It is not a widely known fact that I battle with depression and anxiety. On a monthly basis. It’s something many women face. For those of us with this tendency, every time we face down PMS we pray God please let it go away after a few days. There are months when it lasts the whole month. There are years when it lasts for several months. Fortunately for me, I have only once seen it pass a year. I’m sure that if a study were to be done on where a woman is in her cycle when she decides to kill herself, commit homicide, or do something absolutely dreadful and drastic it would find that that time of month is where the magic happens.
On a bout several years ago I spoke to my brother. He was just out of med school and had already passed the psych rotation (The one where he was diagnosing every member of the family with some random disorder or another. I got the diagnosis of histrionics. I told him to piss off). He said something to me in the wisdom of his youth that I have never forgotten. When you find yourself depressed you need to step outside of yourself and act as a carer. Pretend that you are caring for a member of your family or a friend that you love very much and that they are sick. What would you do? You would take them for walks. You would take them to the movies and distract them. You would cook good food for them and give them good books to read and sit on the beach with them and watch the sunset. You need to care for yourself as though you are caring for someone you love.
This is a practice that has kept my monthly to a monthly for a few years now – caring for myself as though I am not myself but someone else that depends on me. And I have found a tool that works. FANTASY.
For those of us who are avid readers there is a lush forest of material to feast on. Every form of thought in this life is represented by a written book. There is poetry, self-help, scientific, chick lit, classic literature, romance, comedy, spiritual, technical – you name it there is a book on it. But what does a mind that is plagued by pain have the capacity to digest?
My saving grace has been FANTASY. Sneaking into the worlds created by the minds of others has been a great distraction from my own gnawing aches. It exercises my weary mind when I cannot sleep, it embraces my imagination with something other than darkness, and when I wake from the foreign world I find myself grateful for the comfort of my apartment, the love of my family and my two animals, and the work to which I dedicate my waking hours.
Narnia and the Lord of the Rings were some of my early entertainers. These have been made famous by years of followers and have been represented by movie-makers a few times over. But a series can be so satisfying because as you finish one book you look for the next one to carry you through next month. I have two obscure recommendations for those new to fantasy but needing to escape.
Stephen Hunt’s Jackelian series:
I came across these books in college. I don’t know what made me pick up this little book with the nondescript cover off the shelf in Waterstones but I have become bound to this series every since. My mind could not rest after ploughing through the brilliance of ancient lords of the court and so I would simply switch gears and cares into the world of Jackals. Stephen Hunt introduces you to a world that resembles the home of Oliver Twist in some ways and Star Wars in others. It is inhabited by human beings, the Fey, Steammen (sentient machines from the frozen mountains of the North), Cassarabians of the deserts to the south with an uncanny science for the development of mutants with the use of Womb Mages, Catosians who are steroid-pumped amazon-like women warriors, Craynarbians who have an exoskeleton much like crustaceans we now eat, and many other “races”. The travels of Commodore Black (resembling an old version of Jack Sparrow) through the Fire Sea, over the deserts, through the jungles and into the sky cities of this world are easy to relate to and impossible to abandon once you pick up a book. The first book, The Court of the Air, was an incredible launch into the life of Molly Templar, an orphan with a fantastic fate. I recommend this book to any woman sufferer, and any person needing an escape.
The Redwall Books of Brian Jacques:
This world is inhabited by the animals of our own world with a noble congregation in a place called Redwall Abbey. Mice are mighty and Badgers brave as they fight off the hoards of stoats and tricky foxes. The medieval abbey of Redwall is full of secrets and surprises, headed by an Abbot and championed by a warrior. The language takes on the accents of the British Isles with such accuracy it will tease the laughter out of the surliest and most unwilling reader. The suspense is something that will keep you in the books late into sleepless nights. The lessons and even the language of these books are appropriate for every age.