Talk.

Ok, so here’s a thing. Depression is the number one most diagnosed mental disorder in the UK with about a quarter of the population experiencing it in the course of a year. Think of four people you know. Odds are one of them is experiencing a weird kind of pain that you have no idea about, or maybe you do know and you have no idea how to help. Maybe you’re the one in four. I am. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Mark Twain said “write what you know”. So I will.  Since December 2010 my mind has been playing nasty tricks on me, making me feel things harder, think things through badly.

 

depression__don__t_let_it_by_lou_in_canada-d38uo08

Its not about being sad. Its not about crying. Its about guilt and self loathing.  Its about the cycle of doom which is going round and round in your mind without you realizing it. Its about cutting yourself off and being alone in something because you don’t want to burden other people with your stupid brain issues. Its about assuming the roles of other people in your mind as you put words into their imaginary mouths. Its about going to parties and feeling invisible. Its about how five minutes feels like an eternity in a room full of people where you’ve somehow never felt more alone.  Its about doing nothing. Not bothering to get out of bed. Not looking after yourself. Punishing yourself for not being better than you are. Not being as good as other people. But who told you that? You did.

images

Depression is a master of disguise. I’m often the loudest in the room. The most boisterous. I command. I attention seek. I laugh and I make jokes and I have a good time. But there’s always a part of me, even when I’m with my closest friends, that feels out of place. Like somehow I shouldn’t be there and it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t. That its probably what everyone wants anyway. Someone who suffers or has suffered depression on any level can instantly recognize it in others  because its like looking in a damn mirror. Your own pain reflected back at you. We know man. We get it. But what about the people that don’t? The partners, the parents, the friends? The people that worry on the outside of the glass house but can’t find the door to get inside. The people who have an entire toolbox but not a single thing that they can use to help. Help. Get help? How can I help?  Cheer up. Fuck, look at that I’m cured. They feel useless. You feel useless. We all scream for ice cream.

 

Let’s take a moment to think about the suffering of non-sufferers. Watching someone you know dig themselves a pit to curl up and hide in and standing on the lip looking down is terrifying. Its as though you’re both stumbling about in heavy fog, both trying to find a way to each other and a way out.  Missing the tip of their fingers by a hair as you reach out to help in any way you can. Its watching them sink in quicksand and beginning to sink yourself. Its the empty void swallowing you both. Its arguing and fighting. For us its rage that we feel for ourselves  projected on the ones closest to us because we don’t know what else to do. We push you further and further away bringing you closer to the edge of the pit. You are our punchbag. Our pillow fort. You are the only good thing we have and we don’t deserve you. We’re so sorry. We don’t know how to change our behavior yet. We know you don’t have the answers. We know its hard for you too. Separate us from the illness. We aren’t one in the same. Depression is selfish and nasty. Depression shuts you out and keeps us isolated. We need you more than we can ever articulate. Please don’t give up on us.

depression_by_pa_he-d39yw2q

So, what do we do? What is the answer? Medication? It helps. For real, it helps. The feeling of anti-depressants creates is best described as “Everything still sucks but it doesn’t matter as much”. You don’t go numb. You don’t suddenly walk out the door with your own theme tune playing in your head to be greeted by the mental equivalent of a sunny day. There are down sides though. I find I can’t really get drunk on them. Ever. Bad idea. My body tends to eventually just reject all the booze in my system at once. Which is horrendous. There’s the fact that if you accidentally stop taking them, you will crash and have a meltdown. Frighten your mum, worry your friends and set yourself back a few months. There’s the fact that they become kind of a crutch. I know I need them. I know that if I don’t take them I won’t work properly. But I do have the answer.

 

Talk. Own your madness. Know that its ok to not be ok. That your friends want to know if you’re feeling low. That it won’t be easy, but that there’s a major difference between actually having no one and choosing not to see the people closest to you as your shield in the fight. Show your weakness and let that in itself show you your own strength. Know that depression is not emotional weakness. Know that your loved ones want to understand, and the only way they can is if you explain. Own how you feel. Focus on you now and make the decision to care enough about yourself to get better. Reach out in the dark and finally find the hand that’s always reaching back.

