Edit: I’m writing this introduction after finishing my blog post. I was on a high when I started. I had changed beds, hoovered, washed up, cleaned and done laundry. I started writing in a good mood, planning to write about the daft stuff I do at home. By the time I was finished, I wanted to drown myself for being a boring, hipster twat. Right now I’m considering deleting the post. I think I’ll publish it just to show you what a mess I am. Enjoy!
This one will be a bit about depression, a bit about hygge. Polar opposites. Hipster blogger GOLD, I tell ya.
I’m being flippant because it helps, ok? I don’t want to trivialize mental illness.
Some caveats: I know that I’m very fortunate at the moment to have depression that CAN be dealt with without medication at the moment. I’ve been medicated in the past and I think it was necessary. I’ve had therapy too. I’m never going to suggest that you should go without meds and therapy if the meds and therapy are helping. I’m not a guru, I’m not telling you how to cope with depression. I’m just giving you a cheeky peek into my world. This is what I’m going through and how I deal with it. I also know that I am hugely fortunate to have a wife that supports me financially. If it weren’t for Mrs Viper, I would be spiralling further into my depression and into debt. No amount of blankets and jumpers would save me. I would, most likely, end up homeless, hospitalized or in jail. I don’t have illusions about this. I’m a lucky bastard.
Lately I’ve been dealing with my depression by managing my environment. This has not been easy. Mrs Viper would be the first to admit that she is bizarrely untidy. I say ‘bizarrely’ because she’s exceptionally organized in every sphere apart from the domestic. Mrs Viper is an expert at administration and systems management. At home though, she thinks that it’s a good idea to store carrier bags full of random items throughout the house. A typical Mrs Viper plastic bag will contain: a lone sock; a half-eaten bag of crisps; twenty pounds in cash; an unopened birthday card from last year; a toy; a receipt for something that isn’t in the bag; a half-drunk bottle of water; some hair grips; an empty photo frame. I, on the other hand, am the pinnacle of tidiness. Nah, only kidding, I’m a clutter-making nightmare. But it’s my clutter, so that’s fine. It’s Mrs Viper’s dozens of bags that are the problem.
I don’t have OCD, but I am obsessive. If you want to freak me out, show me a single shoe. I will need to find the other. If I can’t find it, it will bug me until the shoe turns up. It may even start me spiralling downwards into despair. It sounds daft, but it’s a real problem for me. I’m the same if I can’t find my keys, my watch or any other small but necessary thing. My world starts to crumble and every bit of mess in the house becomes responsible for my lost object. I start to blame Mrs Viper, the kids, myself. I fill myself with impotent rage that curdles into chilly misery. I know it’s not rational, but a lost object can ruin a day… or even days.
What I perceive as the ‘mess’ of my family is a real problem for me. The problem is, of course, my perception, not their mess. It’s not easy to change perceptions, though, is it?
Some time ago, I decided that I couldn’t live with my family anymore. I was in the depths of depression but wouldn’t face it. For a while, we lived separately. The kids were shared between two homes, mine and Mrs Viper’s. I had my strange, ordered existence. Mrs Viper had a house that she could live in without my moaning.
Trouble is, I fell apart completely. Turns out that I can’t live without Mrs V and a family home. It took a long time to repair the marriage that I had damaged, believe me. Now we live very differently.
I don’t work for a living, not really. I’m a part-time handyman, but that’s just pin money. Mrs Viper is the bread winner. When we agreed to get back together, we started from a position of honesty. I admitted that I hated my job. Mrs Viper admitted that she hated domestic stuff. We realized that we needed to go against what our culture expects: she would earn the primary income, I would be the ‘house husband’.
Here’s the weird thing: it’s working. Mrs Viper is brilliant at her job, but it turns out I’m not too shabby at the domestic side. I can cook, I can clean and I’m good with the kids. Without the demands of the 9 to 5, I can get a grip on my mental state, while feeling valued by my family. My esteem comes from keeping our house clean and cosy, getting good meals on the table and keeping my family happy.
I was going to write about ambiance and hygge. I’ve genuinely digressed in a way that I did not expect to. I hope I haven’t bored you! I thought you needed some background before I started bleating about being cosy. Oh yes, I started talking about Mrs Viper and her bags of crap. I said it! Bags of crap! Ha! Well, we’ve agreed together that I’m allowed to move them to sensible places and move the contents if they have an obvious destination. Mrs Viper promises not to get cross that I move things, I promise not to judge her for creating random-bags. Our house is now a lot tidier than it used to be. It’s messy by the standards of minimalist living, but for us it is a real improvement.
I keep mentioning hygge, just because a lot of bloggers talk about it. It’s basically a Danish and Norwegian concept of cosiness. Google it. It’s kind of a big deal. It’s something I aim for in the house. I keep blankets on the sofa, I keep candles (safely in lanterns) on the mantel and I switch on the fake flames of our stove. We live in a cheap terraced house in a poor area, but we can fake the things that we don’t have. We can’t afford a wood burning stove, but the artificial one helps create the mood.
I’m going to let you into a daft secret of the Viperish ambiance.This is silly but it works. On the living-room PC, I queue up sounds that make me feel peaceful. I open a few tabs of youtube and set them at varying levels of volume until the mix is right. I’ve currently got the Book of Psalms, sung by cathedral choirs. You can find it here Cathedral Choirs . This isn’t chosen for religious reasons, more cultural ones. It makes me feel like I live in a Cathedral Close. At the right volume, it’s like hearing a choir practice a short distance away. I also listen to a log fire crackling here: Fire Place . This gives me the sound that my fake stove doesn’t do. The gentle crackling and occasional snaps take my mind off the traffic outside. On top of that I have the sounds from this Vienna Wall Clock . Now, I’m certain that some people would find the ticking and the chimes irritating, but they’re important to me. Part of my depression is that time does weird things. Some days time seems to slow to a halt or to speed up into an absurd blur. I know everyone experiences the phenomenon of ‘time flying’ or ‘time dragging’, but I can tell when it’s within normal limits and when it’s a symptom of my depression or anxiety. The sounds of the clock help to ground me. Time is passing normally. The ticking and the quarterly chimes are an anchor for me. I suppose this sounds mental: that’s fine, I’m mentally ill.
I’m starting to wish I hadn’t started this. It’s a combination of pretentious and mad. Crash on, old son, crash on.
Finally, there are smells to deal with. I have a ridiculously strong sense of smell. I have to keep the house fresh, which isn’t easy when you have more than one indoor cat. Litter trays are the bane of my life. I regularly open windows for a brisk airing of the house, but I have to balance that with keeping the heat in. I also use scented candles, incense sticks and, some evenings, church incense. I prefer scents such as sandalwood and frankincense, so now you know. I also like to cook, just so the house smells of food.
When it comes to decor, I would have to say that it’s eclectic. I’m not going to give details here, I’ll save that for a post with photos, you lucky people.
Re-reading this, I want to stab myself in my pretentious, bearded face. What a sickeningly dull individual I am. I could have covered this all in about a hundred words. I should have just written, “I can’t cope with real life, so I hide at home, playing noises on a computer that distract me from the sound of my own misery. I do some housework so that I don’t feel like a total sponger.” Sigh.
That’s your lot. Go on, get lost.