Taking control of my life with a little help from Fight Club

Incredibly, here is another blog entry so soon after the last. I can almost not believe it myself either, no. So of course, the fact that I’m writing this so soon to my complete disbelief means there’s one small caveat: it’s one more entry in which I talk about multiple things at once, rather than picking a topic and making it the focus for the day, crossing out the other choices in the one or two entries after. The difference this time is that, though these thoughts seem unrelated, they all came to me from reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club these past few days, having finished the majority of that novel today in my back garden in the sun.

Let me now preface this post before you go any further, because as I sit here working out what to say next I think this could end up as a weird and definitely lengthier entry than usual. It’s all there in the title. This is a post in which I’ll be talking about Fight Club; how it related to me on a personal level; and how badly it has made me want to really push forward with what I want to do with my life. Tying into the way that I felt I understood the book on a personal level, maybe I’ll also briefly mention how it’s made me think, “Fuck it, independence it is!” when it comes to the Scottish referendum in only nine days time.

If none of that sounds interesting to you then you’re best leaving now.

For those of you who are interested and still here, a refresher on my depression, which I last discussed here, is probably necessary, so skim-read that before going any further with this.

The thing I find quite fascinating about that entry is that I skim over what I call “an atomic explosion of all the emotions I had been keeping buried”, even though it’s actually pretty important. Long story short: in my first University course, I made no friends whatsoever, knew in my heart that it wasn’t what I wanted to do, told my parents, and when they didn’t believe me, exploded into messy tears that had my father crying too in private. It was an ugly situation to say the least, and the first of several mental breakdowns, leading me to an even more interesting detail I picked up on as I re-read this.

Despite having a breakdown of even bigger scale since then, and fairly recently too, it doesn’t seem like I’ve discussed that on this blog at all, even though it’s even more important. Longer story short: after these many years of depression, I recently hit the bottom of the pit when my parents finally saw through the facade I’d been hiding behind, and came rising out of it in my worst breakdown to date, loud and violent and furious at them, the world and myself; but in doing so came to accept that, yeah, I had been fucking things up for years now, but to hell with that – that shit ends now – and so came to confess to my parents that what I really wanted to do with my future was simply write, which felt great to get off my chest and since then I’ve been mostly happy. 

Weird that I didn’t talk about this on the blog though, isn’t it? Especially since I mention writing, amongst similar career choices, as part of a list I showed to my parents in my last year of high school, a list they then rejected for the most part, which I attributed to being one of the biggest roots, the source of my depression. Where I could’ve been more specific is that the list as you see it is actually in order. So I mostly wanted to be a novelist, then a comics writer or artist, and then a teacher of either English, Art, History or primary school kids.

This is all very crucial in understanding who I am.

Stay with me.

Now. Why is this recent breakdown important?

Well, it resulted me in reminding my parents of a list I wrote in high school, eventually telling them that what I’ve wanted to do most of all in my life, for as long as I can remember, is write. My reasons for this I also skim over in that blog entry, strangely enough. Vaguely I mention a small classroom of six students, actually Advanced Higher English in my last year of high school which I insisted I sit against my previous teacher’s wishes and then passed with even higher flying colours than before. Vaguely I mention two notebooks I filled with writing as a child, actually my very first attempts at writing novels, aged somewhere between seven and ten. And vaguely I mention my lifelong interest in creativity, though only name the drama classes I attended and this blog, actually having been so obsessed with more creative pursuits that I used the anonymity of the internet since I got my first computer to upload anything and everything wherever I could, these accounts with writing and art sadly forgotten or lost for the most part, and I couldn’t even tell you what could be re-discovered in the loft.

Vaguely I make this whole angry case for myself but ironically don’t face the subject head on, continuing to do exactly what I criticised myself for doing my whole life when compared to my sister, doing exactly what landed me in the whole sorry mess in the first place – fuck all.

So why writing?

No more dodging the question. 

No more dancing around a real answer.

Bite the bullet.

Put your cards on the table.

Open the fucking door. Say, come on in.

Why writing?

