Bend your knees – By @zoejessicad
By Zoe Jessica Dawson
Bend your knees
On Friday, Andy said something that bothered me: “I came here to kill myself, and right now, I’m not killing myself.”
He meant working hard. He wasn’t being insensitive, it’s just a common but insensitive metaphor that’s come out of the trivialisation of suicide/mental health in our language. And the comment rubbed against a rough patch in my brain and sparked an uncomfortable reflection upon life at SCA.
Being at SCA can feel like a balancing act between “killing yourself” (working hard) and “killing yourself” (being depressed). The studio full of weirdos feels like home, because for a lot of us this is the first time we’re surrounded by other creative people. And while I think everyone is happy and grateful to be here, to be using and working on and pushing their creativity, being creative goes hand in hand with depression. Pete, as always, put it astonishingly stickily in his first masterclass on how to hack SCA:
Slide 1: ‘SEX’. “Don’t fuck each other. It’ll fuck shit up”
Slide 2: ‘DRUGS’. “Don’t use them for ideas. Your ideas will be shit.”
Slide 3: ‘DEPRESSION’. “We’re creative. We all get it. We’ll be okay.”
(or something to that effect).
This term, we have had our ideas knocked and ergo, our egos damaged. Putting work out there feels personal, so the response often feels like a personal attack. Repeatedly, I haven’t felt good enough to be here. The work other people produce lowers my self esteem daily. The creativity I felt was a core part of my self, I find myself questioning. I know I’m not alone in this.
Talent, we’re told, is at worst a myth and at best not enough.
And the antidote is hard work. So, we work hard. We push ourselves. We bust our balls. We “kill ourselves.”
When you’re working hard, depression creeps up on you. After a couple of days of feeling low, you look over and realise it’s been ages since you watered your plants. Since you used your diary, or wrote a to do list. You’ve been meaning to do a face mask, paint your nails, call your best friend; nice things. But you haven’t done them. You haven’t even sat through the new episode of your favourite show. You’ve been telling yourself you’re too busy, you’re working… but it’s when the voice in your head reminds you that these things would make working easier, you realise that they feel like work, too. Showering feels like a weight on your shoulders. Brushing your teeth feels like it’s too much. And suddenly, you check your spare room and realise depression has snuck into your house in the night and set up camp.
That’s why, I think, checking our mental health is so important. If depression is a squatter, talent is his anaemic art-school brother, and hard work is their disappointed father, an accountant. They come together, and if we’re committed to one we need to check for the others.
We had a talk on resilience, and something Alex said was that life is like a wobble board: it’s not about staying still, but staying strong. It’s not going to stop wobbling – you’re not going to stop having stressful briefs or harsh criticism or boy trouble, i’m not going to stop having these visits from depression – but you can learn to brace.
Bend your knees (believe in your talent), engage your core (work harder), and ride the wobble.