I wish it was that simple. When computer breaks down you can usually just plug it out and plug it back in again, or install an update, or backup your files and reinstall the OS. There are tonnes of solutions. When your brain breaks… it’s not that simple.
I haven’t posted on here in a long while, because I haven’t been well in a long while. It’s something that’s been chasing me for a long time, I kept just out of reach, and when everything got too much I told myself “It’s ok, get through this week, the next one will be better…” I told myself that almost every week. Having always been an anxious person and someone who worries about things non stop, I just thought of it as normal “It’s just me being silly, everything will be fine when I calm down…” and then I’d force myself to calm down super quick so I could keep going. This didn’t get rid of the anxiety, this just added it to a giant snowball what was already coming down hill at me pretty fast.
Then it happened…
There are a lot of factors that lead to that moment in June. Some as far back as I can remember, some very very recent. That snowball, more of an avalanche now really, had finally smacked me in the back of the head. Everything I’d forced down rushed forward at once, and my brain couldn’t cope. I describe it to my friends as my brain going *POP* kind of like the sound you get when all the lights blow. Suddenly it was dark.
I remember the exact moment it happened, I was using a table saw at the time, which in the state I was in, I really shouldn’t have been near one, let alone trying to cut a bit of walnut up into a 7mm slice. (For those of you who don’t know walnut is damn hard wood and wasn’t too happy about being cut into slivers). I nearly put my finger through that saw. Everything about that moment scared me, but I was too skitty and high on anxiety and stress to realise what was happening. Decided to go home to my parents place that night and broke down, everything came rushing out, I’m sure they got lost in all my babbling. My Mum brought me to the doctors first thing in the morning, after I had time to calm down, I checked out how I was feeling online, and wrote everything down. I never think it’s a good idea to look symptoms up on WebMD or anything similar, usually I’m dying of some rare tropical disease… or I have a cold, but I also wanted a way to describe how I felt, I was still a bit skitty so making a list meant I could clearly tell my doctor everything (who is a wonderful wonderful woman, and I owe her a lot).
My doctor confirmed what WebMD had confirmed for me the night before, depression. I ticked almost every box, apparently depression caused by anxiety and stress is quiet common. I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t sleep proper, constantly anxious, worthless empty feelings… the list goes on. So my doc set me up with low dose anti depressants and recommended I go see a therapist, and of course stay out of work for a while.
I eventually left work, found I couldn’t go back, the residual anxiety was too much and it was easier not to have that hanging over me. Going to a therapist at first was difficult, knowing that for one hour every week I would be subjecting myself to feeling miserable, it made it so much harder to go, but I kept going, terrified of what would happen to me if I didn’t. I was very lucky to be able to take time off and dedicate myself to getting better, I know most people can’t do that. Shane was so supportive of me, and I think relieved I was taking time to myself for a change. My parents were also there for me, and welcomed me back into the family home with open arms when myself and Shane needed to leave the place we were in. As time went on, I was worried about what people might think… I suddenly wasn’t working anymore, what was up with that? Oh time off? that must be great, you’ll have so much time to do stuff… no not really… Everyone I opened up were and still are so supportive. I walk around with this big elephant with DEPRESSION written down its trunk, people as me how I’m doing these days, anything new? No one mentions the elephant, but loads of people know he’s there, and it makes him that little bit smaller.
The one thing that still lingers strongly, and tortures me on a regular basis, is my creativity, when my whole brain went dark, it didn’t want to come back on. It was like when the lights were out someone stole the bulb. I couldn’t reach into myself and find it. It was just… gone. My imagination was still there, dim and lingering under the surface, but the message couldn’t be translated to my hands to make something, it there was a large amount of empty nothing standing in the way, a feeling of “why bother?”
This wasn’t just my creativity that switched off, it was my identity. On most social networks and forums, the little “About Me” blurb is a simple three word phrase I make things . I was always the creative one. Growing up, in my family, in my relationship, I went to art college, I got a creative job, I made things on the side. I was the artsy one, there was no denying it. Before my brain went *POP* I was attending night classes on starting my own creative business, considering getting a market stall and a loan for equipment and materials. Now there was nothing, my whole identity and sense of self just vanished with one foul *POP*. I didn’t notice and first, I figured I was too upset and tired. I was still highly strung, I was trying to shut myself down first, so I could relax and reboot. My turning off and on again. But this crash was worse than I’d imagined. When I finally decided “Ok, I now have all this time, lets do something with it” and turned the imagination on, which was a rough start, I picked up a pencil and….nothing….I stared at nothing, and nothing stared back, my hands wouldn’t move. It was like my brain forgot how to tell them what to do. ERROR CREATIVITY.EXE NOT FOUND …. ok maybe the file had been moved, maybe it was somewhere else. I’ll just run some books and video games through my imagination and try again…. ERROR CREATIVITY.EXE NOT FOUND…. ok what about turning it off and on again… I mean it’s been a tough few days, maybe I’ll rest more. Turn my brain off and sleep… try again in the morning. ERROR CREATIVITY.EXE NOT FOUND. What? but, my imagination was there, it was running in circles with nowhere to output too…where did it go?
For months I got this message… it was torture. It’s so hard to even describe how horrible it is to suddenly not be you, not who you thought you were anyway, and not be able to fix you, not quickly that’s for sure. It became a hopeless en-devour trying to find it, and increasingly more upsetting every time that same vacant nothing came back. ERROR ERROR ERROR. Every now and again little things leaked through, as if it was there…. “You made that birthday card last week” yeah I did…. and it was a simple stick-man drawing, but you’ve no idea how hard it was to do it, how painful it was to force something that small out of me. This doesn’t mean the light is magicially back on, as much as I hoped. This is just NEEDTHISNOW.EXE … it takes up way more energy and it doesn’t leave me happy with anything… but maybe I should check just incase… ERROR CREATIVITY.EXE NOT FOUND … figures.
And then two weeks ago it happened, I had the opportunity to use a friends laser cutter after studio hours. I had thought about making a gift box for Shane’s Christmas pressie (I’ll write about that soon) and suddenly lots flowed out! Three gift boxes and a ton of Christmas star decorations to send to friends. Shane met me in the studio after hours (and after I had a chance to hide his pressie) and said he hadn’t seen me that giddy in 3 years, running back and fourth, loading the laser bed. I was having so much fun and I was MAKING THINGS. The only way I can describe it is euphoric. For that short while I was very much me, I was radiating me-ness. While I’ve calmed down, CREATIVITY.EXE is being re-installed and updated. Slowly, I might add, but it’s still there. I can see me, and all is not lost.
This of course is not a magical cure. I am not about to throw down my antidepressants, kick off my therapist and say “I WAS BLIND BUT NOW I CAN SEE!”. I have a long way to go. The thought of having a job and *gulp* responsibility still scares me. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with my life. I can see beyond the end of the week, but after that its a blur. I still have good days, and bad days, and very bad days, but I’m moving forward. I also have time to write on this site now and maybe keep it up to date with bits of everything…
If you feel like some files are missing, and you can’t take a step forward today, it’s ok, no need to rush yourself, feeling better takes time. I’m still frustrated with myself for not being better yet which is a combination of my own stubbornness and impatience, but we can get through it, one step at a time, and sure if we don’t feel like taking a step today we can just make camp and try again tomorrow. No point in forcing it.
Anywho, that’s where I’ve been for the past few months, and where my headspace has been for a little bit longer then that, sorry for the wall of text…
Talk to ya’ll soon,
[TL;DR – Depression sucks, brain files go missing, but things will get better…]