Like all artists (starving or otherwise), I often suffer from some pretty severe moods. Fortunately, it is my art that helps me. Putting into words what I’m feeling, either here or in my journal – where I can blatantly and brutally eviscerate the cause, if there is one – helps more than I had once believed possible. Sometimes I don’t even write about the mood, I just write. It’s how I let go, it’s how I fly.
If I’m having a really hard time, I make a project of finding something good in every day. Anything good. A birdsong, the sun was out, a comic strip from my friends copy of the newspaper. Anything good. It doesn’t have to make me happy, it just has to be good. The point of the exercise is to remind yourself that the world, and your life in it aren’t entirely filled with bad things. The old saying goes that every cloud has a silver lining. These small, tiny good things are those silver linings. I’m no mental health professional, and I’m not advocating avoiding proper treatment. I’ve been depressed, as a young mum living on my own with a baby for the first time (he was 18 months old) I struggled. I am about as domestic as my shoe, and here I was with a little boy who needed all of my attention, and no help with the cooking, dishes, laundry, or anything. It got so bad that my dishes started growing things. And when I finally ran out of clean things I would go on a cleaning spree and clean it all while he was at nursery. I had only just begun writing in a journal, a beautiful thing that had been a gift for my 21st. I had certainly not discovered that I could wield words like a sword or a bandage. I didn’t think that I had the imagination to be a writer.
I went to counselling, where I was encouraged to find the silver linings (in guided discussions, and not simply told that I needed to find them), and encouraged to write in a journal. Now I have the tools to monitor myself, and to prevent it getting that bad again. I wouldn’t have said that I was really all that bad right now either – I do tend to be less gregarious over winter, I hibernate somewhat. Yet today I stood in my kitchen, microwaving a frozen muffin, and I saw my kitchen through the eyes of the friend who got me to the counselling. I saw what she saw that day six years ago. And I am going to do now what I did then — ask for help. It is physically painful to ask for help, especially when you realise that you have been carefully controlling your socialising so that no-one will notice that you need it and offer to help. I know that my friends and family will help me, without questioning why I need it – but they are all going to ask me why I waited so long; and I am going to have to find the words to explain that I didn’t see it, that I simply woke up today and saw that this time I let it get away from me.
I wasn’t going to write about this here. I was going to keep it to myself, though still ask for help. Then I saw a quote (which I’ll add below) while I was trawling Facebook rather aimlessly, and I knew that I wanted to share the quote – but that I also wanted to tell you why. It is important to talk about mental health, it is important for people to understand that I’m intelligent, and strong, and capable, with loving family, and talents; and I have the tools to manage my mental health. And here I am, realising that once again I must ask for help, even if it hurts. People need to understand that depression doesn’t target people who lead lives filled with struggle for everything. It’s not shameful, I’m not broken – I just need a little help.
I’m tired, can’t think of anything and want only to lay my face in your lap, feel your hand on my head and remain like that through all eternity.
― Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena