Heatwave

There had been a heatwave in Melbourne at the end of last month; a week or so of not only hot but stifling humid weather, where the air feels thick and oppressive. The night temperatures were hardly any better, so there was no real escape from it. You just had to lie still in the dark and listen to the fan or the cooler running and pray that it would be over soon.

When it finally did break, it was almost like the end of a delirium fever. I remember coming out of a shopping mall (that I had escaped to because their air con was better than ours) and it felt like rain. You know that feeling? There were cracks in the walls of heat and the moisture was getting through. You felt like you could breathe again.

The funny thing is, that is the second time I have felt that relief so far this year. But the most recent wasn’t a heatwave. It was a realisation, an epiphany, and it happened to me yesterday. I hadn’t realized it fully, but I had been laying in the dark not wanting to move for so long, for possibly a year, and last night the fever broke.

I have depression. It’s not something a hide. I like to think I’m not ashamed of it, but the truth is I am. But I don’t hide it. It’s an illness. I’ve had it since I was 18. I would ride out the waves of it when they would come as best I could, and try to carve out some form of existence around it and through it.

When taking photos became a big part of my life, that process became a whole lot easier for me. I had something that filled me with so much passion there wasn’t room or time for anything else. For the first time in my life I had something that was truly mine. I taught myself, I practiced, I traveled. I would have never traveled on my own before, but now I was doing it regularly. I was doing photoshoots with the incredible cast of Supernatural. People actually wanted to work with me. No one ever paid me any attention before, but these people didn’t care about my past or how I had spent most of my 20s hidden in my house. They liked my work and wanted to work with me. I made so many friends. So, so many. People that changed my life. People would actually want to meet me at conventions, and would tell me that my photos made them feel happy when they were sad, and they would say the nicest things and I was so overwhelmed. I felt like someone feeling the sun on their skin for the first time in a long time.

Then it got to 2017, and I was still going to cons and still taking photos and still having opportunities but something was changing. The seams were starting to fray a little, but only a little at a time. It was too subtle a thing for me to notice. It was like the temperature climbing steadily up, so steadily you don’t notice the change. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I found things harder, more confusing, more frustrating. I felt like I was walking around with that hot feeling behind your eyes, the feeling like you know you’re going to cry but you’re desperately holding it in. I started to withdraw; not just from my friends, but from everything. My world shrunk and shrunk until it was basically my room. I work from home, so I would work and sleep. I avoided going out. I didn’t really speak to my family. I went from being almost sugar free for years to eating too much sugar, which is bad for someone with depression because it made my lows unbearably, uncontrollably low.

I took photos, but didn’t get the abject joy from the whole process I did before. Nothing I did felt like it worked for me. I would look at other photographer’s work and despair that I would ever do anything like that. It didn’t feel like an incentive, it felt like an irreparable fault with me. Whenever people would try to offer advice about what to do next in my budding photography career, I would feel like I couldn’t breathe and it would start a spiralling tailspin of thoughts until I couldn’t see myself doing anything at all. When I tried to look at my future, all I saw was black. I didn’t try to harm myself, but I did think it would be okay if I just … stopped being.

I still went to conventions, but everything felt stressful. That was my overriding feeling. I would feel so happy to see my friends, and to see the cast of people I love so much, but this anxiety would plague me. I would avoid people and sit in my hotel room alone as much as possible between taking photos. I started to convince myself that I was out of place, that I was supposed to be able to just launch off into the next phase with this whole photography thing and that was what was expected of me. That the cast must have wondered why I wasn’t making anything of myself. That Chris was disappointed. That my friends would get impatient with me. That if I wasn’t what people wanted when they met me that I would be a horrible person and a huge let down. I felt like Stardust and Melancholy was this wholly separate entity from me; that she was the one who had it all together, while I was putting on weight, not sleeping, getting worse at photography and slowly falling apart.

San Francisco Con was the worst, and the few months over Christmas was where it was at its peak. I felt like I was encased in this glass that would just shatter if someone so much as looked at me the wrong way. I can distinctly remember an incident happening towards the end of the convention that sent me up to my hotel room and I didn’t even say goodbye to anyone. I just packed, cried myself to sleep, woke up and got on a plane home. I was at my lowest point.

But all this was happening so so subtly that it wasn’t until it had hit its fever pitch that I realized that I had been trapped in this for so long. I put up a sign on my Stardust & Melancholy twitter to say I was going on hiatus. It was one of the hardest things I’d done, because I’d felt this intense pressure to put out work and that if I wasn’t, people would lose interest. But I needed to relieve some of the pressure, and it was the first thing I did.

