I wasted most of my time when I was depressed. I stared at walls instead of doing my essays. I got in from work and lay face-down on the floor instead of getting started on dinner, putting my clothes in the wash, or calling someone who loved me. I watched two seasons of Nashville before I realise how much I hated Nashville. Then I watched the third season of Nashville. It was so fucked up.
Point is – in the midst of soul-crushing depression, wasting time is easy. It’s understandable. When you’re in the deepest dark of depression your only job is to survive. It’s enough to begin and end each day alive. Getting out of bed is almost impossible, getting a glass of water takes 45 minutes. You weigh up the pros and cons of leaving your room to pee. ‘Could I pee in that cup?’ you think. ‘Is that a thing I could do?’
But what about after? What about when the depression lifts – and it will lift, it will, it will. What about then, when you’re standing almost healed among the wreckage, wondering how to begin building it into a life worth living? This was me last year. I’d gotten over the worst of the breakup that felt like it would kill me. I was taking my Prozac on time, every day. I was putting an end to those harmful behaviours that had kept me locked in a depressive state for two years. I was eating. I was taking walks.
Basically, I was only a little bit depressed, instead of full blown suicidal. Progress, sure, but six months after this turning point, I was still sort of in the same place. My self-destructive behaviours had morphed into inertia. I was so afraid of ever going back to The Worst Place that I didn’t dare to take any risks on myself, didn’t dare to take a step forward in case I stumbled and brought the world crashing back down. I didn’t write, I didn’t date. In short, I didn’t Do.
But here’s the thing. The best of life is in the Doing. It’s in the Deciding To Apply For That Job. It’s in the Finally Learning How To Knit. It’s in the Healing. It’s in the Getting Up Everyday To Do Yoga. We could do these things, right? We survived the worst of the worst, these things should be easy. So why aren’t we doing them right now? Why are we keeping them undone?
Maybe it’s because we’re avoidant idiots with hearts of gold. Maybe it’s because we’re just not ready (which is fine). But maybe it’s simply because, undone, they can’t be proven undoable. It’s like the promise of a feast at the end of a long day. It both starves and sustains us. And the real terror is that you can stay hungry forever. It’s a possibility. It happens. What’s to stop it happening to you?
IT’S YOU THAT DECIDES IT CAN’T HAPPEN
You can calmly accept that, if you want to have something, you will need to reach out and take it. You will have to fill your own belly with food. It is as terrifying and as easy as that. Your best life will not be handed to you by the universe. But that’s OK. Because the universe doesn’t know what you want. The universe is like that great aunt you have who smells like medicine and knits you a jumper for Christmas that’s two sizes too big and has three sleeves and says ‘From Your Aunt Morgaret’ on the front even though that’s not her name. That’s nobody’s name.
Take it as lightly as you can. Be nice to yourself. Hold your own hand. Understand that these are things that need to happen. They’re things that can happen. You can make the phone calls you need to make, you can fill out the forms that need filling in, you can learn what needs to be learned. You can push through the panic and do what you need to move forward. You can do these things, not because the world will fall apart if you don’t, but because you are as important as any other person on this planet, and your life will be better and more enjoyable if you try your best to get to where you want to be. Also because it’s what Aunt Morgaret would have wanted.
DON’T BE EMBARRASSED
What you have to understand is that, however embarrassing it feels to be earnestly scrambling to become a person, it is far more embarrassing to be that compassionless asshole who looks at people like us and sees failure. Failure doesn’t look like this. Failure isn’t us digging ourselves out of years of depression, years of fear, years of self-defeating behaviours. If that’s embarrassing, then be embarrassed. You’ll be happy eventually and this part won’t matter at all.
THESE ARE YOUR DOUBTS. EAT THEM WHOLE. SPIT THEM OUT
But it’s hard. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s harder to do nothing, it’s harder to sit impotent and angry and halted in your life. But I might fail. You might in the sense you may make mistakes, you might get knocked back, but there’s no failure in honestly and earnestly trying to succeed. But it’s too late, I’ve wasted too much time. Girl, shut up. Life is not for endless doing, it doesn’t begin with understanding, it begins with pain and confusion and screaming. Life is for learning and fucking up and then learning again. You’re doing just fine.
FUCK FOREVER THE IDEA THAT THESE THINGS DON’T HAPPEN FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU
They do. They have. They will again. It’s you who got all this way without giving up. This has been a period of Figuring Shit Out for you. The frustration and the uncertainty has been you schooling yourself over How Not To Live. But now it’s graduation time, it’s Doing Time at last. So don’t carry that frustration with you. It’s all been necessary to bring you here but now you can take it off. Cast it aside like a hat that you bought online when you were drunk but now years later you realise it’s ugly and it’s ruining your life and it’s the worst effing hat you’ve ever seen. Don’t be afraid. Throw that hat away. Let your head go naked and unburdened into the first day of your life.
There’s no other secret. You simply have to wade through the tense and doubtful present to get to the perfect laughter of the future. You won’t believe in yourself, but you’ll have to behave as though you do. You’ll be up against the doubt of others, you have to pretend that it doesn’t affect you. You have to blindly feel your way forward like a monkey lost in the sewer. Believe that you’ll find your way out. Believe that every one of us who says it gets easier isn’t lying.
So here’s to you, screwball. Here’s to doing what needs to be done. Here’s to doing it in your own way. Here’s to the rest of your life.
Follow Beth McColl on Twitter here @imteddybless