Tuesday, November 4, 2014

An Interior Monologue

It isn't exactly a secret that the past couple of months have been particularly difficult for me. In fact a few days ago, as part of an everyday internal monologue, I began thinking about how I would go about honestly describing my mental state of the past few months. 

Here is the result:

Imagine you're in a pit. It's dark, it's narrow, it smells like stale water and you're alone - or at least, that's all you can sense. There seems to be blinders keeping you from witnessing the tiny footholds in joins in the walls.  You are aware there is a rope being held by a person, waiting to pull you into the light, but no matter how much fumbling, you can't seem to accept that it will help. You keep thinking that one day there will be something else to come along that will do the work for you: You know this thinking is delusional. That you have to do the work. But the energy to find the footholds, the effort to pull yourself up, and the consequences of failing because you had faith, is all too much. So you sit. 

One day, the light seems bigger and more attainable. You find the footholds - you get an inch from the floor. You believe you will make it. Two inches. Three. You rest, exhausted but proud.

The following day, you find you've fallen to a mere inch from the floor. You wonder what the point of the day before was. Why you had hope, and where it even came from? Sure, you're closer to the top than when you started, but you've fallen more than you've climbed. Doubt sits on your shoulders, heavy and immoveable. You may not be sinking to the ground, but the thought of climbing again with such weight is impossible. So you sit.

Some days, you wake at the pit floor. Some days, you are higher than you thought you'd ever get. The unknown of the following day is draining. The emotional turmoil renders you near-void of emotion all together. Some days the person helping is more visible and you may even reach out. Hope never seems to disappear all together. That is why you hold on. That is why a tiny little part of you believes that it is possible to make it to the top. Because even though you think hope is the reason failure cuts so deep, you know that without it you would have given up a long time ago.

As a change of mood, I want to mention that throughout all of this depression, there have been some things that still have the ability to make a day a little bit better, even by way of escape. And by saying this, I'm not ruling out the amazing friends and family who have always, and will always be my support.  But without film, music and literature, my days would be filled with a great big nothing.
Because of this, I have decided to end every blog post with a recommendation of something I have enjoyed recently, if only to share the love!

Today, I give you Whiplash (a film written and directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Miles Teller [Spectacular NowAre We Officially Dating?] and J.K. Simmons [Juno, Spiderman]).

Whiplash is the story of a young music student, who is single-minded about becoming the next great jazz drummer. His teacher and mentor uses terrifyingly brutal methods to coach his students in realising their potential, regardless of any resulting effects.  This film is confident, unapologetic and brilliant. You fall in love with the ambition of young Andrew, regardless of his loyalty to family and friends being pushed aside in pursuit of brilliance. You love to hate Mr Fletcher and his lack of compassion. Do not set aside this film if you have no interest in jazz music. This is a film for anyone who has ambition, who has encountered cynicism and who can appreciate actors who go above and beyond for their art (deeper research into the film reveals that Miles Teller continued many drumming scenes long after 'cut' had been called so the injuries on his hands and the blood on the drum kit were authentic).

I give you, Whiplash - in cinemas now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The definition of success?

It has been a while. The kind of time has elapsed where life seems to move on, but my life hasn’t seemed to develop the way I wish it would. I was unemployed for a month. I have been living alone for three weeks. I currently have, in my house; two cats, one rotten banana, many photos, an intense amount of cat fur and a whole lot of regret and anxiety.

Look, I’m not seeking attention. I’m not trying to extort sympathy. Despite my success at obtaining a new job, having an apartment I love and being so beautifully supported by family and friends, I feel so, extremely lost. The things that were once important to me now feel invalid. The emotions I used to have are now nullified by a pressing desire for fulfillment. I am still fighting for happiness.

But what is happiness? Is it a life filled with social adventure and friendships? Is it the constant aspiration for success?

At work the other day, one of my fellow employees asked me what I thought the definition of success was. I answered as simply and as honestly as I could “To find complete serenity and happiness.”

And that is the truth.  I don’t believe success is the person who has risen from a poor family to a six-figure salary. I don’t believe it is marrying one who will provide a lifetime of the latest gadgets and fashion. I believe that success is purely the act of having achieved happiness. 

This conversation made me query what success is, as defined by my aspirations. I love film. I love design. I love fashion. But, should I become a professional production designer for a film, will I consider myself successful? Perhaps it is more than that? I also love children. What if I cannot have the career I desire and the family life that emanates my upbringing? I implore you: what is your idea of success?

