I've been deliberating about what's appropriate to put in a blog post related to my "business". I'm reluctant to call myself a business owner or a founder or any of those big words that are used by powerful corporate people I don't identify with at all. I'm going to try and be as balanced as I can while I write this, because my emotions are high and I am feeling the bitterness creep in.
I've been fighting a battle in my mind. On the one hand, I want to be honest and open about who I am and what I'm doing day to day. I want to show my projects and be an online presence that brings intrigue and ideas. I want to say things like "I'm so excited to share this project", or "I'm so nervous about my exhibition coming up!" But I don't feel excited or nervous, I don't feel anything except low or nothing at all.
Unfortunately I'm just so low that I can't be my full self, because my full self would horrify everyone.
It all started last year, but that's not true, because it all started years ago. It just finally caught up with me. Loss in so many forms has taken its toll on me totally and I've lost myself. I can't enjoy things the way I used to, I do things because it's how we get through, we just keep doing things. I've tried resting, listening to my tired mind, sleeping for 12, 14, 16 hours a day. But doing nothing won't lead to something, that's never how it works.
In August 2021 I was shaken awake and informed my family were in the garden of my boyfriend (Matts) parents house. We'd been living there temporarily since giving up our life abroad after a chronic illness hit Matt at the beginning of 2020. We were downtrodden, finding our feet again in a country we'd been restricted from getting home to for 18 months.
Something like 8am and I walked outside in my pyjamas. Mum starts beelining for me arms outstretched, tears streaming down her face "it's Max", she said. She didn't have to finish. My dad and brother hovered behind like waxworks. I don't know what I felt or what I said or what I did. I remember at some point saying dumbly "should I call in sick to work?" I listened to my dad make heartbreaking phone calls, to my sister in London, my grandparents, Maxes girlfriend. It was so hot that day, Matts mums kindness shone like a light, she fussed around us bringing coffees and pastries and soft words.
To begin with it was easy, the adrenaline pushed me through days at work, kept me on my toes. I stuffed cakes and sweets down me to numb the pain. I never left the house without some sugar stashed in my bag. I cried every day, all the way to work, all the way home, every night. The pain was so raw and ever-present that I could face it all. But now, so much later down the line with the dust settled and a mild equilibrium established it all feels so much harder. Now that everyone is moving on, that it's just a sad tragedy that has passed. Remembering is such a punch in the gut, such a spike in blood pressure. When the pain is every second you get used to treading water, but when it comes in sporadic waves it drowns you. Losing a sibling is drowning.
I have a lot of things in my life that are precious, I have a large sprawling silly family that care deeply for my wellbeing. I have a kind partner who still finds jokes and smiles to share with me despite his own struggles. I have the sweetest little dog that fills my heart up. I make art every day, I never worry about where my next meal is coming from, I'm healthy. On paper it all adds up for sure. Every day I remember these things and let the glow of them warm me up. But.
A creeping voice whispers "people just feel obligated to see you, your family don't really care, nobody wants to buy your art, you aren't strong enough for this" so I cancel plans, close down. The voice is silent, more like a feeling, more like a whisper on the wind. I can't listen to music because it breaks my heart. I quit my band, I quit therapy, I don't see my friends because I feel like I have nothing to say. I sit on my sofa letting my stomach twist and tug, should I read a book, should I scroll on my phone - but no that makes it worse - cook a meal, eat it, then what. Walk upstairs, stare at the wall, feel overwhelmed by all the stuff, come back down, curl up under a blanket, don't move for hours, afraid to move. Dreaming about rollerskating in vast loops, feeling the wind against my cheeks, feeling free. I wake up every morning feeling like I've been buried underground for 1,000 years.
I feel like the world has nothing to offer me and I have nothing to offer back. I'm holed up in my little studio, blinds closed, drinking strong coffee and typing this while fighting back tears. I was supposed to get up and workout today, because exercise is natures anti-depressant. I lay in bed instead until 1pm letting the weights in my chest pin me to the mattress. We are getting this mattress replaced today, because it's sunk down on both sides, the memory foam has permanently flattened. I feel like that too, like maybe I need replacing.
I know that what I have is depression. My therapist told me I sounded passionate when I spoke about my art, and that was a thing to hold on to. I'm on my way up now, I hope. I started with therapy, 8 sessions. I've changed my diet to something health focussed and vegetable dense, I've started to exercise 3 days a week, I'm trying to engage in nature. I've changed my work schedule to end at 6pm so I can have periods of rest, I assign days off. I'm doing all the things I've read about, and now I'm implementing a new habit - a form of journalling, blogging.
There is no end goal really, life is a rolling sea and there is no "fixed" point, but for now I'll start walking slowly towards feeling okay again. To feeling something that isn't a deep unsettle, the rumbling engine of self doubt, that fizzing of emptiness. I catch glimmers of what it was like before, and I know it's still there behind the screen.
A tale as old as time - I'll be back soon.