I write more when life isn’t good.
Depression, sadness – they spur a more natural, reactive kind of creativity.
A tumultuous mentally unstable teenagehood of sexual assault, angst, and relationship mess, a depression-heavy, unmotivated university life, a wild and exciting, yet still depression-, couple of years working abroad, a most utterly heartbreaking double goodbye, a breakdown, an emotionally abusive relationship.
Move after move, career change after career change. Life is messy for most people but I somehow do feel that, for the average 25 year old, I have been on the receiving end of the emotional ringer a little too much.
Some of it has most certainly been my own fault. I have made devastating life-changing decisions on a whim. I have treated people badly and I’ve too often been consumed with the concept of being wanted.
But… some of it has really been pretty unwarranted. From time to time I think back to being 14 and feeling empty, a victim of an unreported assault. And I’m still coming to terms with the emotional trauma from a gaslighting ex-boyfriend who pretended to have cancer.
Getting used to happy
Life has always been good, ‘happy’, in relative terms. I don’t really need to harp on about my clear middle-class, white privilege.
But what I mean is: what happens to somebody who is so used to being plagued with unrelenting thoughts of suicide, uncertainty, insecurity, no longer feeling it all so hard or much, anymore?
It’s a little disconcerting, actually.
I’m not saying that I don’t have those days where I’m internally screaming, just waiting for a car to hit me. I have them.
But they’re so rare nowadays.
Rarer than I’d ever hoped was possible for somebody as ‘unstable’ as me. It’s strange. It makes me suspicious. But it’s something I’m trying to accept.
And this whole acceptance of being okay has made me feel that I’ve been doing myself (and others) a bit of a disservice: only alluding to general happiness rather than the potential reasons behind it.
Am I only happy because I am in a content, secure kind of love?
Because I feel financially stable for the first time in a long time?
Because I am finally able to make a living doing what I love?
Because I have a home?
Because I am ‘healthy’?
And that’s such an important fact to recognise when sharing the experience of recovery with other people. Recovery is a hard slog, yes. It takes a lot of work and dragging yourself out of bed when you don’t want to, knowing the difference between self-care and self-sabotage, and positivity.
But successful recovery (for me, anyway) is also a series of lucky breaks, it’s things going right, it’s meeting (or surrounding yourself with) the right people. The wrong person can send you spiralling into oblivion and the right person can gently help you lift yourself out of the pit.
Writing about happiness is tricky
The heaviness of mental illness is, somehow, easier to grasp and express. Happy is different. For those used to writing about the weight of depression, happiness seems hard to define as something solid. And I think that might be the difference, for me. The crushing, dragging compared to the light, almost nothingness. Happiness feels like an absence of difficulty, a giddy release.
Happiness is harder to write about, but here’s to trying.