It’s a tantalising prospect, living, when you think about it.
A couple of weeks ago the sun came out and seemed to fill us all up, like an injection of vitamin D. I felt it. I was at work, doing a few deliveries, and it really felt like the first day of Spring, the start of what was.
I texted a few friends. ‘Hope you’re enjoying this.’ A few replied. A few didn’t. We’re all busy in our own way.
Winter was extremely challenging for everyone on so many levels. Things are ostensibly looking up, although I have enough trouble dealing with things I have control over, so the rollout of a vaccine and all the socio-economic and cultural implications of that are things that, on a day to day basis, I do my best not to think about. But we’ll be able to soak up the sun in the park soon enough. Maybe the pubs will open, maybe the restaurants too. Savage Mansion just confirmed a few rescheduled gigs in September and November. Maybe those will actually go ahead this time? It’s a tantalising prospect, living, when you think about it.
The lows have been crushing though, over the last while. I have to be honest and say I didn’t actually think I was capable of hitting them and it’s been frightening. When I tell people this they’re often surprised, I think perhaps my general happy-go-lucky disposition belies the profound, soul-destroying sadness I feel a lot of the time. The winter we just had? It exacerbated a lot of my weaknesses and, shorn of a lot of my usual coping mechanisms, I felt utterly exposed.
Nothing to be ashamed of
So, I suppose this week I want to talk about mental health. While a lot of the stigma has disappeared around the subject, to the point I can candidly write a column like this without really thinking much of how it’s perceived by friends, family, strangers, there’s still a lot of stigma around action. Particularly with men. I talk to friends and they tell me they wanted to phone the doctor about how they were feeling, and then didn’t bother out of fear. Or were offered antidepressants but didn’t want to take them, as if to do so would be to say something was wrong with them. The same with therapy, and the notion that no trauma we’ve suffered could really justify taking up someone else’s time to talk through problems. In reality all of this can help, and while you might need to try a few things until you find what works, there’s a chance something might work for you.
As a people, we seem to conflate resilience with a stiff upper lip mentality, a silent stoicism. In truth, in the modern world and particularly right now, you can be both, be resilient and talk about your problems. You can be resilient and stay in bed when something bad happens, just mourning it for an hour, for a day, for longer if necessary. Dealing with any of the baggage that comes being a human in 2021 is something to shout about, not to be ashamed of.
The value of unlearning
I hope to start getting off my antidepressants in the next few weeks, but I’m in no rush. They helped soften the edges during a difficult moment and continue to do so. With the therapy I’ve been doing, I do honestly think it should be more readily available to everyone, and people again are surprised about how accessible it can be on a financial level, for those who are out of work. Simple revelations, epiphanies almost, arrive. Things that in retrospect seem obvious. I’ve been able to look at these things, scrutinise them and start actively troubleshooting in real time. A lot of it involves unlearning things that go so far back you’d completely forgotten them, buried so deep in your past you need to dig deep to recover them.
It can be a painful process. I view all of these changes as exciting though, no matter what it means – it’s all for the better. To reiterate, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It means you have an eye on fixing something. Which is a good thing. That’s important to point out, over and over again.
Things are changing. Gigs are looking promising. This summer looks promising. But look, who knows? Do what you have to do.
I would love to say I’ve cut down on my drinking but in reality I have been powering through it. Sometimes it helps pass the nights. In time I’ll cut back. The same with running. I’ve been running a lot recently and a big part of it is fending off the demons which I’m fed up spending time with. if it helps, it helps. To a point. This isn’t a normal time. Normal rules don’t apply. Look after yourself.