Invariably, that short statement will conjure up images of long thoughtful walks on windswept cliff-tops; deep contemplation whilst sitting on a stony beach, powerful waves smashing against the shore and flinging spume into the biting air; or silently regarding the comings and goings of passersby, inhaling the steam from instant coffee in a cup so thin you can see your hands through it, as you huddle in some quiet out-of-season seaside cafe, condensation fogging the windows, chipped Formica table cold to the touch.
The reality, however, is somewhat different.
I've actually spent the last few months sitting on my balcony reading, playing Red Dead Redemption on the xbox and whiling away the hours pointlessly clicking my mouse and arrow keys on a varied selection of free webgames in a tragic attempt to gain some sense of achievement or self-worth.
I should explain why this is. You see, for the last ten years I've suffered from depression.
My depression is, fortunately, quite manageable although it does manifest itself in different ways. Every now and then, I will feel a bout of depression descending and I'll immediately do something about it - this usually involves taking the day off work and just laying in bed trying to sleep my way through it. I've found this to be a successful strategy.
Some people assume that when I'm going through a depressed period, I must feel sad or desperately unhappy, but it doesn't quite work like that with me. It's probably best described as 'the absence of emotion'. I'll feel something gradually power down in my mind and all feeling will drain from me, sometimes within minutes, sometimes hours. I'm left an empty husk, completely incapable of emotion.
Henry Rollins once described his depression thus (and I'm paraphrasing here) - "When I'm like this, I don't remember feeling any other way."
I absolutely understand what he's talking about. It's an odd sensation, the absence of emotion and the absence of remembering what emotion is like. Sometimes, you look back on the times you were really happy and it feels like you're observing someone else experiencing something you can never understand. "What is this 'happy' that you speak of? Can you eat it? " you might ask if you weren't laying in bed staring at the ceiling and wishing it was tomorrow so you could get back to normal.
On other occasions, my depression manifests itself in a different and longer lasting way. I'll experience lengthy periods of either 'high' or 'low'. When I'm on a high, I'll be more likely to interact with people socially, happily going to the pub or visiting a friend. I'll be more creative, making notes on a screenplay that I'll never quite get around to writing, or churning out blog posts.
When I'm low, however, I'll withdraw. I won't want to go out or mingle with people. I won't feel compelled to write, being utterly convinced that I simply don't have anything of worth to say.
And that, dear reader, is why I haven't written a blog post in three months - I've simply had nothing to say.
Well, that's not quite true actually. Things that have happened recently include:
- Becoming involved in a war of silence with my downstairs neighbour after she wrote a snotty note and pushed it through my door at midnight because I had the extraordinary audacity to invite two friends over;
- Embarking on a lengthy exchange of emails with Odeon Cinemas Ltd on why they don't appear to want my custom, and whether they're ever likely to show a film that 1) isn't animated, or 2) doesn't have "3D" in the title;
- Buying something in a junk shop that led me on a journey involving a dead circus strongman, a monkey on a bicycle and a man called Khramov from an organisation in Russia;
- Spending numerous hours in my kitchen emptying buckets of soapy water from beneath the washing machine outflow because I have a blockage in the pipe that cannot be removed by either industrial strength chemicals, the sort of frenzied plunging that would be more associated with birthing an elephant calf, or twenty quids worth of flexible steel drain rod that uncoils itself without warning and thrashes around on the floor like a python trying to digest a hedgehog.
I'm hoping that within the next week or two things will return to normal and I'll resume blogging. But I'm not going to make any rash promises.