Beauty and the Beast: Tackling Depression with Moments of Grace

This is, I have just realized, my first post in over a year.  Almost 18 months, in fact.  Time seems to have gotten away from me somehow but, hopefully, the following will explain that to some degree.  It may seem rather out of place amongst all my previous posts about the allotment, chickens, and other assorted country themed writings but it says something about where I’ve found myself over the last few months; unable to get words down on paper, to feel an interest in anything very much, and certainly utterly unable to face the allotment.  So, here goes and, as my mum would say, “Like it or lump it!”

During a prolonged period of sick leave due to stress and depression, I found myself increasingly interested in style and fashion – almost to the point of obsession.  I scoured charity shops for books on related topics, cleared out my wardrobe, Kondo-ed my sweater drawer, and spent heavily on expensive pieces which I expect (thankfully!) to wear and love practically forever.  What on earth was going on?  I feared I was turning into some kind of shallow, frivolous recluse.  It took some considerable time and navel-gazing to realize that, at a time when my life felt like a bottomless pit, my clothes were the one thing over which I had a modicum of control.  My usual creative outlets – sewing, gardening, cooking – just felt too challenging and I was completely unable to face groups of people.  Instead, getting dressed in nice, good quality clothes allowed me to present an acceptable face to the world even when I was trying to hide from it (at times, literally).  Once I had managed to drag myself or had been dragged out of bed in the morning, getting dressed was my daily act of creation; who did I want to be that particular day, which face did I want to show to passers-by? 

In my quest for a controllable identity I came to understand the importance of beauty in creating a life which was more than simply existing.  This isn’t just about personal beauty but the beauty inherent in good quality items which would stand the test of time, things which are pleasing to the eye, and give one a psychological lift.  For me this has now extended itself to ‘nice things’ beyond mere clothing.  A beautiful china coffee can, saucer, and plate, bought for a mere fiver in a charity shop, now bring a touch of grace to afternoon coffee.  And doesn’t coffee taste better when it’s stirred with a silver spoon?  It may be miserable outside but this small, seemingly trivial, ritual is a moment of light in a dark winter day.  Likewise, instituting what I call ‘posh breakfast’ at the weekend (e.g. a warm croissant, fruit, and fresh coffee served on good china, eaten at the table) gives me a reason to get up on a wet Saturday morning.  I could exist without these things but with them existence becomes living.

I think my point here is that by bringing small moments of beauty into my life when I felt overwhelmed by feelings of futility, and despaired of ever feeling normal again, I actually began to feel better.  I slowly returned to work but it’s only more recently that I have felt able to confront the absolute wreck that is now my allotment or any activity where there will be lots of people.  But  I am at least hopeful that I will get there in the end.  Whether it’s snowdrops in a churchyard, a lovely ring, or a good cup of coffee, whatever your moments of beauty consist of, make the most of them.  They’re the things that keep us sane.