The world as we knew it

I am now, more than I used to, looking around me, and I have this feeling that the world, as we used to know it, is coming to an end. A rough, yet unexpected ending. This pandemic context made me aware of one thing in particular, and this is our tendency to taking everything we’ve had until now for granted.  It is not the end in a biblical way, but rather the ending of a way of living, understanding what happens around us, and reevaluating the ways we cope with everything what happens around us daily. In times like this, the real challenge is to remain calm and sane when everything is shaking.

I see a lot of things happening around, people trying their best to manage this situation they have never experienced before. Some try to follow their old routine as much as they can Some are drowning in anxiety and confusion, being unable to adapt to the new way of doing things. If I can say something about this, it would be that this global issue has put every one of us in front of our friends from the closet. Because we’re only human, after all, and every crisis has the potential to bring up to the table the unsolved issues we’ve been successfully avoiding for so long.

It happened to me as well. I’ve been pushed to revisit and reconsider the way I’ve been placing myself on certain topics. One of them was my homeland. Coming from a small village surrounded by hills, I’ve always wanted to get out of here and never come back. Somehow, this whole thing caught me here, due to some things out of my control, and it took me a few days to understand that this was not a bad thing at all.

Even so, adjusting was hard, as I’ve seen, once again, that all my plans were blown away. This forced me to sit and ask myself Who were you before wanting to have it all at once? and everything became slightly more clear. I’ve seen that there are still things I can do, such as reading outside, in the sunlight. That there are still little joys left.  That slowing down for more than I’ve initially hoped I will have to will, eventually, help me know myself more.

I’ve understood that this is not some form of punishment, but a road meant to reconnect me with the pieces of the puzzle that I’ve lost in my rush. That I can have a taste of the things that used to make my childhood here, in the countryside, pretty. But it also made me aware of the fact that our ultimate survival tool remains gratitude.  It made me understand that I should be grateful for having enough space, living in the countryside, to move freely. That I still have my mother and cats around me. That there are still things to be done here, as the nature doesn’t really care about our whining.

I’ve begun to discover the old ways of doing the things, and that every ending has a little door left open. I understand that there are still little things that can be done, and that no bad shall last forever. Also, I’ve got to understand how important is the way we look at the things we live. Our perspective is a big part of what we’re actually living and what we understand from it.

Only by being grateful and trying to see more in-depth this brutal shift of our daily lives, we can get out of it sane. Because this is the perfect moment to look behind us. To see all the Mondays we didn’t do anything but ask Is it Friday already? and all the times we procrastinated just for the sake of it. Change is hard, is painful, is bringing up to surface all our well-hidden anxieties, but it is, at the same time, so necessary.

We need to get through all this process to finally understand how privileged we have been, and for how long. We have to change the way we live, work and dream so that we will be able to appreciate what used to be our taken for granted normality. We have to dream new dreams and discover new ways of making things work and, above all, we have to understand that slowing down is not a crime.

Because we’ve rushed for too long. We’ve been greedy and ungrateful for too long. And now we’re being forced to unlearn as much as we can these things. We are put in front of a whole new context, and this brings up to me an old phrase from a psychology handbook, saying that Intelligence is the individual’s capacity of adapting to new situations. This means, above anything else, to be able to let go. To reinvent our routines in ways that make life bearable. To keep from our old ways of doing things only the bits that were genuinely bringing us joy as they were also functional. And, last but not least, to relearn how to use technology to connect with the ones we care about, and not only for showing off our personas.

This, too, shall pass, but it doesn’t mean that the world will remain how we used to know it because it won’t. But it means that we have to learn how to be selective in a constructive way. It is the moment when we have to admit, to ourselves in the first place, that individualism won’t bring us any good in the nearby future. To rebuild our communities, to share more openly what brings us joy and what we feel that could be done better.

To spend more time doing things we love, even if it’s reading, listening to music, or calling our loved ones to chit-chat. Now is the later where we’ve stored all our projects, plans and dreams. We can either get intoxicated with fear and uncertainty or try to rip out pieces of what we’ve been postponing for so long and take everything step by step.

