Thursday 23 October 2014

I've got a spring in my step after a long hard winter of discontent

Published 09/02/2013 | 06:00

Well, we're nearly there. I am referring to the hopefully imminent passing of what has been a winter of extreme discontent and the arrival of spring, my absolute favourite time of the year.

A while back, I wrote about inheriting my late mother's tendency to slip into what she used to euphemistically refer to as her 'winter blues'.

If she was alive today, she more than likely would have been diagnosed as suffering from depression and provided with some help.

But this is now. That was then.

Rather surprisingly, for more than a week following the publication of what was little more than a throwaway line, the letters and emails were still coming in – from people who remembered a family member being like that.

Also, there was plenty of correspondence from people who felt like that themselves but were too embarrassed to talk about it and seek help.

To people like that I just replied: if you feel like you could do with talking to a professional, then talk to one. Bottling it up will just make it worse.

As a columnist you sometimes write something so daring, so provocative, so blindingly insightful and original that you just know the reaction will be phenomenal.

And, of course, as is often the way, those are the pieces that usually become the journalistic equivalent of tumble weed – people read your devastating piece and simply shrug their shoulders and go 'yeah, whatever' and turn the page.

But that one passing aside about Ma – the two gifts she left me were a love of cooking and the winter blues, so I suppose that's 50/50 in the legacy stakes – seemed to strike a chord in a country full of people reluctant to talk about their feelings.

And those damned winter blues kicked me in the arse big time this year.

In fact, I'd say that this winter, despite it being the mildest in a long time, just seemed to go on forever and it really began to take its toll; worse than any other winter I can remember.

As usual, it really kicked in around the end of October, beginning of November, with a brief lull for a few days around Christmas.

During the build-up, I was fine because I was running around trying to get things done and I love Christmas anyway, so it brought the kid out in me, as it usually, if not always, does.

But as soon as the last of the turkey was disposed of, and the tree began to wilt ever so slightly, my demeanour began to match that of the tree's.

Any enthusiasm I had for anything just seemed to evaporate into thin air.

I lost my appetite. I stopped listening to music. I stopped going to gigs and the movies and I've just spent the last month and a half in what has been effectively a process of social disengagement.

In fact, it only hit me how much of a weird little hermit I had become when I realised that I was turning down radio gigs that I would normally do with pleasure.

Now, don't get me wrong – I'm not suggesting that I have a constant stream of producers banging on my door begging for my pearls of wisdom. But I do a bit of occasional extra media work and usually enjoy it.

But since the start of the year, I've just been incapable of being enthused by the thoughts of going into a studio and dealing with people.

And trust me, ask any hack and they will tell you that it is extremely unusual for one to turn down radio and TV work – both from an ego point of view and the extra few quid it brings in. Which, let's be honest, we could all do with at the moment

And that was when I realised it had hit me harder this year than ever before.

It has been, I suppose, a bout of mild depression – no appetite, no sense of joy, a constant sense of impending doom, not really wanting to speak to any people other than a small circle of confidants, that sort of thing.

Don't get me wrong – I know people who suffer from the disease and it is not something to be trivialised, but this year felt somehow . . . different. Worse.

Hell, I've been so reluctant to talk to anyone that I haven't had my hair cut since October because I simply couldn't bear the thoughts of having to make small-talk with the barber.

After all, that can be excruciating at the best of times and when you would really rather be hiding under a rock somewhere, having a discussion about where you're going on your holidays is not an attractive proposition.

But listen – this isn't a moany piece, no matter how it might seem.

And the reason?

Because spring is on the way.

I know it's still cold, but I was out walking the dogs on Wednesday and it was glorious – and cold, natch – the sun was out, you could sense that this damn winter was losing its seasonal fight and, hang on, were they fresh buds I saw on the trees?

So I'm getting ready to shed all the winter blues, get ready to stuff all the really heavy clothes I have back into the closet and get ready for brighter evenings and the eternal promise of a good summer and warmth. Remember that? When the sun would actually feel good on your skin?

Anywho, I must dash – I'm off to get my hair cut.

Irish Independent

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