Like many a middle aged man (or woman for that matter) the Star Wars movies are an inextricable part of my conciousness and today I bought the latest film on DVD and am watching it for the first time. I still own my very first Star Wars figure as well as many others which sit in a glass cabinet just a few feet from me. It was bought by my father, I remember the day still, a Saturday and the day of my sister’s 21st birthday party. He took me to see “a new hope” in a cinema in Enfield, North London that has long been a supermarket. Good and bad in the Star Wars film are represented by the light and dark sides of the force and like in the films it is sometimes hard to work out which is which. Take my father for example for most of my childhood he would be the tired gentle giant who would come home late at night and would sit filthy handed in the kitchen ,Benson and Hedges in one hand, clutching a glass full of fizzy painkillers in the other. He would only come alive at weekends when he would often spoil me rotten. If he was in Star Wars he would definitely be on the light side of the force. Whereas my mother was always a scary figure, the one who said no all the time, her face going through scarlet to white with rage at the merest indiscretion on my part. She to me as a child was definitely the dark side growing up but as an adult I can see things were a lot more complex than my child’s brain could comprehend. My mother suffers from depression as did her mother and so do I. I have a vivid memory of her ruining my outing to see “the empire strikes back” at a cinema in Norwich by having one of her ‘funny turns’ in the middle of it and us having to leave. It was what I would now call a panic attack, a thing that has ruined many things for me and caused myself and people who are close to me a great deal of misery throughout my life before I even had a name for it and a diagnosis of depression. It was not long after that point that my mother drifted fully into the foggy realm of diazepam where she would remain for at least a decade leaving me to deal with a nightmarish childhood alone. My father’s good heart, the light side, caused a lot of strain and misery to us all. Between his over generosity to clients for whom he would often work for next to nothing and his over generosity and capricious nature he ran up a ridiculous level of debt and left the whole family to carry the can. His light let the dark in, leaving my mum to bare the load and her harder nature to control the reigns and keep the family together even as my father’s health failed and failed more. I have bits of both of them in me but a bit more self knowledge than either of them. When my father died I was at university, I buried all my grief in my work, using my Star Wars toy collection as the basis for all my designs for all that semester. I ran from the grief only for it to catch up with me threefold some years later when the world had forgotten all about my dad.
Today is the beginning of depression awareness week. I am all to aware of depression unfortunately, it has haunted me consciously and unconsciously throughout my life to the point where I don’t know which is me and which is it. It has caused me so many problems of late and has lost me something that was so dear to me recently that I find it hard to carry on. But I do. Stubbornness is a family inheritance too it seems. But was it depression that caused the problems or me? It’s hard to tell, today I feel like I’m in charge but that’s because nothing upsetting has happened for a whole couple of days but prior to that I would say depression has been running the show for at least three months possibly much longer, reeling from shock to bad news to bad decision to consequences of bad decision over and over until I can no longer tell what is real from what is imagined, I’ve hurt others and myself in equal measure. I can’t shoulder all the blame, some is down to other people, some is down to bad luck but the bulk is down to me or that raging chemical maelstrom that is my mind at times like that.
If you imagine a bowl of water, you drop in a pebble and watch the rings expand and from the point it happens as they gradually disappear and the surface settles down to normal. But throw in a house brick and the water goes everywhere , running over the sides, flying in the air and the crashing and clashing of waves is impossible to track. That’s what I’m dealing with right now, just what happened? how much damage has been done? How much of that is fixable and how much is permanent? How much of that damage has been compounded on top of damage that I had caused before? Will I be forgiven and to what point? I can’t expect anything but I can hope, and that is all.
In the meantime I have to forgive myself which is hard enough. I have to try and soldier on from one tiny moment of snatched happiness to the next between a seemingly endless slurry like tide of knowing the value of what I have lost and the permanance of that loss. The new Star Wars film bought me a couple of hours of snatched joy although not nearly as much as if I was watching it being seven years old, the woman clutching a giant lady gnome with a bewildered look on her face in the supermarket bought me an extra couple of minutes but now the fog is closing in again and I need to go off and draw something before I sink back in the mire, getting to a point and time where I might sleep and, if I’m really lucky, get through to the next morning unbothered by the creeping loneliness that haunts my bed at night.
I know that if I hang on long enough there may be other moments that aren’t bloody awful and if I’m really lucky the occasional time of happiness and even bliss. The last time I felt truly happy was New Year’s Eve when I foolishly believed everything was going to be right with the world from then on. Sadly I was gravely mistaken, but for that one night I knew pure joy, happiness and moments of bliss.
But in the meantime life now is constant emotional management, there are a couple of seconds of blissfull ignorance that prelude the day and then Wham! a constant stream of thought control exercises and distraction techniques until bedtime. It will get better… Or at least that is what I need to believe to keep going.
If you suffer or a family member suffers from depression or indeed any other form of mental illness you have my sympathy and my empathy and if you have dealt with it as long as I have and you are not a gibbering wreck and have something even partially resembling a normal life you have my respect and admiration. Sadly, I don’t think there are many people in this world who would say that about me right now. But hey! That could be the depression talking again, couldn’t it?