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December 2019


Welcome to the last issue of my digital perzine this decade.
This one contains words about being sad and getting curious.

“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it.”
- T.H. White, The Once and Future King

On Being Depressed AF.

A few nights ago, I didn’t sleep well. Despite going to bed early, I was up at 1:30 due to a nightmare; one of those dreams where nothing terrible actually happened, but the anticipation of something awful had my eyes wide and shoulders tight with adrenaline. I was awake until just before 6. That shitty sleep was another drop in the bucket of my depression, which had been filling for months as the days grew shorter and the sky turned gray.
 

I’ve had bad dreams my entire life. I remember being scared awake in a cold house and making my way downstairs to watch TV, allowing reruns of Star Trek to lull me back to sleep. It didn’t occur to me that the not-sleeping-at-night-thing was connected to my mental health until it came up during in-patient treatment in 2016. There I learned it was an actual condition and not simply a quirk, with a silly name hyphenated name: “middle-of-the-night insomnia”.
 

Despite getting a few more hours of sleep, the isolated exhaustion combined with feelings of uselessness signature to my MDD had me sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing. A creeping lethargy took hold. Sprawled on my bed, I was unable to focus on the pages of my book, or the DVDs from the library, or the new Dolly Parton podcast.
 

My inaction magnified my apathy.
 

Looking around the room made it worse. Not considering the web of laundry stretched out over the hardwood or the spire of dishware amassed on my desk, I was surrounded by shit to do. Numerous projects all paused somewhere between the beginning and the middle, tucked into corners or stacked on the shelf. Had Marie Kondo swung by at that moment, every work in progress would’ve found itself stapled into clear plastic bags and hung on a wall at Value Village. In this arid state, nothing could spark joy.
 

I laid on my bed until it was time to work out, and then I laid on my bed some more. I spent the next day horizontal, too.
 

When Monday rolled around, I sat on the couch and it dawned on me that I had two things to be grateful for:

One - this was not my first rodeo. I knew I had depression, an official diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder with Psychotic Features. I lived as a mentally ill person. Even in those moments when I was sobbing into a pillow asking “Is this the rest of my life?”, I had experienced the highs and lows enough that a part of me could answer, “Nope, it just feels like it.” In retrospect, my depressive episodes were never as bad as they felt at the time. But while in their midst, they consumed me.

Second - I could appreciate that the habits I had formed while things were sunnier were still supporting me. I maintained my daily journaling practice. I was prepping and eating healthy meals. I worked out several times a week. My ability to do these things stemmed not from a secret source of energy hidden within my sad girl self, but from the routine, I had developed over time. These things had taken place so often that even though I wanted to sleep away every moment I found myself going through the motions, without needing to think of them.

Take for example my evening visits to the fitness studio. This new life pattern probably surprised me more than anyone. I had never been one for working out. I ran cross country and did track early in elementary school, but that all ceased when I grew boobs. Exercise for exercise’s sake seemed punitive and pointless. Until last spring when I found myself in a situation that echoed past trauma. I was out of place to have any influence on the conflict, but it still impacted my mood so I groped for a healthy coping mechanism. Really though, I googled for a healthy coping mechanism and staring me down from the top of the list was exercise. I talked to myself as I would a toddler, “Try it. Maybe you’ll like it!” 

Browsing the multitude of gyms and classes, I only asked myself, “Does this interest me? Even a tiny bit?” Was there an internal inquiry that could guide this venture? A thread of intrigue to lead me through?

It took a few tries, but after I stumbled my way through my first barre class I was hooked. As a girl, I’d wanted to take ballet but we couldn’t afford the classes. So now as a grown woman, I got to move in time with these other imperfect bodies to the beat of pop music which was familiar, but still a bit foreign to my ears. Our synchronization gave a sense of peace. All the emotions I was holding became useful when I needed to squeeze a rubber ball between my thighs, picturing the face of the perpetrator my strength surged. Simultaneously, whenever I felt my energy fall I drifted to the childhood daydream of being on a stage and through the pretend performance was able to gift myself a better workout. 

The thing with barre was that there was no “eureka!” moment. In the first few weeks, I felt uncertain enjoying the experience because I’d never identified as a sporty person. Pushing the old “art kid vs. jock” dichotomy out of my mind, I became able to appreciate that I found a thing that I enjoy doing. Even if sometimes I bawl out my eyes during the final stretch. 

In my depressive episodes, there’s a weight on my shoulders that everything is futile. I get bogged down by feeling like I’m not focusing on the right thing. I lose momentum and sit weeks in a funk. In those times, I need to remember that all action is progress, even tangentially. I need to suspend my notions of sequence and trust that my curiosity will lead me out of it.

Since the nightmare, I’ve been watching hours of YouTube makeup and hairstyling videos, purchased a new-to-me Lomography Instant Square camera, and spent afternoons studying the polaroids of Warhol and Mapplethorpe. I have no idea where any of this is going, where it will take me, or what I will make. It does not look like anything I’ve created in the past handful of years, which is nerve-wracking. That being said, it sure beats lying in bed, and I can be hopeful that I will arrive on the other side of this sad time a more dynamic person.

Recommendations

My Online Shop - After tabling at Canzine Vancouver in September I recognized the value of having a consistent and accessible venue for supporting my work. If you'd like to read more of my writing, leaf through my collages or even just drop a twoonie of appreciation you can now do so! Scroll all the way to the bottom of this newsletter to see how you could win a free zine!

Georgia O'Keeffe and Emily Carr: Health, Nature and the Creative Process - I somehow stumbled upon this article in my wanderings of the Internet. It's accessible with the JSTOR personal account or through your local library. The article discusses both of the artists' struggles with depression and O'Keeffe's quote "my plot of earth must be tended with absurd care" is highly relatable.

NEWS + NOTES
 

Many thanks to Cosette who also wanted to be a ballerina but wound up a black belt.

Shout out to Simo for being my #1 fan and also getting featured on Forbes.com.

Bio


EA Douglas is an artist currently living in Vancouver. She spends her days drinking lots of coffee, writing, taking pictures, making art, reading, looking after tiny humans... and I guess now working out.

She frequently asks herself, "What is the point of social media?" But then opens Instagram to distract herself from having to answer the question. @ea.douglas

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