Blue Monday January 16th 2017 & The January Blues - it ain't necessarily so.....
We can all be affected by winter and it’s impact on our lives and all that goes with it good, bad or indifferent. There certainly is less light and the days can be grey, wet and cold. January, or more generally winter, can be a difficult time for different and varied reasons for people, however, it usually depends on other factors too: such as an individuals circumstances and mental health.
Perhaps one reason though for ‘blueness’, is the heightened run up to Christmas, shortly followed by the inevitable count down to new year. Understandably we may then experience post holiday blues, a slump or anti-climax, with returning to how things were pre-Christmas. This can often be accompanied with certain inescapable mantras and beliefs expounded by the media such as, ‘a new year, a new you’ or how to escape the January Blues. It seems that January is the only month which is often described as miserable and ‘blue’; whilst being the first month of the new year, also associated with new starts and beginnings.
It could be argued that we are constantly being told how we should feel and be during this season; reinforced and promoted by our society, traditions and the media. Generally, Christmas equals being happy, togetherness, partying, over indulging…. Whilst New Year equals resolutions, de-toxifying, being motivated.
Simply put, December is the month of celebration, indulgence and unity then quickly given over to January which is often about self-discipline, individualism and abstinence, new beginnings…. and possibly feeling ‘blue’.
There is now a more recent innovation telling us exactly how we are supposed to be feeling. The invention of ‘Blue Monday’ has been brought to our society in 2005, when advertising, the media and PR companies have made it a ‘thing’. This is where the third Monday of the month is deemed to be the most depressing day of the year. In 2017 ‘Blue Monday’ apparently falls on January 16th.
This was put forward by a psychologist and life coach who made up a ‘scientific’ equation to prove his theory, as part of a press release for a holiday company. His equation is impossible to quantify and amongst other variables; such as, time elapsed since Christmas and monthly salary as part of his formula; it supposedly calculates ‘debt’, ‘weather’, ‘motivation’, and ‘need to take action’. The answer leaves us with ‘Blue Monday’ for everyone, the third Monday in January…..
In 2010, five years after this rather misleading concept, a journalist interviews the inventor of ‘Blue Monday’ who “refutes the whole notion” of the existence of the most depressing day of the year. He considers that it may not have been very helpful in many ways, stating that his invention of Blue Monday, as the most depressing day of the year, has become a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
The Blue Monday inventor explains that at least he is getting people to talk about depression. This is where many involved in the mental health sector have concerns with ‘Blue Monday’. Largely because ‘Blue Monday’ is labelled as a fact with a scientific formula as ‘The most depressing day of the year’. Fundamentally, depression is not just experienced on one day: there is a big difference from feeling down or ‘blue’ and suffering from depression which is a serious condition and not something to be trivialised or reduced to a formula which claims to be scientific.
It is important as individuals that we are able to celebrate and be happy when we can and want to; and be sad when we are and not have our feelings dictated to. Our feelings are our own and we can have and experience a variety of emotions at any time or season and on any given day of the year.
There is no Blue Monday only a publicity stunt that took hold.
On Remembrance Day WASTE by Studdert Kennedy
Waste of Muscle, waste of Brain,
Waste of Patience, waste of Pain,
Waste of Manhood, waste of Health,
Waste of Beauty, waste of Wealth,
Waste of Blood, and waste of Tears,
Waste of Youth’s most precious years,
Waste of ways the Saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, waste of God,– War!
Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, known as ‘Woodbine Willie’ – the soldiers friend.
On 23rd September 1939 Sigmund Freud died aged 83. It has been more or less 100 years since Freud wrote many of his groundbreaking books and papers on the human mind, exploring and theorising about dreams, culture, human development, sexuality and mental health. And while some of his theories have been discredited, many major ideas have been borne out and are still relevant today.
Of course Freud’s methodologies, techniques, and conclusions have been put into question. Moreover, some of his theories are potentially damaging, prejudiced and without justification; particularly to certain segments of the population. His perspectives on female sexuality and homosexuality are often reviled, causing feminists to refer to him by a different kind of ‘F’ word. Some even argue that his name should be “Fraud”. Much of the criticism of psychoanalysis is that it is phallocentric, heterosexual and sexist. Without doubt such criticisms are valid and justified. However, to dismiss Freud’s work as irrelevant, or else having no solid evidence based grounding, or even that there is no validity to the Freudian perspective; is a gross over simplification. I do believe it is important to remind ourselves of the time he grew up in, when he was theorising and just how ahead of his time he was. The anniversary of his death is a time that we can reflect on his legacy, influence and contributions to psychology, culture and society, which has impacted on us all in one way or another.
