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What if I am not nothing? - Tracie Peisley - Artists and depression
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Depression

What if I am not nothing?

I would like to write, ‘I used to suffer from depression’ and tell you that I have the cure for it,

but I’ve learnt over the last thirty years that ‘depression’ is never cured as such, only managed. I can speak for my experience of the range of depressive symptoms I know about. I know it serves a purpose, looking at it rationally I can see it as a period of introspective study.

‘Are you depressed?’ I might reply, ’why no, I’m just studying dark and negative aspects of my psyche until I move on to lighter subjects’.

It doesn’t feel like that though, it feels like a fatty soup of dirty water in a hole that has sucking depths and no handrail. Key life events have triggered it, beyond early history… a traumatic birth experience, acute illness in the family, relationship break down, selling my home, menopause, losing my job and a lack of financial security. Enough to unsettle anyone.

I was drowning in a cocktail of these experiences, I was lost in the labyrinth being chased by self-denigration and bitterness.  I had something of an epiphany, myself.

 

‘What if I am not nothing? what then?’

I think I had been reduced to nothing, losing my job and career stripped me of my identity (for a while) feeling ‘not good enough’ as a mother, I felt I ‘failed’ at this also (at the time).

I knew I was still an Artist, this is a bedrock so cemented in I don’t think anything could budge this, but I felt hardly recognised for my achievements, (what was a measuring them by?) so this was a tenuous form of comfort, a secret place I retreated to rather than a platform I could comfortably stand upon.

Going back to my question… ’if I am not nothing, then I must be something and if I am something then I must exist and if I exist I surely have some more existing to do. What then shall I exist as?’.

 

‘What will be the evidence that I am indeed existing?’

This was like a new level playing field and offered an opportunity to cast out the now-defunct perceptions of myself and be self-defining.

 

Here I am existing, and I’m going to define myself.

Suddenly a chasm of responsibility gapes open and my introspective research project is forced to look outwards at the possibilities, rather than inwards.  I find I have a quest of sorts to find the unvarnished truth about who I really am which includes owning up to all the evidence of my existence.

This was a starting point of getting to the core of me, that wasn’t as decayed and rotten as I imagined, getting my ‘depression’ into a manageable portable drama and finding the force that comes from feeling newly alive was now a kind of obligation to a self of worth and a responsibility I wanted to give time to.