“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality”

I wrote this blog post about my mental health in July 2016. I reread it this evening. Since July, I have gone back onto anti-depressants, increased the dosage (with success), had a relapse. Blankness, despair, sadness. A friend reminded me that depression isn’t always about feeling sad. I often dismiss my experience of feeling extremely disconnected or blank.

Reading the blog post from 8 months ago, I was talking about my depression as “mild” but in the last week, filled in a form and re-admitted to myself that my condition is severe. I suffer from severe depression and anxiety. There, I’ve said it. Again. My condition does affect whether or not I can do some jobs and gigs and whether I can hit certain targets. This is not unworrying. But despite everything, I do genuinely believe that I will be ok. (That’s a bit odd to me but I’m going to hold on to that. Whyever not?)

It feels a bit strange, to remember days or moments when I am not myself. (Thank goodness I can recognise these episodes.) When they hit, logic really does not work, and I cannot recall it into my mind or body. I am amassing a set of rules (“have breakfast”) and making posters (“if you feel like X, call Y”) and notes to self (“not everything is an opportunity”) which help. I rely on messages from quotation cards (“start somewhere”), social media, apps, and friends, to remind me of the simplest feelings, ideas, things which are fundamental to staying alive and continuing to function.

I notice when narratives are about survival. I notice everyday heroism.  I notice the ones who struggle in a classroom or a party or a table discussion. I am so glad and grateful to those who are consciously, bravely, determinedly kind, generous, open.

Often it is easier to speak to strangers than to acquaintances or lapsed friends. It is always easier to do a stand up gig than to catch up over drinks and a meal. It is often easier to write off money spent than to get out of bed or stop crying. I am very privileged.

I am so glad that I have had come into contact with more extraordinary people and experiences because of sharing who I am and what I do. The world contains some exceedingly horrific things but also some exquisite ones.

I am finding that choices and goals are coming into focus a little clearer if everything is run through the question of life and death. I am not being morbid. So when it comes to jobs, for example, if I would be ok to be doing Job X when I die, then I’ll take Job X. Of course, I am no where near rolling in buckets of money, but this black and white view frees me up to very consciously make the choice to do certain jobs for money and other jobs for love. Do I want to be watching a silly show when the world ends? Would I be happy to be giggling with friends in a park – “wasting time” – when the world ends? Will I regret not telling someone thank you or how much they mean to me if I don’t wake up tomorrow?

Some people tell me I think too much. I have realised that I spend too much time not leaning into my thoughts, not thinking deeply enough. I stare blankly into space or fill hours by playing on my phone or watching silly things in order to avoid doing some necessary and useful processing. In the next few months and years, I’m setting myself the goal of giving my self space to think more. I am glad.

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