Tag Archives: drugs

My Pursuit of Happiness: Living with Depression

by Tara Beckett.

I love New York City… because it’s the loudest city on the planet Earth. It’s so loud I never have to listen to any of the shit that’s going on in my own head.

– Lewis Black

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Central Park, New York, NY Autumn 2012. Photo by Tara Beckett.

This past July I found myself sitting in a small doctor’s office in Melbourne. There was a  woman not too much older than myself sitting patiently in the chair opposite mine as I stared at the ceiling. I was trying to remember the last time I felt truly happy without the assistance of hallucinogenic drugs. As she waited for my answer, my mind scrolled back to the previous year.

“I think… New York. I was happy in New York,” I said, finally, and she smiled knowingly.

One of my favourite things is Central Park in the autumn. Of course, that’s the only time of year I’ve ever seen Central Park, but I stand by it.

A full year ago I was walking the twisting pathways alone, rugged up in a thick coat, the cool Manhattan air biting my cheeks and nose as my boots crunched through crisp auburn leaves. I was looking for the Bethesda fountain but in no real rush, taking the odd photograph along the way.

I didn’t bring many photos back with me from my month in New York. I preferred to stroll the streets and avenues like a native, stopping as little as possible so as to not paint myself as a tourist. My favourite snaps aren’t on paper (or Facebook); they’re little flashbulb memories, locked up inside my mind and triggered by the simplest things.

Last week, I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower and I was transported back to the first time I saw it. It was nighttime in an old cinema in Lower Manhattan and the film moved me so incredibly that when it ended I hailed a cab and headed for the Empire State Building. I needed to see the city immediately, all of it, and so I found the best view I could think of.

Alone, on top of a building, a world away from my home and all my family and friends, was the last time I could remember feeling happy. I felt so free. It was freedom from any judgment or expectations; freedom from my life.

I often muse about what it would be like if I died. How would people react? Would they go to my funeral? Would they mourn?

My doctor – my psychiatrist – says it’s very common and natural for people to think about their deaths and mortality. It only becomes dangerous when you begin to make plans. I’m inclined to believe her, and I want to make it clear that I don’t make plans. I never did, but I did occasionally wonder what it’d be like if it was all over, to peacefully slip away into nothingness.

When I first started seeing a psychiatrist, I didn’t want anyone to know. I saw it as a weakness, and I was in pretty deep denial about my mental health. I thought it was perfectly normal to sleep days away, and spend an entire weekend in bed. I’d stop eating regularly and I wouldn’t shower for days at a time. My hair started falling out and my nails were brittle. But I still held down a job and paid my rent on time and had a bounty of people I called friends around me so I thought I was fine.

But you can only keep up appearances for so long.

I’d gone from this huge high of living my greatest dream and visiting New York, seeing far too many musicals, meeting incredible people including some I admired, like Matt Doyle. It’s okay, I know you don’t know who he is, but he’s amazing and he said I was sweet so it doesn’t matter.

My return to Melbourne brought with it a crash of reality. I quit my retail job two weeks after landing home because I couldn’t stand it. (I don’t know if you’d heard, but I had just been in New York, you guys).

My plan was to get an office job, work full time and pay off my ridiculous post-holiday credit card debt (maybe the $500 cut and colour at the Warren Tricomi Plaza salon was overkill) and then get straight back to New York for Christmas 2013.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, I wallowed in unemployment for six months, a string of knock-backs and unsuccessful interviews. I was struggling and living week-to-week, too proud and too stubborn to move back in with my parents. Too afraid of what people would say if my postcode slipped back to the decidedly unimpressive outer-eastern suburbs of my upbringing. Too afraid of being a failure. Too busy keeping up appearances to realise I was drowning in debt and despair.

On a friend’s sage advice, I conceded to getting a psych referral from my GP.

I hated it. I cried from shame and defeat, seeing a psychiatrist meant I wasn’t strong enough to deal with it on my own anymore, to hide it from everyone. My psychiatrist quickly diagnosed that I’d been battling depression and anxiety on my own for several years.

Every day is different. Sometimes I have good days where I love my life and I feel wonderful to be here. Some days are bad and I get lost in nostalgia and melancholy of easier times. But I can usually get out of bed now.

I know that therapy is the best thing I have ever done for myself and as I started to talk about it more openly, I realised how many of my friends were in therapy or had been thinking about seeing someone. It’s not something to be ashamed of and I implore just about everyone to try it.