Honestly, I do not know the purpose to this post. I don’t know if I am seeking an answer to the big existential question of the purpose of life, or if I am simply ranting in an attempt to understand my own doubts. What ever the reason, I am sure of one thing: Life is messy. Life is purposeless in the eyes of mere man. Life, as God intended, is fleeting and a complicated and frustrating test of will and man power – a transition to something more pure and more fulfilling than we humans can bear to understand.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Apology...

This afternoon my employment officially ended, and I am left feeling broken and sorry.  Over the past few weeks my dedication to my job waned, I became unreliable and distracted, and did things I would never before have done.

I loved my job.  Sure, I complained about it, like anyone in the customer service industry would do, but the people I worked with were all amazing people, the shifts were mostly enjoyable, the management were loveable and it had become a social experience, to say the least.  Situations like losing your job really put into perspective the way your actions affect other people, and because of this, I would like to apologise to anyone my lack of dedication to work affected.

The past few months have been trying, and stressful, and I know I have become someone I never used to be.  I have become withdrawn, socially awkward and terribly judgemental.

This opportunity to start fresh is terrifying - mostly because it leaves me unsure of what the future holds.  Not only am I now in an apartment all on my lonesome, I now need to find a new job, meet new people and start all over again with gaining the trust of my fellow employees.  Maybe a fresh start is just what I needed to feel in control of my life again. Who knows?

All I know is this: I am sorry, I am terrified, and I need to rely on God.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Slithers of gold.

This past week has, without a doubt, been the hardest seven days of my life.  Witnessing someone I love being stretched, twisted, torn and cracked by a situation that was merely a mistake, is the hardest thing to see.  I know, I know. I have never experienced a loved one pass away.  I have never seen the ruins of a war stricken town, or witnessed the effects of post traumatic stress. There are things we all struggle with, but among all of these tragedies the hardest part of it all is not the experience itself, but knowing that there is a limit to what you can do to help someone going through an excruciating stage of life.  This week has been terrible, but none of it has directly happened to me.  

Instead of writing about the horrible experience my best friend has endured this week, I need to focus on the tiny slithers of light that have come out of all of this.  I may not exude confidence and positivity, but through the depression and other personal struggles, I find myself still trying to sift through the silt and mud in order to find the almost microscopic and seemingly valueless slither of gold. There are two values of humanity that lately I have found difficult to identify with, but in this horrendous and life changing situation, I have found them to be true again.

1. The blessing of true friendship.

I don't want my close friends to think that in saying this I had forgotten their value in my life.  I hadn't. I just needed a reminder of the importance of a true friend in the healing process after any trauma. Whether it simply be a text message of support and love; a care package of basic essentials used in the grieving process; a two week survival plan; a shoulder to cry on; someone to get mad at the injustice; someone who will simply come and sit, watch terrible television, eat bad food and just BE there. You all know who you are and you have all played an incredible role in helping an amazing person.

2. Strength

A simple but poignant value of humanity.  It is in times of great adversity when we are able to surprise ourselves by the strength we have been storing for when it is truly needed.  When facing a situation as earth shattering as what my friend has endured, I'm not sure I would be as strong as her.  Yet when I tell her how proud I am for getting out of bed, planning what her next move will be and fighting for what she has left, she seems surprised. Why? Because we never truly realise our own strength until someone else recognises it. Maybe I would handle the situation as incredibly as she has. Or maybe I would break underneath it all. All I know is that at the beginning of this post, I specifically said she had been stretched, twisted, torn and cracked - but I never mentioned her breaking. She will heal.  She will recuperate.  She will never be the same, but I have no doubt that her spirit has become more resilient, her friendships solidified and her fight more powerful. 

The heartache and trauma is not yet over.  There will still be bad days.  Days of crying, of not wanting to get out of bed, of excessive amounts of icecream and bad movies just to pass the time.  And through all of this, one thing is certain: with supportive friendships and endurance, the days will get better. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Love is...

As a student I have mastered the art of procrastinating in many forms: baking sweet goods for my colleagues (I call it procrasti-baking); scrubbing my house from top to bottom (if I’m still being productive, then how can I feel bad about it?); making endless ‘to-do’ lists (again, a constructive use of time… right?); and the worst of them all, social-media stalking. 

This would generally be the process:
  1. Refresh Facebook feed. Complain about nothing interesting EVER happening anymore (but did it ever?).
  2. Scroll down Instagram feed. Complain about everyone posting their photos on both Facebook and Instagram, so I’ve seen it all before (of which I am guilty).
  3.  Maybe, just maybe, something interesting is happening on Twitter (said no one ever).
  4. Repeat.

