I realised, the other day, that I would not be able to write another thing until I had written about The Bleakness. And I want to write other things. Badly.
Depression runs, intermittently, through my family. In some of us, it manifests as a response. In others, it is embedded in our makeup. I think it’s fair to say that each and every one has been touched, in some way, by it. For myself, my relationship with depression has been ever complicated, reaching far back into my teens, when my grandmother was stolen from me and I ignored and denied the yawning cavern of loss it opened in my soul. I didn’t know what to call it, then. I do now, but still don’t call it that.
I call it The Bleakness. This characterises the experience as I feel it: a slow, grey coldness unfurling through my bones and sinews and nerve-endings till it paints the world in muted neutrals, leaving me going through the motions with none of the responses and ripple-effects you associate with movement of any kind. It is movement in isolation, happening far away from the rich colour of the world, in a stagnant, empty wasteland where I have been imprisoned by my own body and mind. My only companion? Tears. And even those abandoned me when it got too hard.
I am constantly surprised and delighted at the tangible impact of self-care — in my case, little but abiding actions that contribute, mainly, to a Life Lived Less Anxiously, with benefits that cascade through the rest of my experience. Particularly in the last year, wading through the swamp of rebuilding your life from scratch in a place you’ve never been to and don’t know at all. This will not be a recitation of my routine (which is undefined and abstract, at best) as that strays too closely to the realm of recommendation, something self-care is too individualised and unique for. Instead, these are notes from a world where I happily and mostly consistently support myself, a trend that peaked when I ensured I would never forget my keys inside my flat ever again. It’s a little bit a pat on the back, and a lot an ode to the unsung heroes keeping me from coming apart at the seams.
For my thirtieth birthday, I got unemployment, several metric fuck tons of snow, and chilblains.
I am most upset about the chilblains, which I have never had before but now, since ageing into this new decade, have apparently become susceptible to. For the uninitiated, chilblains are what happens when you muck around in the icy white stuff for too long, the feeling goes out of your toes for several hours and then promptly returns, with profound aches and itchiness that will linger for a week or so. While being an affliction that affects any old body with no sense of real self-preservation, chilblains sounds like something that happens to old people only. I’m still in shock.
I’ve tried, not extensively but certainly enough, to buy into the ‘big three oh’ mood. There’s something I like about the mix of anxiety and elation that surrounds this particular birthday, something unstoppably human about our response to this stage of ageing. However, given the irreverence with which I have approached other birthday milestones (I hit the town on my own for my eighteenth, with no memory as to why or how that happened), it comes as no surprise that turning thirty has left me ambivalent, at worst, and introspective, at best.
Happy new year to my five readers!
A while back, in conversation with my brother, he told me that 2018 is the year of no expectations. It’s not hard to relate to the sentiment — at the beginning of every one of the last few years, I optimistically declared that they would all finally be the years when things settled and stopped feeling like such a mess. After being consistently proven wrong, having no expectations seems like the healthiest way to enter into a year that nobody, least of all me, can predict. (This great take on the proverbial annual horoscope is scarily accurate, however.)
Along with this approach comes a new way of thinking about resolutions. I’ve never had any firm new year’s resolutions, so to speak of, but I did always enter into the year with notions and intentions of eating well, exercising more and being more financially responsible and stable. Then there were promises to write and explore creativity, positive, and so on and so forth. They’ve never really stuck though, and I realise that to me, these intentions and notions have more to do with lifestyle, and less with an achievable goal you set for a year. Despite entering the year with zero expectations, I still want to set myself some goals that, when the end of the year rolls around (if we even make it that far, let’s be real), I can say I’ve done. My new year’s resolutions are things I want to do in 2018, and only 2018.
In short: this place feels like an oasis, a safe harbour, a home after months of none.
Longer: I have a history with shared spaces I refuse to apologise for; white women are a lot of unpaid work; I was not meant for such things as tools but I am determined, evidenced by the building of several pieces of furniture and being proud despite how much my body hurt, and for how long afterwards; holistic experiences of life and the soaring misery and glorious joy of the human experience are the only way forward and I don’t understand those who choose the soulless banality of not doing that; imagine not caring about someone’s backstory – it could never be me; the big windows let in a lot of light, which makes me happy because the nights have been dark for days; I don’t feel like just a visitor here anymore and am ready to claim this city as my own (which means knowing shortcuts); the mattress we purchased is one of the most comfortable surfaces I have ever laid my body down on; he is so much happier, I think, I can see it in the line of his shoulders, which sank and loosened; there is a fine line between happiness and contentment and most days it’s both, here in this quiet little haven.