Because I enjoy it. Because it gives me satisfaction. Because I like words. Because I enjoy making sentences of words. Because I enjoy stories. Because I have stories of my own I want to tell. Because telling these stories through writing is the only way I know how. Because I enjoy telling these stories. Because I love my imagination. Because it’s a vast and huge and bottomless ocean of possibilities and it’s mine and no one else’s. Because this is how I’ve always felt since I first wrote and drew anything and realised each and every one of us has the capacity to do something amazing that makes us happy with our lives.

Because this is how it is.

Because I don’t want to do your boring, mundane, life-sucking job each day, you fucking vampire – I want to do what makes me goddamn happy and writing is the one thing that never fails to make me happy.

Fuck your promises of meeting me at the top of the ladder. You’d only step on my fingers when I reach the final rung. Fuck your money. It’s dirty, unclean, stained with the sweat of other hands that brought it there and I don’t want it. Fuck your rules. They’re stupid and I won’t live by them. Fuck your key to eternal happiness in exchange for a handshake and signed agreement to do what I’m told. You’re too late – I know what makes me happy.

This is my goddamn life and I won’t let you fuck it up.

So step aside because you’re in the fucking way.

None of this is meant directly at you, reader. You could be anyone, which is amazing. Me, I’m twenty two years old, but you could be fifty. Sixty. Thirty three. The same age. A teenager. Ten. A girl. A boy. Gay, straight, bisexual or asexual. Maybe you don’t even know yet.

You could be black or white. Transgender. You could be a friend or someone I don’t know and you could be from anywhere in the world. Maybe you’re Asian or maybe you’re Russian. An American, Indian, Italian. Scottish like me, or maybe English, Welsh or Irish.

Maybe you’re married or a widow or alone. Maybe you’re in your first relationship. Maybe you’ve never been in a relationship. Maybe you have lots of friends or maybe you have none. I don’t know you, so I don’t mean you any offence. 

But maybe you are living in the disillusionment that you’re doing what makes you happy, yet know in your heart that that isn’t true at all. Maybe then I’m talking to you in a way and, depending on who you are, then maybe I do mean you offence, I just don’t know.

But the most incredible possibility of all is that you could be someone who knows exactly what I’m saying, who at the moment they found this blog entry thought that it was about goddamn time they made a difference with their life. Someone who is sick to death of others holding them back or blocking their way, maybe kept on a leash like me by parents who want to raise you in their perfect image.

And maybe now you’re saying, no.

No, I won’t let you do this to me.


Step aside, get out my way.

This is my life and I’ve picked which road I want to take and I will not look back.

Not for your empty promises. Not for your money stained with dirt and the sweat of hands it was passed through. Not for your shitty rules. Not for a handshake and a lie we’ll convince ourselves is true as you hand me a rusted key.

None of that means anything to me, so I won’t take it. Starting today, I’m in charge, I’m my own boss and I know what I need and I’m going to do everything in my power to get it, and if you’re against me then you either need to get out of my way or join me.

Now stop.

To cut all this ritualistic chanting short, this is what Fight Club taught me, though I suppose “brought me to terms with” is the better expression.

When I first started reading the book, I told my Facebook pals how it reminded me a great deal of some of my favourite novels, namely Trainspotting, The Outsider, The Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and more. It was therefore no surprise to me then, after finishing the book and heading to Chuck’s website, that amongst his recommended books was Trainspotting itself and a few others that hadn’t occurred to me but certainly are very similar, such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Great Gatsby.

The point is: all these books resonate with me in some way on a personal level. These are the kind I re-read many times. Hell, they’re the only kind I read at least a third or fourth time and they’re the best in the world, and now this joins their ranks.

It’s a quotable book, just as all of the above are. At the start the narrator tells us that our life is “ending one moment at a time”, that “you are not special” but “the same decaying organic matter as everything else”. Yet in the end, speaking to a doctor who he calls God, he says this: “We are not special. We are not crap or trash, either. We just are. We just are, and what happens just happens.” Although not perfectly optimistic, it’s a remarkable change in character. And lets not forget that even though the book is filled with much more cynical lines, it’s also filled with many truths too.

