The Thing About the Future

The future can be likened to many things, some of them literal and some metaphorical. Sometimes it seems that the future is a butterfly fluttering away in the distance, always visible but never reachable. Maybe it’s more of a stone, rolling down a hill and gaining more and more momentum until it’s an unstoppable force. Maybe your future is a little like mine and is best likened to depression – which obscures the future, until depression is all I see and all I can ever expect to see. It seems like the future is an epic weight on my shoulders, the weight of not only my own small world, but the world, the weight of expectation and anxiety. It’s the dark fog that surrounds me, narrows my shoulders, and hunches my back. The rain-cloud that hovers seemingly only above me, dulling everything else.

I’m sceptical that anybody can see the future, even those that charge money for it.

There are some things that help, I suppose (not many, but there are some). They seem to make the future not any more reachable, but at least a little more possible.

I make plans on the good days. Enough said.

Scheduling social time. Somebody once said that depression is more than an illness of the mind, it is an illness of loneliness. Depression makes me isolate, my borderline personality makes me constantly in need of comfort and validation from others (normally in the form of instant text message replies) but anxiety swamps me in social situations. It’s a tricky tightrope to wander, and yes, I do fall off, and very often, but there are definitely times when seeing a friend, and feeling a little more ‘normal’ lifts the depression just a little, so I can gain a glimpse of the future. Future coffee dates, future catch-up strolls, future movie nights. Just a glimpse, but a glimpse nonetheless.

Committing. Not only do I make plans, but I commit to them. It gives me things to look forward to. Also, I hate to let people down, so it’s a bit inevitable that I will commit to plans regardless of how I feel. Unless that feeling is suicidal, in which case I usually end up at the psychiatric emergency care centre, crying into a friend’s shoulder there.

Going outside. Getting to a sensory place soothes and comforts me, and distracts from the depression too. I love to lie in the grass, eyes closed, listening to the birds or the wind, or maybe even doing a guided meditation. If I can drag myself to the bus or have enough energy to cycle, I might head to the beach and wriggle the sand between my toes, or walk into the ocean fully clothed – again, this is not something I would ever do if I was actively suicidal. The outdoors is such a grounding place, and once I find a spot I like, I will return there in the future. This is the only part I miss about my childhood home in Western Australia – walking to the end of the street, over the sand dunes, and down to the beach. Sydney beaches don’t have quite the same amount of seclusion…

Finding a really, really good book. And pledging to finish it. Some of my all-time favourites are:

  • The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak)
  • The Boat (Nam Le)
  • More Than This and The Rest Of Us Just Live Here (Patrick Ness)
  • The Vegetarian (Han Kang)
  • And the absolutely hilarious The One Hundred Year Old Man That Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson).

Being so engrossed in a book that I simply cannot end anywhere else but the end is a surprisingly powerful motive to hold out for the future.

And if you still can’t see the future, that’s okay. I’m sceptical that anybody can, even those that charge money for it.

Sometimes, because of my depression, it seems like my future is all doom and gloom. That’s the thing about mental illness. But the thing about the future? I can’t predict it. The present is the present and the past is the past, but the future hasn’t happened yet. And maybe, just maybe, the future will be a place where my assortment of abbreviated illnesses and I can live symbiotically, rather than fighting for existence.

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