tl;dr; I just need to bloody well cheer up.
It has been said by a wiser sage than I, I think perhaps it was Kenny Everett, that there are two sorts of comedians: those with some mental illness and those that are dead. It is undoubtedly true that comedy is bad for the mental health; the yearly trip to Edinburgh neatly shines a light on this fact for me.
This time last year I faced down a rather severe depressive meltdown. The proper sitting-in-the-corner-rocking-back-and-forth sort. It is funny seeing the blog posts leading up to that moment. In retrospect the explosion was obvious; the undirected low-level anger at people, the growing levels of frustration and impotence at the world and the feelings of self-doubt all all important indicators. It is most telling, I think, that there are no posts between the 1st August 2008 and 28th September 2008. Two months which were hell for me.
I am hoping that this year will be better all around. Last year I very nearly exploded all over my friends in a very nasty way that would almost certainly be bridge burning. The incredible stress of Edinburgh didn’t help here. Indeed, in the last few days of rehearsal week I was convinced that I would make people far happier if I just went away; I truly believed that everyone I knew hated me. Certainly my hazy recollection of the month of August is alternating between rage and weeping in corners.
In fact my brain was so broken that I have only two clear memories of the entire rehearsal week. One is the audio book of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I played on continual loop to and from the rehearsal venue. The other is a small rock. This rock sits by the entrance to the Long Room in New College, Oxford. It is a small, unremarkable, rock about the size of a clenched fist. It sits roughly where one might expect to find a stop or wedge for the main door into the building.
This rock was my companion in the dark times. The entrance to the Long Room is a small, shaded corner deep in the heart of New which is ideal to hide in. When I was steeling myself against the vicissitudes of my own brain, I would fixate on it and give it my full attention. Even now I think I could draw a reasonable picture of this rock. If there were such a thing as telekinesis, this rock would long ago have been propelled into orbit.
I went on a Project Steve weekend a few weeks ago. We practised in New College. The rock was still there. In some strange way I felt as if I had come to see an old friend.
So why am I prattling on about this? Some form of catharsis? An attempt to exorcise demons by shouting into the black void of the Internet? No, not really. Consider it more a belated apology to anyone I might have pissed off last year at around this time.
And perhaps it is some form of advanced apology. Depression can take many forms, as I’m sure anyone who’s dipped their toe into it’s murky waters can attest. For me, it is most definitely directed at complete dissatisfaction with society and a low-level hatred to those who I should probably view as closest.
Ironically, it is not this that proves problematic. I can deal with my own brain. We’ve been close bedfellows for almost three decades now so I should know how to knock it into shape. It is harder to deal with the guilt my behaviour towards those around me provokes. For you see, dear anonymous Internet hoards, I am not actually someone who enjoys being snappy and aggressive to people. I most certainly don’t want to load people up with my own emotional baggage. It isn’t their problem, why should they have to deal with it? Thus I am stuck in the awkward position of being absolutely indefensibly horrible to people and then not feeling able to excuse myself for the fear that they’ll resent having to ‘deal with the madman’.
Like it or not, mental illness makes people feel uncomfortable. If I am in a mood, I think it is fairly justifiable for people to be of the opinion I should just bloody well cheer up. I am, almost by definition, being unreasonable, both in behaviour and the implicit requirement that people accept that behaviour because of some nebulous ’sad disease’ I profess to have. It is people’s reticence to do this that makes me feel worse. If the boot were on the other foot, so to speak, I’d worry about whether I should try to fix the stupid, paranoid problem the other person has or whether to ignore their behaviour and hope they go away. I would certainly wish that they would just sort their own brain out and stop burdening me.
In fact, if I appear hostile, cynical, angry, combative, sarcastic or snide, it may surprise you to know that what I’d probably really like is someone to take me into another room, give me a cup of tea, a gentle cuddle and talk about something pointless for a bit. I really am that much of a soppy git. I don’t want you to sort out any stupid problem I might have; it is not yours to sort out. Instead I am probably just scabbing over my own fears that everyone hates me :).
The good news is that in no sense has the cloud descended as much as it did last year. But it is hovering over the horizon. Should it rear it’s ugly head for this year’s festival, I know that I just need to get away. I’ll just go away for a bit. Maybe an afternoon, perhaps overnight. Perhaps all I need is to be taken away from people and be brought a beer (you know who you were last year…).
All in all the lesson learned from last year: cheer up and stop being a grumpy bastard. The sub-lesson is ‘find someone willing to snuggle up and cuddle the stress away’. This year, those people will be a bit thin on the ground!
 I can find no reference, but he seems to have been chatty about such things.
 With the exception of those I love. I’d view an acceptable definition of love as ‘being as selfish for another person as yourself’. Certainly being willing to recognise someone else’s problem as your problem satisfies that.