Take for instance his sudden idea that “maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer, maybe self-destruction is the answer” to his unchanging life. Read some of the first paragraphs of this entry and you’ll realise that I had a self-destruction of my own – a massive mental breakdown at the end of which I revealed all. Stepped behind the curtain reluctantly and angrily in the mask of someone else; came out from behind it naked and as a more honest and happier individual, my true self.

Yet like I said, I’m not perfectly happy, not yet, just as the narrator at the end of this novel doesn’t get a happily ever after either. Consumerism is a big theme of the novel and it again it’s something that struck close to home. In the past I’ve chatted to myself about buyer’s remorse on this blog, having indeed done so fairly optimistically in a post more recent than that of my depression talk, though I realise now that that was actually complete naivety on my part. If it hasn’t been obvious since that entry’s publication then let me make it clear: the amount of books I’ve purchased since then has increased tenfold. And only on Tuesday night did I make the most ridiculously huge single purchase of them all, and in finishing Fight Club the next day did I stare in horror at my bank account and realise I didn’t need any of this.

Another quote: “The things you used to own, now they own you.”

But what can you do about it? Me, I’ve shit to sell. A lot and lot of shit to sell. Shit I don’t want, shit I don’t need. It seems insanely well-timed that sometime in the near future even the house I live in will be sold and my family and I will be moving to another.

That’s the other thing you can do about it – start again. I really do quite like the idea of self-destructing and resurrecting from the ashes a new person, a more positive person, a better person. And so starting now I tend to really seize this forward thinking attitude. The total annihilation has happened, the depression’s in the past, and now I am going to do everything I fucking can towards the future I want.

Start by getting rid of the shit I don’t need and replacing them with the things I do.

Make sure I write every single day, more than now, more than ever.

Start that novel I know I want to write, see it through to a finished first draft.

Re-write those short stories I know are good and send them somewhere.

Write that Future Shock I know I can muster up and send it to 2000AD’s offices.

Sure, get rejected – but never give up.

Never stop.

You know, there’s a moment in the video game Portal 2 where the player hears the founder of Aperture Sciences, Cave Johnson, voiced by the wonderful J.K. Simmons, hilariously taking the popular phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, and turning it on its head. It’s a side-splittingly funny moment as he eventually threatens to make a combustible lemon, but he also has a point too. Furiously, he yells, “When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade – make life take the lemons back! Get mad! […] Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons!”, and though brilliantly funny, it actually makes sense too, doesn’t it?

But as tempting as it is to leave you there, with a good quote from something completely unrelated to the rest of this entry, demanding you take charge of your own life like I will of mine, I will instead end this post with a final quote from Chuck Palahniuk, probably my favourite in all of Fight Club and one which best sums up my past in relation to where I stand now. And make no mistake – a stand is what this is and I for one don’t intend to fall to my knees any time soon, and neither should you.

Take control and don’t stop until you’re bathed in that light that once seemed so far away.

“For years now, I’ve wanted to fall asleep. The sort of slipping off, the giving up, the falling part of sleep. Now sleeping is the last thing I want to do.”


– Jordan

Another week later…

Well, goddamnit.

I am entirely hopeless at regularly updating this blog – this I have accepted. It’s a thing at the back of my mind that I always pretend to intend to write up an entry on, but I always seem to be doing something else these days. And hell, even this is another “non-entry”, as I have nothing in particular to talk about once again. No matter though, for it’s better than nothing , or so I’ll pretend anyway. Let’s have another list (without the bullet points this time though, since those things look horrible with large paragraphs) about random stuff that pops into my head and see how that goes, shall we?

Well, perhaps not totally random. If there’s one thing I’d like to bother talking about briefly, it would have to be how fucking miserable the world is right now. If I’m being perfectly truthful, I’d have to admit that it took Robin Williams committing suicide for me to really notice actually, as terrible as that sounds. When I saw that particular headline – something which saddened me a great deal, because the poor man had fought through depression over the course of his life, and even alcoholism and drug use, neither things small feats to overcome, let alone talk about so openly, which I think is incredible of him – I guess that I was just hit by cynicism pretty hard. It was probably also seeing suicide prevention awareness spread throughout Twitter that did it too, the thought that so many people may also kill themselves after being “given permission” by someone much more famous than them being a tad depressing to say the least.

