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An excerpt from

How to Come Alive Again

Beth McColl

You’ll start by opening the curtains, and then maybe the window. The light and the fresh air will offend something deep, deep down inside of you, but you’ll ignore it. You’ll tidy up your bedroom. First, by just throwing away every bit of rubbish you can lay your hands on.

Put it in a black bag. Don’t worry about what happens after. Don’t think about taking the bins out, or the recycling, or that it is gross and disgusting and you don’t want to do it. Just put it all in a big bag and consider it a victory. Pick up rubbish, put rubbish in bag. Pick up rubbish, put rubbish in bag. No, do not get in the bag yourself. The bag is not for you. Keep going. Pick up that coke can that’s full of cigarette butts and gum. Put it in the rubbish.

Receipt you don’t need? In rubbish. Old food? In the rubbish. And YES - it’s tedious and shameful and you don’t want to do any of it. You can say that aloud or yell it. Just so long as you keep going with it. Throw everything away.

And when it’s thrown away and the windows are open and the sunlight is coming in, you’re going to take a shower. Or a bath. Or just cover yourself in washing-up liquid and run through your neighbour’s sprinkler. Get clean in any way you can. Clean away how ever many days it’s been since you were last able to do this. Take as long as you can stand and be as thorough as you need to be. Then dry yourself. Cry if you need to cry. Maybe you’ve been crying this whole time. That’s okay. Cry and dry - and when you’re dry put on the cleanest clothes you have that aren’t pyjamas.

Then it’s time to make the bed. If you can change the sheets, that’s great. If not, no worries just straighten the duvet and put any books or magazines or letters or precious amulets that are in the bed on top of the duvet or on the side table or the shelf. Squish the pillows a little. Make them feel special. Then, it’s time to make some piles. You’re going to put all of the dirty clothes into one pile, all of the dirty dishes into another. Do not mix the piles. Mixing the piles is too dangerous to even think about. The clothes are going into the washing machine - or if you wash them elsewhere they’re going in a laundry bag by the front door. No arguments. Do it. The dishes are going into the dishwasher or the sink. If the dishwasher - put the magical tab in and turn that fucker on. If the sink - turn on the tap.

You’re going to wash the dishes now. You’re going to wash them with your hands in the warm water. They will go in dirty and they will come out clean.

You’re going to wonder how you got here, how you became a person for who this was enormously difficult. I’m not wondering. I already know. You have depression. You’re mentally and physically exhausted by it. It has flattened you and broken you and made you into soup. It hasn’t done this to you because you’re weaker or worse than other people, it has done this to you because that’s what mental illness does. And this is what you’re doing: fighting back. Washing the dishes. Doing the laundry. Even just opening a window. Pushing back against the Worst Fucking Feeling in The World.

This is you learning the secrets that only those of us with these brain monsters know, that bravery doesn’t always look like Mel Gibson in a little skirt running into battle. We know that bravery is in the little resistances; the dishwasher filled and turned on. The bill paid. The floor hoovered, the call to the doctor made, the window open.

The light coming in.