And then occasionally, a glimmer of light. Through all of the videos of cats trying to fit themselves into tiny spaces, through all of the people complaining about their children in one post (only to rave about how much they love being a mother in the next), through all of the gym junkies posting selfies of their ‘progress’ (although, really, a different angle of the same bicep only shows that you’re a tad narcissistic, not that you’ve developed a mass of muscle in the last 48 hours), occasionally, something worthwhile pops up.

Take this video for an example: A homeless man in Germany being blessed by a random act of kindness.

Or the following link, showing the wonder of nature in a world so corrupted by man-made pollution and structure.

And yesterday, I stumbled upon something that really made me question how often I look at my life and can truly say the things I appreciate. Not the big and blatantly obvious elements of life that do often get overlooked (supportive friends and family, health, roof over head, etc), but the little, seemingly inanimate objects or situations, that may provide a small glimmer of happiness on a dull day.

So with that, I get to the point of this post: here, I write a list of small things that emanate love to me. It is not a complete list, and it does not define my happiness.  In such a dull time, I have decided this morning to remember what I love about life.

Love is the feeling of chills when hearing a brilliant song for the first time. 
Love is the gentle warming of frozen extremities. 
Love is waking on a cold winter morning, toasty under multiple blankets. 
Love is the gentle waft of that perfect coffee aroma. 
Love is surprise mail from an old friend. 
Love is a gentle chirp of happiness from the purring cat curled at my feet. 
Love is reading a passage that seems to have been written just for me. 
Love is walking through nature and breathing in fresh air. 
Love is watching a film that exceeds expectations. 
Love is reliving a memory that had almost been lost. 
Love is clean-shaved legs on freshly laundered sheets. 
Love is falling in love with a piece of art that affects me without reason. 
Love is the gentle glow of fairy lights in a dark room. 
Love is sitting down to a hot meal with a loved one. 
Love is baking the perfect cupcakes. 
Love is the creation of something I can be proud of. 
Love is an empty notebook. 
Love is knowing there is more than now.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Depression: Not A State of Mind

Have you ever woken from a restless sleep and wondered what the point of getting out of bed would be? Ever looked at yourself in the mirror and wondered why you are you; what your purpose is?

Some of you have known me for a long time. You may know me as ever-positive, smiling, happy-go-lucky, nothing stresses, nothing irritates, nothing can break the effervescent spirit I exude. That may sound cocky and self-obsessing, but the truth is, you don’t know me. For the past year or so, my positive shining light has been a wall in front of a spirit ladened with depression.  I question the point of getting out of bed regularly.  My friendships have fallen by the wayside. My employment and studies have suffered. My faith and trust in God has become a dull reminder of what I used to be so sure of.

You may wonder why I am writing this, why I want to share what is beneath the mask of positivity.  The answer is simple: I will no longer be silent.  This is not a selfish excuse to unload all of my feelings on the unsuspecting web of readers, nor is it some sort of therapy.

A number of years ago I was made aware of a friend who was struggling with depression.  She had been attempting to battle this suffocating and soul crushing sickness alone, hoping to overcome it without having to ‘burden’ her friends and family with the knowledge that she needed help.  While some would simply be a support, and try to do what they can, I needed to understand what it was exactly that she was struggling with.  Instead of assuming it was a sad state of mind; instead of telling her to stop feeling bad; instead of ignoring her desperate need for support and love; I researched.  I found numerous websites explaining that depression is not, as is commonly assumed, a bad day or a sad state of mind.  I discovered the medical explanations.  I read about therapy and support options. I became educated.

When I began feeling similar symptoms, instead to relating my prior research to my own condition, I was in denial. I am a happy person. I am ‘annoyingly positive’ (according to close friends…).  I am bright, and bubbly.  I can’t be depressed. I’m the one that helps people, not the one who needs help. I can do this alone… And yet here I am, suffering from the realisation that I have been diagnosed with depression.

This semester, instead of studying what I love, at an arts college that has taught me so much about myself and my abilities to create, I will be focusing on my health.  It was a very difficult decision to make.  I at times feel my depression worsening at the realisation that this semester will be spent getting help, and developing healthy friendships.   This blog will be part of my development.  I feel the need to share my story, my journey and my recovery.  Please understand how difficult this is for me to publish. I don’t like admitting something is wrong, or that I need help. I am chronically putting off seeing the doctor or the dentist for fear of being told something is wrong with me. This is me, admitting to all who care to read, that I am flawed, I have an illness and I need help.

A friend and colleague recently linked me to this amazing song, a song that spoke to me in ways I cannot describe. I leave you with this…