I'm sure Peter Serafinowicz's latest tirade of useful advice on twitter regarding mental illness helped a lot of people, as did the concerned and helpful comments that poured out from followers, experts and cheerleaders. But to me it sounded distinctly like Hallmark greeting card BS.
“Tell someone”/ “think positively”/ “it will get better soon”/ “have some chicken soup”.
That shit didn't help when I was getting bullied on the school bus, it didn't help when I had an unidentifiable STD, and it sure as hell didn't help when I was like, literally IN the bell jar.
So I thought I'd put my ten cents in regarding my quarter-life crisis. Maybe don't read this if you're currently depressed because it's pretty, well... depressing.
Firstly, no one cares that much.
It sounds harsh, but people have their own lives to lead and no matter how much they love you, you can't expect them to guess if something's wrong. Depression arrives with the plodding menace of a glacier. No one has any measure of its progress; no one has any plan for stopping it. Everyone just tries to get the fuck out of its way.
The annoying thing is that even if people know the whole story, you can't expect them to help. Apparently admitting that you have a problem is the most important step, therefore I thought it would feel good. It didn't. I guess I appreciate in retrospect that externalising it helps you to feel less isolated but my overwhelming feeling was disappointment at how useless everyone was. Often they have no reassuring remarks to offer, and believe me there are silences harder to take back than words.
It's not that I wanted the relief of 'getting it out', nor was I hoping for words of comfort, I was simply begging, “Please don't leave me alone with my thoughts.”
Maybe I was projecting but I felt a mixture of pity, disgust, and apathy radiating from most of the people I shared my problems with. They didn't mean to be like that, they simply aren't trained to deal with it. And they were probably scared of the responsibility I'd put on them. If I could have afforded a therapist, I would have taken up permanent residence on her sofa.
As relieving as it is to have a cup of tea and a natter about your suicidal tendencies, you're probably going to have to look long, hard look inside yourself to find the pragmatic approach that works for you. And at a time when you are full of paranoia and self-doubt, that's going to be a pretty hard thing to do.
But you must always speak the truth, even if your voice shakes, and even if only to yourself. If it wasn't for other people being brave enough to admit to me that they were struggling, I might not have had the courage to 'come out'. So thank you to all the people that ever unashamedly said "I'm a fucking nutter, and so are you too, probably". They helped me more than St Johns Wart.
I'm a vain hoe
Or to put it a little more mildy; it's the little things that make me happy. Call me shallow but yes, getting my nails done does make me disproportionately happy. Ditto a long hot shower. Ditto the smell of a new MAC lipstick.
Maybe it's just the act of taking pride in yourself, showing yourself some love, and giving yourself a bloody break (depression is an exhausting merry-go-round of self-loathing and self-flagellation). Side note: If you would like to pledge spray-tan vouchers/ mascara to the Cheer up Caroline Foundation, we would welcome your charitable donations.
Seriously though, I still find it really hard to do something lovely for myself. Maybe I feel like I don't deserve it, or maybe I expend so much energy painting on a smile for everyone else that I simply don't have the energy.
The drugs do work (sometimes)
Most of the time, they won't make you brain dead, nor unable to love or fuck or cry. Most of the time they'll just help you get a sense of perspective, they'll make it a little bit easier to get out of bed so you can look out the window and work out if you reckon there's anything out there worth staying out of bed for. Some days you'll still say “errrrm, nope” and bury yourself back under the covers. But some days you'll say “g'won then” and get dressed and go out and meet a hottie or buy some maltesers or see a pug and you'll be like “wow, the outside world is AMAZING”.
Don't mistake a prescription for gospel. I had a fucking hideous experience on Seroxat once, and then a year later I tried it again and it perked me right up. Similarly, I felt fab on Prozac for about 6 months and then it just stopped agreeing with me. They can turn on you, those naughty little Selective Seratonin Re-uptake Inhibitors.
Right now I'm weaning off altogether, which feels weird to say, because doctors told me I'd probably be on some form of medication forever. Anyway, my contemporary pill-pal was making me feel distinctly uncool; hallucinations, hot flushes, detachment, dizziness, and I thought “fuck this” and decided to wean off. The side-effects are still major, half the day I feel like I'm walking through a house of crazy mirrors, and the other half I’m feeling like my hands aren't attached to my arms. We'll see. I don't know what I'm feeling right now but at least I'm feeling something, I guess.
It's alchemy, baby
My 'base metal' was blogging. Every single day posting a picture or a poem or a quote just so I knew that I had accomplished something.
My 'gold' was that without realising it I had built myself a little place where I could go to express myself with shame or regret or self-reproach.
I don't know if it's just a symptom of growing up, but I learned that our sufferings don't magically stop, instead we grow able to wisely recycle them.
It's chronological recording of my mental state through images or vignettes which allowed me with hindsight to pull out from the depths those thoughts which I didn't understand, and spread them out in the sunlight and know the meaning of them. I found that depression, or at least mine, was simply rage spread thin.
It was an ill wind that blew some good
I learned a shit-load about myself. I learned that I wanted to be freelance, that I needed to be creative, that I was tough to live with. If I hadn't had the opportunity depression gave me to seriously ponder my life and my options I might be doing something very different right now.
It made me fearless. I learnt that I didn't particularly mind shouting if I thought I was saying something worth listening too. I learnt that it's not 'tits and arse', it's confidence. There's nothing more attractive than a woman who doesn't give a fuck.
It also made me more tolerant of other people, more tender, more accepting and forgiving of humanity. Sometimes sadness makes people do sad things.
I count it as a blessing that I have the inability to grow up and adapt to this society. I'd recommend depression to anyone.
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