Just something to think about on particularly low days.
Today’s post is a bit of a followup to this post about my struggles with depression. The support and concern that was shown me after writing that was almost boggling to me. Inviting that discussion was never my intention in putting it together in the first place. I just wanted to share how I was and why I wasn’t maybe as available or prolific as I’d been in times past.
But you guys are always wont to impress, it seems.
I’ve spent a lot of time recently reading, not just about depression, but about the broader meanings of life things; existence and the like. One thing I’ve come back to a few times is a blog post by a singer I really enjoy, Marina Diamandis (or Marina and the Diamonds, if you’re unfamiliar). In the post, she elaborates on an offhand comment given to her by a stylist in a hot tub once, and how it impacted her whole worldview: There is nothing wrong with you.
It is interesting when a simple piece of advice or notion like this can change a lifetime’s worth of thinking, and I’m certainly familiar with that sensation. There have been a handful of times in my own experience when I’ve had a profound realization about something, based on someone’s flippant remark. Like the first time somebody told me it was “cool” that I jacked off. I had been masturbating furiously for years at that point, but it wasn’t something I discussed openly with friends or at school (certainly not with the candor and excitement that I do now). To have someone say to me that they thought it was “cool,” instantly reframed and crystalized my understanding of it as a universal experience. It was cool that I did that.
Why had I needed someone else to lay that out for me?
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But, as usual, I digress. I wanted to share Marina’s post here, just in case her words might trigger something similar in you, the way they did for me.
There’s Nothing Wrong With You
One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was “There’s nothing wrong with you”.
It was a Monday morning and I was relaxing with friends in a hotel pool after playing Lollapalooza. A lady bobbed opposite me sipping a ginormous glass of rose, and we started chatting. She was a stylist and told me that, when her clients tried outfits on and looked at themselves in the mirror, she would tell them “There’s nothing wrong with you”. I asked her why and she said, “because we all think there’s something wrong with us ”. It was such an odd, simple notion, but I felt like a little flower had opened up inside of me. It hadn’t occurred to me that it could be a universal feeling. There was always something so wrong with ME, I hadn’t considered that other people might feel the same. The comment stuck with me like glue for the next year.
I lived most of my life feeling like there was something deeply wrong with me. Everything I did was somehow geared towards fixing the parts of myself I thought were bad or ‘broken’. There was also an odd safety in being broken. I could quietly blame it for anything that went wrong in my life: “It’s not my fault: I’m f**ed up and I am very sorry!”. For a while, I had counselling, and though it was extremely helpful, I started to feel uneasy at the idea of chatting about my problems, potentially for years, if I chose to. Like, really… When would I be fixed?
For me, life = Experiences + reactions to those experiences. The only power I have is choosing how I react to them. So, though I might have uncomfortable emotional reactions, I can choose to a) accept these emotions, instead of resisting them, and b) not interpret my thoughts as the Solid Gold Truth. Whatever your problems may be, (diagnosed or not), they don’t equate to you being broken. In my own life, it’s been unhelpful to think of mental health problems in this way, particularly when you’re struggling. You are who you are at this moment in time, and you’re doing your best. Brains are plastic. People can, and do, change.
If you follow my music, it probably won’t come as a big surprise to know that I’ve dealt with mental health issues for a long time. There have been 3 things that have helped me decrease periods of depression though. For anyone in the same position, I hope this helps.
This changed my mind + my life. I started doing meditation in 2013 after Electra Heart had ended. I was burnt out and desperate for change. I took no classes, read no books – just looked at a 5 minute explanation on the internet. I didn’t even do it every day. Just 20 minutes in the morning or evening. In the beginning, I felt a little dubious about the idea of “wasting 20 whole minutes” on meditation each day. But here’s the thing: Meditation is like a vacuum for your mind. It sucks up all the dust and rubbish thoughts. I can easily waste 20 minutes looking at something on the internet that I’ll never think about again, so I can invest 20 minutes in something that changes the quality of my life. This blog described Meditation as “one of the best responses to modern information overload”. I truly believe it can be an antidote to our digital lives.
I know, I know. When you’re depressed, the last thing you want to do is go outside INTO THE REAL WORLD! But if you’re bottom-of-the-barrel depressed, you have nothing to lose. For years I loved to declare that I “didn’t have a body that could run” (in order to escape ever having to actually run). But when I start meditation, the negative thoughts about myself decreased and I started to want good things for myself. The motive of exercising was not to lose weight, so it had a different energy to it.
3. Identifying With Thoughts
The reality is, I still deal with depression, but my reaction to it is different. I am more aware of its mechanisms so I don’t take my thoughts as seriously. I try not to identify with a thought and interpret it as truth just because it came into my mind. Why? Because the way I think and respond to events is largely based on my past experiences, so how can I know that my thoughts are my own and not coloured by my past? This is why I don’t always trust my thoughts, particularly when they are of the negative variety. A book I hugely recommend on this is called “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.
I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time for people who struggle with similar issues. Our culture has taught us to see happiness as some kind of end goal, but for me, the best thing about it is that it doesn’t stick around forever. Human beings need to experience some level of suffering in order to evolve emotionally and consciously. And though depression often feels like you’re stuck, or stagnating, it can also be a healthy way of your mind telling you that something isn’t quite right, and that it’s in the process of changing. We tend to view sadness as something unnatural, or negative, but perhaps viewing it as a necessary process might help us accept the low periods, and move through them more easily.
Before writing my last album, I honestly thought that I had just been born unhappy and that depression was a permanent part of me. I don’t believe that anymore. When I was writing ‘FROOT’ I felt like I was kissing goodbye to a big chapter of my life. That portion of my youth was heart-splitting and lonely at times, but it was also dazzling and beautiful. And that’s how life is for a lot of us. If only I’d known all those years that it was just part of being human.
Ask a question or share a thought here.
I do love Marina. And I’m glad to have someone of her youth speaking about such weighty things, instead of pretending that her life is All Glamour/All the Time. You can read more of her thoughts at MarinaBook.co.uk
I’m in the middle of the Eckhart Tolle book she suggested, and it is interesting, if not life-changing for me personally.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.