Whatever did it, I was no longer ignoring the madness going on in Gaza – something I and many others have become so accustomed to hearing about that we just shake our heads sadly and move on with the day – but before I could move it off my mind as usual, here appeared the hashtag #Ferguson all over Twitter and oh my god what the fuck are the police in America doing? Yeah, that was another downer all right, and still is, particularly as the media put their own spin on events, as was also the disgusting case with Williams’ suicide from a few outlets that sensationalised the tragedy.

But even as I considered avoiding the news this morning, on Twitter I read a few articles about Zoe Quinn, a games developer known best for her interactive novel (I think so anyway, as I’ve not actually played it), Depression Quest, who is being accused of sleeping with a former boss, a man who was married at the time; sleeping her way into good reviews with a journalist or two; and all manner of other, more personal things with names released to the internet and everything courtesy of an angry ex boyfriend. Honestly, I don’t even have much of an opinion on this one. It’s blown up hugely and the shitty gaming community has reacted as predictably as always, bar some sensible folk here and there. It’s a messy situation with issues worth talking about – if any of its’ true – but most of what I’m seeing right now is your usual shit slinging, mainly directed at Quinn of course, and feminism for good measure. More crap to make one feel thoroughly miserable at the world.

Oh, and there’s also the independence referendum here in Scotland mere weeks away, hanging over our heads like a fucking dark cloud – but that sounds like such a minor thing compared to everything else. All in all, it’s a sorry state of affairs right now, is it not? Hopefully the lunacy will die down before more crazy shit happens.

Moving on to slightly greener pastures, it seems rather suitable, given all the above, that I started watching The Shield around the same time, possibly the most cynical of shows I’ve ever seen. Having moved past Deadwood with tears in my eyes, I wasn’t sure what to watch next when I saw this and asked my dad if he’d seen it and would recommend it. He did, but he didn’t fucking tell me how miserable the damn thing is! It’s about a dirty cop, Vic Mackey, and his likewise corrupt strike team who do some very naughty things for the greater good in their eyes. It’s a show I intend to continue past the first season, having at first hated Vic as a main character, but then came to not necessarily outright like him (because make no mistake – this is a terrible man) but definitely understand him, and appreciate some of his smaller actions, the highlight of which, of all things, was him beating the shit out of a close friend, Connie – a prostitute he goes far out the way to help on several occasions in this first season – so that she wouldn’t be arrested for the murder she committed, but could plea self defence instead. He can be a surprisingly remarkable guy like that, as can the rest of the cast, who have notable revelations of their own that adds a great deal of depth to their seemingly ordinary exterior (in fact, one thing this show immediately did very well was make the characters seem like real people, which did grab my attention).

But it’s miserable. Utterly, utterly miserable. One very minor story arc of a three way love triangle ends tragically with one of the men murdering the other and the woman they’re both in love with as the song, All My Little Words by The Magnetic Fields, plays in the background, we seeing the result of the triangle I might add as we hear the lyrics, “And I could make you pay and pay / but I could never make you stay”. And that prostitute I mentioned? The last we see of her this season is as she fails to stop using drugs, abandoning the baby boy she had tried to kill during her pregnancy for them (which is how Vic first discovered her, and the reason why I find his going out of the way to help her, even if it means beating her, a lovely aspect of his character). Oh, and if you thought Vic was a character you’d be giving the thumbs up to for the finale, as he has an old friend arrested for his corruption, one of the things we subtly see throughout the season is he and his wife growing apart, eventually meaning that the final scenes are of him discovering a home empty of her and his two children as she runs away.

