Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Finding Deeper Meaning In Songs You Love

In a previous post, I shared my “Feel Better” playlist. One of the songs on my playlist is “1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins, from the album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which came out in 1995. I had no idea what “Mellon Collie” (melancholy) was and I didn’t quite get the meaning of the album’s title as I was 11, but it was a 2-disc album that had great songs and was popular (and I still have it in my giant box of CD’s).

I never understood why I liked that album name and didn’t appreciate what it meant until recently. From what I’ve read, I know that the songwriter himself experiences depression and that seems to provide inspiration for the album and the play on the word melancholy.

What is melancholy?

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Sometimes we don’t know why we are sad, or what fuels our depression. Sometimes our depression does feel infinite, like it’s going to go on forever….

1979 is on the playlist that I listen to almost every day at work to help me get me through the day. There’s no lyric in particular that drew me to it when I was younger, but I took a look at the lyrics today, to see if there is anything that stood out:

1979

Shakedown 1979, cool kids never have the time
On a live wire right up off the street
You and I should meet
June bug skipping like a stone
With the headlights pointed at the dawn
We were sure we’d never see an end to it all

And I don’t even care to shake these zipper blues
And we don’t know just where our bones will rest
To dust I guess
Forgotten and absorbed into the earth below

Double cross the vacant and the bored
They’re not sure just what we have in the store
Morphine city slippin’ dues, down to see that

We don’t even care, as restless as we are
We feel the pull in the land of a thousand guilts
And poured cement, lamented and assured
To the lights and towns below
Faster than the speed of sound
Faster than we thought we’d go, beneath the sound of hope

Justine never knew the rules
Hung down with the freaks and the ghouls
No apologies ever need be made
I know you better than you fake it, to see

And I don’t even care to shake these zipper blues
And we don’t know just where our bones will rest
To dust I guess
Forgotten and absorbed into the earth below

The street heats the urgency of sound
As you can see there’s no one around

Sometimes, when you’re really in a low mood, you don’t care about ending your depression, and you just don’t feel like caring about anything. I like the line, “No apologies ever need be made/I know you better than you fake it, to see”. That resonates with me. It’s a busy time of year at work, I have been feeling overwhelmed, tired and the weather changes/time change have been wreaking havoc on my internal clock and ability to sleep well. So, towards the end of last week, I was feeling very vulnerable and emotional (still able to hold it together at work, as always), and one night driving home from work I just started crying in my car. I didn’t tell anyone about it. Yesterday I was feeling frustrated and told my husband, “I don’t want to apologize for being anxious or being myself”. And then I let myself cry, because sometimes you need to let yourself cry…and let someone comfort you, as they see the real you.

While writing this post, I also remembered another Smashing Pumpkins; song that I felt connected to:

 Thirty-Three

Speak to me in a language I can hear humour me before I have to go
Deep in thought I forgive everyone
As the cluttered streets greet me once again
I know I can’t be late supper’s waiting on the table
Tomorrow’s just an excuse away
So I pull my collar up and face the cold on my own
The earth laughs beneath my heavy feet
At the blasphemy in my old jangly walk
Steeple guide me to my heart and home
The sun is out and up and down again
I know I’ll make it, love can last forever
Graceful swans of never topple to the earth
And you can make it last, forever you
You can make it last, forever you
And for a moment I lose myself
Wrapped up in the pleasures of the world
I’ve journeyed here and there and back again
But in the same old haunts I still find my friends
Mysteries not ready to reveal
Sympathies I’m ready to return
I’ll make the effort, love can last forever
Graceful swans of never topple to the earth
Tomorrow’s just an excuse
And you can make it last, forever you
You can make it last, forever you
I just love the line, “Tomorrow’s just an excuse away“.
Tomorrow can be whatever we want it to be.
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Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Let’s Talk About High Functioning Depression

As a law clerk, and as part of my part-time social media marketing/content writing business, I attend legal conferences to learn about industry news and different areas of law. I recently attended a conference at the end of October. There was a wide array of topics covered, but one in particular stood out for me: high functioning workplace depression. This was by far one of the best presentations I have attended, because I can relate to it. I sat through the presentation, listening to the speaker, my eyes welling up with tears (for various reasons), and so grateful that our legal organization invited this speaker to our conference to share his experience and to spread awareness about this very important issue.