Yes, this is a hard time for all of us, and harder times are expected to come. But this is no excuse to let ourselves down once again or to allow ourselves to drown into anxiety and fear. We can do that, but we can, as well, start and accomplish everything we’ve been postponing for some undefined later. Not if we want to get out of this sane and mentally prepared for the good that is to come. Because, yes, things are bad, but this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing good to be expected.

So go and put some water to boil, have some tea, listen to some music. Maybe you will watch a movie, or read a book. You can call your best friend, or your mom, or that person you’re always saying that you’re going to catch up with, but you never do. Or maybe don’t do any of these, and just go to sleep. It doesn’t matter that much. What matters, instead, is how good you’re managing to hold up and stay collected, because now, more than ever, we can see how contagious our emotions are. So let’s just try and be our most responsible, patient, caring and rational selves, at least for a while. This might be the only way out from what tends to feel like a trap for most of us even if it is, ironically, only putting a mirror in front of who we are.

The beginning of the journey: when depression kicks in

They say that every journey begins with a step, but this is also standing for the bad periods in one’s life. Every bad period begins with a bad day, or, even more specifically, with a bad event. It doesn’t take that long until the bad you’ve always feared happens, and your world becomes an unrecognizable place to be. This is how the whole journey begins, with an event.

It could be something not that big, at the first sight, but, on the other hand, who can tell what’s big enough to shake another being’s life? It could be literally anything: a failed exam, a break-up, losing a job, losing a loved one, gaining weight…as many people, as many stories, and as many bad possibilities.

Somehow, though, despite all of these, the signs of depression installing tend to be pretty obvious, especially if you’ve had your meetings with her, too. You’ll see the differences in the way that person talks, dresses and behaves.

Because depression brings not only pain, but also change. It changes the way you sleep, the way you eat, it changes the way you’re interacting with people around you and with your own body. You might sleep too much, or almost not at all, and this applies to everything stated before.

But one of the most painful things brought by depression in one’s life is doubt. Self-doubt and, most important, the doubt of a purpose. A depressed person will ask itself and the others around frequently “What’s the point of this?”. It might become annoying and worrying, I can totally understand, but it represents exactly the way that person sees the world around- pointless.

An important thing to say is that these signs do not come as a storm, all at once. They are subtle changes in one’s behavior that appear during a period of time, usually estimated at two weeks. If one of the main coordinates of one’s psychological well-being, such as sleep, appetite, libido, self-esteem, social interaction, care regarding one’s body and health has significant changes that last for over two weeks, there might be a chance to talk about a depressive episode. As many changes one can spot in a loved person’s behavior, as likely it is, if we respect the two weeks rule, to be able to talk about depression.

It is not something uncommon at all, and, as you’ve read this article, there’s a possibility that a name, or two, raised up in your mind. If we listen to the World Health Organization, depression is the lead cause of disability, counting over 300 millions of persons across the world which are being diagnosed with depression. If we think about the people who can’t afford mental healthcare and diagnose, the number is much bigger than that.

In this context, we have to talk about depression. Or, to be more specific, not only about the stimuli that trigger it, but also about what one could do to befriend her. Because it’s not that kind of disease that you’re gonna cure once and for all, no. It is more like we have to learn how to live with and without depression, because, even if our clean periods can, in the best scenarios, last for years, there will also be times when occasional episodes of various intensities will kick back in. And we have to be prepared, to be able to identify when one’s approaching, and to know what we have to do to diminish the possible damages as much as we can.

We have to understand that a picture-perfect life can be just as worrisome as a chaotic one, and that any extreme can be potentially dangerous for one’s long-term well-being. But, for this to really happen, we have to share our own stories about depression, and about the things that helped us overcome it.

I can’t really recall when my first depressive episode happened. It was, anyways, a long time ago, maybe when I discovered that I don’t look the way people label as beautiful. Part of my mental health struggles were due to the fact that I, for a really, really long time, was hating my body. Even now I have days when I look at myself and think “Oh, well, at least I’m smart, and that’s a good thing, too.”. But now we talk about days, not years and years, as in the past. If the recovery after all the years of self-hatred happened in the blink of an eye, I can’t tell you the same thing about my first major depressive episode.

