“Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.”
– Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive
I didn’t intend for this blog to become a dedication to my eventual climb out of the abyss but here we are.
I am doing a lot better. I knew I would be, eventually. Four years ago when I was first punched in the gut with the lethal combination of anxiety and depression, I thought I’d never be happy again. I was really scared. I was scared of living, scared of dying, scared of absolutely everything. It took me a long, long time to come out of that place but once I was out, I knew I could get out and that knowledge has saved me a few times since. Depression isn’t a regular occurrence for me these days but it does rear it’s ugly head when things get dark. I can’t seem to go through a hard time without dancing with depression briefly.
Anyway. Hurrah. I’m out.
Another thing I use to help myself maintain functionality in these times is finding snippets of comfort when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It might sound a bit weird but hiding in the toilets or the kitchen at work for 5 minutes with a book helps to bring me back down from wherever my mind was taking me. As well as this, spending lunchtimes away from my phone/computer screen also helps. We have a comfy couch in our office and I have spent plenty of lunchtimes curled up on it reading. Reading, though, is a massive luxury and I know that I’m lucky to be able to concentrate and absorb books. Mental illness tends to make that harder but sometimes books break through the cracks and Holes definitely did that recently.
Another trick, and this one is far more versatile and generally doesn’t require hiding in a communal toilet. It’s common, and I know I’m not the first but I tell myself ‘you only need to get through the next five minutes’. And repeat. Sometimes, I know that I’m 2 hours away from home and I remind myself what happened over the past 2 hours and how fast they went by. Just repeating what’s already been. Then comfort.
Finally, and I’m sorry because this is corny but during my lighter days, the days I don’t feel swamped by my own demons, I practice gratitude. I have a hell of a lot to be grateful for. I live in a flat in my favourite city, with my favourite person and two gorgeous, affectionate cats. The area we live in isn’t the best but it’s not the worst, either. I have a loving family, both inner and outer that has dealt with all my phases and struggles admirably and I have a job. I like what I do, I’m very good at what I do (I think…) and I’m constantly learning. As well as this, for the first time in my life, I have a solid group of friends that I trust without question. I’ve finally got it made and while I allow myself to feel sad when I am sad, I don’t let myself forget how lucky I am. I think that’s really helped me stay afloat many times. I wasn’t always grateful. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve created and been presented with, I’ve built the life I wanted to live and how many people can say that? I’m not exactly where I want to be but I’m past the half way point and that’s something to be proud of and grateful for.
Sometimes though, depression is ugly as fuck and so is the rest of the world. Sometimes, there’s no good to be seen. Everybody experiences depression and anxiety differently and I’ve suffered, really, for as long as I can remember with the great dip of 2011 being my lowest point. I’m not trying to sound preachy or as if I know how to cure depression (I wish!) but this is how I found my own feet and I wanted to share my story.