Now I’m feeling better, I can look back on my years of depression and think I wasn’t useless, after all
Original Images: Raph_PH (Wikimedia Commons), cathfinch73, Beverley Buckley, Erzsebet Apostal, Patrick Hodskins, Willy Sietsma (all via Pixabay)
MAYBE IT’S JUST the Spring that’s making me feel better but I feel strangely…. hopeful lately.
Just like the irises, hyacinths and daffodils starting to break through the cold earth in our front garden, little hopeful thoughts have been pushing up all around my mind.
It could be just a trick of the – fast-lengthening – daylight, but it’s beginning to feel like the end of my decades-long depression and, finally, the start of something better.
Yesterday, I walked past the house of a Graphic Designer friend and thought: I could do that job.
Not so long ago, it seemed the sort of skilled role I’d never be able to perform again. But now it seems that I might, after all.
After all, it was only in September that I began learning web design and, now, I don’t just have this blog, but I’ve picked up my first (unpaid) work gig, redesigning a charity website.
I’m making a decent fist of the commission, I love doing it, and it no longer seems stupid to think someone might pay me for something similar one day.
I’ve learned that it will all be fine, if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other – literally and metaphorically”
But there are other achievements, other signs: today is the 75th post I’ve written for this blog, which shows how far I’ve come out of my pit of depression in the past six months.
Those 75 pieces show how – day, after day after day – I’ve motivated myself to start working at my desk and persevere until I create something I can take pride in.
They also bear witness to the many times I’ve bounced back from feeling despair, boredom, or disappointment – and delivered, after all.
These days, the signs that I’m becoming a healthier person are scattered all around: from just being nicer to my wife and kids, to pushing through the doubt and panic after three miles of running and not stopping until I’ve done thirteen.
I’ve learned that it will all be fine, if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other – literally and metaphorically – until I get there.
Suddenly it’s not only the future that looks brighter, but the past, too”
And, when all else fails, there are the Jedi Mind Tricks I use on myself when I’m not feeling super.
Like putting my kit on early so I can’t blouse out of a run, or the two minutes of planking that get my heart rate up if I start thinking negatively in the mornings.
And, if I sound insufferably pleased with myself, it’s just because I’m astonished at how I’ve suddenly turned into such an upbeat, can-do, sort of bloke after spending significant parts of the last 20 years prostrated by depression.
It’s really weird, this feeling confident lark. Because now it’s not only the future that looks brighter, but the past, too.
I got so used to thinking of myself as a failure – an invalid, a piece of shit – in the years when I was down, that I’ve forgotten all the good things that I still managed to accomplish. All at once, the past doesn’t seem like the completely bleak time I’d thought it was.
When I was a junkie, I learned to ski”
There’s a story about Keith ‘Keef’ Richards of the Rolling Stones, who got cheesed off with always hearing stories about his hopeless addiction to heroin in the 1970s and complained to a biographer: “When I was a junkie, I learned to ski!”
And, looking back now that I’ve recovered some of my own self-esteem, I can suddenly remember all the things that I managed to achieve when I had depression.
It turns out that, when I thought I was useless, I was actually gaining an MA, cycling from Berlin to Copenhagen, learning to ice-skate, and toilet training my infant son.
I already knew that I was far from perfect then, but I’d forgotten I was far from being a waste of space.
And maybe that’s the biggest single positive sign of all lately: finally, almost miraculously, I’m getting to a place where I can forgive myself.