In my last counselling session, I was asked what I thought I'd gotten out of the last two years of talk therapy. It was difficult to answer, because I was always just ranting, I was moaning and groaning about the world and the people in it, I didn't want to imagine that there was a goal or a target I was aiming for. When you imagine there's an end to a reality you're so comfortable in, suddenly you're filled with fear. Was I ready to not have depression?
Every year at my university, you have to resubmit yourself for counselling. In September I walked into the counsellor's office with my form already filled out and ready to hurl myself back into the database of everyone else whose names only exist within those four walls. "Hi, I have my assessment forms here," I said with a smile to the woman at the desk as I handed it over. "Have you been here before?" She asked me. "Oh yes," I reply, "You haven't fixed me yet." She looked like she felt guilty for laughing, as though unsure whether it was a joke or a cry for help. Well, I've never done cries for help. I've usually skipped that and done something fully stupid instead.
Can you be depressed and funny? Thomas Ridgewell, known better as TomSka over on YouTube, made a video some days ago explaining that he had been diagnosed with depression. And yet he's funny (seriously, very funny). Should that be so astounding though? Jim Carrey, Louis C.K and Woody Allen are some of my favourite funny people and yet they've all, at some point or another, suffered from depression. Humour seems to just be our coping mechanism. I was attacked in a park once, so violently in fact that I had corrective surgery to put bits of my face back in their original places. A couple of girls ran over to me to see if I was OK, and as I stood up from the ground covered in blood, I remember making a joke - whatever it was, I don't remember, but I hope it was funny.
I often doubt myself - in fact, I always doubt myself - and so I have, for some time now, had three words echoing in the back of my head. I wish I'd had them sooner. "Make good art." Neil Gaiman said that in his keynote address at the University of the Arts in 2012 and it's stuck with me since. It doesn't make me happy, it doesn't cheer me up, but it does make me keep moving. Whatever good art is doesn't actually matter, but it's a goal - one that I want to have. To create something, whether it's a video about your day, a blog post or a chapter in a novel you may never finish, a painting or a collage made of macaroni and glitter, be proud that you did it and enjoy it. Good art isn't in the brush strokes, in my opinion, it's in the painter.
So, what had I gotten out of counselling? Did all those hours of moaning and angry rants do anything? The depression or anxiety hadn't magically disappeared like I had half-hoped. I paused for what felt like an eternity, her face fixed on my eyes, I knew I had to say something and it had to be the truth. "I'm not carrying a burden anymore," I said with a deep breath. "When I used to meet people, I felt the weight of all the things I thought I had to explain so that they would understand me. Now I don't do that, if people demand that of me then they're not worth my time." She smiled and I continued to hold back the tears that honesty so often brings.