May 31, 2019

Relaunching 24FPS (and where I've been)

For the first time in a long time, Hi.

This is going to be a very different and very personal post, it’s something I’ve skirted the edges of before without telling the whole truth about it. I’ve thought I should write about this for a long time now, but I’ve never felt that I’ve had a proper outlet for. This isn’t really the proper outlet, but it’s what I’ve got, so… I should explain why I’ve been absent. 

For something like 15 years, since I was in my early 20s, I have suffered with depression and social anxiety. Sometimes it’s a background noise; like the annoying buzz of traffic as something in the back of my brain interfering in my day but not exactly ruining it. At other times, it’s much more debilitating. It can pole-axe me, freeze me creatively for days, weeks or months at a time. Even at these times, I can often appear to be fine - it’s easy enough to put on a good face for a while - and given that most of my friends are in the film community  I generally see them in my happy place: the cinema. The cinema is also the only place I’m especially socially functional, which is why I struggle sometimes to talk about anything other than movies.

My depression is accentuated by both exhaustion and by the season. I struggle more in the winter, and these two things combine after each year’s London Film Festival - during which I work at a furious pace for about four weeks, and which ends just as the nights begin to close in. LFF is my favourite time of year, and you'll seldom find me more comfortable or in a better mood, but it always ends in a funk, which I find more taxing to emerge from each year.

The past year has been especially challenging and has increased and, interestingly, diversified my anxiety. My medical history has been long and complicated, but I’ve generally found it fairly easy to stick to my mantra that “if the hospital tells me to worry, I’ll worry”. That hasn’t been true for the last 12 months. I've had some physical issues that are irksome, if not overly serious, but that hasn't been the main issue. Over the past two or three years there have been several deaths among family friends - one of someone I was especially close to - but it was a more recent serious illness of a close family member who is typically extremely healthy that I believe has led to my recent challenges. Since that, I have been hyper-anxious about my own health. I have always had to be careful, being immuno-supressed, but vigilance has lately been more like paranoia and has stopped or cut short more than a few things that I would generally enjoy doing, for reasons that are, looked at objectively, beyond prosaic.

I find this anxiety incredibly frustrating. I KNOW, so much of the time, that the impulses it forces on me, the worries I struggle to shake, the actions I take to avoid them are - at the bottom of it all - silly. The problem is that even though I understand that, my brain doesn’t appear to believe it. It doesn’t help with the depression.

There are two major problems for me with depression. It sucks the joy out of things, and it makes me question my abilities when it does allow me to work. These two in combination have been incredibly destructive to my writing. On the pure level of consuming films, on a bad day, the joy of even that can be tough to access. It may not be the film’s fault, but sometimes I simply can’t find the focus. On a day when I’m at home this means an aimless struggle to settle to anything, be it a film or a simple task, on a cinema day it will just mean I’m disconnected and either a film will just wash over me or, on occasion of late, I might just walk out. When I’m writing, I will often find myself feeling dissatisfied with my work, but that’s not the issue - we  all have good days and bad days and some films will inspire us more than others. The crux of the problem is two pronged. First, I sometimes simply cannot find the words. I have tried several times to articulate something beyond tweet length about the brilliant Vox Lux, but have junked many versions because I look at them and feel that I’ve said nothing interesting or intelligent (or funny, I’d also take funny). Secondly, I find myself questioning the entire point of writing. “I’ve been doing this for twenty years”, I’ll say to myself, “I’m not sure I have an original insight or a clever turn of phrase left in me”. There are days I believe I do still have those things within me, and then there are the many, many other days.

Part of my self-treatment for this has been writing for third party sites, where I feel like I’d be letting someone else down if I’m not doing at least some writing, so there is a push to get work done even if I’m in a bad place (though not to the degree that I feel pressured to make myself more unwell). But... I want to say more, I do want to push through and I want to find the words. I also want to write for myself again, to do stuff that might not fit anywhere else, because if some words happen to fall out of my brain in any given moment, then I may as well take advantage of it. I hope that at least some of these words will prove entertaining or enlightening to one or two of you. That’s why I’m reactivating 24FPS. I don’t want to kill this site, it’s been my baby for almost a decade now, I’ve written things I genuinely like for it and I have been quite proud of it as a whole. Obviously posts are likely to be intermittent, but I think there’s a place for this site.

Lastly, I want to say don’t worry. As much as I struggle with my depression and anxiety, I’ve never been suicidal and am not now, in fact I’m doing a little better thanks to the new therapy I’ve been under (I was told years ago that anti-depressants wouldn’t mesh well with my other meds, so I’ve never been medicated for anxiety or depression). Hopefully I’ll be back soon with a few posts that are a lot more fun than this one, but I felt I owed you all an explanation for where this site has gone and why I want to bring it back (with an old address, the lapsed while I was at my worst and the site was inactive, if things go well I’ll look at either reinstating or upgrading to a proper address again). Thanks for listening, whether you’ve read the site before or not.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Sam, and I'm very pleased to see you back doing this blog. I have it bookmarked and do check every now and then for new content, so I'm looking forward to seeing your upcoming work on here. I *think* I may have seen you around once or twice at the LFF over the years, so this year I will make a point of saying Hi. All the best. Darren.