I like to have a theme, or a goal for each year. 2003 was my first year away from home. The year of change. It also, coincidentally, later became the year of losing myself. It was the year of bad decisions, bad memories, and bad housing arrangements.
2008 was the year of learning new things. I learnt that reception work was boring. I learnt a Marital Art, and how to Scuba Dive. I learnt not to hand my heart to men with beards, and lofty ideals about the art of music.
Last year? Last year was supposed to be the year of moderation. The year I was really, actually going to be skinny. The year I was going to survive on a paycheck smaller than I’d ever thought possible. The year I allocated my time carefully, in order to pass all my papers and finish my whimpering trudge through university as a reluctant ‘mature’ student at an elderly 24.
The only moderation I managed to show was in my new dedication to saving water. By not showering. Aside from that I threw myself unguarded, whole-heartedly, almost greedily into depression. I spent my year of moderation immoderately diving deep, into the gloom, occasionally looking up to prove that yes, the light was still there, and yes, I was still, steadfastly, determinedly heading in the opposite direction. My mother once called me stubborn and hard-headed. I think, in this instance she may be right.
At 25 I should probably be less bothered by having to admit that.
After last year collapsed into a screaming heap, I decided – in January this year – not to bother with choosing a key word, a goal, or even a goalpost to glance at sporadically from a distance. I refused to.
Instead, I started my year white knuckling it. Clinging to light, my job, and my balance with every inch of strength I possess in my – admittedly brittle – fingernails.
Over halfway through the year now I find myself with a new mantra. It grew organically, out of long nights awake with friends, spur of the moment spy photos, and giggling helplessly in second-hand stores. My new theme is ’embrace the good.’ Managing my depression is, for me, about a choice. It’s about choosing to embrace the funny moments, the stupid moments, the humour I see, the people around me, and the new experiences coming my way.
Sometimes I can’t make that choice. I’m incapable of it. But more and more these days I find I do have the choice, and more and more I find myself feeling able to choose the light over the dark.
Embracing is different from clinging. It requires a bit of gentleness, that I haven’t quite found yet. Sometimes I find myself clinging, gripping, and on very bad days outright clawing at the good moments. And those days I need to push myself back a little to find my balance again. Those are the days I need to be less demanding and more gentle. Relaxing my tense fingers, and unwrapping the ropes that I’ve managed to twist myself in.
Sometimes it seems being gentle is harder than fighting. It’s all about the balance, and I’m still learning how to find that.