Depression, happiness, and a somewhat strange metaphor about fog

It is very foggy outside today, and it made me think of something. Or think something. Or rattle on about something in my head.

You know how, when it’s foggy and you are on a higher point or open space somewhere, everything around you seems very still and gray even though, close by, there are still colors, but even these colors are somehow somewhat colorless. And then when you look a little further away, there is only gray, only silhouettes of buildings or cars or trees, and then when you look a little further still, the world suddenly stops. I mean, you know that the world is still there, that the world goes on, but you can’t see it anymore. For you, at that moment, there is only fog and an impenetrable wall of gray.

Perhaps you knew that the fog was coming. Perhaps you came to yourself prepared. Perhaps, when you are me, you bought a big box of crayons, and you made a drawing of the world behind the gray wall when the gray wall wasn’t there. So that when the gray wall comes, you have your drawing, and you can still see the colors when they are taken from your sight. But then the fog comes, and all of the sudden you don’t believe in your drawing anymore, because it’s just a drawing, after all. I mean, you really try to believe in your drawing – because why else did you make it but to believe in it? – but how can you believe in the colors of a drawing when the world is so, so, gray? So there you are, trying to pin your damn drawing to the damn air with your damn drawing pins, but it doesn’t work, and no matter how big you made your drawing it is never big enough to block the endlessly big gray world anyway, and people are staring at you with strange eyes, and your drawing crumbles and maybe tears apart, and you no longer understand what you were trying to do in the first place, and fuck it, and the world is still gray.

But you forgot something. You forgot that fog can be very beautiful. Even when everything seems gray, there are many different kinds of gray, and when the fog lifts a little the cautious colors seem so much prettier than before. It seems to me that we are obsessed with colors, with happiness. We crave it, we need it, we deserve it, preferably all the time, everything has to feel right, and if it doesn’t feel right it is wrong. Look at me, look at my happiness, look at what I have built. For a long time, I have believed that I wasn’t accepting my fog whereas all these “normal” people were, that I was doing it all wrong, that there was something inexplicably wrong with me. That is what I believed mental illness was; that we, for some undetermined reason, were different, weaker, and ultimately unfit to be alive. I don’t believe that anymore. I do believe in a difference: I believe my fog is thicker, more impassible, it comes more often and it stays for longer periods of time. One of the things all these years of therapy have thought me, is to try and accept my fog; the pain, sadness, despair, anger, hopelessness, futility, confusion, doubt, … It is a part of me but it doesn’t define me. I have started to believe that all these feelings, too, are a part of life, that happiness doesn’t come through denying them. That happiness, even, has nothing to do with their absence. That they might sometimes feel insuperable and infinite, but that they never truly are. Sure, not to be too “fuck yes! I love feeling like shit”: a part of me, too, wishes that I could go and live at some high point, where the weather is always crystal clear, where the colors are always overwhelming, where I can always look far enough to see the world bend behind the horizon. But I firmly believe that that would not be happiness. There would be no need for me to cherish what I have if there was no risk of losing it.

I think that this is the strength of many people who are able to live with mental illness; that they, at some point in their lives, were able to accept their fog. To realize that life is fucking hard, and terrifyingly ugly, and overwhelmingly beautiful, because that is what life is, and chances are there is no meaning to life except the one you yourself attribute to it. I didn’t realize this because I am somehow a smarter or better person, but because I had to realize this. There came a time where I had to stop, completely, and dare to look at my fog, try and understand it, and finally walk into it, or it would be impossible for me to stay alive. And this, I think, no matter how painful it was, and still very often is, might bring me closer to happiness than I ever thought I could go.

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