I have to admit, for the last few weeks (OK, maybe a bit longer), I’ve been struggling. I’ve been struggling with writer’s block. I’ve been struggling with artist’s block. I’ve been struggling with bullet journaling block, letter writing block…I’ve just…been struggling. I finally had to admit that I seem to be showing signs of depression. Usually, my depressed states are obvious to me, and I know what I need to do in order to get out of them. That’s not to say it’s easy to take that first step, but when I can see what’s going on early, it’s easier than those rare times when I slowly sink and don’t recognize what’s happened until I’m well on my way to the bottom.
At first, I told myself that this lingering melancholy was surely due to the weather. New England has been doing its level best to live up to Old England’s reputation this spring. We’ve had 1 or 2 days of spring weather, but 21 days and counting of rain and cold. Even as I write this, my space heater is running at full temperature and I’m bundled up in fleece leggings, a hoody, and a fleece lined jacket. This is not normal mid-May attire, even here, I assure you.
While it’s true that seasonal abnormalities affect me in pretty recognizable ways, it took some serious soul searching, some tears, and some days and nights of inconsolable numbness before I sat down with my journal and wrote the words I’d been hiding from, acknowledging that this appeared to be a prolonged, depressed state.
I haven’t been clinically diagnosed with depression per se, although it’s an expected symptom of Fibromyalgia, as well as part and parcel of other mental health diagnoses I’ve had. Having been raised by a generation that viewed poor mental health as a personal failing rather than an actual measure of illness, I do struggle with acknowledging what’s in front of me sometimes. While I would never dream of telling anyone else to “walk it off” when discussing depression or anxiety, I don’t always give myself that same kindness.
So I’m here today, not to offer you products, reviews, or advice, but to honour my own vision when I created Renaissance Magpie. A big part of that vision was that I would not be an IG influencer or a peppy, perky “Life Coach”, but that I would be someone who lays bare the realities of being a writer, an artist, a girlfriend, a mother, a friend, a daughter, an activist, and a patient. Life is full of moments that make even the most instagrammable photos seem dull and unprofessional. It’s also full of moments that no filter, no number of fame and followers, and no amount of Photoshop can make pretty. The more we hide those moments from public view and focus only on #thebestlife or being #blessed, the more it seems we isolate ourselves.
There’s been plenty of research done lately on how detrimental to our mental well-being social media really is, as well as how trends like prank or unboxing videos end up making us feel more isolated, sad, and even worthless, wanting for things we can’t afford but also, don’t really need. It all boils down to comparison. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Comparison is the thief of joy.
It’s a mantra that I nearly forgot. As I was assessing what was happening to me, I was forced to admit that I overwhelmed myself with a sense of “no can do” worthlessness. The more art tutorials I watched, the more I perused pages and pages of art journal posts, of spiritual posts, of beautifully written blogs, and the more I submitted my own writing and was rejected, the worse I was feeling. The less inspired I was feeling. The more I was quietly questioning myself and my pursuits, the less I was doing of the things that made me happy. Mindfulness practices began to slip away too, and those are things that don’t just make me happy, but are integral to my spiritual and mental balance. I was looking at other people’s work and wishing I could do that. I was seeing other people’s spaces and wishing that I had them. I was learning about other people’s spiritual journeys and wondering if I’d ever reach that point.
I can’t say to you that this epiphany suddenly made the sun shine through the clouds, or was accompanied by a chorus of angels, unicorns farting rainbows, or a rain of fluffy puppies. What I did sense was a slight lifting of my mind and mood, and a tentative exhale. Anyone who suffers from any form of depression or anxiety may be able to relate to that feeling. It’s a baby step, but it comes with its own sense of relief that things may finally be turning around. When I had that moment of clarity, I knew that I was succumbing to the very things I took such great pains to avoid, and also to counsel against. I was comparing myself, my art, my writing, my life. I found it lacking, but when I looked at it objectively, as an outsider might, I could see how full it truly is. At that moment, I resolved to put one foot in front of the other once more, and return to that which makes me whole, no matter how much of an uphill climb it might have seemed.
Each day since, I’ve been a bit better. I’ve been doing the things I need to do, and carving small bits of time for those things I want to do as well. I know what I have to do. I’ve had the tools all along, and I’ve shared some of them with you here before. Nevertheless, I am fallible, flawed, and human like everyone else. I want all of you who read this to know that, and if you struggle with depression or other mental health issues, you’re never alone, you’re not broken, and you’re not weak. You’re simply ill, and it can be treated.
It is my greatest hope for each of you that you have the tools *you* need to see you through to the other side and happier days – and if you need reminding, or if you need help, that you can always contact me and I can help put you in touch with resources in your area. After all, I am not a doctor, and my tools may not work for you.
On that note, I’d love to know what tools you use to stay balanced and well. Please leave your own pearls of wisdom in the comments!