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Four Months – Mat Ricardo

Seriously – you don’t need to read this!

It’s all changed, hasn’t it? Right from the basics, on up. The answer you give when someone asks “how are you?”. it’s not the same answer we used to give. These days, at best, it’s some version of, “well, y’know, still here”, or “ups and downs”, or the usual vague platitude, but tagged with “..all things considered”

Well, today, I’m not very ok, and frankly, I don’t have the gumption or the will to pretend even to that mediocre level at the moment.

It’s not that both my parents, and a couple of friends have left us over the last few months. Although that absolutely sucks, and at some point, when this is all… less, I might get around to processing it.

It’s not that all of my work, my artform, the career I’ve spent my entire adult life building, honing, practising has just evaporated. Leaving me with no outlet, no income, no purpose, and a severely limited definition of what I am. I’m 51, and I haven’t gone this long without doing my thing in front of a crowd since my damn teens. I feel like my dreams have been kidnapped. But it’s not that either.

And it’s not that I’m still isolating, wearing a mask when I go out, and not venturing too far when I do, while all around me, it seems like everyone else thinks things are peachy. Terrifyingly blasé masses who choose now to believe what the government is telling them, after a lifetime of throwing the side eye on their every other pronouncement, purely because it’ll let them go to the fucking pub?

The teacher stinks of booze and has never taught a class, so maybe don’t take their assurance that children should run with scissors as the word of bright authority. Maybe they just figure that if a few children fall on a blade, there are less to teach.

I miss my friends. I miss the privilege of gossiping in warm messy dressing rooms with the glamorous, talented and interesting. I ache to travel – to nourish myself with adventurous trips that would shake away the repetitive screensaver that is lockdown. But it’s not that.

It’s not even that on top of all of this, out there in the outside world, people who are anything other than straight, white and cis are routinely having the idea that they could be considered equally human, met with state mandated, heavily armed, actively weaponized hate. At least much of the world, especially the younger half, seem to be reacting to this by standing up, standing firm, and saying no. There’s potential for growth, but with growing pains, for sure.

It’s not even that wrestling – the thing that has for so long brought a dumb grin to my face with its beautiful soap-opera spectacle – has recently become exposed by a hashtag-lead thread of unimaginably brave (mostly) women, telling their stories of sexual abuse and harassment from many who work throughout the industry.

How this affects me is literally the least important part of that whole painful but righteous movement, but severing ties with people you considered friends because of deeply shocking revelations hurts. It hurts because you feel stupid that you should have realised. It hurts because you feel stupid that maybe you missed something that you could have stopped. And it hurts because you liked them, dammit, but it turns out you didn’t really completely know them.

With luck and work and help and hope, the movement will generate some positive change in that world, but for now, for me, it all just feels too dark to enjoy. But it’s not that either.

It’s not any of those things. It’s all of them. And more. It’s just.. a lot. And sometimes it feels like too much. And it’s been feeling like that a lot lately. I’m exhausted. Every so often, I find enough motivation to make something, usually for my youtube channel, but then, I’ll be running on empty again for a while. I force myself to exercise, knowing the little dopamine hit I’ll get in return, which might carry me to lunchtime, when I can comfort eat and nullify that workout. Generally, though, I’m spending much of my time just..pottering around. Waiting for things to not be like this any more, and trying to talk myself out of the constant, depressed assumption that they always will be. That this is what things are now. All the days running together, blurred and meaningless, until they stop.

I am, of course, aware that this is not a particularly happy piece, and I wouldn’t have blamed you for not getting this far. But it’s honest. And I’m writing it in the hope that, perhaps, if this strikes a chord with you, if you’re feeling similar to me, well, as my therapist once said to me – this is how you probably should be feeling. If you were witnessing all this stuff happening – the illness, the hurt, the injustice – and you were bouncing out of bed with a spring in your step and a song in your heart every morning, well, I think you might have a bigger problem than me.

Needed to get that off my chest. Needed to let the black dog have the mic for a while.

This is, as should be clear, me at a low ebb. I’m not always so gloomy. This is, to an extent, just negative filtering – a cognitive distortion I am often guilty of. The thing is, though, filtering the negatives wouldn’t work, were there not so many negatives there in the first place.

I’m generally very lucky. I live with a lovely Welsh lady and a defiantly odd cat. I am fed, and safe from the elements. But sometimes one part of your soul can be full, while other parts are empty. The chambers inside are sealed, one part can’t fill up another.

Hope you’re staying afloat, even if it’s only just, and you’re only able to keep afloat by doing a lot of panicky splashing.

If you want to talk, you know where I am:  @MatRicardo 

Mat Ricardo is a Mental Ideas Ambassador, writer and international showman! He juggles OCD, Anxiety, Depression and anything else he can get his hands on!

A regular contributor to our 2020 Mental Ideas Podcast series on RTHK Radio 3, we will soon be publishing a spin-off series of his smart, witty and bitingly self-analytical observations on mental health, Mat Ricardo’s Mental Monologues!