‘Life is not a bowl of cheer….ies’ (Keen) ..sometimes it’s bananas

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Relentless cheerfulness can be a barrier to authentic communication, especially for those affected, by mood ‘disorder’. I doubt the diagnosis of bipolar truly represents the changes of mood I sometimes experience. At times low mood makes it hard for me to plug in to the pursuits I usually find uplifting, reading, listening to music or the radio, all lose their appeal. Only the act of sitting quietly ’eases my troubled mind’.

During these times I need to filter and limit external distractions. I leave the phone on silent, but welcome email, it doesn’t need immediate attention, and its scope for more reflective content. I like mobiles phones for that quickie text, ….’free to chat’…. ‘how ya doin?   wanna meet 4 cuppa?’

By the second or third day the necessity for food shopping forces me out of the house. There are adequate shops within walking distance of my home in Bramley, and the  local café facilities allow me, shakily, to venture out. This enables me to return to a more at ease frame of mind.The combination of the exercise involved, the stimulation of choosing meal ingredients, help to restore my equilibrium. I’ve been a permanent resident in Bramley since 1988, but my family moved here in the late sixties. and I a visitor for all that time. A shopping trip therefore is also a time to pass the time of day with the ‘locals’.

This last week found me experiencing ‘that long black cloud comin’ down’, but Terry’s reminder for blog contributions , gave me some impetus to think creatively, although I felt practically housebound. I had to rely on subject matter within easy reach of home, some cherries and bananas just bought, and a trip to my local library!

The library was built in 1927 and still retains most of its original architectural features; oak panelling, shelving, parquet flooring and a glass domed roof.  Visits to Bramley library always evoke memories of the similarly decorated, art deco library in Wakefield’s Drury Lane, which had been a ‘hiding place’ or sanctuary in my youth.

Bramley library in Hough Lane has really useful extended opening hours:

10.00 to 19.00 Mon and Wed

10.00 to 18.00 Tues, Thurs and Fri

10.00 to 15.00 Saturday        12.00 to 15.00 Sunday

together with helpful staff.

This week’s trip gave me information about an art exhibition, ‘Story of the Dance’ currently displayed at the Art Library, 1st floor, Central Library Leeds, continuing until 30th August.

A friend knowing my spirits were low suggested we meet for a cuppa at the gallery, we took a look at this display and the Fiona Rae paintings. Karolina Syzmkiewicz, the artist of the images of dancers, was in the gallery and she took time to explain how she manages to depict so expressively, in her sketches, the movement of the dancers.

Other events I noted were Heritage Open Days, 6th to 9th September, this is when the public will be given the opportunity to have free access to buildings not normally open to them, contact: http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk or phone 0113 243 9594 for full list of updates, alongside listings of walks and talks throughout the city,  check out scheduled colourful display of ‘Yoruba Textiles: cloth and tradition in West Africa’ at Leeds University from 5th September through to March.

An art noveau style poster, created by one of the Bramley librarians, attracted my attention to their Steampunk book display, as I’d not heard of this genre I asked the staff what it is…….. ‘futuristic sci-fi’…..A collection of short stories with one entitled ‘The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jala-ud-din Mohammad Akbar’ by Shweta Narayan looked intriguing, so there’s yet another book to peruse on my to read pile………when my mojo rises.

Sue Margaret

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7 thoughts on “‘Life is not a bowl of cheer….ies’ (Keen) ..sometimes it’s bananas

  1. I think I know what you mean about ‘relentless cheerfulness’. There’s a very funny piece by Phil Kirby about ‘positive thinking’ at:
    http://theculturevulture.co.uk/blog/editorial/a-visit-to-the-norths-new-positive-thinking-agency/
    It’s interesting in your piece how important community is, and friendship. My own experience of depression was of almost complete disconnection – made me think of Sylvia Plath’s book about her own depression, and her image of ‘The Bell-Jar’ You can see the world, but it seems a million miles away.
    Bramley library sounds nice! Terry

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      • I really enjoyed reading this and am very interested with the approach you describe to getting out and seeing interesting things. Cultural stuff isn’t for everyone but it’s often worked for me and the local library is such a good starting point. There’s so much going on around us all the time; we’re very fortunate in the Leeds area. You’ve reminded me of some things I really must get round to doing.

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  2. Thanks, Su, for this interesting and uplifting post. I’m sure many who have experienced depression will be able to relate to that awful feeling of being unable to ‘plug in’ to activities which would normally have been of interest to us.

    When I felt depressed, it was like the whole world was a relentlessly dull, miserable, confusing place. Nothing in the world seemed worthwhile or interesting. I suppose my internal world was casting its shadow over the external world. Trying to put on a front of cheerfulness only made me feel worse, less authentic. I guess that’s why it is sometimes necessary to spend time alone and sit quietly, observing and acknowledging those deep, dark feelings. And then, hopefully, the importance of friends and community comes again to the fore.

    You describe so well the dark cloud descending and sucking you in, but then gradually lifting, the wonderful way ‘life’ can sometimes gently beckon us to find interest and meaning again.

    Leeds is, indeed, a great place, with many activities to choose from. I’ve lived in Leeds nearly 40 years and yet I still have nowhere near discovered all it has to offer. This blog is opening up potentially new avenues for me to explore, lots of interesting things that are right here on my doorstep. So thanks, Su, for this inspiring post, and thanks, Leedswellbeingweb, for setting up this fantastic blog.

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  3. Hi Jean,

    Thank you for generous comments ‘cos I know you are busy. It took me a while to figure out how to add the slide show!
    It was the the words of Dylan I borrowed describing the ‘cloud’ from ‘Knockin’, Knockin’ on Heaven’s door’ and of course the additional line ‘I need someone to talk to and a new hiding place’
    Sam Keen, philosopher, is well known for his play on words, apart from the one about ‘cheer’ I think this one is also clever ‘sometimes tears are the only solution’.
    Your contribution to the community through your work, friendship and writing of your memoir ‘The Dark Threads’, with its account of your experience with mental distress and ‘treatment’, is much appreciated.
    Cheers, Su

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  4. Your post and points resonated with me. I find it ironic that, at times of those bleakly disconnected & humourless depressions, the thing that can help is connection again. Or ‘getting out of self’.
    When connecting with people is hard, I always find connecting with Art (like your library trip) or Nature in some way helps (and lifts the spirit) massively. I’m missing walks with the dog atm as post-foot-op. But I sure know what you mean about relentless cheerfulness. Depression’s nature means, try as we might, we ‘can’t’ have a cheerful thought.
    Experience with bipolar has shown me I can at least hold the hope that *one* day there’ll be laughter again. Wishing you well.
    Heather (@TessaTangent) x

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    • Hi Heather,
      I appreciate your comments and I hope you will soon be able to walk out with your dog. Pets can be comforting, a cat in the neighbourhood adopted me a while back, we co-exist reasonably well!
      The quote from Byron is new to me, may you continue to get pleasure from writing and enjoy the success you discuss in your profile.
      A quote in a book about post natal blues, ‘depression is an aching of an unused talent’ I find strangely re-assuring, or as Sam Keen puts it ‘ a break..down is a chance to see what’s up’, perhaps the episodes of depression give us that space to re assess stuff.
      Best wishes, Su

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