There's a running joke in our house that it's not tomorrow until it's light. Derek Sivers says the same thing:
"A new day begins when I wake up, not at midnight. Midnight means nothing to me. It’s not a turning point. Nothing changes at that moment."
"shouldn’t our personal markers and celebrations happen at personally meaningful times?"
This week, yesterday in fact, marks a year since my return to the blog after facing up to my depression. A lot has changed, but some not so much.
It's surprising how many things relate to this arbitrary collection of words and images published on the web, how many personal markers exist because of things I have or haven't done on a blog.
At the end of July 2018 I decided to step back from the blog; I had been largely offline for a while due to going on holiday and that felt right at the time. I don't think I was really sure why and it look a long time for me to accept that I was actually depressed. It wasn't until towards the end of that year that I actually sought professional help - at least 15 months from stepping away because I knew something wasn't right.
It still isn't.
It's better than it was but things have been sliding again.
When I returned I said there would be caveats and changes about what I wrote and how I did so. I didn't want "to get bogged down in the mundane and minutiae surrounding blogging, plugins, coding" so as not to get distracted and have anything to hide behind but, as time has gone by, that side of things has crept back in. I also said that I didn't write enough about mental health - I don't think I had actually blogged about it at all prior to this period - and wanted to change that.
Writing about ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) earlier this week made me realise that I still wasn't writing enough about mental health issues in public. Sure, I've been writing morning pages and a daily log (although I must admit not as regularly as I would like) but part of my aim was to use the blog to explore the depression and reasons for it but this hasn't really happened, not in the way I had likely envisaged.
It makes me wonder why.
I had told myself that a return to tinkering with code and features and layouts meant that I was feeling and coping better, that I no longer needed to avoid that and obviously meant that I was in a more creative place. Re-reading the posts from a year ago I can't help but question this, can't help but wonder if I have been using them as a shield, something to hide behind, a distraction from the illness.
There is no question that I can enter periods of malaise where any form of creativity is the furthest thing from my mind. During these periods I have no interest in anything, no desire, just a wish to implode, to sink in upon myself and dwell in the oh-so familar arms of depression. It is self-destructive but, in those moments, it is the only thing that feels real.
Fortunately, I've not reached that place recently but I know I've stood at the threshold and it wouldn't have taken too much to carry me over. But it is the contrast between the empty, fallow times and those of seemingly endless possibility that confuses/frustrates/worries me. On one level I mentally conflate creativity with happiness because I compare prima facie with the barren spells. Perhaps I'm just afraid to look any deeper and scratch below the surface considering the issues I had back in 2014.
Part of my desire for the blog this time round was to explore the impact of the depression and its causes; I don't think I've really done that. I know it still comes down to deep rooted insecurities, feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. With the ANTs I've been finding it hard to break the cycle and feel like I've only been chipping away at the edges rather than diving in and trying to truly deal with it. It's been working to a degree - I'm definitely much better than I was a year to 18 months ago - but I need to go further and don't know if I can do so on my own, at least with the approach I have been taking.
Whether lockdown has been a contributory factor is something to be considered. The jury is very much out on the trade-off of no commute, so theoretically having more time, against losing the extra exercise it generates and using the commute time creatively.
I've been paying attention to Julian Summerhayes' writing about 'true self' on his Live Journal blog and James Shelley sent me links to a couple of his older posts about his relationship to work which I still have to process, but I know that my own relationship to both work and identity is where I need to spend some time. It's just hard when you need to keep the bills paid and a roof overhead to properly revise and reassess where you are and what you could be doing differently.
So, maybe the blog (and perhaps these letters) may take a different direction as I work on myself and my issues/illness, or maybe they won't. I'll just need to see how things go and where that takes me.
Sadly, my current mindset hasn't left me with the capacity to read much beyond blogs posts from my RSS feeds, despite the will being there, so we're going to have to wait until next time for further insights.
Maybe I should be highlighting such posts here rather than keeping this section exclusively for books.
Something to think about for the future.
And that's it...
It's been a particularly personal letter but I'm not about to apologise for that. These letters are an extension of the blog which is an extension of me.
I've been told that things have been getting too meta (writing about writing) rather than getting on with so this is me starting to get on with it.
I hope you'll stick around.
Stay well - physically and mentally.