Here’s how things went. It was the summer of 2018, when bad things started to happen. First, I was dumped by the guy that I loved. After that, I failed my PhD admission, and turned back home. I was feeling…no, the truth is that I was not feeling, and that was a first.

I was in a state really similar to the one after anaesthesia, where you know that you were able to feel, but, at that very moment, you can’t. This paired “nicely” with an unfamiliar desire to sleep (at that time I was sleeping somewhere 11+ hours a day) and the loss of meaning. I was absolutely unable to see the purpose of things, and most of the things done in that period were done by default. It was also the period where I’ve cut so many ties, that I ended almost isolated, home, with my books and cats. It might sound pretty and a good thing, but the numbness and the loss of meaning that were always with me, matched with the constant feeling that I’m an unworthy failure, made it one of the worse periods I’ve lived so far.

With all that being said, though, I  never gave up. Actually, I returned to the things that used to bring meaning into my life, like writing. I’ve started to keep a diary again, in a failed attempt of holding myself accountable. I stopped, however, when I’ve noticed the obsessive tendencies that it was revealing. And, most importantly, I’ve returned to a thing that has always been one of my main traits: seeing the good in others.

This is something worth trying a bit day by day. To make other people feel like they are good enough, they are beautiful, they are loved, they are worth it. That their fights matter too, and they’ll make it through just fine. That they are not alone in this. It’s the easiest way to make a difference for the others, and for ourselves at the same time. Kindness is free and feels good. It takes you nothing to empower other vulnerable people around you, but gives you so much in return.

It is, if you’ll ask me, one of the most reliable and powerful tools to use in this journey towards recovery. Because, as I was saying, the depression is a game-changer we have to learn how to live with. And this is why the recovery after an episode is a whole journey by itself.

Because you discover things about yourself that you didn’t even knew they’re there. You develop new mechanisms of coping with hurt, distress, you get to see things from a different perspective. You learn the difference between putting yourself first and turning into a selfish, entitled brat. Between genuine self-care and the marketing, good-looking-on-social-media kind of self-care. And a whole bunch of other serious, or, ironically childish kind of  things.

But everything begins with that one moment when a bad thing happens to shutter everything we believed it was meant for us, that brought us joy, fulfillment and sense. I don’t believe in magic tricks that would help you get over the bad times. There’s no such thing.

There is, instead, honesty, support, even if we talk about the emotional support provided by the people who love us or about the professional support, provided by a specialist, and in the magic of doing. These are very powerful tools fo growth, through managing emotional struggles. Is important to surround yourself with people who can still see the best in you, even when you’re unable to.

In my dark times, even if I was almost isolated, I still had my people who’ve genuinely cared about me and supported me. Even if that meant sometimes sharing dope music with me, and other times showing me potential collabs, to keep me going, they were there, and I wouldn’t be here without their unconditional love. Needless to say, I’m deeply grateful for their existence.

Forbidding something to yourself, even if it might, at first, seem the right thing to do, as we usually tend to associate it with discipline, it means nothing. Just a road leading to NowhereLand. Of course, this is not meaning that we are allowed everything and anything, as things are obviously not standing that way. But saying always No! didn’t help nobody accomplish anything.

I hate giving advice, but if I’ve understood something during this journey, is that’s gonna be one of the most surprising times in one’s life, so you’d better not simply walk the walk, but try to see, understand and enjoy the new version of yourself that’s blooming slowly, but surely. Continue doing the things you used to love, even if you can’t feel a thing at the given time, continue growing your relationships with people that show you love, and don’t give up.

At the end of the journey, which is not that much of an ending, but more of a stop, you’ll see that it was a bad period, not a bad life. That there were days when you’ve felt almost happy, almost like you’ve got the whole thing put in the right box again, days where nothing seemed to ever make sense or progress, and days that, well…just were. Not good, not bad, but they were there. And, above all, you’ll see that life has always kept its fabulous beauty, all the time. Because not even depression could ever take that away.

