I enjoy planning and organising. I have extensive lists, notes, colour coded calendar events, and inspiration boards (both digital and physical) that help me live my best life. In fact, I have a list on Google Keep called "Life" where I chuck in non-recurring, non-shopping related to-do list items and it helps me avoid overwhelm and anxiety even when there are hundreds of things happening to and around me.
For the past six months, I have avoided looking at one such item on my "Life" list by trying to bury it beneath more pressing, distracting things.
But opening up a blank page and writing something shouldn't be on one of my to-do lists. It's not meant to sound like a chore. It's not meant to keep me organised. It's simply meant to be a happy, fulfilling part of this life that I'm trying to live in the best way possible.
I was depressed between March and July/August this year. It was similar to an undocumented episode I had in 2017 but this time around, it was worse and it lasted longer, as I suppose these things could get with age.
I was still lucky to be surrounded by friends and family who effortlessly made me smile and often, even laugh out loud. They reminded me of the other side of this sadness, a memory I was clinging on to for dear life.
I still distinctly remember a warm sunny summer evening in July when I turned to Shane and said that I felt like myself again. Nothing "good" had happened that day. It was nothing out of the ordinary. I didn't receive any good news or do anything special. I had spent the whole day on my couch, working on my laptop as the TV blared in the background. But as I was standing in the kitchen with him later that evening while he prepared dinner, I suddenly realised what separated this day from the rest - it was devoid of that crushing sadness, that pain in my chest, that made me want to...do nothing. I had never before been more disinterested in everything around me.
I still remember the relief on his face when I told him that. I explained to him how this feeling of being "me" again was not circumstantial and he perfectly understood. In turn, I got a surface-level glimpse into his own pain and realised that it's probably a lot of work living with a stranger donning the shell of the person you love.
During this terrible time, I met up with one of my dearest friends Louise who herself is no stranger to depression. As I confided in her, she suggested some people I could talk to and other steps I could take to help in my recovery. By the next time I met her in late August, I was well on my way to feeling much, much better and we agreed to write ourselves a letter from the other side. After all, none of us can know for sure what the future holds and in difficult times, memories and hopes of better times are all we have.
We'd agreed to read each other our letters the next time we met and although I spent hours with her last Friday, we forgot about our letters and just had a great time together, as good friends do :)
So it's a good thing I remembered it now.
I wrote it on 1 September 2019 from a better place. I'm happy to share it here for my future self and for anyone who needs to read this today (some remarks are in brackets and in bold because they've been deleted for privacy):
I'm writing to you from the other side. The other side of not wanting to get out of bed, of [...personal reference], of randomly bursting into tears, of people asking you if you're okay because you don't look okay, and of not wanting to meet with or speak to your friends. I'm writing to remind you that it gets better. No matter how hard it is right now, it always gets better.
I'm writing to you from a place where you'll find yourself making an effort to shop for ingredients and cook dinner. You'll make so many plans with your friends and family that your calendar will be full for four weeks before you can accommodate your next social event. You'll feel so secure in yourself that you'll treat yourself to something good every now and then. You'll believe that you deserve that new dress/book/take-out/show that you want to spend your money on.
The smartest thing you can do during this difficult time is to distance yourself from the vampires in your life. If any person or incident is taking up a lot of headspace in a negative way, move the fuck away from them. This person could be [...personal remarks]. Do not tolerate any more tantrums.
If this person is just an acquaintance, say no when they wish to speak to you or hang out with you. Fuck politeness. If they're someone who works with you, stand up for yourself and tell them exactly how they're making you feel. Do not drag it out, do not hold on to resentment. You know exactly how badly it ends every time you reach your breaking point.
Also, I know standing up to people and confronting them is scary. I know it doesn't come naturally to us. But most people are scared of confrontation too. Always organise your thoughts, practise what you're planning to say and base your arguments on undeniable facts and data. Which brings me to the next point - always collect data. If you're aware of repeated instances where someone's being disrespectful to you, start maintaining a log of events. But don't wait for this log to get too long before you take action.
And remember, Shane's always trying to help but he cannot read your mind. So no matter how resentful you feel right now about him not trying to understand your pain, try to remember that it's almost just as painful to feel helpless when a loved one is hurting. Remember all the times he made sure you were fed and watered, and set aside his own personal priorities to make you smile or to lift you up from that dark place you'd retreated to. Remember how rationally he would explain away your irrational fears. Remember how he looks at you like you're a star and how he constantly tells you that he's proud of you. Don't be hard on him. He never did anything to deserve that.
Lastly, as cliche as this sounds, try to picture yourself on the other side of this episode. Picture yourself writing this letter. Hopefully, that will help next time.
This letter is saved in my email drafts and hopefully, I won't be needing to read this for a very long time. As you can see, this time in my life wasn't completely devoid of writing but it's good to be doing it again without thinking of it as an item on a to-do list.
I hope you've all had a relaxing weekend and I look forward to seeing you here more regularly :)