I tried to be more gentle with myself, tried to improve my eating and sleep hygeine. I did it slowly. I kept a diary. Bad thoughts would go in there and be shut away. I went to my doctor.  It felt like fingers grasping one by one around the reins of a careening horse, but it was some semblance of control. But it still didn’t fully feel like that oppressiveness was really gone until last night.

Last night I talked to my mum and for the first time I told her how bad it was. It just all came out. It was like thunder rumbling in the distance of the heatwave, the fever bursting. I told her I hadn’t felt like myself in something like a year, and I was scared. Why was this happening to me again? I think she was upset that I didn’t tell her sooner, but how could I when I didn’t even fully realize it for myself?

I don’t know where I go from here, but the heatwave is over. Rain is weirdly cathartic and washes away a multitude of sins. I’m crying when I write this, but it feels like relief, not confusion.

It will be back, it always comes back. Depression is a thief, and a liar, and it’s persistent. But I want to be the version of me that made it work around her, not the me that shrunk down to let it consume her.

16 comments

  1. Dear Lady, so much of this familiar. You are not alone. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so take some time to fill it. Those who are true fans and friends will still be there when your cup once again runs over. Sending extra love tonight. ❤️❤️❤️

  2. Oh, Meg, I feel so awful that you went through this on your own. I’d do anything to make things better for you. Please know I am always here for you. Xx

  3. We don’t know each other… I’m just one of the many people that are moved by your art. As someone that has dealt with depression I can totally relate. I’m in a profession where I give a lot to other people and forget about myself. Like you mentioned about your hiatus, I have to step away for a bit. Please don’t feel bad for taking time for yourself, you need and deserve it. Thank you for sharing your story. 💗

  4. Awwww I’m so sorry to hear you have been battling all that on your own! It’s totally understandable to want and need to take a step back and just BREATHE. Life in general isn’t easy much less added leaps and bounds that we set up for ourselves with trying too hard or for too long with that kind of stress. Just know there are people out here that love you and will always be there for you! That’s what I’ve learned by going to SPN conventions, this family has got your back one way or another. -hugs- <3

  5. Dear Megan,
    What a lot you have been through!
    I’m so sorry that you have had this fight, and so proud of your determination and ability to recognise your own needs, and take some time out. Self care is so important.
    I’m glad your Mum was there to help you weather the climax of that storm.
    I’d like you to know I’m in your corner, always here if you need somebody – no pressure, no expectation, no judgement. I’m ready with a listening ear if you need one, a kind word or a hug if it helps (and no offense taken if what you need is me out of your face.)
    Take all the time you need for you. Your only obligation is to yourself.
    You are loved, whaever you decide is next. ❤️

  6. Dear Meg – thank you for sharing all of this with us. The depression river can get very, very high sometimes. Congrats on making it to the other side. Good on you for sharing with your mom what you’d been going through.

    Be gentle with yourself. I’m in your corner whenever you need me. xo

    (I’m @MsMarialba on Twitter)

  7. I’ve learned so much from you, photography wise, and i love your twisted snarky sense of humor. While I’d be sad to never see your work again regarding the former, I’d be devistated if you lost the latter.

    Love you, Meg. Always here to listen and not be judgy (even though I’m an internal judgy judgersob, I promise you I am not with this)

  8. Megan, I have no words. I understand all you so brilliantly expressed. You are brave and courageous. I remember SF Con, we were on the bus tour and I saw you throughout the weekend. I am sorry it was so hard and I truly understand the feelings. I know we are always just “hello” in passing or me telling you I love your working but I am a good listener. Take care and I hope to see you soon.

  9. I am so in awe of your courage and fortitude, not to mention your talent. You have taken your innermost thoughts and put them to paper. That is the first step. I will not tell you everything will be better now. It’s a process. Now you know where you are going. The photography is only a part of who you are. You could be a great photographer and be a bitch of a person, but you’re not. You are so much more. I’m going to Vancon in October and would love to meet you (with or without your camera) if you are going too.

  10. I am in awe of your courage in being open, to share what you are experiencing is a gift to others who feel they suffer alone. Thank you, and thank you for all the beauty you have given the Supernatural fandom in the past. I hope you regain your equilibrium and that, in whatever form, you will continue to share you gifts with the world.

  11. I love your work and am one of those random admirer type people who you won’t know, but I did want to say this:

    The art is not as important as the artist. You have worth as a person beyond your photography (gorgeous as it is, btw). I mean, they’re amazing and inspiring, etc, but the fact that you’re reachong out for help, and being open about your struggles? That’s so much more inspiring and high-five-worthy.

    I wish you good luck, love, health and happiness, all that stuff. ❤❤❤❤

    (PS: depression sucks. Been there. We can all kick its ass where necessary, though, as it makes it annoying presence known. Sometimes I fight not out of self-protection, but purely to spite the super negative part of my head, if that made any sense at all.)

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