It’s that kind of show – beating you down every time you think there’s a silver lining in sight. In a way it’s actually a little similar to Deadwood, but I think that one is more hopeful, particularly with its focus on the town’s community drawing together during hard times, such as the large turnout for William Bullock’s funeral. On the contrary, the community of The Shield – which is set in L.A., the so-called “city of angels” suitably – revolt against the police for the first season’s last two episodes, rioting against the corruption and lack of justice, and then luring and killing a small number of cops in furious anger. Despite the sheer cynicism of it all – the word of the day apparently – it’s really quite good though with solid acting and filmography across the board, and of course very good writing.

Now on to truly green pastures, a cloudless blue sky overhead and everything – I have a job. It’s not exactly a super fun job and I get less than 16 hours for it, which means I still need to sign on with the Job Centre, but it’s something, and actively doing something instead of sitting indoors all day has cheered me up a bit. Add to that more time allocated to my favourite hobbies of reading and playing video games, and yes, I’m doing pretty good, the misery above considered.

And before I say something else that’ll ruin that, or start moaning about something or other, I’ll end this entry here and hopefully have better posts coming soon. Yet another new idea I had, for instance, was making short posts about very specific things about…things. Um. Okay, for example: I’ll maybe write an entry focusing on Doom 3’s jump scare tactics and why they’re maybe not so bad. You know, home in on one particular aspect of a game, book or what have you and perhaps focus on something else in another entry. Ach, who knows? This is dependant on me actually updating this blog after all, so who knows how that’ll go?

Until next time, whenever that is.

Headlights in the darkness – a personal blog on my depression

Just after we’d dropped our dad off at work and were pulling away, my sister said, “I’m thinking of getting anti-depressants”.  No build-up or anything – she simply said it. That’s not unusual of my sister though. We’ve always been close siblings, and we’ve always been there to help one another with anything that’s been bothering us. Unlike my sister, however, I don’t say what’s on my mind or come to her with my problems. In fact, she probably doesn’t even realise that she’s there to help me day to day, such is how subtle I am with my problems, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

The point is, when my sister said that a few nights ago, I didn’t slam my foot on the brakes in shock or anything, but just drove on. It took a few minutes to get her talking but she did, as she always does. Though in this case I stressed that she needed to tell a friend of hers that she missed her in order to get through this, despite how difficult it would be, the truth I didn’t tell her – and I never do because if she were to find out this secret to my success, she would never come to me again for help – was that she was already on her way to getting past this by admitting it aloud to me.

It’s true, or in my experience it is. If it isn’t blindingly clear, I’m no psychologist and I haven’t a scoobie about the “technical” aspect to all this – this is all a personal account of my ongoing depression in light of my sister letting everything off her chest. Though it will sound terrible to say, she isn’t as badly depressed as she thinks, if at all. From everything she told me, the two common denominators that I could see were her manager and our mother, both of whom are stressing her out. But coming clean like she did and having listened to my advice to confront her manager at least means that she’ll pull through, as she always does. Last year the big dilemma of her life was coming to accept that she’s gay, but she did, despite all her doubts. Our parents may not ever accept it, but she’s stronger in not caring what they think, just as she’ll be stronger once she leaves her current issues behind too.

It probably isn’t very obvious from this blog of mine, but I get quite angry about sexism whenever I see it, particularly in artistic mediums. The friends I talk to over Facebook quite often know this about me. Quite recently, I think, I explained why this is, which I accounted to having been taught about the Suffragettes in History, a similar subject in Social Policy when I was in University, and a few other things, but concluding overall that equality is just common sense to me, which it certainly is. But I don’t think I quite put my finger on the real reason that sexism and gender discrimination pisses me off. That, of course, is all due to my sister’s role in my life.

If she were a brother instead, I think there’s a pretty high chance that I could be a completely different person today. Two old friends from high school (one of which I met several weeks ago and found out was a father – holy shit indeed) used to live a minute or two away from me, and another friend and I would walk to school with them most days. They’re twin brothers, right down to appearance, but very different from me, despite having grown up with another sibling. An entirely different friend who I’ve been long out of contact with, however, did have a younger sister like me. As you might expect, we were more similar in some respects, but not wholly, this time because of a larger age gap in his case, meaning he was in high school while his sister was only halfway through primary, whereas my sister and I are only two years apart in age.

