Birthday depression blerg
I’m Pete Carr. I'm a photographer and this isn't a photography newsletter. This is a form of "Rubber Duck Debugging". Writing helps me process thoughts and work through problems. So I write to my computer about issues relating to mental health and being autistic. I then share it with you fine folk. There's nice photos too. 🖖
This week's prints are from Snowdon in 2019. I had hoped to revist this location for my birthday this year.
It's my birthday and I'll be depressed if I want to but really I don't.
I am now 43. I used to be 42. record scratch But how did I get here? Well... I had a birthday.
Birthdays are, for me, complicated. Thankfully my wife and I have reached an agreement on presents that simplifies the whole thing. We set a £40 limit and buy each other a bottle of gin or whisky. There's a list of approved types which is varied enough to allow for surprise on the day and saves the buyer from worrying whether it is right or not. Sorted. FYI Christmas is the same.
It used to be a problem when my dad would ask what I wanted for my birthday. I ran into the issue I wrote about recently about decisions. They break me. Trying to decide on what to ask for requires a hugely complex flow chart that ends with "Will it make me happy?" I never know so I repeat the flow chart with another product.
This year was especially rough because I had a week of debating with someone that left me completely out of energy and broken. Followed by a few days debating how best to photograph an event and whether I even should in COVID times. After those events I should have rested and recovered but I was straight into birthday panic. I had to decide what to do. What did I want to do for my birthday? My own personal day just for me to enjoy?
"This? ... No too far. ... Ok this? ... Weather doesn't look good. ... Ok this? ... Can't afford to even if we could it's worth waiting for the updated one. ... Fine. This? ... Really? Just that? I guess. ... "
Choices mixed with anxiety mixed with depression. Not my favourite cocktail but sure I'll down it. No olives. They're eyeballs.
As I sank into depression my brain decided to attack me more by comparing my day to others. "Twitch birthday stream? Who will come? You won't raise as much as others." My wife took a week off. We had day trips and visited her friends. "You can't go anywhere because of petrol and even if you could it's a long way for a 10 minute dip so why bother? Oh plus you have no friends."
Why does my brain hate me this much? Why is it actively trying to get me to do something very very stupid to get it to shut up? Does it hate birthdays more than me? Is it annoyed that it was never asked to be made and so wants to be unmade? I hate it and I rarely have the energy to fight it.
I try to do work but my mouse is having issues. I buy myself something nice but the delivery doesn't turn up. Everything I try fails. "What is the point in any of it?" I'm trying to get through the week. Everything is on fire. Or is it? It would be interesting to have an outside observer give me some data points on the week. Was it statistically worse than other weeks or was depression making everything seem worse?
The big day arrived and gasp it was perfect. My wife went way over our agreed budget and bought me non-whisky. She got me a Smoc Smoc which is a Welsh made changing robe that keeps you warm and dry after a cold water swim. I've wanted one for ages but they are out of my price range. It was a perfect gift. The weather wasn't as bad as it was meant to be so we went for a walk and a swim to test out the Smoc Smoc. There was community spirit on the beach swimming with people we knew. It was a laugh. We enjoyed steak, home made brownie shortbread, and whisky. The skirt I ordered arrived as well and it added to an already great day. In the end what was I worried about?
Anxiety is so loud that it shouts over the good memories. Last year's birthday was great even though we couldn't go anywhere. The year before was great and the year before that. In fact I haven't had a bad birthday since I met my wife. Why can't I remember that in the lead up to them? I looked at the photos from last year and all my brain said was "Won't be that good. Weather looks rubbish. May as well not bother." It should have said "Good times. We have good times don't we?" CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) says that's exactly what I should be doing. Confronting the made up bad thoughts with real world data led good thoughts. Maybe I simply didn't have the energy that week due to the past 2 weeks?
Do I accept that anxiety is something I live with? I will always have it and always have to fight it just to get simple things done? Is everything I'm doing ground work so that some day I'll actually connect with something that doesn't give me anxiety and allows me to flourish? I don't know. Plenty more birthdays to practice with though. At 43 I wish I didn't have to practice any more.
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“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.
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I'm streaming photography in various forms on Twitch.tv/petecarr. Stream schedule is Tues/Wed/Fri at 7:30PM GMT and Monday at 2PM GMT. Photography focused but accessible. Friday is a look at art events I've photographed. You can also ask me about autism and there's cat cam too.