Freud is the founding father of psychoanalysis, which is often referred to as the ‘Talking Cure’. As Freud wrote in his Introduction to Psychoanalysis (lecture XXV). ‘If someone speaks, it gets lighter’. He would encourage his patients to speak freely about whatever was on their mind, the commonly known term of ‘free association’.
Whether an individual's therapy is based on Freudian psychoanalysis or some other form of talking therapy, the evidence is clear, that talking helps alleviate emotional symptoms, lessen anxiety and can help give a person better clarity. While medication and brief therapy can often be effective in alleviating symptoms, talking therapy has the important factor of the therapeutic relationship. The whole person is involved in the process, not only their symptoms or a diagnosis, therefore deeper and more lasting changes can become possible.
Sigmund Freud’s contentious and provocative theories are still a huge part of psychology, neuroscience, and culture, despite the fact that some of his ideas are outdated and questionable. After all as my university lecturer would often state…“Freud himself was not a Freudian”.
PARASKEVIDEKATRIAPHOBIA or Fear of Friday 13th...on Friday 13th May
Paraskevidekatriaphobia - from the Greek words paraskeví (meaning 'Friday'), and dekatreís (meaning ‘thirteen’). The fear of the number 13 itself is called triskaidekaphobia.
This is by and large a Western superstition, where millions of people fear Friday 13th. It could be said it is the most feared day and date in history. In Europe and the USA most people are aware of this superstition and many will alter their behaviour or even routine on Friday 13th: some will remain in their homes or even in their beds the whole day, for fear of something bad happening. Others will not do business or travel. In many ways whether we believe it or not it can have an impact on us. I do not have paraskevidekatriaphobia and yet I just looked up to the top corner of my computer screen, as I am typing this, and saw Fri 13.13 13th May and I paused for a split second, almost with bated breathe…waiting.
I then resumed my typing….
I have re-launched my website today not thinking about Friday 13th. Last year our family cat died on Friday 13th, no significance to the date, she was very old and had been fighting the inevitable for some time. Last year I also took a flight with my family to Tallinn, Estonia on Friday 13th, in February. Then Friday 13th did affect me; firstly we got really cheap flights, so that was good; secondly a week before our trip the airline cancelled our particular flight, so that wasn’t so good. The reason given was that there were not enough passengers flying that day. It is more than likely that this was simply because it was Friday 13th and less people wanted to risk flying. So the third way it had an impact on me, was that we all had to travel slightly later in the day and now the Friday 13th thought was firmly put there. As we boarded the plane I was just that little more apprehensive than usual. Nothing untoward happened on our flight, however, I did get a real sense of unease, perhaps a little more than usual. The dreaded Friday 13th was quietly discussed amongst passengers and cabin crew, but only when the tyres were firmly planted on the tarmac.
FRIDAY 13th May not be so unlucky after all……
It is of interest that in mainly Spanish speaking countries, Tuesday 13th is perceived as the unluckiest day, whereas apparently many Italians steer clear of Friday 17th. Friday 13th has no real significance to many people.
A study in the British Medical Journal, published in 1993, concluded that there "is a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day, such as Friday the 6th, in the UK." However, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS) on 12 June 2008 stated that, "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.”
Most studies show no or little correlation between increased incidents, accidents or injuries and the fact it is Friday 13th. It could be argued, that it is the impact of how others act around this day and if they do have paraskevidekatriaphobia; and if so what do they do about it? Whether or not the impact is bargains and cheap flights or less traffic on the road, or simply that people are extra careful and vigilant on that day; it could be deduced that it is fundamentally the awareness and/or fear (phobia) itself that can affect different people in different ways. Why the reasons for fear of Friday 13th and where this superstition came from and how it has continued is a whole other story.
