HI. This is a long read. It’s a bit bleak at times. So maybe don’t read it if you’re feeling close to an edge. If you are, reach out and get help. Mind, The Samaritans, your GP. They all want to hear from you if you’re struggling. And I am sending you so, so much love, and telling you that you are worth it. You are worth fighting for, and it doesn’t matter if your blues are as big as Goliath, you are David and you are stronger than you think. OK? Cool.
It has been a pretty rough couple of weeks, if I’m being brutally honest. And I will be honest and say that when it comes to talking about my feelings explicitly, I’m rarely honest. With myself. With my friends, my family, even my (amazing, god love the NHS, AGAIN) therapist. I joke and laugh and pretend everything is OK when really, I’m actually struggling. A lot. My brain takes me to some very dark places sometimes. It also takes me to some really fricking awesome places sometimes too, to give it it’s due. Yesterday I imagined what it would be like if my train reached a certain velocity and took off, like an aeroplane – but that’s a blog for another time. I have the most vivid imagination and it’s often useful. It’s a huge part of who I am. I read a quote that said “the best use of imagination is creativity, the worst is anxiety.” Too true yo. I’ve been under a bit of a cloud over the last 10 days. Truth be told, I went about 700 rounds in the ring with The Blues and it KICKED.MY.ASS. I am just about stepping out into the sunlight now, blinking, recoiling a bit and trying to figure out how to cope when (and I know it’s a when, not an if) I slip back there again. The sunshine feels nice on my face, as it flickers across my skin and reflects off the tips of my eyelashes but I feel very aware that it is temporary.
The last couple of weeks have been some of the hardest I’ve had for a while. This time though, these tough weeks haven’t come because my body is fighting against me, but because my brain and I have been in a constant and unrelenting battle of the wills. A battle that, more often than not, my mind has won.
The thing is, I don’t even know where it began. Can’t put my finger on what has caused me to plummet into the darkest orifices of my brain and linger there for longer than I should. I’ve been back in CBT for a while now and feel like I’ve been making solid progress. I’ve been learning about ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) and have felt like I was really moving forward. I’ve been working so very hard on being as compassionate to myself as I am to others. My incredible counsellor and I had a massive breakthrough, which left us both sat, staring at each other, wondering how we had missed this. We figured out the formula for who I am, who my depression is and how that impacts my every day. I left my last session almost two weeks ago feeling lighter than I had for a long time – with some kind of an explanation for why I feel how I feel in every segment of my life. If you cut me down the middle, you’d see the person I am and this written right through my insides. But not long after this revelation, the fog began creeping in. I could feel it coming, sensed the air change and felt the hairs on the back of my neck begin tingling. My spider senses were letting me know something was on the way to me.
Then it hit, like a tidal wave of negative thoughts, unreasonable self talk, inexplicable expectations and crippling doubt. Thoughts that I can’t write, that I’m a fool for even thinking that I can make a career out of this, that I’m slipping, constantly slipping, never moving forward from cancer, incapable of living a life worthy of being a survivor, that I’m not worthy of being happy, that I am useless because I am not making a difference in my life, that I will never get a grip on the darkness that pervades all of my life, even when it’s sitting on the peripheries.
I’ve come to learn that my depression is not a phase. It is not a season of my life. While the clouds will roll in, the sun will peek out from the darkness. Hell, I will even experience the most beautiful summer days sometimes, for long, long, long periods of time, but the clouds will always return at some point, and part of my journey to figure this shit out is that I’ve gotta accept that. Both my counsellor and I have acknowledged that these feelings will not be permanent, but they are not short term. I will learn, am learning that this is part of my makeup, part of what makes me who I am.
I had a realisation though, when my depression meant I felt nothing – nothing at all – at a bout of amazing news that even though this is part of who I am, it doesn’t have to rule my life. It doesn’t have to dominate. I am striving to do more to protect my mental health. I’m working on putting in place soothing strategies that I can use to protect myself when my mind turns against me. Because even though this is who I am, it does not define me. And I will not let it take joy from me. It might borrow (more like TWOC) my joy. But I will always get it back.
SO THERE DEPRESSION, TAKE THAT YOU POO BRAIN. I’ll be ready for the next round when you come a knockin’.
Today I’m feeling much better. Today my mind and I are friends again. Today I carry lightness and brightness, not emptiness and the dark.
Quick note: Can’t recommend Mind Over Marathon on the BBC enough, especially if you want to learn more about the way other people’s brains work if it’s not something you’ve experienced. I also wholeheartedly recommend listening to Through The Roses by Future Islands, responsible for the title of this blog, and a reminder that we, that’s you, me and everyone, can pull through together. Talking is key. Conversation is essential.