Everyone has had a shit year, there is absolutely no questioning that. All over the world, people have experienced being locked in their homes, trapped by an invisible foe. It’s very real and most people are understandably frustrated by it. And I have written about this year being particularly shit for me, but this pandemic has only made the underlying issues that I’ve had worse. Instead of being busy enough to not pay attention to my past, I am now being faced with the reality that my first 30 years have really not been positive, as much as I liked to think of it as that. Writing my memoir has dragged up a lot of those old feelings and memories, but my mental state of lonely, that has accompanied me throughout my life, has only ballooned. It was always there, it’s just more obvious at the moment.
I’m writing this in the hopes that someone else might resonate with these words and they will not feel so alone in their world. Also, this may sound like a beating-up-myself post, but I assure you, I am not seeking pity, I am just documenting what’s going on in my head.
I’ve spent the first quarter of this year reflecting and trying to heal. I cannot move forward by pushing my depression into the background, because it only comes back out when I get quiet. Now, one would say that’s a great way to push everything out, be productive and push depression to the curb, but that’s not how it works. I can ignore it as much as I want, but it’s always there. While I was focused on other aspects of my career before, now that I am writing, it is hard to push the depression monster back into its box. I require quiet to work, to think deeply and ruminate. But often in my ruminations, I find things that I’d rather not, such as my feelings around loneliness, self worth and how much loss I’ve faced. It’s not healthy, which is why I decided to try to fix this. Understanding this is a process, I am going ‘easy’ on myself (by my impossible standards), but it is a difficult road.
Being a full time creative can be hard, sometimes downright impossible. Your work always has to be top notch and no matter what, you are always trying to do more, to push the boundaries because us creatives know the value of establishing your own style and improving your output. Yet I am finding it very difficult to work of late. Production has been moving at two speeds: slow and dead stop. Burnout isn’t really a worry here since I haven’t been experiencing those associated issues. I can think, I just find it hard to type. I cannot make it through a sentence without being distracted. It might be my parrot, it might be that I’m thirsty, hungry, tired, got a headache, or someone knocking on my door. As a result, my work feels disjointed to me, because it’s not flowing like it usually does.
My energy ebbs and flows which helps me not completely collapse into disrepair but I have had some low moments lately that have left me wondering how bad this really is, how bad it has really been and how much of this I have masked over the years. I have been to therapy, done cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), been medicated, not been medicated, read dozens of psychology books to understand my brain a little bit better and there has been little improvement.
There are some mornings where I lay in bed and just don’t want to do anything at all. I have no motivation to get up, eat, watch television, read, paint and definitely not write. This leads to feelings of failure and feeling overwhelmed by the ever-growing task list, which is natural but still not very constructive. Those are the bad mornings. Sometimes, I will eventually write a blog post and then I’ll feel as though I have accomplished something, so it’s not a completely failed day. But it is entirely natural and okay to feel like this, as long as it does not severe impact your life. I have been blessed with the ability to have complete control over my life, so if I don’t do any work today or even for a week, I’m not so behind that I cannot cope, and I’m fully cognisant that I am very lucky in this regard and I do take full advantage of this golden opportunity for as long as I have it. Life has taught me that nothing lasts forever, so I use everything as much as I can.
I am by nature, solutions-driven. I have literally tried everything under the sun. New routine, books, alternative sleep cycles, more sleep, less sleep, more coffee, less coffee, taking a week long break, new hobbies, reading more books, journaling; genuinely, I’m still stuck with the same problem I had yesterday, because while all of these feel good at the time, when it gets quiet, my brain returns to “fix the problem” and this has become almost subconsciously obsessional.
What has been working is little bits of progress. Smaller goals. I’m trying to accomplish one thing a day creatively, and seeing where things go from there. As my productivity increases, I’m adding more in. After a month, I’ll review to see where I’m at. Baby steps is the solution for me. In terms of my internal self-hate, that’s a work in progress. I’ve not believed in myself for so long that it will take a while to get to the point where I’m comfortable with my output.
So, I’m forgetting everything else, ignoring the rest of the advice from everyone who doesn’t understand depression, and focusing on ONE thing. Just one thing a day and let’s see where that leads us. Today, I’ve done my one thing, so we’re off to a good start!