I did not enjoy my time at university. By that I mean that I felt alienated by the academic stuff and confused by the social stuff (“So, wait, I go… out, at night? When do I play computer games and sleep?”) so it was in many ways not the right place for me to be, but also I was definitely depressed for a big chunk of the time I was there.
I go back and forth over how connected these things are, and which one might have “caused” the other, but basically it was Sad Times. It will probably not have escaped your attention that I am still, some years later, very capable of having Sad Times, but so far my time at university has been the very Saddest.
I wish I knew how the Saddest Times ended: if it was something I did, something I could tell other people about, something I could do if it happens again. Basically, I just started to notice that I didn’t feel horrible all the time, and that that was pretty good. And I guess eventually I started to ride that wave and feel like finding ways to make myself better wasn’t a total waste of energy on account of what a valueless collection of bodyparts I was. This is an excerpt from my diary from December 2011:
Catching myself in an idle moment just feeling neutral instead of miserable is such a novelty that it usually pushes me into happiness. I’M NOT DEPRESSED ANY MORE!! I really don’t suck that much as a human being! I am at least averagely attractive! I have 20-something Post Its on my wardrobe which constitute a list of ‘Things I should give myself credit for’, i.e. things I admire and appreciate in others but never acknowledge in myself. It’s helped a lot, although I must remember that if I have anyone over, they can’t come in my room.
Friends, I have found those Post Its.
When I realised what they were, I cringed. Oh, no, why did I make a list of good things about myself? Why did I keep it? What did I say? What if someone else saw?
And then I realised that this line of thinking is utter rubbish. I have a lot of squishy feelings about compliments and why people should accept them (unless they are creepy) and that goes double if the compliments are coming from inside the house your brain. By all means question whether you’re doing the right thing in a situation or whether other people might perceive your actions differently than you do, but it’s perfectly okay to start from the position that you are Pretty Great and then see how you can be better.
And as for other people “seeing” (“this helps, but no one can come in my room!”) … Ugh. This is messy. It’s a gender thing. It’s a reserved British person thing. But it’s also a thing that can affect just about anyone, because there are plenty of places and social circles where no one can see any middle ground between “unbearably arrogant” and “talking as negatively about yourself as possible”. Talking negatively about yourself is often considered polite, because it leaves room for other people to be better than you. In the inverse, people see talking positively about yourself as rude, as an unfavourable comparison: “I’m really proud of my [attribute]” shouldn’t be heard as “I think my [attribute] is better than yours” but we’re often afraid that it will be. Actually, it’s quite possible that it will be, but someone’s negative reaction to your positive self-image is not actually about you at all, it’s about them.
Having an awareness of what’s Pretty Great about you is not arrogant, it’s healthy. And it does no harm whatsoever. We’re all Pretty Great in a whole bunch of ways and there is an infinite amount of Pretty Greatness to go around.
I’m trying to find a way to tie all of this into a neat little point but basically I haven’t got one. I’m just annoyed about all this. I’m annoyed at myself for buying into it. I’m annoyed that it continues to affect me and the people around me. It’s frustrating that when I came across something that helped me to not feel like crap any more, without impacting anyone else in any way, my first reaction was to feel embarrassed.
Maybe I just want to combat that by admitting to having done it. Hey, person reading this, I once made a list of cool things about myself. The world didn’t end. The Modesty Police didn’t come after me. I just felt less terrible. Try it, if you want.
Things I have done this week:
- Properly picked up my writing again. Written an entire scene without collapsing dramatically in a corner. I am cautiously optimistic about this.
- Become utterly obsessed with Captain Awkward. It is an (almost) endless, utterly glorious advice column and the advice is sound and wonderful and doesn’t make me want to break things.
- Contemplated putting all my DVDs in some kind of box or binder and getting rid of the cases, in order to save space. Has anyone done this? Did anything unspeakably awful happen as a result of your DVDs being de-cased, which apparently is a thing I’m very concerned about? Let me know.