I can try to pinpoint the moment that I surfaced: when the non-feeling erupted into feeling again, when my head broke the surface of the vast ocean and I could see across to the sun-lit horizon. Perhaps it was reading and finishing Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. Or perhaps it was on the first day of April, when I had been writing every day for 23 days, and realised I had made it through the first month of writing. Then again when I got through April with an unbroken streak of writing every day. I swam upwards, pushing through the pain, seeing the glimpse of sunlight above me in the muted, numbing cold of the water.

By Joel Robison.

I had moments of pure will when I read one book after another, determined to make myself feel, to keep searching for myself within the pages of other people’s stories. It is true that fiction is a way to travel towards ourselves. It is a succession of choices, of emotions. The peril and soul searching the characters go through mirror the internal changes taking place within you. They are stories of people finding themselves, of going through metamorphoses. If you feel their pain, think their thoughts, empathise – there is hope. Hope that emotion, no matter the severity, can break through the grey.

By Joel Robison.

By the time I read my seventh book in April, I was at the point where I had felt almost every emotion I was possible of feeling. I no longer felt that there was too much pain – I welcomed every small fleeting feeling. Even though some of the books I had read – like The Goldfinch – seemed unbearably painful. It came with a recognition that I would rather feel too much than feel nothing. I forced myself to see that in order to find my way back to myself, I would need to accept that pain and emotion may be a heavy burden to bear but that they were the reason for living. Understanding this helped me to kick harder, to finally break the surface and allow hope back in.

By Joel Robison.

The cold grey numbness is what I have come to recognise as apathy, as a world devoid of meaning and passion. That is what I fight within myself some days. Thankfully less now that I know what I need. This is what makes it hard for people to understand – depression is not always sadness, nor is it being ‘low’ – I see it as a colourless, apathetic state of being. After the deluge of emotion, of pain, the tsunami, comes the nothingness, stuck in the depths. My strategy is to burrow deep into literature, to write it all out, no matter how tiring it is to go round in circles. You do what you need to do, to travel back to yourself.

‘And most of all, books. They were, in and of themselves, reasons to stay alive. Every book written is the product of a human mind in a particular state. Add all the books together and you get the end sum of humanity. Every time I read a great book I felt I was reading a kind of map, a treasure map, and the treasure I was being directed to was in actual fact myself.’ – Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive.

2 thoughts on “Surfacing

    1. Thanks – Joel Robison is an incredible photographer – he has plenty more on his website and Flickr.

      Liked by 1 person

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