A few days ago, I logged into my art tumblr, and was met by this:
I’ve been following you on Twitter for over a year (maybe two?) now and really think you’re a great person! I’m kind of shy to talk to you, but I just wanted to say that I suffer from depression as well and seeing you cope as well as you do has helped me cope better too. If you’re up to it, I’d love to see you draw a picture depicting different things that help you cope with your depression. Anyway, thanks for just being you. :)
I got really happy. I like helping people, and I know how difficult it can be contacting new people, so I wrote a quick reply. A thanks.
I decided to work on this. Drawing about things that help me cope and make me happy; what’s not to love about it? Today I sat down to think about it. What helps me cope with depression and my life being difficult? What can I actually draw? How does one draw ‘conlanging‘? How does one draw ‘remembering‘? I wrote it all down. First sketch notes: this is what I want to have in the drawings (because by this point, it was clear that this could not be just one drawing), this is what I want to say. Then real text: this is what these things mean, this is why. Then I began drawing. I slowly realised how to draw ‘conlanging‘. I still struggle with ‘remembering‘.
It will take several days to finish this, so I thought I should make it a blog post while working on it. This blog post is pretty much my second sketch text. I put it here, because perhaps it can help someone. Perhaps it can make someone smile. Perhaps it is just a good thing having it here on my blog. For future reference. For remembrance.
Things That Help Me Cope
Surrounding myself with plants and taking care of them. Watching them grow and thrive, even when it feels as if I myself am going nowhere. Burying my hands in dirt, feeling life around me.
My pets. Picking up my snake and feeling her relax as she realises it is me, showing me that I’m trusted as she coils around me, sharing my body heat. Sometimes when I’m sad I find something my cockroaches really likes, like meat or orange and I see if I can use it to “fish” them up from their tank. It’s really fun. It looks hilarious. It always makes me smile.
Music. Listening to music I like. Singing songs: happy songs, angry songs, nonsensical songs, songs my friends have written. I sing them all, depending on mood. I play on my recorder, when able, when I can face it. I drum on things when I feel restless. I drum on everything and think of the rain.
Drawing things. Happy things; sad things; angry, violent, gory things. Things for friends and strangers which I hope will make them happy, like birthday drawings and fanart of/to people I admire.
Conlanging and learning about languages. Figuring patterns of grammar out. Finding out that yes, there really is a word for something I didn’t even know was a real thing. Finding out new things about grammar and feeling things click in place in my mind is the best drug I have ever discovered.
Discovering new things; trying new teas, new candies, new food, new music, new ideas, new seeds and plants to plant. Seeing random seeds I found germinate and grow into random things is something I love. (If any friends see this: please send me random seeds. Just legal ones, no “special bird mix”-es. Write any special instructions on the seed envelope. It doesn’t matter if you found them outdoors; those are perfect too!)
Tea. Fancy tea as it is and low budget tea with milk and sugar. Tea: tea from clear glasses; from brightly coloured cups; straight from the pot, because no mug could ever be big enough to hold all this tea.
My pleasure budget. If one is always low on money, it’s even more important to actually buy things one actually wants now and then. Living in constant emergency mode is impossible and one will always fail and buy some random thing – probably really expensive and pretty useless – and then feel guilty about it. I make sure to buy nice food and good teas and interesting books and games regularly. I save up for bigger fun-things (like conventions) sometimes, and then I lower my monthly spending pleasure budget, but it’s always there. I know this can be really difficult, but I think this is a better way of doing it. Perhaps your pleasure budget will be 100 sek one month. Still, make sure it is there, and then use it on something you really want. Take shameless pleasure in it.
Writing. I write as much as I can. About 95% of everything I write is for my own pleasure only, like short stories, poems and diary entries. (The number is at about 45% for finished drawings, but also at around 95% of everything I draw if including sketches.)
I read. I read a lot. I live in as many worlds as I possibly can, putting myself in the skins and clothes and shoes of as many persons as I could ever do. It helps when this life is terrible. It helps when I don’t feel at home in my own skin. It helps feel at home in my own skin as well. Sometimes it takes fantasy to explain racism. Sometimes it takes science fiction to understand the past. Sometimes we need to be others in order to see ourselves clearly. I often read the same book several times. Some of my favourites have seen over twenty reads, and I frequently pat them, pick them up and press them to my chest, and read a favourite passage where I stand.
