I get annoyed with all the ‘treasure every moment’ memes on Facebook. I hate the trite quotes about making lemonade when life gives you lemons. Yet I find myself drawn to the idea that something good can grow out of all this shit. Perhaps it just helps to think that something meaningful can come from the dark times.
I like using the term ‘saturnine’ for my moods. When connected with the planet, it’s often thought of as black and brooding, cold and slow to change. However, in mythology Saturn is a multifaceted god. He is associated with liberation, wealth, renewal and generation. His reign in Roman times is often depicted as a golden age. He’s also connected with time in Greek mythology, known as the god Cronus. Feeling saturnine is about something more than a black mood, even though it is so awful and so heavy, there could just be a way to make it productive.
I don’t mean ‘productive’ in the sense that when I’m having a crap day I leap out of bed full of enthusiasm for the day. For me, it has come as a newfound creativity, and a new understanding of what it means to be creative. It doesn’t mean that any of my work is marketable, but this lack of striving for economic value opens up so many possibilities. I have a new sense of the value in art, its value to me. If I get some writing down on paper and it changes how I feel about something, or brings me a new realisation about myself, my relationships or my past, it is of enormous value.
This new knowledge about my creativity led me to try painting again for the first time in 10 years. When I was in hospital, I found the best way to fill the long, empty evenings was to draw or paint. And I didn’t care what it looked like in the end, I just did it for the satisfaction of making something, for the enjoyment of mixing colours, playing with textures and getting my hands filthy. The more I do these things, the more adventurous I become. This weekend, I pulled a pallet out of a skip on impulse as I thought I could make something from it and spent an afternoon transforming it into a new bed for the dog.
Learning new skills and discovering more about myself has all come as part of my depression. When my life ground to a halt a few months ago, everything fell apart. I wasn’t working, I completely withdrew from social life and I was barely present in my marriage. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t control my flashbacks and my anxiety. I lost all sense of my old self, of the self I used to love and hope for. I was left doubting almost all of my relationships and I am still wondering how to rebuild them.
While the prospect of putting it all back together is enormous and often overwhelming, I am trying really hard to look for opportunities through the fear and the gloom. So I will keep writing and painting and attempting to make things out of rubbish, primarily as a distraction from the weight of this colossal task.