depression.

Putting this out there was a goal. I could do it better -maybe, but I have new goals for today. Tiday theinternal well of sadness is not noticeable. Doing this worked. I am an ok person and I am clever. I also have Parkinsons + Just getting moving is one of todays goals.

Oh, you think I am being funny.

Conclusion: Im here in my bedroom writing this.

Sketch by EC Hobson

9 thoughts on “No I’m not always cheerful

  1. Hi euni,
    Just read your very honest and sad story of your condition which affects so many of us. Yes, we hide it, it’s a personal battle and I don’t think we ever win the war. I too have those dark days and especial nights, there appears to be no escape but you put a brave face on and nobody knows. You are a very talented person and a survivor, never think otherwise. It’s great to be in touch after we both enjoyed those happy years back then. Take care we are all thinking of you. Love john. Xxxx

    Sent from my iPad

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  2. The “could do better” mantra has a lot to answer for. I write my little achievements down in a notebook each night: did a load of dishes; emptied the bins. That’s a good day, as far as I’m concerned. Here’s a new daily goal for you: give yourself more credit 🙂

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  3. 🌹😘☕ Excellent, poignant piece. Eunice HAS done better – every day of her life! Yer an inspiration, milady. xx

    Like

  4. Oh, Eunice. I relate to what you have written but could never put it into words as you have. Nothing but hugs for you! ♥️💐

    Like

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