I like the colour blue. A lot. My partner thinks I am trying to “blue up” his wardrobe. All of our bed linen is blue. It usually makes me happy.
Except when “the blues” show up.
I hate it when people use the phrase “The Blues.” Nowadays, it has connotations of rainy days and the kind of soft sadness that bubbles up when one is lonely or has a hangover. People can be blue when their favourite contestant doesn’t win a television talent show. But that’s not what being blue means. Not by a long way.
The phrase “The blues” (apart from being the name of the great American music movement) comes from the 17th Century English expression “the blue devils.” It was a description of the intense visual hallucinations accompanying severe alcohol withdrawal. Over time, it became the term for a state of deep depression or agitation.
I’m dancing with the blues today.
These days when I dance with the blues are the days I feel most “in recovery” for something. I feel shaky and painful and headachey. I feel hungover with no cause, mournful with no reason, terrified with no trigger. The blues are not a tender dance partner, and they appear, like the devil in the red shoes, demanding you dance until you drop. Even 150 mg of a new medication cannot stop the blues spinning you out on the dance floor. I wonder if even a lobotomy could.
So where do the blues come from? What crack in the surface of the mind springs forth the blue devils?
It might have been putting away the Christmas decorations. (Yes, I know, many days late.) It could be. There is something about putting the Christmas decorations away that renders me a little morose. Apart from the fact that the flat looks a little drearier, a little more tattered, there is the clench in my stomach as I put duct tape the Christmas box closed and the same thought recurs: I don’t know where I will be when I open this box next year. Both physically and mentally. We don’t know if we will still be in the city, or be moving on to the next location, the next job. Also, I don’t know how I will be. Will I be well enough to open up this box and decorate whichever flat in whatever place we call home at the time? Will I be better or worse than I am now? Will I still be staring down the long, bleak, path of recovery?
It might have been the call to the Doctor to confirm my picking up of my new medication tomorrow. I am well into my first month of the new 150 mg, but talking about it does put a lump in my throat and a tug in my gut. It might have been the coffee I drank at Starbucks – maybe the barista forgot to make it decaf, and my sensitive system is overloaded with one of the many chemicals that can unhelpfully trip the balance in my brain. It might have been the several difficult tasks I was dealing with today at work. The burden of responsibility has felt heavy in the last 72 hours, and I have found work worries sneaking out of my inbox and into the back of my mind. It might have been going to bed late last night. It might have been waking up late. It might have been something negative I read on the Internet or an interaction at a shop that didn’t go well. It might have been, it might have been, it might have been.
Or perhaps, like the shingles my partner has been battling for the last two weeks, the blue devils are like a virus buried deep in my cells. No one knows exactly what prompts them to emerge, only what situations can make them thrive. Shingles like stress and a low immune system. The blue devils like unstructured environments and an opportunity to make you dance until you drop.
My partner has been in bed for twelve days. He’s been resting, drinking lots of OJ, and enjoying daily naps. It’s what he needs to do to help his immune system beat that back that virus into its slumberous state inside his cells. I need to sleep too, I need to watch my triggers carefully, I need to keep up with my meds and try to be kind to myself and then maybe, the blue devils will recede back into their dark lair as well.
Then maybe I will feel better about blue.