A smiling lady handed me a leaflet yesterday. It had a picture of two smiling people, surrounded by baskets of apples and inexplicably in the background, a large (unsmiling) moose. The headline was: All Suffering Soon to End, immediately followed, less cheerfully by When the End of the World Comes, Who will Survive? Who indeed? Cockroaches? Minor celebrities with firearms? Rats? No – only Jehovah Witnesses apparently.
I was feeling slightly gloomy which brings me out a really sexy combination of anger and tearfulness so I asked the lady: “Didn’t you think the world was coming to an end before? And you all sold your belongings and went to sit at the top of a hill, only unfortunately the world carried on as normal?” Her smile retained its full wattage: “Oh yes” she said. “It was known as The Great Disappointment.”
I’ve had a rather grey few weeks. Not Great Disappointments, just a succession of too much not-fun work, endless slush, the bitter and irrevocable realisation that cheese gives me spots, and an indecipherable contract.
Have you ever found yourself reading through a contract, seemingly written in English but so thick with clauses, sub clauses and indemnity blah that you can feel your brain sliding off the page? But after someone I knew got into terrible professional trouble for not paying attention to some tiddly widdly sub-clause in a sub-section, I have always given my contracts to someone else with big red rings round the bits I don’t understand ie everything except Sign Here. Luckily Husband is a) a contracts expert and b) deeply and generally suspicious. So when he started frowning and mugging and re-reading bits of it over and over again and still frowning and mugging, I felt my heart plummet. Because I knew I would have to contact the company and ask questions.
“Don’t worry,” says Husband. “Just tell them you want a bit of clarification on x y and z.” So I write a very polite email asking them to explain what subsection 6 means, all the while thinking that I will never hear from them again, and I really should get an agent to deal with this stuff and why can’t I understand contracts and why am I so stupid?
“Contracts are designed to be confusing,” says Husband comfortingly. “Nobody can understand them. Except me and a few other very clever people.” He is sweet and kind and right.
I’m blithering on about this because the exact moment I send the email asking for some clarity on a contract, I can feel a dark, spectral mist wrap itself round me and I know it’s back. He's back. No warning. No warning at all and the black dog slinks silently into the room and sits in the far corner. The thing is, I don’t know where he’s come from. Or why. And I thought if you’ve ever been through it, you get a warning. I know what the signs are – a slowing up, a lassitude, and a grey heaviness. Or was the vague gloom I’ve been feeling the last few weeks the sign? I’ve been moving around a lot today to try and shake it off. Going for walks, breathing in rain and air, stroking the various animals who wander in for a free feed, sniffing The Girl, trying to soak up her artless joy. The Boy knows – he always does. When he was a baby I was crushed with PND, and ever since I’ve been sodden with guilt at his sidelong glances and “Are you ok mum’s?” I make the most of his bony hugs, keep moving and hope it will pass soon.
The moving about is because the writer and psychologist Dorothy Rowe once suggested that it helped to think about what your depression looked like and I thought of mine as cold inertia. So maybe I should call it Black Ice, rather than Black Dog.