Sunday, May 2, 2010

Survival Mode

I didn’t realise it at the time, but when I was depressed and sick, I was struggling to survive.

Not in the same way K’naan sings about in his song Waving’ Flag (So we struggling; fighting to eat/And we wondering when we’ll be free).

Because my basic needs were met, my struggle was existential. I wasn’t sure if I could live with the pain or be a good mom. I was faced with redefining myself when I lost my ability to write. Oddly, I turned to material things to ease my emotional turmoil.

I bought a lot of stuff we didn’t need. We ate in restaurants at least three times a week. When we ate at home, it was steaks on the barbeque and mini potatoes with the perfect pre-packaged spices. I stopped drinking beer and starting drinking Yellow Tail. I used expensive face scrubs and wore Vans.

My new attitude toward the finer things came gradually. I didn’t throw out my plain black running shoes thinking I would replace them with something more expensive, just shoes that worked. But when I got to the store, after a long, hard week of working while exhausted, I had an epiphany.

Why not get the Vans? I deserve a little something for all I do.

Did I go for the stuff because it was there, because I thought it would make me feel better, or because I was too fucking tired to deal with my emotions?

Day after day, work was hard and I deserved to get something for the money I was earning. Something more than my roof and Kraft Dinner in a pot. Each day I made a choice. Before long, I was making the same choice every day, and having wieners for dinner just seemed less than I deserved.

I didn’t go without. I didn’t think I should.

Now, I wasn’t going too crazy – I kept it within my means. I wasn’t buying boats or million dollar houses or cars I couldn’t afford. But we went to the movies when we wanted to and I bought every hardcover I wanted to read.

Consumption consumed me; it became my life without writing, without hope, without joy. Stuff was my happiness, because I didn’t think I could be happy with a progressive illness that attacked my mind and body.

I think we all do it on one scale or another. I think it becomes a problem before we realise it.

The worst thing about consuming my way to happiness was that it didn’t work. A wine and steak dinner never made me feel taken care of or safe. The temporary comfort that stuff brought me was just enough to keep me wanting more. It was easy, mindless and always in my face.

Even shells of people are able to buy shoes.


  1. A clear look into your mind during this period. And a look into anyone's mind who's trying to deal with something this overwhelming.

    Straight From Hel

  2. Helen, this is such an interesting topic to me... I'm thinking of doing a blog about it!