It’s okay. It’s just me. Don’t mind me.
I just wanted to let you know that you’re going to be alright. There’s a lot of bloody awful stuff going on in the world but you’re doing really well.
When I was younger I got sad. I was hella young and I was hella sad (I’m going to call that my “hella” quota for this blog post). Nobody knew what to do with me. I hadn’t seen an awful lot of hardship aside from the fact I never got Hungry, Hungry Hippos for Christmas in 1993. I had never been beaten (other than with a spatula which was all the rage at the time) and I was never molested. I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t explain it. I sat with that sadness for an awfully long time. I suppose you’ve reached a point where you are wondering why I’m telling you this. It’s for me. It’s for you too but it’s mostly for me. Whenever I tell people that I suffer from anxiety, that I suffer from depression, that sometimes I see a train pulling in and wonder how long it would hurt for, they ask how. I am outwardly happy. I’ve had to learn to be. These are perfectly normal thoughts, unless you’re being quizzed by a healthcare professional in which case they draw a sad face next to that question on their little survey and carry on. I’m writing this as someone who has been in and out of some kind of therapy for more than five years, more than fifteen if you count the sugar pill homeopathy sessions I underwent when I first got the sads. I’m currently on citalopram. I’m on the waiting list for therapy again. I just wanted to write this to let you know that it’s okay. I can’t talk for people who have undergone horrible circumstances. I can’t speak on behalf of battered spouses or soldiers returning with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have never really been victimised (beyond generic school bullying (my name came under some scrutiny for not being quite English enough)). I’ve never really had a problem that couldn’t be resolved with a box of Kleenex and a cup of tea. Take that however you wish. I just wanted to let you know that even if you haven’t experienced something horrible, if you feel you are not allowed to show any kind of emotion at Million Dollar Baby in case people realise that you’re human, that it’s okay to need help and its okay to sometimes feel like you are a bit broken. It’s alright to want to do terrible things, to destroy yourself and the world around you. I don’t think that’s something that is taught. Like I said, I can’t speak for people in a lot of circumstances. I’m trying to completely understand my own privilege as I type this. Just because I have that privilege. As a man. As a white man. As a straight white man. As a straight white man living in England. As a straight white man living in my own place in England. Even with all that going on, it’s alright to be sad. It’s alright to feel emotion. It’s alright to feel like you want to shut yourself away from the world. We are taught from the earliest ages that we aren’t allowed to do certain things because they are gendered. We, as boys, got DIY and not being able to dance, girls got a lot of accessories and all the best colours. It was also taught women were allowed to have emotions that men weren’t. Isn’t that twee and quaint and adorable? For the longest time I felt guilty about the way I felt about things. It didn’t matter if it was social injustice (flies on the faces of kids in Sudan) or Aslan dying and rising up like a glossy yellow Jesus. That guilt runs pretty deep and I don’t understand why. What’s the problem with showing emotion? I cried when David Bowie died and I cried at Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s nice to be able to cry. It’s also nice to be able to talk openly about depression. Why do people have such an issue with it? What’s the big problem there?
As it turns out, once you become the person who mentions it, you’re actually like some kind of soothsayer for anyone else you come into contact with. As soon as I was comfortable enough with my own mental health to start talking about it, I discovered other people had thoughts and feelings and had been waiting for someone to talk to. Why don’t we all just talk about it? Wouldn’t that be a lot healthier than sitting in the dark and rocking? When I was a kid I genuinely thought I was going to be dragged off to a padded cell in a straitjacket. If I could travel through time, one of the first things I would do, after investing in Apple when they were working out of a garage and telling George Lucas not to put eyelids on the Ewoks, is tell my younger self it’s going to be alright, that it is okay to be sad and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s something I needed to hear at the time and as incredible as my parents were when I got that way, it didn’t help to settle the fear there was something wrong with me.
I read something recently that said “in the forties, eighteen-year-olds went off to fight and die for their country and now they just want to talk about their feelings”. I hope the source realises they are talking about a generation who returned home from that war, if they were lucky enough to return at all, and a lot of them suffered for the rest of their days. My grandfather was born in Holland. He was in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. He saw piles of bodies at roadsides. He had to hide under floorboards from the Nazis when he was a teenage boy. You don’t think he wanted someone to talk to about that? He couldn’t. He was never the same again. There wasn’t a term for it then. He, like many men in wartime, had to suffer in silence. I know someone who toured Afghanistan just a couple of years ago and the boy who came back was not the same boy we sent off. Fortunately he’s now getting the help he needs.
That’s why I’m offering this advice ultimately. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, or what you’ve got going on, just know that the thoughts that keep you up at night, the fears you have and the concerns you carry are entirely okay and you’re going to be alright. Look after yourself, get in touch with me if you are worried about anything and I will speak to you soon.