It’s ok to be happy with a calm life

Writing about depression consistently loses me Twitter followers. I don’t care – the ‘of sorts’ part of my blog name was always designed to allow me to write about other things that are important to me, and that’s exactly what I plan to do in this post. I wrote a shorter post on this earlier, but I’ve since deleted it, because I have so much more I want to say on the subject. If you don’t like it, go right ahead and unfollow.

I hate New Year, and this year was no different. I find the pressure of statements like ‘2014 is going to be so much better than last year’ almost unbearable, especially because depression always seems to catch up with me in the weeks after Christmas. This year, I should have known it was on its way. A few days after Christmas I was in a restaurant with my parents. They made a slightly critical comment and I burst into tears. The weepiness lasted the rest of the evening.

My parents are not great in this respect: they tell me repeatedly that I’m not actually depressed because my depression is always triggered by specific, upsetting events. There’s some truth in this – it often is – but part of the reason they think that is because often when I’m low I avoid telling them, partly because I know they don’t really get it. 

What really upsets me though, is knowing that depressive episodes are almost always triggered by people I care about. Sometimes it’s my friends, more often it’s the boys in my life. A couple of years back, I was pretty involved in a complicated situation with a depressed male friend and ironically, as he recovered, I succumbed to it more and more. He ended up offering to pay for me to have therapy, thinking I was resisting it because I couldn’t afford it. Nothing could have been further from the truth: I was resisting it because I couldn’t handle the stigma that came with being depressed. He was lucky I refused his offer though: to date it would have cost him more than £2k in therapy sessions.

I’m slightly more comfortable with the stigma surrounding mental illness now (good therapy will do that), but less comfortable with the way it’s treated. Therapy is risky – I did have a great therapist, but when I moved halfway across the country I had to find a new one, and I’m pretty sure that in the six sessions I saw her for she did way more harm than good. 

Anti-depressants make me even more antsy. I take them, on and off, but as soon as I start to feel better, I stop. This is a pretty irresponsible thing to do: they’re known to have side-effects, including mood swings, as part of the come down, which is why you’re supposed to reduce the dosage slowly and under a doctor’s supervision. Sheer bloody-mindedness means I never do: as soon as the depression subsides I get resentful about reliance on drugs to control my emotions, bitter about the fact that my emotional range is so curtailed and really, really fucked-off about the weight I inevitably gain when I’m taking them. And so I stop, just like that. And just as day follows night, several weeks later I’ll have a day just like today, where I get up, shower, start to cry, and have to go back to bed because everything else feels like too much of a struggle. Today, I thought I might make gingerbread. Then I thought of the mess it will inevitably make and couldn’t face it. The same goes for cooking meals. Drying my hair is too much effort. Watching TV gives me too much time to think. Basically, I just want to be asleep, but I’m not tired enough to get there. It’s on days like this that I wish anti-depressants could be given intravenously, just so their effect would be more immediate.

None of this stops me laying in to other people though: I’ll do anything, anything, to turn the self-hatred outwards for a bit, so god forbid that anyone should say or do anything that hurts or upsets me – I can rant and rave for hours because that’s what’s going on inside my head anyway. 

But as much as that’s me saying It’s not you, it’s me, I can’t help but wonder if the solution is to return to the kind of single girl independence I last had around 2007, when I was doing my finals and boys were the last thing on my mind.

I’ve mentioned in a few posts that I had more to say about this post. The way Juniper describes sitting on the harbour, wiling away the hours made me wistful as hell. I used to be that girl, the girl who could sit in a bar with a glass of wine and a book, watching the world go by and not fretting about the present, or worrying about the future. In recent years, I’ve lost the ability to do that – now I always seem to be checking my phone for messages from an AWOL boy, or worrying about the fact that I’m not doing super-exciting stuff with other people.

Depression has taken away my ability to enjoy my own company, and that’s the shittest thing of all. 

On imminent big birthdays

One of my best friends turned 30 today – the first in my uni friendship group to do so. I’m in the slightly strange position of being young for my school year, but old for my uni year because I took a gap year, which means that roughly half of my friends will be turning 30 before I do, while the others still have a year to go.

Let’s get one thing clear: I’m far from having a breakdown at the idea of turning 30. Casual sex aside, I’m really not a massive fan of a lot of things you’re supposed to spend your late teens and twenties doing – clubbing, getting blind drunk, travelling the world – so I’m quite happy to, shhh, whisper it, ‘settle down.’

Quite happy, that is, apart from one thing – I want to be a mum, and I’m worried that the things that need to fall into place for that to happen won’t fall into place until it’s too late. And when I say ‘want to be a mum,’ I don’t say it lightly – I’m the girl at dinner parties cuddling the babies of mere acquaintances, the one who inevitably doesn’t get to eat dessert because my hands are taken up cradling someone else’s kid who’s fallen asleep on my shoulder. I’ve wanted it for as long as I can remember and I don’t see that feeling going away any time soon. 

Society’s views on women like me aren’t often very helpful either – I know I shouldn’t let the Mail rile me, but god I was fucked off when Liz Jones wrote this piece. You might steal men’s sperm as payment for microwaving the odd ready-meal, love, but don’t you dare imply that it’s something the rest of us would do. I think a woman in her early 30s should be able to be open with a man about wanting to have a child without the man automatically assuming that that means that she wants to have one with him, and feeling accordingly threatened because that’s not something he’s interested in.

That, plus the fact that I can’t quite get my head around how I will meet, fall in love with and build a sufficiently strong relationship with a guy before the mental cut-off point that I’ve established by which I need to make this a reality (35, if you must know), means that my usual, defensive position is: ‘I don’t need a man in my life to have a baby, I’ll have one by myself.’ That line though, I’m increasingly realising, is just self-preservation – it’s my way of persuading myself, and other people, that I’m in control and have a game plan, even though the reality is, yeah, not so much.

More and more I’m realising that, while I would still have a baby on my own, I’d rather have one with a guy who I love and who I’m in a relationship with. The question is: if I know that that’s something I want from my life, should I give up the relationships happening in my life now that clearly aren’t leading to that in order to dedicate myself more fully to what I want in the long term, or should I stick with what’s working in the short term and assume that the bigger picture will sort itself given time?