My name is Roland, and I don’t exactly know what I have.
If you had asked me a year ago, I would have sheepishly gone quiet and mumbled “a mental illness”. The even easier answer would have been that trendy word “depression”.
Not that I am jaded or cynical of today’s awareness (and borderline celebration) of mental illness - I think it’s bloody fantastic. I love how open everyone is to discussion, and how it’s a quick litmus test for the decency of others. Invariably everyone passes; hence my use of ‘trendy’ as a descriptor.
But then again, maybe that’s just me! Maybe I’m the luckiest man alive to ever be ‘afflicted’, as I consider my surroundings, my community, the people in my life being as supportive as they are. Actually putting it that way, there is no maybe about it. I wake up every day and no longer need to remind myself “you are the luckiest bloke in the world” as part of my anti-depressive mantra. Nowadays I just know it. Deep down, inside and out, and I feel blessed for knowing it.
I don’t exactly know what I have. Maybe I have nothing! I realised that the other day. Maybe I’m just more aware of my sensitivities than others. But then again, how can I make such a comparison when I don’t really know what other people go through? How can anyone really know what others are going through? It sortof highlights how it’s a little inappropriate to diagnose lots of people with the same specific illness - depression, for example - when, regardless of common symptoms they might share, each is undoubtedly going through a battle unique unto themselves.
Unfortunately, this recognition hasn’t come to me as an overnight epiphany, curing all mental instabilities and awakening me as an enlightened monk who wants for nothing but legal cannabis and a sustainable world. I still have bad days, sometimes bad weeks, sometimes longer than that. During my really bad days I feel like scum, and I feel like the people I interact with probably agree. My head is filled with self-deprecation, and not the cute kind that you do in front of girls to endear them to you. Proper headtalk, you are a cunt, a dog, what do you do to actually contribute to the world, everyone knows how hollow and inevitably worthless your life is. The demon whispering those thoughts in my ear is the worst and I am yet to lock down an effective way to thwart him for the long-term. Thankfully the frequency of his chatter has dropped dramatically in the last 12 months, but it’s still a frame of mind I contend with.
Silver lining, my good days are really good. Ridiculously good in fact. I have family and friends I don’t even know how to begin describing. Saying “I love them, I would trust my life with them” seems like a cop-out, a thin and pale way of explaining what these people mean to me. My grasp of language simply doesn’t extend far enough to do it justice with words. Simply put, my life is made and defined by them. So on my good days, I realise how lucky I am to spend time with some of the best people to walk the Earth. Recently I have become proactive upon this realisation; by this I mean I’m really making a conscious effort to get the most out of days with friends and time with family. So my good days: really ridiculously good and somehow getting even better.
I’m at a stage now where I have accepted myself for who I am - ultra cheesy I know. Yet another one of those funny things that doctors and PDHPE teachers can tell you til the cows come home, but to actually do it, to think ‘I am me and I’m bloody well gonna back myself’ is something I find really hard.
Where I used to kick and scream, I no longer bother fighting my feelings because I know its fruitless. Instead I make a point of recognising them like red lights on a car trip. It’s simple - head north at the beginning of a long weekend, of course there’s gonna be a traffic jam on the Pacific Highway, then again at Bulahdelah. There always is. Can’t do anything about it except sit there as patiently as possible and wait until the lights turn green again. The key to this strategy is to have faith that no matter the amount of red in front, the lights will turn green again.
(Hint, they always do!)