One of the things which sometimes bewilders others about depression is the unwillingness to listen to music; watch sad movies or odd tv shows. I find I avoid fiction or modern non-fiction because any little trigger can be hiding in there, seemingly innocuous, and it can jump out from a chord; a scene or a page and set me back to one of the worst places I’ve visited in my mind. Historical tragedy; massacre; famine and oppression though – no problem.
For example, I can’t listen to Chasing Cars; anything by Stars; Missy Higgins; The Scientist or Linger: I can’t watch Atonement or The Piano (which has an upsetting Stockholm syndrome premise anyway, if I remember correctly), movies I enjoyed enormously at the time, particularly for their scores. I have had a fear of Black Mirror which existed long before I saw just one episode that the King thought I’d enjoy and seeing as it was his birthday, I watched it. There are so many cultural experiences: music; film; novels; art exhibitions; plays; poetry that isn’t comic which terrify me because of the immediate sense of panic and uncomfortable heat stirred up to boiling by them. But even moreso, the residual simmering of doom; the sense of otherness and displacement brought on by a sad song; a tragic movie; a serious novel; a heartbroken poem; a shocking piece of art – like a nightmare; I can’t shake it, often for days.
I immerse myself in documentaries; historical biographies and the novels of Harry Potter are my recurrent refuge when I need to escape, and they’re not exactly all cheer and human goodness.
So am I just avoiding life? Or am I protecting myself? Am I living in a bubble of my own making or have I simply got to know my triggers well enough to intuitively cut them out?
Yet, I read the news. The recent case against two Ulster rugby players has been a huge source of anxiety for me and I fell into the trap of getting involved in online comments section on rugby forums – I was called an idiot twice in twelve hours for suggesting that most cases of rape are not false accusations. I think this has had much to do with my recent slip into a minor blue funk. I want to know what is happening in this world of tragedy and moreover, I wish I could do something tangible to help victims of rape; women and girls who are oppressed and undervalued and those for whom a different sort of education could prove the difference between a life loved and a life existed.
So, the question is: how do you avoid your triggers but still do something about them?
Answers on a postcard please…