Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Black Dog Down - June

So, the other weekend I was at a friend’s wedding reception and an alert came through to my phone: Facebook letting me know that said friend had got married. Social media, on the ball. Important not to let these little details slip you by when you’re attending a real world social occasion.

Turns out no similar notifications are sent out on your newsfeed when you change your Facebook status from married to single. Well good, that’s a downgrade and nobody wants to advertise that.

Still, it’s a fact and unless you’re a bible-thumping creationist from the Deep South or an Islamic fundamentalist heavenbent on world (and your own) destruction, facts are by and large inescapable. So yes, now I’m young, free and single. Or, as my sister put it, two out of three isn’t bad.

Updating (or downgrading) your Facebook status is not the primary concern in the midst of a painful decoupling, but I went ahead and attended to that minor spot of book-keeping on the Friday afternoon that my wife left because frankly I was in denial, half-convinced that she was only setting off on a weekend trip and I was crying for no good reason since she’d be back Monday.

Essentially, I had to acknowledge what had happened. And in fact my tears were not for no good reason. They were built on very solid foundations. Unlike those only the day before, when I was walking home from a pleasant morning’s writing session in the local cafe and started crying my eyes out on a public thoroughfare.

Now, I knew that tomorrow was impending (it usually is) and that my wife would be departing (I’d known that for a month or more), but I couldn’t swear to it that had anything to do with that sudden tearful spell. It sort of crept in and pounced and it was a whole sorry mess of feelings, specific source indetertiminate.

What that Thursday-Friday contrast hammered home to me was that stark and horrible contrast between depression and things that are upsetting. Some don’t grasp that distinction. Once upon a while ago, both my parents would ask what the hell I had to be depressed about. Simple answer: nothing and everything. There was nothing they perceived as wrong with me or my life (other than they really felt I ought to give up this writing pipedream and get a proper job) and, incidentally, there were a lot of people worse off in Africa. (Paraphrasing there, but you get the gist.) While if they’d been the viewpoint character in this story they would have seen that I had everything to be depressed about. Everything, including all those worse-off people in Africa.

The truth is I could win the lottery this week, net my life-long dream and land a massive publishing contract, get rogered senseless by the hottest woman on the planet and still be depressed. Whatever Maria might tell you in song, thinking of a few of your favourite things doesn’t always set the world right. She’s kidding herself if she thinks a few warm woollen kittens can fend off the Black Dog.

Obviously the question at the centre of this year-long blogathon is, what can? Equally as obviously, I haven’t answered that yet. Give me time, ha.

Well, the discipline and the environmental improvements are helping to a degree. Having a good domestic clear out has been a healthy step and will likely continue. This does not include turfing out your partner, I should add. It wasn’t like that.

While I can very easily identify the difference between depression and common or garden sadness – they’re like chalk and cheese where even the simple cheese is way more preferable, even to the most dairy intolerant of us – I can’t recommend adding to your life’s upsets. That’s like building a house out of tyres when your rubbery foundations are on fire. No, ideally you want to be focused on adding to the good things in your life, even if it’s just a minor inexpensive treat each day.


But there’s a strange relief in grief from external sources. What you’re experiencing, after all, is a healthy emotional response to stuff that’s expected to make you feel like shit. Stuff that comes at you from without rather than within. So I guess what I’m saying is don’t go looking for bad, hell no, but if it comes your way then there’s something to be said for recognising it.

MyJune then has involved a pressing need to handle reality. A bullet headed my way at the end of the month and no way of dodging it. It involved a great many practical concerns – of which the Facebook update was the least, I should probably add. Separation brings with it more financial considerations than I’d properly appreciated.

Truth to tell, I’ve not earned any sort of living off my profession since I wrote my last Merlin novelisation (and holy crud, that’s depressing – by which I mean it’s a clearly identifiable external root cause of deep dissatisfaction, disappointment etc, possibly contributing to and reinforcing my depression, but not actual depression in and of itself). So even setting the emotional side aside, I’ve found myself having to devote inordinate amounts of June to form-filling, benefits applications, banking arrangements, new tenancy agreements, switching water rates to my name only, desperately trying to rethink my business approach to somehow make more income out of this writing lark etc etc etc. (Etc.) I can’t tell a lie, it was all hugely daunting and wearing, but it was diverting. Not like watching a bad movie, but definitely a pain-in-the-ass distraction from both the impending separation and the depression. Nothing like a headache to relieve the heartache, eh?

Of course, the downside to that distraction was that ultimately it’s a return to life on benefits and that feels too much like a return to one of the times in my life when the Black Dog was at its blackest. Every silver lining has a cloud.

Still, as I write this I’m acknowledging that while June represents an ending I owe myself my absolute best efforts to view the 1st of July as a beginning. Ultimately, that’s what this separation was about – my wife and myself seeking different things in life that take us in different directions.

And of all June’s hard practicalities, that task of coming up with ideas to further  my writing career and so on has had a positive, re-energising effect. Not to any miraculous degree, but in small, subtle ways that I hope will turn out to be the stem cells of this grand new rebirth. Okay, that’s possibly overstating it a bit, but we’ll see. At the end of the day, I’ve armed myself with plans and a number of things to look forward to...

So, here’s looking you in the eye, July. Episode One of a new solo spin-off series. And my wife has her own new series too. Good luck to you, Mrs!

SAF 2015