Mani's Madness

Depression Isn’t a Dirty Word

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“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

The New Year started off with a lot of optimism, putting the tail end of 2022 behind me. It had been quite a traumatic end with a heart operation, which I was told over and over again to be grateful for, that my heart fixed, and I was.

I turned 40 in January and spent a week in Goa with my parents, it was the best way to welcome in a new decade, the optimism persisted. Was this finely it? Was I finely okay and in a good place? Yes and no, it turns out.

I don’t know exactly how it happened, or which month, especially as I had started off so well. A short-writing course that made me feel competent and that I was on the right track, a holiday to celebrate a new decade, a family gathering with my closest friends to sing me happy birthday, the prospect of a permanent job, book two written and complete, with more projects in the pipeline. So, what the fuck was wrong with me?

Turns out trauma comes back up in ugly ways, regardless of how well you seem to be doing. The beginning may have been when I stepped back and left a network I was a part of. It was amicable at first, but if the last six years have taught me anything in this god forsaken city is that joining a network and leaving a network are different things. There were remarks made about my character to the group, and whilst I no longer wish to change people’s views of me, they were a little uncalled for.

There seemed to be a pattern emerging though. Join a network, make friends, become known, leave a network and people forget you exist. Is this what life has become? You only have meaning if you can provide something for someone. When did relationships become so transparently transactional? That once you had nothing to offer but yourself, the networks no longer wanted you?

It wasn’t just that, the biggest thing that crept in for me was the word ‘failure’ and ‘rejection’. I had started a newsletter, I was reaching out to newspapers, magazines and pitching ideas, I was being fucking optimistic, but somewhere along the line it died as I questioned, am I ever going to be a good enough writer to make it? With no answer feeling like a rejection, not gaining subscribers, losing followers daily online it all began to feed into my ‘failure and rejection’ narrative. What was I doing that was so offensive? Why were others succeeding and I wasn’t?

It all came to a head, when I got a huge gas bill and the cost-of-living crisis hit me in the face. It wasn’t the amount (even though it was astronomical) or the fact that I couldn’t pay immediately, it just felt like another slap in the face for someone who had been surviving, pretty much solo for over 4 years. So, what happens when you already feel like a shit, you begin to question why you? Why you are single? Why does nobody want you? Why can’t you be married in a stable household with support? All pathetic questions as I look back but it came with the ‘failure and rejection’ narrative my mind was feeding me.

I came off my personal social media as I knew, logically, that it was fodder to my delusions. However, the problem with working and social media is you can never escape it as we use it in our daily working lives. But it helped. If I was to get to a point where I felt like me again, I had to starve my mind from what was making it worse.

And worse it got as weekends rolled by and I couldn’t get out of bed. I ignored messages because it was too much effort to respond, because I had to fake being okay so as not to worry anyone. If my mum called, I would put on my happy daughter voice, she didn’t need to know and worry. But the main reason for faking was I was sick and tired of people trying to fix me. I’m incredibly emotionally intelligent, I know what I need to do, I just didn’t want to do it.

Mediate, journal, go out for a walk, do this, do that. I fucking knew it all!

The need to fix people is something I understand as the eldest daughter, but I just needed to be HEARD. No one was listening to me, they wanted to fix me by telling me how awesome I was or how great my life was and ‘look at what you’ve achieved’. Problem is, I know all that, but knowing it doesn’t cure depression.

What people who care about you do is take offense when you are honest about how you’re feeling. Do you know how exhausting it is to be careful of your words so as not to hurt the other person, when all want is to be heard? But I couldn’t always be honest, because past relationships, friendships, family members have told me I’m ‘too much’ or treat me like I’m some fragile thing that needs to be molly coddled. Or they do the thing that has hurt the most and just leave me.

What could I do? I asked myself. I wanted to express myself but feared the repercussions, I also feared the fake sympathy and calls, so I disconnected. As a writer, I have used my words to express my feelings, thoughts and everything in between to release and let go for nearly a decade, but fear overtook me because I didn’t need to be fixed and words have power on paper, so I couldn’t share.

All I could do was focus on my writing work for my clients from a professional point of view, show up to work and make my way through and it for myself, just take each day as it came and remove some of the resentment, I was feeling for people who were succeeding.

Depression is a complicated beast, particularly for me. It isn’t about being unloved, because I know I well and truly am loved. Yes, my circle is tiny but I prefer it that way. I know I had support from my nearest and dearest when I came out of hospital, but my mind focused on my ex who promised he would be there for me and wasn’t. I also know I’m a good writer, otherwise why would I have clients waiting as soon as I finish a project?

The problem isn’t knowing, the problem is feeling, particularly when it comes to my career and trying to make it as a writer. To belong, to be seen, to be respected.

So yes, comparison is the thief of joy but how do you stop comparing your life now to how you want it to be?

Turns out the answer is to live day by day and only focus on the people and things you can control. When my mind goes haywire, I actively shut it down and refocus, start reading again, put my phone down and shut off, unfollow, unsubscribe and set boundaries, including at work that you need breaks, time away.

Am I better than I was last month yes, am I who I was at the start of this year, no. But what I don’t do is compare because it’s a very fluid journey and the focus is not on envisioning a better version of myself, but to just accept the version I’m currently at and work on what I can control in keeping me happy.

What has been a huge turning point was the past weekend, unfiltered, ugly laughter. No judgement, just myself, my weird intrusive thoughts and surrounded by those just as mad as me.

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