My holiday is two weeks away and I’m already packed. The only problem is it’s warm in Manchester right now, and I have to keep unpacking and washing things as I don’t have many clothes. It’s for a week in Spain, with four days in glorious Seville and three days in the wonderfully tacky (but very cheap) Benalmadena. It’s a trip that promises culture, sweltering heat, tapas galore and a dip in the sea. The holiday will be my first in over a year, and as someone who was fortunate enough travel regularly as a child and a teenager, I’ve had itchy feet for months. I can’t afford this holiday. My boyfriend and I are broke, doomed to paltry millennial salaries and city-centre bills. My Mum bought it for us as a gesture of compassion. She wants to help in the only way she can.
I’m struggling at the moment – struggling with money and struggling with my mind. Depression has been burrowing ever deeper at the back of my brain for years, but now, in 2019, it finally raised its head and made its presence known in my daily life. It’s no longer content to creep in the corners of my mind, only speaking up late at night when I can’t sleep. Now it’s out in the open, and I’ve realised that by ignoring it for all these years I’ve only allowed it to feed and grow, and it’s too big for me to fight on my own anymore. For so long it was a tiny thing, a whisper of a cobweb too high to sweep away but of no real consequence; now it’s a bloated creature that mocks me from its nest, laughing at my feeble attempts to destroy it.
I’m hoping it shrinks in the sunlight – that a week in the sun, a week of no responsibilities, no over-thinking, no pressure, will starve it of its food. It feeds on the darkest parts of my mind, and I’m hoping the break will shine a light on even those shadowy places. The doctors are helping as much as they can, and there are days at a time where I forget to look up – whole days where I avoid its gaze. Perhaps the break from everyday life will be a break from the creature; from the part of myself I vehemently deny is there. If the light can just reach its nest, the sticky web it has spun across my mind, perhaps I can muster the strength to fight it. I’m unarmed, except with knowledge. I know that this can’t be it, that it can be better and that it can be beaten. I’ve seen so many people defeat depression and anxiety. What I wouldn’t give for a weapon, or some element of tangibility, something I can fight on the stage I understand. I do all the right things, the things the doctors and the internet have told me, but it’s always there, its grinning maw mocking me from the shadows even on the brightest days.
A holiday can’t solve everything, but perhaps it can sweep away the cobwebs and give me space to breathe. A swim in the sea, sand under my soles and strolling along new streets – these are the things that feed me and starve the creature. I’ll keep my bag packed, my passport ready, and perhaps it will be here sooner than I think.