Depression is not something I deal with daily, though it occasionally creeps up on me. I know people who do suffer daily, and I see the battle it is. I feel lucky I don't have to go through it anymore. These people are the bravest people I know. Having suffered from it in the past, I know how hard it is to get up each day, plaster on a smile for the world outside and conjure up enough energy to lie your way through the day. Those people are my heros.
I went through a prolonged bought of depression about 10 years ago, over a period of two and a half years. During that time I cried a lot, drank a lot and considered suicide at least once a week. What got me through? I wish I could say family, but I kept it a secret from them. Friends, those who knew. But it was writing and film that kept me going. Some times as a distraction, but always as a goal, a light at the end of the tunnel.
For those two and half years I wasn't the most pleasant of people, I could be grumpy, sometimes arrogant, certainly selfish and I was not the best version of myself. I lost some friends during that period. One or two I stay in touch with and still consider good friends. But I know those friendships bare some scar tissue as a result of some of my behavior. It wasn't all bad. But I was going in seven different directions and I know I left some heads spinning.
During that time I met Thomas Kennedy, who became my writing partner, my mentor, teacher, friend and confidant. I was able to talk to him. Laugh with him. And create with him. We worked on a lot of stuff over those couple of years, good stuff, and it gave me hope. Of course, I was pushy and arrogant and wanted everything NOW! I wanted THE WORLD, Thomas just wanted to make a short film. So we took the easier option... well, as anyone whose set out to make their first film will know, not that much easier! But we got there, we made the film and at the end of it I not only came away with a pretty decent film, but something I had not had in a long time, a feeling of self worth.
I was still a little bit arrogant, I thought the golden gates would open and producers and studios would be banging down our door to make TV shows and feature films... didn't happen! It was two years before I made another film and that was a no-budget doc I shot over a weekend! But the depression had gone. I was thinking clearly. I could see straight. I had a goal and a clear path in front of me.
That's not to say depression didn't creep up from time to time and stop me in my tracks, send my down some dark path into swamp and mire. I'd find my way out quick enough, but during these time I would always find myself browsing the shelves of a local DVD rental shop. During the two and a half years almost every night I would leave the apartment and head down to the local xtra-vision, which stayed open till mid-night, and browse for an hour or more.
You see, those plastic boxes with pictures of movie stars on them were so much more then that to me. They were a gate way, a door into something very pure and as clear as a fresh water lake on Fraser Island off the west coast of Australia - the dream of a nine year-old boy. Simple. Honest. Good. Hopeful. A dream I've kept with me, safe, out of harms way, in a secret place, for 26 years. It was, is, to make films. To be director, a writer, a filmmaker.
It's a simple dream. A clear one. It's remained the same for over quarter a century and most of my life. Never changed. At no point did I ever want to be anything else. Not that people didn't suggest I move on, try something new, when things weren't going my way. But I'm stubborn like that. I dug my heals in so long ago the ground has grown around my legs. But the further I go, the harder it gets. The closer I get, the further it seems.
I'm closer now then ever to realising that dream, and like any dream that you want to make real, you have to work bloody hard at it, harder than people know, could know, unless they've done something similar. Film for me is not a job, or a lifestyle choice, it's a vocation, akin to an aid worker, a priest, a missionary. For me, it's as close to religion as I'm ever going to get. It is my religion. It's something I am, not something I've chosen. So it's not something I can just stop, decided it's not working and find another career.
In saying that, it seems life, reality, circumstance is trying to do just that. I've sacrificed hugely. I've forced my wife to sacrifice hugely. And now I hold the future of our daughter in my hands. I'm in the same boat as half the country financially, so I'm not going to get on my soap box about that. Needless to say the boat is full of holes and sinking fast.
Ironically at the same time as the end appears to be approaching, I'm working on bigger projects and new opportunities are appearing. I'm just hoping the end of this stage of life aligns with the beginning of the life I want. Because if my ship comes in, I better be ready to jump from this leaky vessel. Of course, if it sinks first, then I'm done anyway.
Reality is weighing heavily now. I still don't make money as a filmmaker. And I need to start making money. I've found myself amid those shelves again. Looking for the door. Trying to hold onto that nine-year olds dream. It's as honest and good as it ever was, but it's not simple anymore and there is less hope for it. It's a long held promise that I don't want to break.
There will come a day, very soon, this year perhaps, when I will have to decide and maybe break that promise, let go the dream. Time will have run out. I just hope those boats align. I hope the next time I'm browsing those shelves it's to catch a proud glimpse of one of my own films. For that I keep going. For work and the love of writing I keep hoping. And I am hopefully still. The wolf is at the door, yes, but my house is made of stronger stuff than bricks -it made from dreams.