A hobby is a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time. Hobbies can include collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements. A list of hobbies is lengthy and always changing as interests and fashions change.
I have a hobby. I have a few hobbies, but my main hobby is singing. As I’ve said before on this blog, music has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember.
Singing and making music makes me happy, it fills me with a joy that I find almost impossible to define, and singing for other people, and watching their reaction, to see the happiness and joy on their faces, make it all the more special.
On Saturday night, for two hours, I stood onstage, and I sang, I sang my heart out, and for two hours on Saturday night, I’m not going to lie, I felt happy, for the first time in a very long time, I felt a flash of the ‘old’ me, a brief beam of light in what has been of late a dark and terrifying period of anxiety, stress, depression and some very dark thoughts about not being here any more. I’m not daft, I know that the band I’m in is popular, and I know the power of social media, its immediacy, and it’s power to spread a word far and wide in the blink of an eye. I knew in advance, that there would be people in the audience taking photographs, and they did, and those photographs are freely available to see on social media.
I was going to write today about how much it meant to me to hear how much people enjoyed those two hours, how it allowed me to see a light in the darkness, and to thank everyone involved for being behind me, to support me through this journey, and to say a heartfelt thanks to my friends, for encouraging me, for making sure I’m ok, for texting or calling me every day to just see how I’m getting on.
This morning however, I have come crashing back down to earth with a very huge bump, and reality has hit home like a hammer to the face. on Facebook, a comment on one of the photographs from Saturday night, a comment made by someone who works at the same place that I work. the comment? just two words ‘Great Recovery ? ?’
So, on the basis of one photograph, someone (who I had no idea was a qualified doctor with a speciality in mental health, who knew?) has decided that I’m fine, that if I’m ‘well enough to be onstage, I’m well enough to be at work’ that this whole thing is a lie, and I’m just a lead swinging waste of space. My first reaction to that comment? yes, he’s right, how could I do a show when I’m off work with a mental health problem? I should be lying under the duvet all day every day, no stepping outside the door, no seeing friends, no communicating with anyone, I should be crying non stop from waking until going to sleep, because if I’m not doing that then there’s obviously nothing wrong, and I’m a bad person for letting my colleagues down and not being there, it would be better if I just resign, go away, end it all.
My second reaction to the comment, tears, anxiety, shaking, more tears, more thoughts of not being here, more questioning my decision to get up onstage and sing, questioning every decision I make, from getting out of bed or not, to what colour socks to wear.
I don’t know if his cynicism speaks for all my colleagues, but I suspect it may well do, which makes me sad, and a little disappointed, but I guess I can also understand their cynicism, they haven’t walked in my shoes, they don’t know what’s going on in my head, and unlike a broken leg, or cancer, depression doesn’t have any physical signs, and it’s easy to think, “pull yourself together, there’s nothing wrong, what have you got to be depressed about?”
what that photograph doesn’t show, is the five days that went before, the five das I spent agonising about getting on that stage, because a) I knew there may be a reaction like the one from my colleague, b) I didn’t know if I could face getting on stage at all, c) I don’t want to let anyone else down, I’ve let enough people down this year already, I don’t want to let down another lot of people.
That photograph doesn’t show me worrying about getting onstage, right up until five minutes before I did, it doesn’t show me standing outside shivering in the cold and doing something I haven’t done for seven years, smoking a cigarette, to try to calm myself down, it doesn’t show me sitting on my friend’s sofa in tears, telling her how worried I am about getting on stage, because of all the things I’ve just mentioned, and it doesn’t show me sitting on my bed on Saturday morning, shaking, crying, wanting desperately for the day not to have come, wanting to just stay in bed, wanting to take these thoughts away, wanting to switch off and not come back on again.
I shouldn’t have to justify doing something that makes me happy, something that may well contribute to my recovery, something that might get me back to a state of mind where I can go back to work, so I don’t spend every day feeling guilty for not being there, in spite of the fact that the thought of being there makes me feel so sick with worry that I can’t even drive past the place without getting anxious.
I stand here to be judged, I know that, and this morning, it seems, I have been judged, tried, and found worthless.
So to the person who made the comment, whose name I won’t mention because that’s not my style, I hope you read this blog post, and go back and read the rest, and before you leap to judgement, you ask a few questions, you can even ask me directly and I’ll talk you through it all. You have done me a favour in one sense, you’ve made me realise that far from being supported by work, I’m obviously being judged, and spoken about in my absence , unfavourably, and that my honesty and integrity are obviously under scrutiny. You’ve made me certain that far from being ready to return, I’m not sure I can return, or if I have the will to return, to a place where there may be little or no trust in me. Thank you for making me feel like this, thank you for taking away the little flash of happiness that I enjoyed for a couple of hours on Saturday night, and thank you for making my decisions a lot clearer.