Skin and Growing Into It

Somewhere, years ago, I read that the older you get, the more comfortable you feel just being yourself. I wanted to believe it.

I remember when I didn’t worry about fitting in. I was probably, say, nine when I first felt the feeling that I wouldn’t always be accepted. From that point onwards that feeling never disappeared. It definitely grew, and it ebbed and it flowed.

Then I spent a lot of time during young adulthood, I suppose, yielding that I’m not everything I want to be, and things aren’t always the way they are because of any reason other than: they are.

Now, today, (well let’s not be theatrical, I’ll say “recently”) I suddenly feel O.K. I feel like eight year-old me again. Sort of.

I bring this up because it’s great. It feels great.

I wrote a lot of lyrics and poems when I was a teenager. It all came easily to me because I wanted to find meaning, and cause. I was sad and I wanted something that I could control — words — to make that better. Now I rarely write and you might say, “that’s sad”, but actually… me… I’m happy.

As recently as last year I was having lows. I call them ‘lows’ and what I mean is depressive episodes where, for a few hours a day, for a few days in a row, once every two to four weeks, I’d be a reduced person. The actual effect varied from pure inaction to feeling like being in bed was the thing most worth doing, to sobbing for almost-no reason.

In 2015 it overwhelmed me and I went to a doctor, followed by a cognitive behavioural therapist. Somewhere, I diarised my feeling towards all this. Basically it can be summed up as “hated it; not sure it helped”.

First I was told I might have “mild” depression, which is a funny thing to hear. Like: Oh good at least what I have isn’t that bad and How comes ‘mild’ feels so ‘utterly shit’?, all in one go. Then at the CBT I felt like I was just being asked to lay myself out in front of a stranger. I want to open up but… not to you.

Now I guess I agree. I was lucky that what I had wasn’t that awful and unlike many other people, my fight was… mild.

It’s not that these lows just stopped, but the relentless, predictable regularity finally let up, and in the last six months I can honestly say I feel like I’m healed. Maybe not forever but, for the first time in years I really think I’m past the worst.

Objectivity, acquiescence, and a healthy dose of valuing oneself all mattered in finding myself at this point where I feel I’m past this. I also recognise that I have been extremely fortunate. My job, my passions and the people that surround me have changed me, truly, for the better, through what has sometimes felt like a turbulent ride.

My perspective of the world is entirely different from ten years ago and that is what I’ve realised of late. That’s why I think it’s true; I’ll grow into this skin, eventually.

Life can still sting, of course. I still have days where it’s not enough. Brief lows. Two weeks ago I realised I had made someone horribly uncomfortable by doing something I really shouldn’t have done. It placed focus on my vices, and the ones I haven’t beaten. I ruminated, but I also let go because nothing in my control could have reversed that feeling. We move on, and hope to be better.

So what now? A life of happiness? Who knows.

I wonder about “my contribution” sometimes. I’m hardly the best role model but I’ve come to notice that sometimes people will look up to you regardless.

Whatever corner I turn next, I hope I spend way less time worrying about “me” and impart that childish excitement — that perspective of possibility and opportunity — on people whom, for all I know, may be as worried as I was about what lays in front of them.

Dilbert: "I want a raise." Pointy Haired Boss: "Money can't buy happiness." Dilbert: "Then why do people work?" Pointy haired boss: "To avoid unhappiness." Dilbert: "What's my best-case scenario here?" Pointy Haired Boss: "I'll motivate you toward a neutral, zombie-like existence."
This is today’s Dilbert (and I’m ok with it)