 

New Year Same Outlook

images

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Champagne all round! More canapes! Bring on the rest of that honey glazed Christmas ham! Right that’s enough of that. Resolutions to spend less on frivolous lattes and spend more time at the gym! Dryathalons! Sales! Taking down decorations and tangling the Christmas tree lights up in a bundle resembling a bowl of squid ink spaghetti! The inevitable boredom that comes with the seasonal comedown that is January. The pointless harbinger of two more month of freezing winds and icy rain. No worldwide holidays allowing a week or so of hiding in the warmth of your house eating an entire pannetone followed by a box of celebrations. No chocolate for breakfast. Just a miserable cold month during which time we make ourselves even more miserable by adopting this strange worldwide competitive healthy living. Don’t get me wrong, I get it, especially after a month of gorging ourselves to the point of bursting through the seams of those Topshop Joni’s we shouldn’t have worn in the first place. A detox of a few days, remembering that not all vegetables have to be slathered in goose fat and gravy to taste good. Remembering that water is a beverage as well as a substance with which to wash the glitter from our hair and clothes. Treating prosecco as a treat at weekends rather than a casual 11am pick me up. It is a difficult transition to make for us all. The children are still asking for presents, the parents are still weeping over their sobriety and people like me are looking into the misty future year ahead of us with our usual face of expectancy and cynicism. So here is my advice for getting through this bitter month.

 

download

 

CALM DOWN-  Everyone gets so over excited in January trying to push themselves over the edge by limiting calorie intake and time spent indoors in favor of spending this disgusting month running about outside in the cold and getting themselves ill. You have a whole freaking year to sort yourself out before the world somehow forces you to re-evaluate in the annual reset that is New Years Eve, so even if you do make some bad decisions in terms of career, personal life or whatever, you will have time to right them. Don’t rush into getting everything on that bucket list done. Don’t spend the month performing these weird self-punishments like the Fast Diet (which is total garbage) and daily spin classes with Rodriguez the Destroyer. Instead do nice things for yourself. Go for a walk wrapped all up warm and cosy in your Christmas knits (keep them hidden though, people will judge). Stick on some wellies and run about in a soggy field. Laugh at people’s “New Year, New Me” Pinterest boards. There is so much time to make yourself feel bad for not exercising as much as you think you should, or for eating too much fast food. Why consolidate it all into the one month which already sucks. Enjoy the Christmas belly, you earned it, you put a lot of hours into dedicating your time the glorious mistress that is food! Also, why is everyone starting to pop their little sequinned numbers to the back of the wardrobe? Why is glitter banished until Festival Season is in full swing?

 

miss-summer

I have this very linear view of the year, kind of like a ladder with January at the top in the mist of frosty clouds and December at the bottom bathed in the balmy light of log fires and daytime drinking. With this ladder you start at the top; you start in Blanduary having been kicked out of the glorious log cabin of joy that is Christmas and onto the cold hard curb of the bleak new year and you spend the rest of the year gingerly climbing back down the ladder to get back to December again. For me things tend to pick up in April with my birthday and Easter (another chocolate for breakfast situation) and I tend to ride the wave of smugness right to the end of August when everything becomes dull until Halloween and then again until Christmas. So what is the answer to the annual ennui? What do we do to drag ourselves through the moods of early March and the graying September skies? We plan. There are 53 Saturdays in a year. 53 opportunities to do something new and different and challenging and exciting. 53 opportunities to binge watch those series on Netflix that everyone has been banging on about since 2013. 53 opportunities to deal with another hangover with a fry up with friends. 53 opportunities for city breaks, country breaks, tea breaks and wine breaks. So start planning, use these Saturdays to your advantage, you may only get 18 days holiday a year, but there are 53 more that work can’t take away from you damnit!

Should I be freaking out?

