Dealing With Blue Monday

Today, across the UK, people are feeling the effects of Blue Monday. A day that, according to a light-hearted formula created in 2005 by Dr Cliff Arnall, is the most depressing day of the year. I think they are important, those two words: ‘light-hearted.’ It is a light-hearted observation of the stress caused by Christmas debts, going back to school, and the terrible weather. That, however, is where it ends.

There is no evidence for Blue Monday and patchy evidence for seasonal variation in mood. In fact, Dr Arnall’s work has been called out as ‘farcical’ by Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist who has worked in the psychology department of Cardiff University. There is only one genuine concern, and that is real depression. People who suffer illnesses such as depression and anxiety have to deal with these things all year round, not just when the Christmas debts come rolling in.

It is, perhaps, a little off that a single day can be made out as depressing when so many people experience depression on a daily basis. A little off because of how the whole Blue Monday thing started. It started in 2005 as part of a press release to help bolster sales of holidays during the lacklustre months of January and February. This marketing technique is still being used (as illustrated by Ryanair’s massive sale that started today.) Something that exploits conditions such as depression like this just seems wrong to me.

So perhaps Blue Monday would be better off as a day to use creatively. Instead of writing it off as a farce, why not use it for a creative purpose? Why not use it for good? Why not use it to promote awareness? Blue Monday has been all over the news, articles have appeared in The Telegraph, The Mirror, The Guardian, The Express and The Sun. Yet little use has come from this widespread distribution of news. Little use, and little good.

Use the day to talk to someone who is alone, use it to spread awareness via social media, use it to tell that person suffering from depression that you’re there if they need you.

I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

I have decided to use Blue Monday as a bit of a writing prompt, with hopes that I can create something out of it. So here is a piece of short fiction, inspired by these blue goings on.


13:05 pm. 16th January. 2017.

The alarm clock wails and I hit snooze for a second time, rub my sore eyes, and think about getting up. By now the sun is just high enough in the sky to penetrate my crooked blinds and remind me that it is light outside.

I roll over, push my face into my pillow case, and mutter something like: ‘fuckin’ hell. I should probably get up earlier tomorrow.’ Like I haven’t said that before.

It is half-past-two before I rise. I push my sheets to the side and step carefully across the clothes that litter my dingy room. The door is open, I like the breeze, and I pull on some clean – probably – boxers from the chaos on my floor.

I can not see much of the kitchen. What I can see is illuminated in bursts by the blue flashing power button on my open laptop. I decide against opening the blackout blinds and settle for a coffee. Each of my actions cast in blue silhouette against the back wall as I fill the kettle and set the old tin thing down to boil.

While the water begins to heat, I wake up my laptop, shield my eyes from the glare, and quickly lower the brightness. It is still open from last night. Nothing unsavoury, just Facebook.

One notification, one message.

The notification reads: Tracy Phillips has a birthday today! Don’t forget to say happy birthday!

I scroll down the home wall for a couple of minutes. Photos of smiling drunk people punctuate the onslaught of memes and vapid statements of personal wellbeing. Some individuals have shared statuses about Blue Monday. Some sort of date for the most depressing day of the year. I hover my mouse pointer over the unread message from Paul, Tracy’s husband. It has been there for two days now. I can see the first few words.

I scroll down the home wall for a couple of minutes. Photos of smiling drunk people punctuate the onslaught of memes and vapid statements of personal wellbeing. Some individuals have shared statuses about Blue Monday. Some sort of date for the most depressing day of the year. I hover my mouse pointer over the unread message from Paul, Tracy’s husband. It has been there for two days now. I can see the first few words.

The kettle, reaching its vibrating crescendo, clicks and begins to subside. I make my coffee and sit back in the chair in front of my laptop.

I don’t feel hungry, but I know I should eat. I watch videos on YouTube until I feel dizzy enough to advocate making a sandwich. Nothing special, just a slice of ham on dry bread.

Then I go back to the message. I read the first view words visible in the notification box. Well, mate? Are you coming tonight? We really need . . . The rest is obscured. Still, I don’t open it. It’s not that I don’t want to, more that I can’t. If I open the message, then I’m obligated to answer it, and it’s horrible to let people down.

I haven’t always been shut away. I used to be quite a successful media studies undergrad. A young man with big aspirations. But after some acute events, things changed. Illness took me in the third year, mid-semester, and kept me in the hospital for a month. Once out, work-related stress took over. I worried about the assignments I hadn’t been able to complete, what my lecturers would think of me, what would happen to my academic record.

And then I stopped going.

I received phone calls for a while but was too nervous to answer them. What would I say? Even the emails stopped after a couple of months. Friends still messaged me to come out. Though they messaged less and less as I grew more and more distant. Eventually, they gave up.

I probably should reply, though, to Paul I mean. I wouldn’t want people to think I’m rude. I click on the message, begin to write some excuse, stop. I instantly regret clicking on the message, press the backspace several times, manage to type out a meagre Sorry Paul, am very ill. Tell Tracy I said Happy Birthday. I send it.

I spend much of the remaining daylight watching my phone, waiting to see if Paul reads the message, watching videos on YouTube, and then watching my phone some more. At one point I share a piece of music I like, but immediately remove it from my Facebook wall after nobody likes it.

I have a glass of water, go to bed, and lie awake for a long time. I try not to look at my phone. I lay restless and watch the ceiling until I eventually claim whatever restless sleep I can get.

13:05 pm. 17th January. 2017.

The alarm clock wails and I hit snooze for the second time. Then remember the previous day and immediately check my phone. Paul read the message hours ago. No reply. I begin to worry.


A bit of a tough topic to tackle in this post, but I hope you enjoy reading it.

Thanks for reading.

14 thoughts on “Dealing With Blue Monday

  1. Thanks for an eye-opening piece, an insider look at what depression is like for the person who has it. I didn’t know there was such a thing as “Blue Monday.” (I used to feel that way EVERY Monday–hee hee.) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading it. It is hard to construct a piece focusing on an ailment that manifests itself in totally different ways for each person who suffers from it! As for Mondays, well I’d rather sleep them away if I’m honest 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mandie Hines

    Good topic, and short story. In your discussion, you said something that piqued my interest, “tell that person suffering from depression that you’re there if they need you.” I like the idea, but it made me think about how a lot of people silently suffer from depression. I think there are people with depression who may be some of the best actors, keeping their problem hidden and to themselves.
    The line from your story, “and I pull on some clean – probably – boxers,” I seriously laughed out loud over that one. I really enjoy reading your writing, and I hope you continue to mix in some of your fiction or poetry with the other posts you write.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is an entirely fair point. In fact, I suppose I was talking from an entirely optimistic point of view. Sometimes the best thing a person can do is be a good friend. Then, even if the friend chooses to keep their problem hidden, at least there is someone around who is trustworthy.

      That being said, anxiety and depression can twist many things, such as a simple message, into something scary.

      Thank you for the kind words, I’m glad you enjoy reading my writing. I will certainly try, I feel like the new format for my posts is working out well.

      All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Weirdly, though I didn’t realise yesterday was “Blue Monday” until it was almost over, my weekend felt “off” (though nothing untoward happened) and I was in a right mood yesterday…

    I just hate January in general.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jordan,

    A very well written piece of fiction that – but also one that deals with mental health issues sensitively and portrays them realistically rather than descending into melodrama (or perhaps highlighting that, when you have depression, even the smallest thing can be a melodrama).

    Liked by 1 person

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