In many ways, I have chosen a very bad profession for myself. Or fallen into it, rather. I get too attached to things that I make and it’s hard for me to deal with criticism. I put unrealistic expectations on myself and if something doesn’t turn out perfectly the first go, I start kicking my own ass about it. The rational side of my brain knows that things never turn out perfectly the first time – especially when every project is completely unlike the last and usually done within a ridiculously short amount of time given the amount of creative energy that is required for said project – but in the moment that doesn’t matter. The rational side of my brain isn’t in control a lot of the time, I suppose. And when things like that happens, it can be a kick in the gut that takes a really long time to shake off. And sometimes it starts to snowball – a shit experience one day will roll in to the next and make that new day twice as challenging as it should be – trying to gear up for the next when the spectre of the previous is still hanging around above you. It can become a bit of a downward spiral that takes a lot to kick. But kick it you do. And why? Reason 1: because it’s what you do. Reason 2: no one else is going to kick it for you.
Things often don’t go as planned, trust me, and some days it’s still pretty killer. It’s funny – writing this now makes it sound like things aren’t going well, but that’s not the case. I’m sitting in an airport on an early and misty New York morning, after a fitting here last night that went really well. Other than a tonne of stress and a long to-do list to deal with when I land back in Toronto and get back to the shop in a few hours, I have nothing to complain about.
I was diagnosed with severe depression at the age of 25. Looking back, I should have known a decade before that, but that’s depression for you – it fucks with your head like nothing else. Like some horrid parasite, it latches on to you without you realizing and, completely unnoticed by its host, it bleeds you dry. The past 15 years has been both a great struggle and a real learning experience. At 25, I was at the lowest point in my life and I never believed I would be able to crawl out of it. And it sure as shit has not been easy, but I have done it. I know I’ll never defeat depression completely. I live with it every day – it is my one constant companion. That and my groovin’ sense of style. But I have done pretty well at kicking depression’s ass more often than not. Just because I live with the fucker, doesn’t mean I have to like him.
According to Stephen Fry, I’m one of the lucky ones – he says if you have to be depressed, you should be manic. It’s an odd statement (that I’m sure I’ve misquoted, but you should get the gist of it…) but it does make a lot of sense. Essentially, to be manically depressed means that the great lows are contrasted by great highs (hence the “manic” bit of it). Things tend to run hot or cold – nothing lukewarm. The high that comes with success is like nothing else – probably because it is viewed in direct contrast to the lows. It is an absolute rush that is better than any drug I’ve known. To me, it’s worth having those lows to experience the feelings when things work out and all the pieces fit in to place, or when the phone rings with a new and exciting project on the other end of the line. It’s all about huge contrasts and I will happily choose to take the desperate lows in order to experience the high that comes with doing something I never thought I was capable of.
I am getting much better at dealing with things that don’t go well. Slowly. Don’t get me wrong – it still pisses me off, but I’m getting better at dusting myself off and getting on with it. It isn’t easy – but it is necessary. Some days are easier than others, naturally. Some days the dust gets pretty thick.
I often need to remind myself how far I’ve come in 15 years. Who I am now, at age 40, is so completely beyond what was imaginable to my 25 year old self. Looking back, as strange as it may sound, I’m very grateful for those dark years. They taught me to fight. They taught me to look up. And, crawling out of them as I slowly did years ago, I learned that I was going to do everything in my power not to be dragged back in to them. I still have bad days. More than I care for, really. But there’s a lot of good ones, too. And every time I have a good one, I see it as a big “fuck you” to self-doubt, a big “fuck you” to fear and big “fuck you” to depression. Depression has taken too much time from me over the years. It’s not taking any more without one hell of a fight.