I arranged a meeting a few days ago for today and the receptionist straightaway said ‘oh dear it’s Friday 13th.’ Should I have thought about re-arranging the meeting? No. Fortunately I don’t suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, however, someone else might have because the meeting was cancelled…..
Friday 5th February. Talking, Thinking & Judgement
Yesterday was Time to Talk Day where the mental health sector led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness have tried to challenge the certain views and still at times the stigma that can surround mental health and mental illness. It aspired to do this largely by getting people to talk more openly about mental health. It is crucial to keep the issue of mental health in our minds and to be able to express ourselves without fear of judgement or condemnation.
How we feel and how we think; our internal world; our perceptions and beliefs; our situation and environment; society and people…. how life impacts on us, obviously affects us all in many different and varied ways. There are many complexities and other factors that influence and impact on our mental health. Can we then talk about it and express ourselves to others so that we feel seen and heard?
How we can live, how we can be and how we can bare….changes and evolves at different times in our lives.
It is good to see that as a society we may be beginning to address the issue of mental health and starting to allow it to be talked about. Hopefully, to learn to be more open, less judgemental and more caring as a society to ourselves and others.
This takes me back to thinking about when I was doing my dissertation as part of my history degree when I was in my early twenties. My thesis was on ‘The Wrongful Incarceration of Lunatics and the 1877 Parliamentary Select Committee’. Needless to say in the 1870’s such matters were not to be mentioned let alone talked about in ‘polite society’. The fear, shame and stigma was immense surrounding anything to do with mental health and mental illness. Whilst doing my research I would read avidly, trawling through many primary sources, government papers as well as documents from various Victorian ‘lunatic asylums’. There were so many, too many cases of people being treated appallingly and wrongfully incarcerated. Such tragic stories, where people were victims of severe judgements, stigmatised by a Victorian society. ‘Deviants’ ‘promiscuous women’, Spiritualists, the list was endless. I recall one patient had been incarcerated in Napsbury lunatic asylum for stealing apples as a young boy of fourteen as he was considered ‘wayward and too high spirited’, he died there institutionalised as an old man. Another male inmate was incarcerated for, ‘wearing thick woollen trousers in the summer’.
We have come along way from those ‘lunatic asylums’ however, we still have a long way to go and Time to Talk day is a great beginning. To quote Carl Jung “Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” I guess that leaves us still talking and thinking hopefully without judgement about mental health, on the day after, Time to Talk Day.
Friday 29th January 2016 . Look Closer See Me
This poem was by an old lady who was at the time an inmate of a Sheffield ‘mental hospital’. I do not know or have her name. I found this recently amongst my papers and student notes from the 1980’s and remembered it having a profound impact at the time - so I thought I would share it. I will at some point try and find out who she was. I don’t know whether or not it needs a title or if she gave it a heading probably not, perhaps it stands on it’s own. Or it could have the title - Not a crabbit old woman; What do you see nurses; An old lady’s ‘scribble’ or Look closer - see ME……
She was described as “dumb, unable to communicate, suffering from deterioration of old age”, however, was “seen to scribble from time to time”. After her death her locker was emptied and this heart wrenching “scribble” was found. This is her poem about her life.
What do you see, nurses, what do you see,
What are you thinking when you look at me,
A crabbit old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit with far away eyes
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I wish you’d try”.
Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who unresting or not lets you do as you will
With bathing or feeding the long day to fill.
Is that what you're thinking is that what you see?
Then open your eyes nurse you are not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still
As I’m used at your bidding as I eat at your will
I am a small child of ten with a father and mother
Brothers and sisters who love one another.
A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride soon at twenty my heart gives a leap
Remembering the vows I promised to keep.
At twenty five now I have young of my own
Who need me to build a secure happy home.
A woman of thirty my young now grow fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last;
At forty my young sons are now grown and all gone
But my man stays beside me to see I don't mourn.
At fifty once more babies play round my knee
Again we know children my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead,
I look at the future I shudder with dread;
For my young are all busy rearing young of their own
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known
I’m an old woman now and nature is cruel
’Tis her jest to make old age look a fool.
The body it crumbles grace and vigour depart
There is now a stone where I had a heart
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys I remember the pain
And I’m loving and living life over again.
All too few the years now, and gone far too fast
I accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurses open and see
Not a crabbit old woman look closer see ME.