#tot ce vrei

tot ce vrei e de partea opusa

a fanteziei, a linearului, a disperarii.

a trecut de mult gardul fricii

si hoinareste mut pe taramul

pitit in umbra sarmelor ghimpate

poti avea tot ce vrei,

dar asta e doar ce-ti zic ei.

si poti avea tot, orice, dar…

stii ce vrei?

intreb si eu si zic sa

te feresti cat poti de zei

claditi din minciuna si chirpici

ce s-au spoit cu auriu si se vad zmei.

de le dai timp, nici colb nu ramane din ei…

pare frumos, dar adevarul nu-i aici.

poti fi cine vrei, adica oricine,

dar e si aici o intrebare:

ce stii despre tine?

una din marile-ntrebari,

de n-ai grija la nuante,

o sa te trezesti sub un curcubeu de sperante

poti fi ce vrei, asa se spune,

d’aia sufletul meu tot umbla prin lume.

tot d’aia te uiti la mine de parca

sunt Frida Kahlo la crasma din colt, direct de pe Arca.

umblu si tot umblu, din noaptea fara nume,

eu nu sunt nici vorba, nu sunt nici pronume.

sunt tot ce-am vrut,

dar nu-nseamna nimic,

sau nu mare lucru de cand s-au risipit

in penumbra de rascruce acei ochi

ce ma priveau jurand ca nu se vor duce,

la gramada cu promisiunile unui timp pierdut

puteam fi tot ce vreau,

asa ca m-am decis sa fiu eu.

pare putin, trist, dezamagitor,

dar nimeni n-are sa traiasca-n locul meu;

cata vreme respir si simt, am valente de zeu.

daca pot fi orice,

voi fi emotie pura.

necenzurata, muta, dura

ca aerul muntelui cand iei prima gura.

abia asta e ce da dependenta,

si cand nu exist te duce-n prag de dementa.

tot ce vreau e ludic, intens, n-o sa neg esenta,

nu cata vreme asta i-ar periclita existenta

tot ce vreau pot sa fiu si nu-s.

caci la tot ce vreau se ajunge-n doi

iar oameni vechi n-o sa ma-nvete drumuri noi.

eu vreau drum nou, vreau sa ma-nveti,

si-apoi sa-mi dai drumul inapoi in lume.

nu te speria, pastrezi o parte din mine

si poti oricand privi cum ma gasesc

si regasesc umbland mereu pe-alte carari,

mica Alice din nicaieri, cu ceva mai multi de ieri

in plus la numarare. si, sa vezi eroare:

tot ce-am vrut m-a facut prea mare,

sa pot, de vreau, sa ma suprim.

ma porti la gat, asa pot fi putin,

altminteri orice-i mic e chin.

pot fi orice, asa ca-s eu

nu o regret, nu zic ca-i rau,

dar se dilata spatiu-n jurul meu

si, uite, vad cum se latesc peretii

cei albi de spaime-n gerul diminetii.

sunt tot ce n-ai habar ca vrei,

pierduta-n asteptarea cetii.

astept sa ma gasesti, sa-mi vezi

tactil cealalta perspectiv-a vietii.

de pot fi tot ce vreau,

raman ce-mi sunt,

caci mi-s destul, pe drept cuvant.

sunt eu cea care sunt, pot fi

a lui, a ta si a oricui

sau pot ramane-a nimanui

si viata tot nu va durea

caci mai intai de toate-am fost a mea

iar asta stiu ca nu se va schimba

nici cand pe trupu-mi vested o sa port pamant,

caci am trait si-am hoinarit ca mine;

eu cea care sunt. si-am insirat

cuvant dupa cuvant intr-un colier.

e-averea mea, esenta-mi diluata

ce-o las oricui prin testament in vata

sa-nsire amintiri de nopti de vara

dureri plimbate-n lung si lat

de impletit cu sfoara.