this is the day your life will surely change. still one of my favourite songs, by THE THE, introduced to me by a big love of my life, a million years ago. he suffered with depression, and i remember thinking, over a decade ago now, that his emotional honesty was so weak, so fragile, so overexposed. he, being a good ten years older than me, obviously had some degree of foresight that i did not yet have at 23. of course i didn't.
being told you are 'bulletproof' your whole life comes with its own set of issues. as much as there are times when i am so grateful to have inherited some of the survivalist genes of my dad, those that stop me from really sinking into the depths of depression, i know that i have also inherited the deep thinking, intensely analytical brain of my mother's and therefore, i suppose, i am the balance of the two of them, balance being a very tricky word to quantify.
this week, after a very honest chat with my wonderful, tough loving sister, the only one alive who remembers first-hand and truly knows what we come from, she told me that my approach to living with my grief is not working. in handling every single thing alone and not talking to anyone for weeks on end, when in the midst of a painful bout of depression, the feeling for the people around me is one of isolation, rejection and confusion. the latter comes from the powers and dangers of social media-in the world of instagram, it appears fine to ignore those who love you the most and tell them you're busy or overworked and post a few socially engaged, happy photos of what you're doing around london, while really you're on your couch, taking four hours to do one simple thing and dying inside. as someone who only interacts with the world when i feel on top of my game, i realised from last week's blazing row, followed by emotional outbursts on both sides, that my stoic, solid, superhuman sister, is also not 'bulletproof', no more than i am. we are both products of our upbringing. we are both women who know that we just have to 'get on with it', it's in our blood, but my maternal lifeline being different, i often drown in a sea of frightening thoughts and take perhaps longer to get out, in that time pushing everyone who loves me as far away as possible, until i remerge, bright and exuberant, as if nothing has ever happened. this has happened with every single boyfriend i've ever had. and while i'm by no means implying that they were ever right for me in the first place, there are things that i will surely attempt to do differently with the one who comes next. i'm resilient, not bulletproof, i'm strong, not unbreakable. this morning it took me hours to motivate myself to even face the world and go for a run, in case i bumped into anyone in the neighbourhood who i may have to smile at, or worse still, say hello to. i ran around with a blank expression at best, and a scowl at worst, hoping no one would say a word to me. they didn't. mid way through, with horrible period pain, i stopped, bought some nurofen express, took them, waited and carried on running along the canal, knowing that at some point, in fifteen, twenty, twenty five minutes, the road would come up to meet me and soothe my thoughts, as it always does. this is why i run. every single day. the only reason. it does so happen that it whips your body into shape, but that has nothing much to do with it. when my feet hit the pavement and that beautiful first rush of empowerment eventually comes, for the first time that day, i'm able to imagine a different experience other than agonising pain of loss, sometimes i'm even able to wildly envisage different futures, children, new exhibitions, finishing my film-all of those ambitions that hide far away from my reach when i go through periods of depression. as my sister said to me last week (my first impulse being to move to sit as close to the door as possible, so that if words carried on coming out of her mouth, i could make a mad dash for it and ideally never speak to her again), it will be hard for truly open, beautiful relationships to unfold if i am only showing the strong and 'bulletproof' side of myself to people who i love and people who love me. this is one of the reasons that living with partners has never worked. they don't quite know what they are in for. they have no idea what i go through every morning, to present myself to the world as a rounded, even person, before interacting with anyone. not until they are in my space 24/7 and i can't escape them. there is pain and fragility that comes with being truly honest with yourself and others. but i wish i had learnt sooner that it is the ONLY way forward. i wish i had also understood that true strength is having the capacity and the guts to be vulnerable. so yes dad, there is a part of me that will always hold a part of you-your resilience, your exuberance, your survivalist gene that stops me from sinking, and yes mamma, there is a part of me that carries your wisdom and kindness within me as well as your tendency towards depression and emotional pain. so now, when future boyfriends ask, 'can i see your work, oh let me see your work' and i am so reluctant to let them near it, i'm going to just say yes, be honest and start as i mean to go on. my grief is part of me, depression from time to time is part of me, and refreshingly, being honest with those i love not only makes me feel safe, but it makes them feel loved and part of my life too. there is much more to come on this subject, but for now, thank you to my big sister, for making me feel so uncomfortable i could have dashed my gin in your face, and so simultaneously loved that you would go out on a limb and address things in me that few other people would dare to do, for fear of pushing me away. that's a huge risk to take. i keep underestimating how much we will all do for each other.