Although I wasn’t obviously in a position unique only to me, I was as far as my life with a sibling was compared to others I knew, just as theirs were when placed against mine. Different perspectives, different people. As we grow older we all, at various stages in our lives, look back on everything we’ve done so far and desperately wish we could change past mistakes, wish we’d made another decision at this point, wish we could’ve been brought up differently, et cetera. It’s certainly something I’ve thought about it, that’s for sure. If I were writing a letter to my past self still in primary school, I’d probably say, “Look, kid, you might think you’re everything just now, but you better start treating people with more respect before you lose them all”, and god knows, there’s things about me I would change today if it were as simple as a flick of a wand.

But I wouldn’t change Lauren for anyone else if the whole world were at stake.

As I drove on and she was talking about all the stuff that was bothering her, she inevitably steered the conversation towards me, as she always does. One of the more ridiculous notions my sister gets in her head from time to time – less now that my mother constantly berates me about having no job or no useful qualifications from my several years of University – is that because I’m the sibling who has better grades, has been to University, does a lot of reading and writing, is smarter when it comes to what she perceives as more difficult subjects, etc., I’m the one who’s going to go far in life. It doesn’t really help that one of our Uncle’s pays me far more attention than he does her, not only because he’s been quite a sexist man for the whole of his life, but because he takes greater interest in my creative subjects than hers, having gone out of his way to encourage my similar interests in writing, history and art and design, but rarely her own love for music.

The guy probably sounds like a massive dick, but he’s actually someone who has greatly inspired me, despite his flaws. In the second or third year of English in high school we were asked to write a memoir of sorts about a family member, preferably a grandfather, to be read aloud as a solo talk. Though my grandad would undoubtedly have made for an interesting talk, I did write about my Uncle, a man who still fascinates me to this day, at the time spending several hours on the phone with him to learn about his life. How does a man go from being a politician to a doctor, and from a doctor to a priest? It’s a rather incredible life he’s led, to say the least, and what I admire about it is that, though he often talks to me about how different it may have been if he’d stuck with politics, he doesn’t regret his choices, being very content with everything he’s done, which is all that I suppose any of us want.

So, with his own problems or not, it’s nice to have someone in your life that you can look up to and have they in return see this, and treat your ambitions with respect. But I don’t think enough people have done the same with my sister. What she doesn’t realise is not only that she possesses these great qualities of her own – she can play guitar, she can sing, she can imaginatively create things, she’s good with computers, etc. – but that none of those things matter if they can’t make you happy.

Sure, I’ve been in University but – as I told her, still driving on – though our mum’s on my back about me passing my current out-of-school resit (I don’t have to attend classes – just resubmit the coursework), I’ve actually already failed because I haven’t handed in a single piece of the work I was supposed to – hell, I didn’t even take a look at it – for the simple reason that I do not care about it. How I’ve ended up doing that in the first place is through failing the first time, which was caused by the little effort I put in to the subjects that weren’t as interesting as those I got A’s for. In my experience then, University has been dreadful – I’ve done a year of one course and two of another, but enjoyed neither overall. Besides meeting my friends in the second course, it’s been completely meaningless. It hasn’t bought me a free ticket to a great future – you actually have to earn that through your actions, something I think she barely realises is a difference of ours, though I’ll get to that in a moment.

But what she also doesn’t know is that the very things that she gets in trouble for are actually worse in my case, yet serve a greater purpose for her as an individual. For instance, she’s constantly called a liar, and that’s true – she does a lot of lying. But it would amaze those around me if they had half a clue as to how much lying I do on a daily basis, and how smart I am about it. If my sister were lying about handing in CV’s to this shopping centre or that like I do, she would get caught easily because there wouldn’t be any proof that she’d left the house or printed off any CV’s whereas I will announce that I’m leaving to someone, have a bag which I say contains CV’s as physical evidence and actually leave for a spell. Another example where my sister gets in trouble is in that she’s apparently too blunt and forthright, yet I get off scot-free by being as sarcastic as I am day to day. Or where she stubbornly refuses to report in to our overlords on a night out, I’ll send either of my parents a text or two, yet get away with it whenever I don’t, which is as often as her. My point is, none of those things I do exactly make me feel good whereas my sister should be proud to be as honest as she is to herself and in all respects, despite how angry people may get at her.

