On a Clear Day was one of the many songs my mother and I used to sing. We knew every single word and it was right in our range.
“On a clear day rise and look around you
And you’ll see who just who you are
On a clear day, how it will astound you
That the glow of your feelings outshines every star”
If I recall correctly, I believe we thought the Carpenters were uplifting. But I may need to do a fact check on that.
My best friend and I sang too but our song choices were more of the Sylvia Plath-inspired ballad. We sang about bridges over troubled waters and anything else that fed our dark, Harold and Maude-inspired vision of the world.
Back in the 70’s, we didn’t really know what depression was. Before the internet, Oprah and Dr. Phil, it was rare to find mainstream references to depression.
But I knew about sadness from the books in my house. My parents read Harold Robbins, Judith Rossner and Jacqueline Susann, so I did too. I knew from books that heroines lose hope and then ultimately find hope again, as a rule. But the sadness and grief the heroines experienced along the way to finding true love in the last chapter was as foreign to me as the affairs they were having and the houses on Cape Cod they seemed to keep inheriting.
I feel like I grew up depressed before depression was a thing.
Back then I just thought I was moody and kind of dark.
Being moody and dark was okay back then because I was lots of other things too. I was a good student and an energetic kid. I was creative and passionate and, in my own mind, a gymnast, dancer and actress. In the summer I was good at tennis and swimming. In the winter I was good at baking and reorganizing my cluttered room.
Sure I was moody, but moody wasn’t all I was.
And because I was young, I don’t think I worried about anyone knowing I was moody. I was young and far more concerned about things like boys and clothes.
And then I grew up.
I grew up and my moodiness grew up with me. And, I suppose it’s only logical that as I grew to be more dramatic, traumatic and extreme, so did my moods.
A hardwired brain combined with a strong genetic component made the depression I was born into a really hard habit to break.
So I learned tricks.
I learned how to talk myself down and, when necessary, how to bring myself up. I learned to soothe myself, quiet my mind and focus my brain when my brain felt like jumping around.
I learned how to go out even when I didn’t want to and how to enjoy staying home with myself.
Basically, I became an expert in managing myself.
But no amount of expertise is good unless it continues to evolve along with its subject matter. So I find myself beginning again more often than not.
More often than not, I have to stop and relearn how to breathe.
More often than I would prefer, I have to learn new ways to do the self-talk that works…especially when the old self-talk stops working.
And more often than I would like to admit, I have to remind myself that my depression is just a part of who I am.
Not to change the subject, but did you see the movie 50 First Dates?
If you didn’t, you can skip the next paragraph.
But if you did see it, well…let’s just say that more often than not I need to leave myself notes to remind myself what my story is and why my story can have a happy ending if I allow it to.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay until leaving myself notes stop working well and I need to learn a new trick.
Or learn to write better notes.