When I was 18, I lost a lot of weight. I was fed up with being perpetually fat-and-getting-fatter, and had seized the opportunity to break that cycle when I acquired a job at a health-conscious cafe. I began consuming only what was available there, and the weight began falling off. At 21, I quit drinking, after a pretty gross 3 year binge, clinging to coffee as my only salvation. At 23, I quit smoking, cold turkey, after an 8 year pack-a-day habit.
When I was 28, I lost a lot of weight. I was fed up with being perpetually fat-and-getting-fatter, and had seized the opportunity to break that cycle when I acquired a job at an art gallery 2km from my house. I began walking there everyday, and the weight began falling off. At 30, I quit drinking after a pretty gross 2 year binge, clinging to coffee as my only salvation. At 32, I quit smoking, cold turkey, after a 4 year pack-a-day habit.
I'm about to turn 33, and need to lose some weight. I'm not fat, but I am getting fatter. I'm about to turn 33, and drink too much. I'm about to turn 33, and just last week, broke down and had a cigarette. And I'm really, really pissed off at myself.
And I know I'm not alone; this is pretty classic behaviour, in fact. It's a subtle piece of dark humour, that DSM. People that "suffer" (I've never liked that word - I prefer "cope") from major depressive disorder are statistically far more prone to either over-eat or starve themselves, to smoke cigarettes, and to form addictions to drugs or alcohol. They're also more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviour, even when fully aware of the risks. And, in a not at all shocking revelation, they tend to get caught up in cycles that they are perpetually trying to break. I call this cycle "the fear of okay".
As pissed off as I am at myself, and as many times as I have overcome my obstacles (only to fall right back into the same pit), I know, somewhere, in some deep and dark pit of my brain, that I do this on purpose. I know that I sabotage my every accomplishment so that I will...so that I will have something to do later. See, for someone with depression, two things are certain: anxiety about the future (this is what makes many of us suicidal - "the future" is a terrifying and hard to imagine thing), and acceptance of the norm. Our norm, that is. We hate how things are, but we are, at the very least, used to them. We're used to being depressed. We're used to fucking up. We're used to being pissed off at ourselves. "The fear of okay" is the panic we feel when we begin to cross that line between what we're used to, and what may lie ahead. What if I keep the weight off this time? What if I quit drinking for good? What if I really do stop smoking? Then what? If I manage to keep my shit together, what will be left for me to do? I've been many things in my life, but "okay" has never been one of them, and the thought of it is utterly terrifying. I am so used to these cycles, so used to the highs and lows, that the idea of even, solid ground beneath me is completely foreign. If not for those bumps in the road, what could the journey possibly have to offer? Would I still be able to write? To paint? Would I have anything left to say?
If there is anything I fear more than insanity, it's boredom.
And yes, I know this makes very little sense to many of you. I mean, it's pretty simple, right? Stop doing the stuff that makes you feel like shit. Being happy is better than being depressed. This is shit a kindergartener could grasp pretty easily. The problem, however, is not one of understanding. The problem is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing the identity we've worked hard to accept, fear of fading into oblivion. Fear of mediocrity. Fear of normalcy. Fear of okay.