Why I create elaborate schemes and hide my true feelings is not that difficult to explain. The hardest thing I find about continuing with depression is telling other people about it. It feels literally impossible. Every time I meet my friends at the bar we go to on a night out I just want to tell them how shit I feel, explain why they’re right in proclaiming me as the dark horse of the group, but I never do. The words are there but they aren’t caught in my throat – I just look at how happy we all are, how happy I’m feeling, and keep that shit-eating grin on my face, enjoying this night I spend with them. The only person that I love who actually knows about my long time depression – the fact that it’s never ended, I mean – is, of course, my little sister, she having brought it up a few nights and got me talking about it for a brief while, like she always does.

There isn’t a single moment I can pin down as the root of all my problems, but the one that’s planted its roots in my head most of all is something that happened in my last year of high school. Oh, I was depressed as all hell leading into that sixth year, running from a best friend in the first year after becoming unhappy with the direction our group was heading in, being slowly and painfully kicked out of the next circle a few years later, an act which resulted in me losing the friends of those friends too, which meant I then spent the remainder of my time in the school alone after that. But it was ultimately one thing in my last year of high school that brought me to my first University course, possibly the darkest moment of my life in which I was truly and utterly alone.

That final year is a very confusing time compared to the rest of the crazy shit you go through in high school because suddenly you’re faced with the very real and very frightening future, something which you’re pushed into making a decision about. It’s this moment that I imagine hits a lot of other people unexpectedly too. But I had my parents to seemingly help, my mother suggesting that I write a list of the things I’d like to do, from which we could then work out the next steps. And I did. It didn’t take a lot of thinking either, truth be told. My list included the likes of novelist, graphic novelist, comics artist, English teacher, Art teacher, History teacher, primary school teacher and a few other things. It was quite exciting to hand the list over to my mum actually. In my head I pictured her smiling, and then sitting down to talk with me about why I wanted to be any of those things, and then giving me a hand looking at University courses and whatnot.

What happened instead was she took one look at my hopes and dreams that she held in her hand and told me that we could talk about teaching, especially in primary where there was a lack of male teachers, but not the rest, which were neither “realistic” or the sort of jobs that would pay the bills. This isn’t a thing I think any parent should do to their child when their dreams are actually achievable things. It’s all well and good to say, “Sorry, kid, you’re too dumb to be an astronaut”, because that’s most certainly something only a rare amount of people can actually do; but telling me – one of six people in my year of high school that sat and passed the Advanced Higher stage of English that year, someone who once filled two notebooks with two long stories as a young boy, someone who has been all about creativity their whole life, from attending drama classes to sitting here writing entries for this blog – that I wasn’t being realistic about writing or art, ignoring my personal happiness in favour of future income, hurt me more than any time I was bullied, mocked or physically hit.

It ruptured a hole in me so huge that it threatened to swallow who I am, and all the while I sat in lectures, alone in a course that I’d somehow found myself in, no longer writing anything other than coursework, and no longer drawing anything except angry scribbles, just waiting for an intervention or the end to come. It did, in a way. One day I found myself telling my parents that I was done with the course, leaving as soon as I was able. They resisted at first, as parents do, but quickly changed their minds after their disbelief was the final straw I needed to fall apart, which I did in an atomic explosion of all the emotions I had been keeping buried. My family was there for me then. It might sound like they’re terrible parents from the last few paragraphs but they’re absolutely not, and besides, the one thing depressed people are good at is keeping the truth hidden in plain sight.

Indeed, mental breakdown or not, you don’t ever really tell those who get caught in the radius every reason that led you to such devastation. It never ends so easily. A song called Sorrow by my favourite band, The National, has the line, “Sorrow’s my body on the waves”, an image I’ve had in my dreams believe it or not, and very true about the impact even one major bout of depression can have upon you, creating what feels like a cycle where it’s like your negative emotions have assumed all control over you.

