Chimes. What chimes?
Well, I found out that if you are seriously depressed, chimes can make a real difference. I mean chimes as a phone app.
I’ve posted here about anti-depression phone apps a few times before; my personal opinion is that most of them are of limited value at best, and many are totally worthless.
Dedicated anti-depression phone apps fall into two broad categories.
In the first place there are the many Inspirational apps, that try hard to convince you there’s still a glimmer of hope in the dark: for example by presenting religious or generally uplifting quotes (sometimes they combine this with what they think might be soothing background music). I myself really wouldn’t give a cent for all these Inspirational ones: at best they’re naive and paternalistic; at worst they will make you feel even more out-of-touch, misunderstood and depressed.
As the second category we have various more specific Suicide-Prevention apps, that usually will offer a few practical suggestions and that especially try to make it easier to quickly call for adequate help in an emergency. These Suicide-Prevention apps can sometimes be more effective, but (in the case of a serious depression) in a limited way. For a nice example of such an app, see see here.
Apart from these two categories here are of course other phone apps that can be somewhat helpful in individual cases of depression. For example:
(1) the what-I-call meditative apps, that offer actual breathing or concentration exercises that may help if your depression is not too severe;
(2) purely informational apps where you can look up symptoms or run a superficial self-test;
(3) in a much broader sense, the reminder apps that may help to prevent you in your depression haze forgetting tasks, appointments, or your daily dose of antidepressants.
But the most simple aids, um, apps, are often the best. I found this out a few weeks ago, when I was not just a little ill but also very depressed – so much, that for several days I had great trouble to keep myself going or even to take a few steps outside my room.
Such a depression can suck you into a kind of whirling time vortex, where every moment seems like every other moment, literally indifferent, the hours whirling around you without you really being aware of time anymore: you have no longer any kind of grip when it comes to keeping your day under control.
What in that situation was (and still sometimes is) very helpful to me, is one of the simplest phone apps you can imagine. All it does is chime a bell once an hour, just like an old-fashioned living-room clock. Ding-dong! I set it to chime every hour between 10 AM and 11 PM. So how can this be a help? After all, it’s not even a reminder for any specific task or event: it’s not quite the same as an alarm clock.
No, but it very effectively keeps a depression-ridden day from degenerating into one gray shapeless mass, into one vague blur. For those hourly chimes provide an audible time grid that extends over the entire day, compartmentalizing and structuring it, keeping you conscious of what you are doing (or not doing), keeping you aware of the passing of time, and conscious of where you are. It ensures you don’t forget your own existence in that nasty way that depression can make you forget everything.
On a practical level, that simple chime can do several things. Hearing it can force you to refocus for a brief moment, shake you up a little every hour again, even when depression was claiming all focus, and make you realize you should be doing something. Or that you should be doing some other thing. Or that at least you should stop fretting and doing nothing at all.
In short, that hourly ding-dong is a very effective reminder of the fact that actual life is going on, outside your depression. It keeps pushing you back a little towards that actual life, every hour again.
So if your own depressions tend to create a whirling time vortex too, I really recommend you give one of those chime apps a serious try. At the bottom of this post you’ll find a link to the one I installed on my phone.
Of course you could also go to an antiques shop and buy yourself the real thing, a big old-fashioned mahogany ding-dong clock – if you are sure its continuous ticking won’t get on your nerves.
And for now, a little diversion:
Another Kind of Chimes
Once upon a time, long before depression got you, you did have a Previous Life, didn’t you? Generations ago?
Remember sitting down with your new love, sneakily touching hands under the rim of your tiny table in the vaulted universe of this half-clandestine half-dark nightclub den?
Ah yes, this is Chicago, 1927, right? It’s real dim all around you in this exciting mystery club, and noisy, a sea of murmuring and laughing and whispering and chattering and echoing shadows, bobbing heads wherever you look, flickering lights – and of course there’s all this smokey smoking smoke: the massive billowing clouds from fat corona and rakish rothschild cigars, plus the sharper piercing puffs that shoot from painted women’s bloodred lips, plus all those aimless whirls from cigarettes held out in holders, elegantly, like beckoning fingers…
Yes it’s full of fighting romping playing mixing touching loving scorching hot smells! The tickling caramels of deeply Southern golden bootleg whiskey, the musky whiffs of Paris perfumes strong and bold enough for boyish bobbiegirls to intoxicate each other, the salty tang from under the rolled-up sleeves of rough-and-ready, dangerously calm and soft-spoken men… The clinking fresh enthusiasm of homebrewn boys’ beer spilling foam, the crusty thyme-and-olive mincemeat garlic smell of…
Sure, Italian leftover oven-snacks; and is this cheese? the nutty smell of naughty blue veins in a pale naked stretch of Roquefort? Colliding with the last withering traces of fragrant aftershave from the rosy cheeks of that nervous, hesitating, handsome young man; and a strangely sudden waft of strong white peppermint, white like that rakish collar, gone again, mouthwater? Shining new black leather shoes, now there’s a smell! And this: the bitter cry from a long-deserted glass of red Bordeaux, drying out slowly… My, something reminds me of gun oil gone sticky… And open roses waiting for a honeybee… And is this hair cream, a little bit too rich and gleaming? What about these hints of fish, yes, sizzling fish, now what would…
Wait. Chimes? Nightclub chimes? Yes my darling, it’s not time for all-out dancing yet, so the band is digging for something slow, something easy, for speakeasy whiffs to bridge the background sound gap. Do you know what you smell?
You smell Louis Armstrong’s bittersweet Chimes Blues:
Well. I know I went way over the top here, but I won’t chime sorry for it.
• the tip: If you are so depressed it often feels like you’re losing the grip on your day, try an hourly chiming app on your phone.
Mine, on Android, is very simple, lightweight, with just enough settings to do what it should, and it’s free: Caynax Hourly Chime. But there are plenty other chiming apps with more features, like fine-tuning the sound. And of course there are similar chimers for iPhone, too. Just search for them in the store.
• the footnote: I did cheat a little with that other kind of chimes. I went for atmosphere there, not for truth.
The picture is not really Louis Armstrong but a photo mix I pasted together myself; and the music is not Armstrong’s original 1923 Chimes Blues, but a 1962 Armstrong Chimes Blues recording that I mixed with background sounds to make it come alive.