Helping people. Helping people makes me feel hopeful: we create the world we live in, every day. I try to create a better world and I know that at least I make the world a better place for some people. I hope it spreads. I hope we will have a world to be proud of, one day.
I try to accept help. I’m terribly proud and stubborn and usually I don’t accept help offered to me even when I really need it and should. Accepting help and leaning on others is pretty much the most difficult thing in the entire world for me, but I’m working on it and it’s getting better. It’s something worth fighting for, because we all need help. We all need one another.
I do my best to rest when I need it nowadays. Resting and regaining one’s strength is a must. Of course, emergency things come up sometimes. Sometimes I need rest and a person is in danger and I have to help out, but then I try to rest as soon as possible after helping out with the immediate emergency. Avoiding burning oneself out due to sickness, disability or depression is not being lazy. It’s being responsible. Self-care is really important.
I let myself feel what I feel without being ashamed of what I feel. Some feelings are not pretty and some are incredibly messy, but that is all right. When I’m sad, it is all right. When I’m happy, it is all right. I don’t try to pretend to feel anything, I just let myself and my feelings be what they are. Being happy sometimes doesn’t mean one has imagined or made up one’s depression or that it isn’t real. Don’t feel guilty for being happy sometimes in the middle of a depression: grasp at every precious moment and immerse yourself in it.
Talking to my friends. Knowing that I am not alone really helps. Often I don’t even need any advice; a friend just listening and then saying: “yes, that actually sounds pretty terrible,” makes me feel that I’m not just imagining things or being unreasonable in my pain, despair or sadness. Sometimes life just really is unfair and terrible, and that is not our fault.
When things are just too terrible to bear, I curl up watching Let’s Plays or documentaries on Youtube, trying to breathe, trying to remain still, trying to at least not do active harm. I cry and I whimper and I curl up and hide under my duvets in bed and cry until my eyes have no more tears in them. I tell myself that no matter how much I hurt right now, life is still better than it used to be. I remind myself that it is better now than it was when I tried to kill myself. No matter how bad it gets, it is better than the Void. There is no pain there, but neither is there any love, joy, pleasure, chili plants, friends, warmth or laughter.
Life is pain and grief and sorrow. It is frequently unfair. Life is also autumn sunsets where everything is gold and red and beautiful. Life is sleeping curled up next to a loved one. Life is making others smile. Life is doing silly things and taking pleasure in them. Life is sitting outside, whispering to a friend in the dark, watching the stars. Life is pain, and life is joy.
“I don’t fear death, but death can wait. One day it will all be over, but for now I will bury my teeth deep into life and not let go with my jaws no matter how much they ache,” I whisper/cry/sob to myself and just refuse to let go and to stop breathing. Things always get better eventually. Then they get worse. Then one thing gets better and another thing gets worse at the same time. Then things get better again. It’s for those times I keep on breathing through the harder times.
And I always make sure to remember:
I am Pao. I might be angry sometimes. I make mistakes. Sometimes I am inconsistent, and sometimes I have to cancel things literally at last minute. Sometimes I cannot stop crying: sometimes I just cry and cry and cry and I don’t even know why, all I know is that I need someone to comfort me right that moment. Sometimes I am weak and need support, and sometimes I’m a burden on people I love. Sometimes I make them sad, because they love me, and of course it makes them sad when I’m miserable. That is what love does to people. Love is empathy. Sometimes I’m a burden, and that is all right: we all are.
We are all weak sometimes.
We are all a burden sometimes.
We all have our own problems and weaknesses and our myriad different impossibilities.
And do you know something?
That is all right too; because we are not alone. Together we make little of our weaknesses and impossibilities, because our impossibility is what someone else excels at.
Together we are whole.
Together we are strong.
I honestly believe in all of this, and that helps me cope too. That helps me believe that there is a future, even when it is too dark for me to see it.
/pao – 23 oct 2014 – 00.46