The arrival of this post has been delayed by technology on one hand and caution on the other. First, my technological difficulties – the gremlins struck this week and disabled both my laptop and phone as well as killing my headphones. I won’t bother rant about the inconvenience and how we are all now so dependent on our phones, computers, social media etc. I’m not ranting because I don’t really believe the loss of these tools and toys is unsurvivable. Look at me, I’m still here, more or less intact. Yes, there was frustration and exasperation and the expletive quotient in my vicinity went way beyond tipping point. I lost time doing things I would rather not be doing. Other items on my list went neglected and minor consequences ensued. But ultimately I arrived in the future in much the same condition as I was when my tech bubble burst. Fine.
The other reason I was hesitating to post was caution. Before I started this blog a couple of months ago I thought long and hard about its purpose. What exactly was I trying to achieve? Was what I had to say any more deserving of a claim in cyberspace than the output of anybody else? My perception was, and continues to be, that the blogosphere is a morass of unquantifiable variety and standard and that my contribution would be nothing more than another grain of sand on the beach if you’ll forgive my analogy jumping quickly from the swamp to the seaside. How would I present myself in this universe of in-distinction? I came to the conclusion that the web is just another meeting place, another stepping off point. How I aspire to conduct myself in the real world can also be my guideline for the virtual domain. I realise that is very likely the opposite rationale for a lot of people who represent themselves online but there you go, perhaps I am not very imaginative.
I decided I would listen to my gut and write about the substance of survival. I would attempt to discuss the minutiae of the everyday internal and external struggle. In an honest way. Not preachy or sanctimonious but straight. When getting into this area of personal existentialism I talk often of ‘straight lines’ and ‘clean lines’ and ‘clean channels’. It’s funny for such a messy area I like to use language that might be better used in geometry, architecture and engineering. I don’t have any problem bandying about terms relating to energy and feelings and sensitivity. Embraced wholeheartedly are the subtleties and nuances and complexities of self-doubt and wonder. So I was happy as I set out on my new journey but knew that at some point I would have to take the plunge and write specifically about my own experience and not hide behind my particular brand of generic wisdoms and insights. Which brings me back to the aforementioned caution.
I have been cautious about opening the following door because once opened, it is difficult to ‘un-open’. I am about to invite the application of certain labels and fixed ideas, things that are anathema to me. They are limiting and reductive and discourage engagement. I may regret this tomorrow or in a week or even next year but I have been trying more and more to live for now and to respond to the moment. So I will just come out and say it.
I have, I get, I suffer from, depression.
I have done since I was a boy. Red rages and black moods would hijack my otherwise quite normal existence. (I feel compelled to interject immediately and ask what is a normal existence and to clarify that I understand there is a very large difference between the description I just used and the unconscious normalising that all children do.) My episodes built in seriousness as I got older but they somehow remained very private and it took me until I was well into my twenties before I was convinced by someone very important to me to seek help. Without that help it is arguable I wouldn’t be here today. I am not trying to be melodramatic, to me it is something that is self-evident. If I hadn’t learned how to cope with my depression I could very easily be dead.
That is quite a thing to see myself write because I am much more used to letting myself off the hook when I discuss being depressed and will slip into euphemistic expressions like ‘sometimes I get very low’ and ‘I know what it’s like to feel down/blue/flat’ or ‘I have experience of bottoming out’. Euphemisms can be funny in an amusing, postmodern way but they are fundamentally a chickening out of dealing with reality and putting things in starker, less prettified language. Dealing with depression in the moment is a miserable, demoralising, enervating trial of self-hatred and self-administered poison. It is a withdrawal from everything that is life. It is a retreat from colour, light and vitality into a deadened hell of self-constructed contempt. Into your cave you bring contempt for self, for ambition and aspiration, contempt for every positive thought you’ve ever had, contempt for every dream you’ve had the audacity to entertain.
And as you pull away from the light you move ever closer to the dark. There is an external shutting down, a ‘switch off’ that renders you almost catatonic, a state that belies the intense internal activity that has consumed you. At its most vicious depression is an incessant flirtation with death. This is not to be confused with self-pity. It’s a much more aggressive energy than that. It is the firm belief that your life is worthless. The fear or inability to act on the death desire only compounds the self-loathing. When the depression eventually lifts the initial feeling is one not of euphoria but far more mundane, merely quiet relief sullied with foreboding. It gradually improves and then, in my case anyway, I come out of the dark, I am ‘normal’ again. Happy, content, good energy, sociable, focused, ready for action. It’s quite the transition and I am always grateful for my restoration.
I had an episode two weeks ago and I managed to get myself out the door and do the things I normally do. I had to put myself in a social, recreational setting and participate. I did so. That was day one. On day two my reserves weren’t as resilient but I still managed to read and to write a little. I asked myself if I could exchange mundanity for serenity. If that episode had struck eleven or twelve years ago I would have hidden myself away and tried to punch my own lights out. I would have fully succumbed to the dread and the violence of the attack. Riddled with questions of self-doubt, my only answers would have been ones of admonishment and judgement. So, in a very significant way I feel like I have won. I don’t expect ever to not suffer from depression but I seem to have found a way to cope. It’s horrible when it happens and I hate the way it makes me feel but I recognise I am able to deal with it with minimal collateral damage. In ways it would be easier not to cope and to give in to the rage and the darkness but I will continue to play the waiting game and sit it out until the next one comes along.
This is not a bid for pity or an online cry for help. I am comfortable with my situation and have no problem staring it in the face. As I said in an earlier post, no one is happy all the time. We are complex, messy beings and should resist Globalisation’s imperative to reduce us all to one-dimensional consumers. I have shared this because I believe we all have our demons. Sadly some of us are at times more vulnerable and susceptible than others and the demons find it easier to get a purchase on our fragile souls. I am writing not to say I have vanquished those demons but rather to say this is part of my story, I know what it is to feel broken. I also know what it is to feel restored.
I don’t always like the dark but I am not afraid of it, it exists for real reasons and there is always, always an opportunity to come out of it.