In recent blogs, I may have mentioned I am experiencing a mixed state. I keep fluctuating. Right now I am very easily agitated, can become hypomanic easily, have difficulty sleeping but I feel low and sad- painfully sad at the same time. The sadness is sucking the life out of me- or at least that is how it feels as I write this. So, feeling this way, listening to that presentation, I just wanted to cry. Not because it upset me, but almost tears of relief, for someone speaking up, and to such a large crowd.

I am a high functioning person. I was always a good student, perfectionist of sorts, and eager to please. I still am, so that makes me high functioning at work, even with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. You would never know that I go through what I go through by looking at me do my work at work, or interacting with me at work. I am that good at hiding it. Believe me, this is not easy to do, and it is exhausting. I often wonder how long I can keep it up for, but I have pretty much been at it my whole working career. I will say that in my current position, my job does not involve a lot of client interaction so unless I am attending a mediation, I do not have to interact with others unless I am having lunch in the lunchroom or have to say good morning/have a good night/nice weekend to anyone who walks by my desk.

Getting back to this presentation I attended, the speaker discussed the personal struggle of “How can I be depressed as a lawyer, by all accounts I have a good life, so many people are worse off. Why can’t I snap out of it?”. So essentially, self-stigma, or “my problems aren’t serious”, which I can relate to because when I am really low, I convince myself I don’t have a right to be depressed and I am stupid for feeling that way. To counteract the self-stigma/self-criticism, the speaker expressed that depression doesn’t have much to do with your personal status; wealth/”status” is not a cure. He mentioned that it is unfortunate that people still think mental illness is an affliction of the weak. He also described high functioning depression in an interesting way, explaining that it can disguise itself as intensity and determination so that our work does not suffer.

He talked about the importance of asking for help and seeking help. You can’t think your way into a better mood. I know this to be true. This is why statements like “cheer up” or “snap out of it” don’t help people with depression. It’s not that simple. We have to figure out what works for us, on our own time, because in our darkest days, we find pleasure in nothing and cannot enjoy anything.

What works for one person, may not work for another person. I read many mental health blogs so I feel less alone. I write these blogs hoping to bring comfort to other people.

Today, I am writing this blog while “pet-sitting” at my parents’ house. I love my dogs. The dogs are family. Nothing is better than seeing their happy faces and wagging tails because they are so excited to see me. Unfortunately, the condominium I live in doesn’t allow pets so I only see them when I go to my parents’, so spending time with them is a good reason to get out of my condo. One of the dogs, Norman, came into my life when I was in a very bad place after my bipolar diagnosis. I remember I was having trouble getting out of bed on the weekends and getting to work on time during the week (of course commuting on the subway that always had delays never helped). I just felt listless. I don’t think my parents wanted to have three dogs in the house, as we were renovating the house but this puppy needed a home and once I saw him, I had to have him. And he made me so happy, and that was it. Slowly, I started to come out from under that dark cloud of “I have a lifelong mental illness and I hate myself” because Norman was to be my responsibility and he was and still is so adorable and sweet that I wanted to get up and at it.

This is Norman as a puppy:

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Dogs just feel your emotions and give you “support” in their own way. Dogs don’t care about your diagnosis of bipolar disorder and don’t care about stigma.

We should only care about stigma in the sense of acknowledging that stigma is dangerous and we need to find ways to eradicate it. It’s going to be tough, because so many people have ingrained beliefs about mental illness, the media portrays people with mental illness as violent and dangerous, and there are so many dangerous myths out there. Start the dialogue about living well with mental illness. Create a safe space to talk about it. Take advantage of days like “Bell Let’s Talk” to share your feelings or story.

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