It’s funny; I don’t think I ever imagined I’d be writing a piece about this.
As someone who battles with both depression and anxiety, to the extent I felt suicidal during one particularly low period of my life (I’ve written here before about this) it’s something that never felt really likely. I could tell you what it meant to be sad, truly sad, devoid of feeling and trapped by my own self-doubts. I could tell you what it meant to be nervous, crippled by uncertainty, trapped by self-doubt and riddled with self-loathing. Happiness felt so unlikely, far removed and truly out of my reach.
If happiness isn’t a destination, but a way of life – well there’d be no chance my brain would be letting me experience it.
This is not to say I’ve never smiled, laughed or had fun. I promise I am capable of these things! In a previous piece for Den of Geek I described these moments as fleeting – unreliable, prone to disintegrating suddenly and being swiftly replaced with emptiness. Or, worse, returning to my internal monologue of emotional self-harm and cutting me off from the world going on around me.
But today I had one of those mundane but actually rather marvellous moments of revelatory self-reflection – a eureka moment about my emotions.
Picture the scene, it’s 12pm and I’m walking through Canary Wharf towards the tube station. My headphones are firmly affixed, as per, and I’m listening to ‘Girl Crazy’ by Hot Chocolate (I feel no need to explain or defend myself for this one!) I feel light on my feet, my mind feels unusually clear and I realise – I’m actually smiling. In public, at no-one and for no apparent reason! Even better – I don’t stop smiling when I realise this. In fact, I smile even wider.
Why? Because I am doing it and because, just maybe, I’d forgotten that I could. I didn’t stop, or worry about what other people might think. I didn’t think about the fact this was extremely poor Londoner etiquette, that I probably looked like a crazy person and would most likely have multiple seats left around me (which actually would be a bit of a bonus…). This, as surprising or ridiculous as it may read, is truly incredible for me; a landmark to such an extent that I find myself now sharing it with you via this article.
The smile itself is significant but the thought process it triggered is the truly remarkable bit. Once I thought about the fact that frankly my dear, I didn’t give a damn if anyone judged me for smiling to myself I then recalled similar behaviours in recent weeks. There’s the fact that lately I’ve been laughing without covering my mouth – something which I’ve done subconsciously for so long I cannot recall when I began doing it in the first place. I’ve no idea whether it’s a comforting gesture, a nervous tick or a combination of them both. Either way it’s something I’ve not been doing lately.
I’ve laughed, and even snorted in someone’s face on a recently all-too memorable occasion, without giving it a second, third, fourth or fifth thought. Now that is highly unusual for me.
The fact my walk has had a little bit more sway, or even swagger to it. The fact I’ve had conversations with people in shops, asked where things are, responded to questions with more than monosyllabic responses. In fact, I’ve even initiated some conversations in the past few weeks. That’s surely the truly surprising one for anyone who knows me!
If I really wanted to then I could assess the factors into this very-unlike-me behaviour. I’ve had time off work and feel more rested than I have in a year. I’ve been to the cinema 12 times in the last 8 days and seen (mostly!) fantastic films. I’ve spent tons of time with my best friend roaming central London, eating amazing sweet treats and having so much fun. My birthday is on Friday and we’ve got an excellent extravaganza of events planned.
But, shock announcement time, I’m not going to overthink it. Not this time.
For now, I seem to be happy. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the abyss, felt it, existed in it and felt trapped in it, that I appreciate my current exodus from it all the more. It’s not going to last, that much I know for sure. Maybe by the time this piece does/maybe/hopefully get published I’ll be feeling low again. Something may have triggered another down spell. But to know I can feel happy – that’s truly priceless. That’s something that I can hold onto in those dark moments, something I can anticipate and work towards.
Forget smiling or laughing or dancing because nobody is watching – they can watch all they want.
I’m too busy enjoying being happy.