Recently I heard the song "If I ever leave this world alive" by the punk-folk group Flogging Molly. I hadn't listened to it for a while, and it took me back to 2005, when I first heard it. I remember originally hearing it on an episode of The Shield, and being entranced by it. I remember going on a two day road trip with a couple of friends before leaving Australia, pestering one of them to download it for me so I could play it later on the iPod as we drove along the coast. And I remember annoyingly singing bits and pieces of the song throughout the long car trip. But mostly, I remember the friends.
Originally four of us were to go on the road trip; myself, an engineer and a musician (two old friends from high school), and a friend from Korea. Unfortunately the Korean friend wound up having to work on that weekend, so he only spent Friday night with us before we headed off on Saturday morning. But it was a good Friday night. The musician turned up on Saturday morning (having brought only the clothes on his back plus a pair of sunglasses), my Korean friend headed back to work, and the three of us headed out along the coast.
The engineer, had just come back from 18 months or so living in the UK, and was just settling back into Australian life. I was about to up stakes and fly off to Japan to an unknown future. The musician was already starting to get itchy feet and thinking about heading over to South America, which he later did. Australia is very far from the rest of the world and culturally confused, with a physical geography that places us near Asia, but a mental geography that places us somewhere between the US and the UK. This combination of distance and confusion, plus all the usual reasons people travel, has sent generations of young Australians have heading off overseas for a week, a year, or a lifetime.
Not too long after that trip I headed off to Japan. My Korean friend was called back home by his company, and while he often came to Japan on business, schedules rarely aligned. We caught up a couple of times, and climbed Mt Fuji together back in 2008. I had promised to visit him in Korea at some stage, but still haven't done so.
A few weeks ago he told me that he'd be in Tokyo this past Thursday, and we had a chance to catch up. It had been a while and we didn't have a lot of time, but it was great to see him again. We reminisced about the old days in Australia, brought each other up to date with recent events, and talked about what was going on in our lives, good and bad. It was nice. It made me think back over many things I'd forgotten, or not thought about for a long time.
At various times over my three trips around the merry-go-round of depression I've called on these friends, and each of them has helped me at different times, to the best of their abilities to do so. With them, and with others as well, I have sometimes been angry and frustrated that they did not or could not do more to help me. I thought angrily to myself on many occasions that people should see how much I need help, should be there for me more, should check in more often. Couldn't they see how much pain I was in?
For the most part, I have moved past those feelings now. I think that we are all as good as we are capable of being at any given point in time. I said the same thing in last week's blog post, but I think it is worth repeating. Dealing with someone who has depression or another mental illness is tough, and it requires an amount of energy and skill that most people simply don't have.
This is far from ideal. But this is the way the world is. And denying reality doesn't help anyone.
I am far from where I would like to be in terms of my situation in life. But I think I am learning and getting stronger. And harsh as it may seem, we ultimately be able to stand or fall from our own efforts. Others can help, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to many people who have helped me get through particularly rough patches. But at the end of the day we must stand on our own two feet. And I think I'm getting closer to being able to do that.