I’ve mentioned my diagnosis before on social media, but deleted a post after a dear friend voiced his concern that others may “take it the wrong way” and think I was looking for attention. The opposite is true. I think it’s important to have a discussion about mental health, not deny like I did. It doesn’t go away by pretending it doesn’t exist, it just gets worse.

I have grown so much as a person over the last five months, and I’m proud of my progress. That doesn’t mean I don’t still think of better days, those New York days I crave so much. This last month hasn’t been easy for me, as it’s the first anniversary of my trip. It’s difficult to explain how much that time, that freedom, meant to me. I have felt happiness since then, but it definitely hasn’t been in the same league as that gorgeous city skyline.

There are people who don’t realise how much I’ve changed this past year. They still expect a litany of wisecracks that I just can’t muster anymore. My life is different now, it’s better, and they don’t really know me anymore. They may roll their eyes and tell me to move on, but how can I move on from happiness? I can’t, I have to savour every drop. I’m tired of putting on a performance for them.

I am a person who lives with depression. I’m not afraid anymore.

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Review: Greenstick

by Tara Beckett.

It was a summer I’ll never forget…

When a young bone is bent and partially broken, it’s called a greenstick fracture. Immature bones are thick and somewhat soft, cocooned as we are in our youth from the harshness of living. As we age, our bones grow thinner and harder, stronger to cope with the realities of life. With this knowledge, it’s not surprising where the new web series from writer/director Sam Hamilton adopts its name. A gritty, unpolished look at the contemporary teenage experience, Greenstick explores the first breaks from adolescence into the adult sphere.

Hamilton, 21, describes his creation as a loose mix-breed of Skins and Six Feet Under. It’s a fairly daunting challenge to live up to on both accounts, the latter being a much acclaimed HBO series and the former a revelation in adolescent storytelling: a series about teenagers, written by teenagers, for teenagers.

Setting it apart from its inspirations is the local setting of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest and arguably most culturally elite city.

In the opening episode, we meet naive country girl Aubrey (Emily Coupe) and her supposedly reformed ex-con crush, Rick (Nicholas Tamouridis) as they prepare to move in together. They’re quickly approached by crimson-lipped girl-about-town Rumer (Laura de Iongh) who seems to have a past with Rick. She invites the pair to a “post-exams rager” she and her boyfriend are throwing that night, which they half-heartedly accept.

We’re introduced to a colourful array of partygoers, from new-and-improved pill dealing Amanda (Laura Lillywhite), adorable nerdy-cute George (Matthew Coleman) and the mysterious object of his affection, Sky (Felicity Townsend), to resident gay kid, Scott (Andy Madder) and Rumer’s ill-fated boyfriend and tortured soul, Eli (Zak Marrinan).

The series is essentially based around Eli’s suicide, which is somehow both melodramatic and intensely powerful. It showcases the strongest acting from the young cast and highlights the fragility of youth. The homage to Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums is a nice touch if you catch it.

The series is certainly not perfect; some of the editing could be cleaner and the sound clearer, certain shots seem misplaced and there are moments of clumsiness. However a lot of the dialogue is crisp and genuinely funny, intentionally so. (“Oh my god, this new flavour is, like, the best thing since Pikachu onesies!”). Furthermore, the soundtrack is really just perfect.

There’s a lot of great promise in this local production and it’s wonderful to see someone as young as Hamilton with the drive and perseverance to create and produce such an undertaking on a shoestring budget. Acting wise, the whole cast are more than competent, but Coleman and de Iongh are particularly strong, especially in the climax of the second half of the premier episode.

It’s important to note that although Rumer welcomes Aubrey to the fair city of Melbourne, Greenstick takes place away from the bright city lights and in the tumultuous world of the suburban haze where most of us are forced to come of age. These characters are just reaching the age in which the bubble that surrounds us in our formative years is stretched to breaking as the boredom of high school life becomes overwhelming in one way or another. When most of us reach this pinnacle, it’s an exciting time of exploration of self and sexuality. But for some, the pressures become too much, and xenophobia overwhelms them to self-destruction.

Greenstick is set to explore what comes after the fracture, what happens when you’re thrust from a care-free world of opulent drug and alcohol fuelled ragers and cramming for exams to the aftermath of a friend’s death.

Check out the first two-part episode here: