Impromptu, Not-Funny Thoughts About 2016, Life and Depression. Also Cats.

I have seen a lot of jokes and not-so-jokes about 2016 kicking humanity in the tender bits. It’s a bit weird for me because 2016 has been the best year of my life. (So far).

A year ago I was so unwell with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia that I was mostly bedbound. Although I had planned to spend my post-uni mid-twenties traveling the world, I found myself at age 25 struggling to shower. My career hopes were dead. And I was in the surreal position of navigating disagreements with people about trivial wedding things when deep down I believed that we were going to have to cancel the whole thing because I was. Just. Too. Sick. and getting sicker every day.

And then one day in November last year I woke up and it was different. I was getting better.

Since that day I have got married, crab-danced to Rock Lobster with my family, travelled internationally, taken up writing and illustrating my comics in a professional manner, opened a store for my art, begun writing a novel and done a bunch of other awesome stuff.

I feel like I built myself a new life. Not the same life I had before and not an entirely better life. There is no escaping that I am still unwell and that this imposes limits; it is unlikely that I will ever be financially independent or capable of travelling as much as I had hoped. But in other ways it is better. In other ways I am free.

And right now, I am reducing my dose of antidepressants (with the knowledge and guidance of my doctor). This is something I have not successfully done since I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety seven years ago.

It has been a phenomenal year for me.

But yesterday I spent the afternoon in bed pretending not to exist, unable to face the world.

There is a 2016 story that is better known than mine. I, along with the rest of the world, have witnessed bombed houses and lost toddlers. The world hardened against immigrants and refugees. Brexit happened. Mass murders happened. Australia, my own country, made its refugee policies more and more revolting. And then, finally (fingers-crossed), the US election.

This a personal story, not a political debate, so I won’t go into detail on why it was so bad. I’m far from apolitical, but I find it hard to cope with these discussions. I prefer to avoid the topic and fob off questions with jokes.

Jokes feel wrong today. So does being serious and heaping more sad on to the big sad pile. So does staying quiet and letting it go unacknowledged. Everything feels wrong.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in bed.

The news does this to me sometimes. I am a bit broken. Not all my moving parts turn the way they should. I know this. The last time I tried to reduce my antidepressants I was assaulted by media images of the tsunami in Japan and flooding in Queensland. I heard so many stories of shattered lives and saw so much destruction. Overnight I became hollowed out and empty.

And yesterday I spent the afternoon in bed.

But today I got up.

I did some gentle yoga—partly for the mindfulness and partly because my body lets me now. I had a cup of tea and ate breakfast. I got out in the sunshine. I drew some cats.

more-cats

Because I needed them for my next story. And also just because I needed them.

And I will be kind. To myself and to others. A lot of people are feeling unsafe today. I am feeling unsafe today, and I am a white, middle-class, cis-het non-Muslim half the world away. I can’t image how people in America, particularly minorities, are feeling. So I will be kind. I will be kind today and tomorrow and every day. I will make kind decisions, always.

I will keep building my life, one cat bumhole at a time.

I do not want the world to empty me this time. Instead I will fill it. I’m not sure that I am well suited to political activism, at least not beyond keeping myself informed and standing against bigotry in my personal life, but I have other things. I have stories and art and kindness and, on other days, humour.

With these things I will fill the world, drop by drop.

Cat bumhole by cat bumhole.

9 thoughts on “Impromptu, Not-Funny Thoughts About 2016, Life and Depression. Also Cats.

  1. Amen. I know that I need some time to mourn the whole election outcome. But then I will pick up and keep working for the world to get a little better. I feel the same way as you do about political discussions in general, so thank you for this post. A lot of us in the U.S. are feeling pretty darn lonely and lost right now.

  2. I’m still going for jokes where I can… ’cause it’s all I have to cope. Glad to hear about all the positives for you. I know a few people with varying degrees of depression and have met some fibro-people as well. I sometimes have to temper my comments because, for instance, I LOVE winter time… but I know that can be a painful (literally) time for some… but I still have to make my jokes where I can, and try to navigate the choppy waters. If I stop too long, I start to think… and realize how scary everything kind of is right now, and for all the wrong reasons.

  3. What i don’t understand is how there’s this big gap between people one side writes reasonable, well structured comments/posts/open letter and the other replies with
    “f%$@ you let’s make america great again”.Where’s the dialogue ? Where’s the inbetween? Is it really a harsh division like it seems and how on earth is side 2 a majority :(

  4. Your comments exactly matched how I’m feeling, depressed and anxious. As someone who lives in the United States, I’m deeply distressed that so many people are willing to destroy what works instead of repairing and building on what needs to be fixed. As a person with severe ME/CFS I find it extra frustrating that any actions I can take are only from my bed or couch. I am trying to remember that as J. K. Rowling said, “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” It’s taking all of my will to imagine better at the moment. I’m sending you big virtual hugs with the hope that those of us who know there’s a better way for change to happen will continue to use our voices for positive change.

  5. You are awesome and absolutely right. The best reaction to all this vitriol is kindness.
    Trump did not create all the fear and hatred in the world – he exploited it. (Which is even worse somehow.) The best way to fight Trump is to hug a Republican.

  6. I, too, struggle with a chronic illness, however lately, due to intrusive medical treatments, I have noticed slight improvement. This has filled me with both excitement (about the implications) and fear (it could be a false hope), however hearing/reading stories like yours makes me want to foster the excitement more than the fear. I hope you continue to stay well – and get better – and thank you for sharing your story.

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