Earlier this year I wrote a play on mental health, based on my own experience, entitled "Cancel the Sunshine" which was performed at The Hope Theatre in London and supported the Amy Winehouse Foundation - who do some incredible work in the area of mental health.
As it is #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek2016 I thought it a good time to write another post on the subject.
As I sit here writing this, I am going to tell you that I am currently on the beach, in Greece (cue the boo hoo's) but as I sit here, in what is undoubtedly one of the most idyllic spots I have ever been to, a man, at this moment, is driving a caterpillar truck on the beach, and is, shall we say, really making his presence known. The truck is incredibly loud, all the guests on the beach (myself included) are trying our upmost, mentally that is, not to allow this man in his intrusively loud truck to affect all of our moods. It was only after fifteen minutes of mentally battling this, that I started to reflect on what it is like to live with depression.
I thought I would attempt to offer something more positive in tone to the conversation of mental health and I'll say again, these are my own thoughts, on my experience. I used to view depression as a battle, mentally wrestling the thoughts in my mind, sometimes victorious (in the short term) "NOT TODAY!" The thoughts sometimes just bubbling underneath and sometimes incredibly loud. The thoughts that arrive with a feeling, so familiar 'oh, you again" and yet a varied experience each time.
Now when the feeling arrives, I know there is no point running, where would I go? It is, after all inside of me. No, in those moments, I now believe that all I can do is welcome it, allow the weight to be there for as long as it wants to stay, allow this most unwelcome guest, who requires bed and board until it's ready to depart, the space to just exist.
Having lived with this for many years I know that the feeling doesn't last forever, which can, on occasion, offer some form of comfort. I am aware that I have to acknowledge it, whilst I could certainly do without it, I know that if I chose to ignore it, I will only encourage a prolonged stay and will inevitably make the time we spend together all the more unbearable.
Even at the best of the worst of times, it's no party. An arrival of depression tends to bring with it, for me anyway, a sense of guilt. Guilt that I'm most likely not going to be able to perform to the best of my abilities, guilt that I'm not going to be the best company to a friend, nor to offer sound advice if needed, or to attend any social engagements that I may have already agreed to, and then guilt for not going, or if I do go, guilt that gets me out the door, and then having to deal with depressions best friend, anxiety, ready to make my excuses to leave said engagement before I've even arrived.
What I'm starting to learn is to let go, I now know that neither judgement on myself, nor guilt will serve me in handling this period of time. Depression is not something I chose. But when I stop and really think about it, actually, it's just another part of me, a part of me that, in some ways, really let's me know that I am alive, I'm aware that all of life affects me, the devastation and the beauty, something greater than who I am that I am truly connected to. I may be romanticising somewhat but I'm a writer, it's what I do. And perhaps having an alternative perspective might create the ability to tame the beast within?
Depression is not easy to host when it arrives but at times, I am able to remind myself that "this too shall pass" like everything else, and when it does, when the man in the caterpillar truck eventually drives off, something different can exist, and then there is space, vast, like the ocean, never ending and the world can be embraced as fully I want, once more.