But on the other hand, there’s a Bruce Springsteen song called Jungleland, which you could interpret the meaning of which to be about the pursuit of our greatest hopes, the chase for true happiness. In the last verse there’s a series of lines, kind of depressing, that go like this:

“And the poets down here
Don’t write nothing at all
They just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night
They reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand
But they wind up wounded
Not even dead
Tonight in Jungleland”

What it’s essentially saying is that these people who try to make a difference in their lives end up failing; and hurt, fall back into their everyday routines. But I think the very fact that “they wind up wounded, not even dead” is a reason for hope, however small. It felt that way in my case, after my whole world fell apart. It still hurts all these years later – the hole is still there, looming, waiting – but it’s not over yet: there’s still a chance. Like an anchor or a chain, depression keeps me from straying too far, but I can break free, through either small, baby steps that lead me out of its sight, or through daring to act, a feat that requires courage I’ve sadly yet to muster.

Please don’t mistake everything I’ve written so far as my way of comparing Lauren and I’s problems, brushing hers under my dusty carpet. If I were to continue this post much longer I could go on to show that a lot of the bad things that have happened to me, like losing friends, are things that she’s been through as well, actually moreso in some cases if you can believe it. The reason I’m sitting here writing all this is not because of my sister’s big reveal that began this post. That and her explanation got me thinking about how much I love the little bugger, but it’s not what got me moving from her story to mine, and it’s not the selfishness that depression can bring either. It was instead a question she asked after getting me to ramble about myself for a short while: “How do you deal with it?”

At a juncture I decide to take the long route home, this heavy question dropped on me. My answer was a mess, though my memory’s a little fuzzy on what exactly I attempted to say. Whatever it was, and if I had gotten it out clearly, it wouldn’t have been true. It’s funny that she of all people asked me it because my answer, if I’d said it, would have been, “It’s not a question of how I deal with it – but how you deal with it”. If there truly were a secret ingredient that makes me cope each and every day it would indeed be her. Not because she’s someone I’m so close with that, if I were to ever commit suicide (as my mother and an old friend of mine mistakenly thought I’d been thinking of after my first nervous breakdown), I couldn’t do it, knowing that it would break her heart, but because she is quite honestly the most incredible person I know and someone I aspire to be like.

Where I sit on my problems, suffocating them and myself, she stands up and does something about them, no matter how drastic. Where I sit here with my blog that no one I personally know knows exists, trying to improve my writing with no feedback, she always brings the latest song she’s written to me and asks me to help edit it. Where I often lie mentally exhausted on my bed, tired and nihilistic, she’s up and about, doing anything and everything, spiralling out of control sometimes perhaps, but living in the moment. Where I sit quietly in a corner, she engages everyone, strangers or not, in conversation. Where my hopes and dreams are but a light at the end of a dark tunnel, hers are out there for the whole world to see and though she hasn’t accomplished them, she dances happily, free, around the outskirts.

It’s my sincere hope that she gives herself a clap on the back for all of these things because, when it comes to smarts, I know she doesn’t give herself the full credit she deserves. Though she could easily tell either of our parents about me right this very instant, for example, she never does, because she knows that telling them or just doing something is an action I must take myself one day instead of continuing through a cycle where those closest to me find that there a bunch of fucked up feelings beneath my exterior only after another nervous breakdown of mine.

My sister will be fine and I will be too. Every punch to the gut makes her stronger and, though I might react more emotionally, they truthfully make me stronger as well – it’s just harder to see that this is the case when I let the hole widen, almost give it the permission it needs to consume me. Yet here I am, writing here nearly every day, doing something that makes me happy, despite the pressure threatening to cage me in from all sides – stitching this hole that’s been left in me. Tiny steps they may be, but they’re something, and keep me on the straight and narrow, intact, the same boy I’ve always been and always will be.

I could stop – there’s no traffic out here in the dark, and no one watching from a light in a window – but I instead keep driving, because it’s what she would do, this remarkable girl in the passenger seat beside me, my best of friends, this light guiding my way.