I had a whole post I was going to write when I got back from our trip to Seattle. It was going to be about emotional labour. About how society consistently undervalues the unpaid/low paid womyn’s work that keeps the wheel spinning. About how practising what you preach is tough, and will probably lead to you getting called out on your problematic shit. About learning from your mistakes, and owning them, and apologising like you mean it. About reflecting on yourself and growing and changing what sucks. About how that’s hard work. It was going to be interesting, and I was going to try really hard not to talk about how great I am.
But on Monday, after a great trip to Seattle and a wedding in London, I was out of energy. Jet lag, I figured. Still, I felt kinda low. Didn’t want to do anything much. Decided to play some video games. I started up an indie game from Zoe Quinn. And I can’t stop myself from crying as I realise what that painfully familiar feeling creeping over me is. I tried to ignore it. I went out to a campaign meeting, hoping that jet-lag would be enough of an excuse for my weird spacey disconnectedness. I went home with my partner, watched Game of Thrones, hoped it would be a one-off ‘bad brain day’.
It wasn’t. It’s turned into something of a bad brain week. I’ve just had a string of bad days. The kind of days where your body feels like lead, stuck to the bed. When brushing your teeth is an achievement. Not the worst days, mind. I know this road, I know how shitty it can be, and I know how to get myself back on an even keel. I’ve been eating well, not drinking, went for a run. I know the drill.
Writing this, writing about my depression and mental health struggles, is really fucking hard. I am literally getting up and walking away from the keyboard and pacing the room and sitting back down again. I know that many, if not most, of those who know me personally will know that I’ve had depression. Plenty knew about it at the time – it stops being easy to hide, after a while. But even now, I fucking hate talking about it when I actually need people to hear me. Sure, I’ll make a glib comment about how apart from the clinical depression, I’m a very cheerful person. I’ll talk quite a bit about the importance of being open about our mental health, and about stigma busting. I’ll chat briefly about the volunteering work I do in the mental health community – which is honestly something I’m incredibly proud of. But to tell someone I’m struggling? To ask for help? Fuck no. Literally the only person who gets that fun text is my husband. Who, if you don’t know, is possibly the greatest person I’ve ever known. I can say with no exaggeration that I wouldn’t be alive without him.
So why I am telling you this? Well, partly because I realised today that I texted two people and said I’d had a shitty mental health week. I don’t tend to do that. I just lean on my partner, and push through. And frankly, if I’m encouraging people to be open about mental health problems, I guess I should do that to. And, in part, I’m writing this because this is all about emotional labour. Living with mental illness sucks. It’s hard work. Living with a person with mental illness sucks. It’s hard work. And if I want to make it easier for people who struggle like me – whether occasionally, or sometimes, or more often than not or all the tie, then I have to put the emotional energy into talking about it.
I woke up feeling like crap today. But I felt worse yesterday. And I’ve felt a lot worse than this before, and I’m still here. So today, I was kind to myself. I reflected, honestly, on what’s going on with me and what I do to make things better and what I do to make things worse. I put the work in. Hard, emotional work.
And later, I’ll make sure my partner knows how essential he is, and make sure I’m supporting him too. And I’ll remember what we say to the God of Death. And that although a day may come when my courage fails, it is not this day.