I’ve had a challenging start to my year, and last week when a sliver of sunshine finally broke through the endless grey clouds, I woke up with ‘Why Worry?’ by Dire Straits in my head. It’s a song I associate with my parents and my childhood, and I haven’t thought of it for years, but the lyrics are embedded somewhere deep in my heart and nothing felt more appropriate to reflect what’s been happening in recent months.
My mum has been unwell for just over a year, and in February of this year was admitted to hospital. As soon as I realised what a relief it was to have someone else take over, I felt ashamed that any part of me would have considered caring for my Mum a burden. It’s such a difficult situation and it continues to be something that hangs over me at every moment. I had the strangest realisation last week and I’m still wrapping my head around it. My experience of incredible sadness and stress has actually made me happier. Of course I’m not happy that my Mum was – and still is – unwell. I have just been jolted into an entirely new perspective on life – why worry?
I’ve become increasingly aware of how much of our conversation is negative. I appreciate that the world is a scary place and people are facing personal challenges, but I worry that sometimes this focus gives the darkness too much credit and allows it to take over. I know this isn’t a simple situation. I am not saying that people with depression should just cheer up, not at all, but perhaps we can move away from the focus on the negative all the time because it’s quite profoundly unhealthy. We should talk our problems through, but every time someone chooses to talk about how stressed they are or how busy or how sad, it seems to give misery another inch in the world. Sometimes I feel like conversations have become something of a competition to prove who has the most challenging life – and honestly, recent months would have given me a good shot at the gold medal – but I’ve kept quiet because I don’t understand why I’d participate in that, or feel any satisfaction to prove that my life has been harder than others’. Where is it going, and when does it all end?
The last year has been the hardest of my life... And yet I’ve never been happier. It’s difficult to articulate, but with such immense pressure and what felt like ever-creeping misery, I’ve felt compelled to seek out the good in life. Throughout this period, I’ve received support and kindness from my friends, who I treasure. I have laughed – sometimes at really silly or absurd things – and I know these moments are precious. Before my recent experiences, I felt that depression was a symptom of being too sensitive for the world, but now I wonder if it’s rather that the dark side of life has formed a hide so thick that people aren’t sensitive enough. I don’t know, really, but I do know it takes as much sensitivity to laugh as it does to cry, or to see the beauty in a bright summer’s day as much as the horror in a tragedy.
I recently watched the Netflix comedy series After Life and I was both amazed and touched to see the ideas I’ve been turning over in my mind so beautifully articulated. The series had me laughing one moment and in floods of tears the next. Even in the darkness, there were moments of beauty; even when all hope seemed lost, there was something to laugh about. I think that takes courage, and a sensitivity to the nuance and absurdity of life.
I think these same ideas are why I write. It’s why, in amongst all the sadness in my life, I’ve been working hard at my PhD and my first poetry collection, which is due out next month with Indigo Dreams Publishing. I write because I don’t want the darkness to win, and we should all be sharing all our joy and rage and sense of beauty. We have to accept that life is filled with good times and bad, with darkness and light. Again, I’m not saying that people with depression should just cheer up and stop worrying, but the rest of us could help to provide a way back for those who can’t yet see the bigger picture. In the words of Mark Knopfler – Why Worry? There will be sunshine after rain. There will be laughter after pain. These things have always been the same. So why worry now?