The Quiet Emptiness of Joy

Six months in and I’ve hit a wall. Mentally, at least.

The first three months of this blog were basically moaning about my work hours and being really tired all the time. The second three has seen a lot more happening with the house and section (and a lot less work) but still no clear direction for my writing. In the past I’ve had a bigger readership who’ve given me feedback about what they like to read. These days I am largely talking to myself.

Which makes this a diary. “Today the weather was cold, blah blah blah…” Only vaguely interesting even if you know the person you’re reading about.

However, when I recall the highlights of my previous year-long blogs, it strikes me that what made them most interesting was tragedy. The last time I sat down to record my thoughts for a whole year, I was going through a painful redundancy process as part of the GFC. I’m sure a lot of other people were going through exactly the same thing that year, so they read it. Seven years prior to that, when I did another year-long slog, my cat died. Possibly less interesting to most people, but the one big thing I remember from that year and one which tainted my entire catalogue of writing. I spent much of that year writing about grief.

So. Grief. I’d say that both years ended up being all about grief. Losing something you love and having to learn all over again how to deal with it. One thing about grief is that it makes writing a little easier, if only because there is so much I just need to get out of my brain.

At the moment – happy and (so far) not grieving for any big loss this year – my brain is blissfully empty. I’m starting to think that this is what happens when you crawl out of depression and find joy: your brain empties. In so many ways, it’s a relief. Yet at the same time…

At the same time, I miss a bit of the chatter. I miss the drive to sit in front of a piece of paper and vomit out all the crap that’s been polluting my head for days. Now when I sit down to tell the universe who I am… I’m wondering if there’s anything there to talk about.

I suppose that’s depressing in itself really. The notion that joy is just the empty, quiet space between devastating losses. The idea that I am a lot less interesting when I’m not hurting.

It’s not true, of course (I hope it’s not true). Speaking from experience, writing with depression can create this endless feedback loop of misery that is boring as fuck to just about everybody. It’s much better if there’s a balance.

I found out a couple weeks ago that a good friend of mine is now gradually starting to come off her anti-depressants. This is amazing, and a fantastically good thing, because she has been on them for so many years now that it was becoming a real worry. Meds are very necessary for lots of people (I take 4 different medications every day, for various different things) but I’m also a big believer that anti-depressants alone do nothing to teach you how not to be depressed.

To use an analogy: if you have an arm or a leg amputated, you will definitely need medication to deal with the pain. You’ll need pain medication for a lot longer than most people think – because a traumatic amputation damages nerves and can leave you with permanent pain. You might look like you’re healed and all better, but there is still tons of pain. However, while the pain meds make life more tolerable, they are not equal to a prosthetic arm – they’re not even doing the same thing.

While anti-depressants keep off the worst of the symptoms (and hopefully you will eventually heal and recover) they don’t really teach you how to force your brain into a different pattern. People find that in other places: in cognitive therapy, in religion, in new friends or Tony Robbins books. Different techniques work for different people. However, if you just get given a prescription and don’t find the prosthetic, it’s very hard to recover a full life.

What had become clear was that her pattern of life has grown quite different to what it was four or five years ago – and this is a good thing. The hint of desperation has lifted and been replaced with an accepting calm.

That same quiet emptiness, I guess. The satisfaction and joy that fills our lives after tragedy…

Yes. It’s a good thing.

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