Earlier this year I filled out an application form to go on The Great British Bake off. Obviously I didn’t make it, or you’d have heard my excitement long before now. Shame. I think I would have been good value on the telly. I’d have been the slightly hippy, compassionate, bohemian one, and flirted madly with everyone! Anyhow, I digress.
After lots of cake and bake questions, the form asks me, what is your greatest achievement in life? Having been motoring fairly easily through this Q&A, that brought me to a dead halt. I mean, yes, I have done a few things I’m proud of: co-parenting the beginning of a little girl’s life, learning to be a safe and sometimes, helpful, therapist, starting a small cooking enterprise… but greatest achievement. Huh?
I had to go away and ponder and wonder, and worry of course. And after a bit of this and that, I realised I did know the answer. My greatest achievement is this, I’ve managed to find, fight and surrender my way from self-hatred, to, well, something much kinder. Tenderness or compassion, even a kind of love. Before I started this blog, I looked for sites about depression. I was looking for resonance and place, and I kept not quite finding it. I guess I’m doing this now, instead.
Self-hatred, self loathing and self attack, all our different versions of that, are usually front and centre in depressive experience. This I know from the inside. That self-hate, it nearly went and killed me. When I look back at myself, the child, girl and woman I was, I can let my ravaged heart break open a just a little bit more. It is a way of saluting my long walk home. And what I’m trying to say, is that somehow, between the birth of my heart-daughter, and the death of my heart-sister, I discovered the doorway to my own edgeless tenderness. Something about those two intimacies, on the borders of the human world, put a seismic crack into my heart. I realised, that of course its the same border, into and out of, embodiment. And it is so beautiful there. Wow. In another life, I’d be a mid-wife, or a death-wife. So, armed, actually, dis-armed, by these gifts (thank you life) and helped by many circles, prayers, friends, strangers, teachers, poets and crooners, I found I’d become an atypical depressive, in that the hate had left me.
Now you might think, she’s not depressed any more? Believe me, I am. Its just more like, when I wake up and find the world is still sitting on my chest, I say, oh, its you again… okay… I’m practicing welcome rather than refusal. I didn’t know I had a well spring of tenderness inside me, and now I’ve fallen into it, I kind of know, as much as I can know anything, that it won’t dry up.
I don’t know if the depression itself will ever go. I did very much like reading an interview in which Mr. Cohen described his lifelong depression, just slipping out of him in his early sixties. Inspiring. And, if I take it all to my funeral pyre, its okay too.
As for my Great British Bake Off application form, well, I might try again next year.