When I was a kid I read a lot of American/Canadian 19th century novels aimed at children. I dunno how this happened. But it did. Among the Little Womens and the Anne of Green Gables, was What Katy Did, What Katy Did At School and What Katy Did Next.
These are by Susan Coolidge and focus on a girl called Katy who is all the things I was. Angry and messy and confused and not very nice to people sometimes and impatient and prone to stamping her feet.
Katy breaks her back falling off a swing (which she wasn't supposed to be on) and spends the next couple of years (ish, can't quite remember) lying in bed, paralysed. Fun, huh? Katy stops trying. She cries and she screams and she doesn't brush her hair. She hates her brothers and sisters and she spends all her time railing at the world, how unfair it is and how awful her life is.
At some point in this joyfest Katy meets her cousin Helen. Helen is a frankly unbelievable paragon of virtue and amazingness. She's crippled as well. Can't quite remember how or why, but she's all broken. But instead of being angry and mean, she's all lovely and pious and fun to be around and everyone loves her.
Katy has a revelation and immediately becomes the nicest person on earth. Everyone loves her and, bingo, she can walk again. Falls in love blah blah blah.
I hated Katy after she went all goody two shoes. She was a pain in the ass, I thought. As I grew up and reread it I assumed it was yet another morality tale aimed at convincing children to never complain and to be good.
I read it again recently and it occurs to me it isn't anything of the sort. Katy is practising the art of acceptance. That's all. It's simple. Accept, accept, accept. It's only with acceptance that your brain can clear and learn to live a different way.
I don't know why these obvious truisms hit me at such a late stage in my life. I'm pushing 40 and only just - ONLY just - coming to some conclusions that now seem obvious. In order to work with and live with my anxiety disorder, my periods of depression, my latent grief over my father, my chronic illness - I have to accept them first.
Fully accept them. Not just label myself a depressive. But really feel and accept that I'm not exactly how I want to be. That my brain chemistry doesn't work how I'd like it to. That my womb doesn't work quite right. That my dad died too soon. All of these things are normal life things.
Depression and anxiety are just different sides of life.
The ideas that we need to 'fight', 'battle', 'beat' and 'conquer' parts of ourselves are unhelpful and unrealistic.
No one should strive for a life free of all anxiety, sadness and pain. That wouldn't be living. That would be being a game show host.
Or Kim Kardashian.
Re-calibrating my brain when it comes to dealing with depression and anxiety is something that I have become used to doing over the last five years or so. There has been a seismic change in my view of myself. In my view of my mental health.
I finally don't feel it's 'my fault'. I finally don't feel as if there's some magic remedy (giving up booze, drugs, sugar, taking up exercise, basket weaving, meditation) that will fix all of it. I no longer want or expect to wake up one day 'cured'.
I just want to be like Katy and accept it all, take up needlework and have everyone tell me I'm awesome.
I feel like there is something better on the other side of acceptance. So I'm going to try and get there and see what it is.