Recently, I’ve found my brain back. That is how I would describe it. Before that, my ability to think, memorize, contemplate, articulate, communicate was gone for almost two years. And more things were lost. Pleasure was lost, as was my interest in art, music, reading, writing, cooking or anything else that usually gave my life meaning and value. One would describe my world as empty, cloudy and miserable. The outside world was a terrifying place. Indeed, I suffered from a major depression. In the beginning, I didn’t talk about it, hoping it would pass, but it didn’t. For several reasons, I decided to be more open about it. The main reason was to acknowledge, to get better.
On Twitter, I started using the hashtag depressionnotaboo (#depressiegeentaboe) for my tweets concerning depression. It was sparked by the death of the actress Carrie Fisher on 27 December 2016. She was a true mental health advocate. People on Twitter used #InHonorOfCarrie to openly tweet about their mental illness, their struggles with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, suicide—often for the first time in public. Same here. I was fed up with the hiding and thought it could also help other people to open up and share experiences. That day was a turning point. Meanwhile, I have met lots of interesting, funny and perky Twitter friends suffering from depression, anxiety or other problems. Sometimes it is just easier to share online than in real life I suppose.
Also, I decided to ask my friends for help, truly one of the hardest things I had to do. Because of the depression, I was not able to do the simplest daily things. My place was a big mess, and I think I ate prefab food for at least a year. So, all my shame and embarrassment had to be put away. Consequently, a friend would come over to clean the apartment with me, while another would take me into nature for walking, cook for me or do my bookkeeping. Cannot thank them enough! And, I got myself a dog. I rescued him from scavenging the streets in Spain and in a manner of speaking he rescued me.
My work and personal interests are closely connected. Not being able to enjoy art nor do my job properly, was devastating. Being in the arts is my aspiration, my revenue, my life and it was slipping away. I was lucky to have a position at an art school in the north of the Netherlands which is steady and relatively peaceful, and my coworkers are the best. I wasn’t up my game, not the ingenious, networked, active and self-confident person that I knew and needed to be. I can honestly state that I’d rather work 24/7 than dealing with a depression. Having a depression is actually hard work.
So why this post? It’s the true explanation of why this website wasn’t updated for quite some time. I could have lied about it, but obviously, I don’t want to do that anymore. What I do want is to break the spell and end this period of silence by talking. Something I couldn’t do for a long time. I want to tell that nothing good comes from depression. A couple of weeks ago, I watched Hannah Gadsby’s standup comedy show, Nanette. She talks about many things that I can relate to, but her depiction of the persistent idea that artists need their mental illness to create is on point. She states that nobody needs mental illness. And I agree completely. Depression is hell; it doesn’t give anything, it doesn’t contribute, it doesn’t create, it takes away. With the support of my daughter, friends, coworkers and not to forget my psychotherapist and psychiatrist, I’m getting better. I can only hope that I will recover fully from this period. After the summer, I’ll start with the MA Curatorial Studies at the University of Groningen. With any luck, my brain will work properly, and I’ll have the energy again to be able to study, and hopefully, this website will be overrun with ideas and all the things that are necessary to be, feel, and stay alive.
A depression actually alters the brain during this period of time. You can find plenty of studies and explanations online. For a more visual ‘explanation’: check out this stop-motion animation by Emma Allen.
Image: Isa Genzken, Schauspieler (2013), Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Köln