Someone I met recently suspected I was depressed because my Instagram pictures are a bit ambiguous and don't tell an obvious story. Another time it was suggested by a reader I may have depression. I do feel some unease in my life so join me in a tour of my mind informed by anecdotes and pop-psychology. This is an exploratory post to ask
Am I ok?
Psychology says to look at mental health before mental illness. The secret of good mental health is doing more of the things you love, with the people you love. It's about eating well, drinking responsibly and looking after yourself. Good mental health is not blaming your external situation, but looking what you can change about your own outlook and behaviours. It's not always easy to remember that other adults sometimes feel like shit too. Life can be difficult because
We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone.
Which is grim unless
through our love and friendship we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.
How I feel isn't controlled by reacting to either half of a proverb I once heard. It's more complicated and happens in real life. The crux of my own problem is that I tend to feel uncomfortable in social situations, which is disrupting my life as I can't easily make friends. I'm quite reflective and know what makes me happy so I don't think my attitudes need reframing. More relevent to me would be positive proactive behaviour. I attempted such last year by leaving my girlfriend of three years. I was unhappy in the relationship, so although I'm lonely for it now, it was the right step to make.
It didn't solve everything, of course. I feel in a position where I don't know what the next positive proactive action should be, less how to take it. So considering if this stagnantness was the onset of mental illness, I went back to a facebook conversation I had in 2014. I often remember it, as it shaped my reasons for not self-diagnosing myself with depression. A girl had told me in earnest she felt completely hopeless, and that I could never understand how it felt to think that
no matter what I do, I will always go back to feeling like shit for the rest of my life.
She was right, I couldn't know. I had my down days but I never felt an existential hopelessness. Another girl I used to see once skyped me as she scolded herself with hot water. However low I have felt, I have never considered self harm. Another friend told me about his diagnosed intrusive thoughts, how he thought his mother would die if he didn't follow his routines. I like to touch the door handle as I pass, but if I don't, my life continues as normal.
No two versions of depression or OCD are the same, so the philosophy that I'm not as bad as them, so I'm okay, isn't a great one. So I thought about it on a pragmatic level: was low mood disrupting my life? The answer was no. There was never a time when my mood stopped me getting out of bed. I thought broadly about my life, and where my problems originated. It was mainly a feeling of social inadequacy. Googling social anxiety I read it's the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people. As shy as I am, I love being the centre of attention, and have a quiet confidence that can veer dangerously towards arrogance. I imagined what would happen if I took medication. It wouldn't give me friends or life direction. Mental illness doesn't seem to fit with me.
A couple of cousins have been recently diagnosed with autism and it made me think of my ex-girlfriend telling me I follow too many rules. I googled it and matched up loosely. I can understand how someone feels but find it difficult to express that understanding. I take the stairs to the third floor to avoid social situations. I often seem blunt or rude without meaning to and find it hard to say how I feel.
Yet I'm not super clever, I don't massively obsess about things and I can't monologue excessively. So maybe I'm very slightly autistic. But I'm I can function fine so what's the point of wondering about it? Thank you for taking the tour of my mind in which I went round the houses just to find out I'm nothing more than a Sisyphus. And there's still a long way to go.