One of the most beautiful things that the troubles of the last few months have given me is a glimpse into other people’s lives. More & more people have opened up to me about their own personal struggle with depression, and every story moves me. For the most part, these are from people who I never knew had any kind of mental health issues (just as so many people have said to me, I never knew you had depression – I think that is one of the consistent factors with people with clinical depression, we hide it really well, 99% of the time). Seeing my struggle, seeing me at my most vulnerable, they felt able to open up and share their own stories. This happened to me on Saturday, someone I know very slightly, but see quite often, was kind enough and brave enough to approach me and share their personal story with me, with the motivation of encouraging me to keep going, and comforting me that I’m not alone. I really appreciated it, I was moved. And yes, it did make me feel better. The tendency is, with any kind of trouble in life, to look at the people around you and think that you are alone, that something is very wrong with you, that no one else has such unhappiness, frustration, anxiety, pain. The more we share of ourselves, the more we realise that is not the case, and the easier it is to bear our own personal sorrows.
I’ve always considered myself to be a scrupulously honest person – and honesty is something I rate very highly in others. I don’t like to tell lies, to flatter insincerely, to be fake. But I’m coming to realise more and more that I haven’t lived a very honest life at all. Maybe authentic would be a better word for it. I’ve tried my whole life to project a certain image of myself, and I’ve done so very successfully, judging by what others think of me. I even had myself fooled. Depression stripped that away, and I’m working at stripping away the illusions that others have about me as well. It’s one of the hardest things to do, to live authentically, to be true to yourself, to be real all of the time. It takes courage and determination and strength. But it’s only by being real, by being absolutely YOU, that people can connect with you, can relate to your experiences, and can in turn be authentic with you.
This is something that I’m determined to work hard on for the rest of my life. Being honest, being true, being open, being unreserved, being me. Not trying to live up to the standards that other people set for me, or that I think they are setting for me. It’s hard, because it means that you have to accept yourself for who you are, raw and naked and flawed, rather than hiding behind a facade. It’s risky – not everyone will accept you for who you are. But that becomes a good yardstick for who are the people you want in your life, and who are those that are really not worth it.
Be true, be brave, be solid, be you, be beautiful.
(These two photos are ‘rejects’ from the photo session we did last Thursday. Rejects because they show things that I consider to be flaws. I’m not going to point them out, because I don’t suppose you are going to notice them at all, so there’s no need. But the more I look at the photos, the more I like them. I look very ‘me’ and very real. I also, especially in the first one, look very much like my father. He was a lovely, lovely man, but he was extremely conscious of what others thought of him, and I have inherited that sensitivity. It didn’t make him a happy man, and I’m sad that he died before I started to figure this stuff out.
I wish that I was more confortable in front of the camera – Tony was laughing at me while he was taking these shots, because the second his finger goes to the trigger, my face goes all frozen and awkward. This is the result of years of being self conscious, of hating every photo taken of me, of spending far too long analysing my face in the mirror, etc etc. I’m thinking of maybe doing regular self portraits, so that I get used to being in front of the camera, and to seeing myself in photographs. But that’s another story.)