Everything I’ve ever written that has been vaguely… not awful has been rattled out whilst sprawled on the kitchen floor, at 1am, in three-day-old pyjamas. On one hand, this entire scenario could imply that I’m prone to monthly depressive episodes, or that I subconsciously enjoy basking in the stereotype of the scattered and messy writer, surrounded by stained coffee cups and piles of paper. Poetic, I know. In these particular situations, the words “holy shit, I have been rewriting the same paragraph since breakfast” are usually muttered at least every five minutes, accompanied by the questionable aroma of the concoction I threw into a bowl for what could be loosely classed as ‘dinner’.
Life is a balancing act; a performance which I appear to be executing with the same poise and elegance as a labrador puppy. Or, in the words of my manager at work: ‘I appear to be adjusting to adult life rather poorly’. I mean, I’ll put aside my deep-rooted dissent for capitalism and the exploitation of the worker to say, on this account, the bitch had a valid point.
The day I really, genuinely, accepted that I was – am – depressed was the day when the first three items on my to-do list read as follows:
- Brush teeth
- Go for a shower mate, you smell potent
- Stay out of bed for more than two hours.
Not that I wasn’t already painfully self-aware of this particular fact, but in a world where the phrase “living your best life”, and the idea of “self-care”, have become embroiled in both pop culture and mental health discussion, it’s pretty damn hard to stop yourself from getting completely caught up in it. Especially when, at most, you are living your ‘okayest’ life. I find it hard to stress enough how much value I place on this concept. Living your okayest life looks like kicking the absolute arse out of personal hygiene, getting out of bed before noon and attending at least three lectures a week – because guess what honey, that shit still counts.
It looks like only cancelling on your friends every second week and turning in essays three hours late, not three weeks. It is doing what you can in the circumstances that you find yourself in. This is not locating your comfort zone and proceeding to wallow in it; this is giving your mind and body a literal and metaphorical cuddle. On days when getting up out of bed feels too hard, the very thought of glancing at a yoga mat is enough to make my stomach turn.
One thing I’ve learned about myself over the past eighteen years is that the idea of being ‘casually sad’ is a completely foreign concept to me. To me, all sadness is debilitating, all-consuming and toxic. It seeps into my veins and plants itself amongst the soft tissue of my lungs, blooming into bright flowers that climb up my throat in an alarming display of pain. That’s what depression and borderline personality disorder often feel like: the sense of being suffocated from the inside out.
On the most okay of my days, I walk my feet through the doors of Starbucks to partake in the infamous art of writing in coffee shops – you know, the practice of taking your laptop anywhere but your bedroom to create the illusion that you are doing things. Chasing the elusive figures of creativity and productivity, but also – cinnamon lattes. While I’m not necessarily encouraging you to follow my actions, I’m saying that you should try to take a little bit more pleasure or comfort in the more boring shit.
The boring shit can feel like an embrace from the arms of normality. Sometimes a Wednesday morning is not the time to set the world on fire with your words or art; it can be the time where you sit and make a list of all of the small things you can do today to make yourself feel alright. To make yourself feel that little bit more human. And if today doesn’t work out, you can just try again tomorrow. It’s remembering that you have limits and accepting that you don’t have to live in a state of constantly pushing them and pressuring your mental or academic capacity.
Staying afloat takes power and strength.