Thanksgiving is not something I have ever celebrated, being from the UK it isn’t a tradition I was brought up on. However, this year I was invited to have Thanksgiving dinner with some family. Sitting at the table was an ex Investment Banker, the Director of a successful Advertising Company, a Children’s Theatre Manager, an Events Manager, a medical student about to receive his Doctorate and me… a receptionist and the youngest in the room by only a matter of months. Throughout the meal a thick helping of loaded questions was sprinkled upon me, the sum of which  was: “what are you doing with your life?”  I feel as though its a horrible question that people are asked only at the times of their lives when it is obvious that they don’t know what they’re doing. From my online ramblings alone, I think it is pretty clear that this has been a tumultuous year for this somewhat sporadic writer. And I ask myself this same question pretty much every day…”What are you doing with your life?” Honestly, I don’t know. I sit in an office in central London, working with perfectly nice people, in a perfectly nice job feeling perfectly unsatisfied. A bit like being in the gilded cage, its all very nice but its not enough. This weekend, I met up with the girls I used to live with at University. Of the 6 of us, 5 were living at home, and working in the gilded cage, trainee lawyers who worked their arses off for three years back in offices and retail outlets because that’s how you have to do it to get a trainee-ship. I’m told that we are supposed to get ourselves on the job ladder, to seek work from work. But how is that possible when you don’t know what you’re doing now, let alone what you want to do for the rest of your life.

 Bird in a Gilded Cage

It’s a shock spending 4 years away from home living what you thought was ‘independently’, using your student loan to buy food and pay rent, using money from a part time job to get yourself drunk on the days where you should have been working, then moving back home. I am one of the lucky ones; I live at home and I have an amazing relationship with my ma and her man, we eat dinner together every night, we have breakfast together on weekends. So for me, the pull of ‘independence’ is not so strong what with the lack of rent to pay and the constant feeling of support. In truth, I know that the only way for me to find me impetus to move would be to find my dream job somewhere I couldn’t get to from home in less than an hour by train. Very few of my friends have moved out of home, and those who have are paying though the nose for rent and bills. At the end of my working month, less than a grand goes  into my bank account. I am staying put until its at least a grand and a half. A lot of the time it is easy to get my head down at work, binge watch a series on an internet TV site and not think about the future. Other times, like Thanksgiving, I begin to freak out asking myself endless unanswerable questions; have I wasted my degree and gotten myself into over 10k’s worth of debt to sit in reception all day doing nothing? Was doing a drama degree a terrible mistake? Was my father right to unsuccessfully try to dissuade me for all those years? I felt, after this meal last week, about an inch tall. I was useless, going nowhere, I had no wish to act anymore because I dislike the attitude of young actors, I had no qualifications to get myself a job which I could potentially do well in. What I do have is my ma. I have my mates. I have a support network that will never fail me. Even if I feel I am failing myself.

 image

I have a friend who is an actor. He has gotten pretty constant work from when he left uni to the present (he’s currently touring with a show!) We had the most brutally honest conversation the other day over a glass of red wine in a virtually empty pub in North London. We came to this conclusion: everyone is struggling in some way or another. Whether its the problem of making ends meet and paying rent, whether its finding a job that makes you happy so that scraping by doesn’t matter so much, whether its freaking out because the idea of getting yourself a mortgage and paying real bills every month. Everyone of my generation, bar those who managed to sort themselves out (hats off), is freaking out a little. It seems as though we have to settle in one part of our lives, if we want a good job which pays well, we have to let go of our passion. If we follow our passion we wave a tearful farewell to financial security and what my friend described as comfort. Comfort comes in many forms, whether its treating yourself to a solo Wagamama’s at the end of a brutal day of envelope stuffing or receiving a drawn out hug from a parent. Comfort is one of those little things that can make everything ok, and put you in the frame of mind that says “Life is not so bad”.  So when comforts are few and far between, when pressure from sources out of your control gets too much, when you are unhappy at work, what do you do? Make time.

images

It might be the spirit of the holiday season which is forced upon us like acid rain, but I honestly feel as though making time to see friends and family around this time of year is worth its weight in wine. And gold. And gin. And cheese. In all seriousness though, when you feel as though you are drowning in your worries, that you’ll be alone forever and die alone only to be eaten by Alsatians, that you’ll never pay this month’s rent on time, that you’ll be eating tinned beans until March, that you getting a promotion is about as likely as unicorn orgies; just find some time to spend with your loved ones. Talk things out, be honest. The less you talk about what’s worrying you, the more gravity you give it. Everyone is freaking out. Its only natural that you are too.

4404c7f3a040d8010692de9bb58391a8