Down but Never Out

It’s been a challenging few weeks… I’ll do my best not to let this all collapse into an awkward over-sharing polemic. Low moods hit me now and again. I get short bursts of depression but I ride them out quite well, I think. I tend to do it quietly. I shut myself off a bit and tend to work through it with introspection, which seems to help me rather than deepen it. I think this is the case for me because my depression seems to be situational rather then endemic.

So I was feeling a bit overwrought already when I was happily sorting out my comics, sitting on the floor and putting them away in boxes. I had the temerity to lift some books and turn around in just the wrong way for my body to protest. I have a long and storied relationship with my spine (including multiple surgeries), we fall out, we make up, we get along and sometimes everything collapses. This little twist at the wrong moment has caused me about a fortnight of immense pain. Obviously this has not improved my mood.

All of this piles on top of ‘everyday life’ and makes the handful of activities that need to be completed each day, to keep family life running, much harder. So much harder that it’s difficult to devote any time or energy to my ‘hobbies’. In this case all of my creative outlets.

But my hobbies are a little different.
I’ve crossed a threshold now, where making comics, and helping others to make their books has shifted from a hobby to something that could become a job. So I have to treat it as a professional pursuit not something that can be picked up and dropped on a whim.

So I forced myself to keep going. I know myself quite well, so I did slow things down a bit. But the idea of stopping worried me more than the idea of forcing it. A lot of this is professional conditioning. My day job is in a, somewhat, creative field. When you do these things day in day out, the idea of waiting around until you ‘feel like’ you can do things becomes preposterous. You get the work done no matter how you feel.

I suppose that detachment is my definition between a hobby and a job. The trick for me has been to keep the enjoyment in the process regardless of the demands that exist when activities become ‘work’.

I’m not suggesting, if you are depressed, that you can or should just ‘carry on’ and ‘power through’. I’m sharing my experiences and how they relate to my working practices, because I feel it’s a relevant insight for readers of this newsletter that are interested in my process… This is all part of it (for me), unfortunately.

Once I get a little distance from feeling depressed, after coming out the other side, I consider myself quite lucky that it hasn’t yet hit me hard enough to be debilitating. I can meander through my daily life surprisingly well, but it’s like a fog descends and the simplest things are far more energy sapping than they would otherwise be. Unless you’re quite close to me you might not notice a difference. It seems I’m quite good at hiding it under a mask of normality. The very fact that I get it in bouts and it’s not a sustained sense of being is also another blessing. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by a supportive family and to have access to the help and tools needed to make dealing with it all quite simple.

What I’m doing right now is diminishing how I feel by comparing myself to others that may be worse off, which isn’t all that helpful or valid, because at the end of it, regardless of anything else, how I feel is how I feel, and that’s perfectly fine.

I’m interested to see how this all goes down, if there is any sort of reaction at all, because in my mind this is no worse than me complaining to you all about having a cold. It’s just another (hopefully) fleeting illness.

If you are suffering too, please find someone to talk to. A loved one, a doctor or even (via official services) a stranger.

As I have scaled back my work a bit, and through certain physical limitations I have found pockets of time to fill with other activities. I have rediscovered the joy of ‘comfort entertainment’.
As I’ve gotten older I have lapsed into only consuming things that I haven’t experienced before. I guess it’s a mindset I’ve fallen into as the realisation that I’m beginning to get to a stage in life where it might be getting close to having less in front of me than behind. Why read/watch something you’ve already experienced when new stuff awaits?

As I said, turns out comfort reading is a thing for me. There is a whole mix of emotion and memory in re-experiencing something.
This all started when I was writing. I discovered film scores have been very helpful to get me in a mindset where I can churn it all out. I’ve always loved the scores to the Lord of the Rings movies… The obvious progression to this was to give the Hobbit movie scores a try.

When the LotR films came out originally, I was obsessed with them. I had a strange relationship with the book as a kid, trying to get through it from age 11 and not succeeding until I was about 18. I have very fond memories of completing the book for the first time around Xmas. Sat in a comfy chair, under lamplight with xmas lights twinkling across the room in the dark. It’s a really strong and idyllic memory.
For a few years after that I re-read LotR in Winter/over Xmas to reinforce that feeling. Then the films came along and I was very pleased to find Peter Jackson’s interpretation to be to my liking. I used to have the DVD extra featurettes or director/actor commentaries playing in the background as I worked. They painted such a creatively inspiring picture of a group of people working together to make something special.

Life moved on and the Hobbit movies came along. By this time I guess things had faded and I didn’t have the passion for it all I used to hold. In fact I think it was released while my wife was pregnant, and we had very little energy to leave the house. Safe to say my priorities had already shifted significantly. I think I eventually saw the hobbit films on Blu-ray. My wife was never a fan, so I had to find time to myself to watch them piecemeal. I liked the films enough, but wasn’t blown away.

So… I listened to the Hobbit scores and really liked them. I wanted to re-watch the films, and found to my surprise, that I really enjoyed them (at least I’ve enjoyed the first two so far).

Which brings me to my point. Our perception of everything in life is coloured by how we’re feeling and what is happening in our life at the time. Books, TV shows and films drift through existence and sometimes bump up against us for a short while. Some of them connect and stay with you, others drift away. I’m really pleased I dipped back into this world. It’s given me a bit of relief, it’s reminded me of pleasant memories and (seemingly) less complicated times.

I started reading The Hobbit again last night… I plan to read The Lord of the Rings over the festive period. I hope to be sitting down on a comfy chair (once my back lets me) in a dark room with the glow of a lamp and fairy lights twinkling back from across the room… And my daughter on my lap as I try to share an old favourite story with her.

Memories are only of use if they can help to make the present and future better.