Last week I was on a podcast about mental health and depression. The host asked about my techniques for being passionate, inspired, and active despite living with bipolar II. After easing into the discussion I revealed that I had, years before, been suicidal, and that my experiences since then had been a kind of triumph over that near fatal calamity.
What I've never forgotten since those first days of recovery is that the smallest progressions matter. Even the ones in your head. "You've not done your best today, but you can try again tomorrow," is leagues better than, "you are a piece of shit," when you look in the mirror.
These small habits are the world. And they take time. Lifetimes. It's not a linear progression. It's messy. It's art. But what's important to me is knowing that this is more nuanced than moving forward or backwards. It's critical to me to retain that discipline which, I believe, depression or anxiety devolves from. I don't believe thinking we need to improve is wrong. Or that disappointment in ourself is a problem. Or that shame for our failures is useless. Yet these are the kinds of self-criticisms which can become paralytic, toxic, or harmful, if not dealt with properly.
My life felt as if it began for the second time when I realized that one can derive inspiration—and a sacred kind at that—from the horrific, shocking, and macabre. Suddenly it felt the world had doubly to offer, and myself, doubly to give.
Disappointment drove me to be better. Shame, a chance to prove my past self wrong. Failure, self-loathing, and anger were the roaring fires which propelled me out of immobility. The fact that these emotions can drive one to self-harm speak to their power. And like any power, it is my sincerest belief, that they can be repurposed for the good.
Of course, it's not a matter of putting on a happy mask. Living is an integration—a violent coalescence of personality, nightmare and soul.
"For days I sat in my room until it seemed I should go mad, and fearing lest I should utterly lose my reason I decided to kill myself, but no one realizes how dear life is until, thinking it worthless, they have tried to destroy it."
Today, it was a struggle to even get out of bed. I tried.. I felt like it was easier to just stay there, that the day and the world was too much for me to face. But I did eventually get up, even showered.. and if all you did today was survive the day, I’m proud of you.