This morning I woke up, long before the bins were collected or the sun came up, with a familiar feeling: doom. Being jolted awake by a pitter patter of nerves sparking across my solar plexus, is not an unusual feeling for me, the dark and quiet of the night is the perfect time to conjure monsters out of shadows.
Today, apparently, I am not alone. Today, apparently, is Blue Monday, billed as ‘the most depressing day of the year’. That’s nonsense, of course. Anyone who has ever suffered from actual depression will tell you that weekends, August and beaches don’t immunise you against it. Assuming that ‘depressing’ is being used more generally, however, and I am sure that there are plenty of us out there who don’t actually mind the cold, the dark or, for that matter, Mondays.
I can feel those nerves jolt into action most mornings only to right-size and hush as the rest of the country wakes up. It’s just the way I’m wired: highly strung and highly sensitive. Because of that, however, I rather enjoy the accepted malaise of January. It’s the times of enforced jollity or plod-along regularity that I find much more difficult to navigate. Some of my contenders for ‘most depressing day of the year’ include, but are not limited to: Christmas Day (actually, most of December), New Year’s Eve, most Tuesdays, my birthday (definitely, always), any time my plans fall through last minute, or worse, when they don’t.
I find August, with its expectation that sun is all we simple creatures need to become hysterically happy, far more depressing. Ha! If only it was that easy. That’s when I think there really is Something Wrong With Me and feel like Grace Von Cutsem looked – hands clamped to her ears, scowl on her face amidst jubilation – on the royal balcony at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding. In January, you are ‘allowed’ to wallow and hibernate and eat carbs and go to bed at 8pm. What’s depressing about that?
Perhaps you think me a grump, to which I say ‘thank you’. I am #TeamGrump all the way and am drawn to the fellow grumps in both fiction (Curb Your Enthusiasm is our set text) and ‘real life’. I have, by the way, found them to be some of the funniest, kindest and most insightful people I know. I have also found them, oddly, to be some of the happiest: because they know that happiness is not a default factory setting. It is fleeting, and that is what makes it so special when it comes.
If this Blue Monday (or for that matter any day), you feel sad, angry, bored, anxious or disappointed, I say feel it. Sometimes no amount of Instagrammable inspirational quotes, looking on the bright side or thinking of people ‘worse off’ than you can pull you out of it. There are also plenty of justifiable reasons to feel like that right now. Let yourself off the hook. Problems arise when you try to bury those feelings and don’t acknowledge them. Positivity at all costs can be detrimental and only highlights how, despite the ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ spiel, we are still deeply uncomfortable with the uncomfortable.
Maybe this ordinary Monday in January you, like me, will find it liberating and soothing just to give yourself permission to be down (again, I caveat this by saying that clinical depression – I know it, I periodically suffer from it – is a very different beast, and it is never a bad time to implement your personal coping strategies). Maybe today, at you can just try to accept it, one of the most generous things you can do for yourself, and not have to put on a jazz hands façade. For my fellow grumps, maybe Blue Monday is our Christmas Day.