How I Didn’t Catch a Fish

Sorry for posting this two days behind the intended schedule, just in case you care. Few weeks off meant I had to engage in a tedious fight with needy backlog imps. The good news is that now I’m rather sleep-deprived but back on track, more or less.

If you’ve read the last rant in these series, you know we’re past a turning point of sorts in describing the progression of my madness. If you haven’t read the thing, it suffices to know that it was a lot about suicide and also a little about living on.

Yes, I didn’t kill myself as you might have already inferred from the plain fact that I’m writing this. Looking back, there definitely is a feeling of happy ending to the whole affair. To me, here and now, being alive and thus able to feel stuff most certainly trumps being dead and feeling nothing at all. However, the process of bouncing off the bottom didn’t feel all that rosy in the beginning.

I chose to live, sure, and it’s getting hard to keep track of how many times I’ve silently congratulated myself since I made that surprisingly nonobvious decision. But that life I grudgingly clinged to felt crappier than ever for good few months. As an example of what kind of crap I mean exactly, let me recall one of the early days after I ruled out suicide as the optimal solution to the annoying problem of severe depression.

In high summer of 2017, I got invited for a boat trip on Lough Corrib. The trip was organised by a close friend of mine, an avid angler who was convinced the lake was teeming with brown trout. He teased plenty other people into the trip, enough to fill three fishing prams. This very convincing friend of ours was even willing to lend out all his precious fly-fishing gear to us in pursuit of the creatures whose only purpose in life apparently was to end up sizzling on our frying pans.

It sounded like fun. The trouble was that I didn’t feel like having fun at all. The day before the trip, a simple act of sipping cider in our garden during a balmy purple night had a surprising and rather disconcerting effect. It brought a wave of vertigo and catastrophic thinking that nearly hammered me into the rough stone floor of the patio. Instead of falling on my face as my hamstrung body originally seemed to intend, I slowly sank off the garden chair to sit by the wall of our house. Gasping, I hugged my knees and cowered deep within myself.

I was thinking, this is it, an omen of coming death. If I wake up at all come morning, I’ll sure drown during the fishing trip tomorrow. I shook those thoughts off soon enough, of  course, rightly recognising them as a good old panic attack. But I was tempted to chicken out of the trip all the same.

I resisted that temptation all night, only to regret my hard-earned decision half an hour into the drive to the jetty where we were supposed to meet. My neck was getting all stiff as I was cutting the turns of the narrow country road. The steering wheel was slipping under my sweaty hands. The all too familiar visions of deadly crash followed, only minus the family casualties (they were holidaying abroad so even my sickly imaginative mind couldn’t find a plausible way of bringing them into this particular tragic daydream).

Come on, I thought to myself repeatedly, it’s only the depression kicking in hard. That helped. It took me few very long and unpleasant minutes to calm down, but I cruised through the rest of the drive without any accidents hitting me out of the blue, be them real or imagined.

So far so good, but meeting my friends at the jetty was like trying to dress a severed artery with a feeble mesh of band-aids. On the surface, I functioned as expected during such a weekend gathering out of doors. Only I couldn’t help feeling something dark and thick and ghastly oozing out of my subconscious all over the day that should have been feeling so very pleasant.

No matter. It was too late to call the trip off, and running away into the fields to hide under a slab of stone felt a bit too weird even to me at that moment. So off I went onto the lake, and rather speedily so, as a local swan (aptly nick-named Vicious Sid) furiously emerged from the reeds to attack us the moment we unchained the boats.

Once we were safe further out, the fishing commenced. Listening to the increasingly desperate instructions of my fisherman friend, I was trying to learn how to cast the line while avoiding the eyes and other sensitive body parts of my boatmates. To their immense relief, though, my futile efforts soon gave way to slack-jawed staring at the vistas that were opening up around.

The volatile wind died down and the sun broke through the low, brooding skies. The waters of the lake relaxed and stretched out, glittering like black ice. The islands around looked like moss-grown whales frozen forever in between their deep breaths. On the northern shore of the lake, white blossoms of sheep dotted the broad green shoulders of Connemara in quickly shifting gaps between the ragged cloud shadows. The sheer silence of the scenery was interrupted only by occasional shuffles of feet on the flat tin bottoms of our boats.

Too bad it didn’t last. Those distant clouds rushed towards us within minutes, bringing a squall that drenched us to the bone. Sure enough, more periods of heavenly calm followed during the day, but they didn’t last too long either. I’ll never stop wondering how the fairyland face of Ireland can turn into hazy, spitting stuff of impassive nightmare so quickly.

The blows of nature were not only aesthetic. My aging rain gear wasn’t as waterproof as it used to be. That would have been enough to make me grumpy even on my better days, let alone back then. Halfway through the trip, the changeable weather was lashing the open wounds in my sore mind quite the same way the wind tortured the chilly lake that sprayed its tears right into our squinting faces.

By all reasonable standards, the fishing trip should have been considered a disaster. As you might have guessed from the title of this post, we didn’t even catch a fish. However, by the time we were fighting the vicious swan again to land our flooded boats, I was firmly decided not to let such minor details bother me.

The rest of the crew was of the same opinion. We bought few trouts in a shop on the way home and decided to grill them at one of the people’s place, a nice flat in a seaside apartment building. After eating the fish, we had a wonderful party on a backdrop of long stormy swell lines that were hitting the deserted, orange-lit promenade behind the living room windows. And when I finally made it to the bed on that seemingly terrible day, I was surprised to feel wary hints of happiness despite everything.

That’s basically it for today. What remains is only another cheesy lesson learned. This whole failure of a fishing trip might as well nicely sum up the basics of sustainable life with depression.

The thing is that the stuff the world or your mind throws at you isn’t really important all that much. What does matter is what you make of it. As far as I can tell, you can nearly always see specks of gold in the heavy waves of mud the reality may feel like. And that’s what you should focus on. Only then it’s possible to surf that roiling leaden ocean that is your mind. And the more time you spend practicing that fickle art, the more likely it is that you manage to skim over the deep troughs towards a perfectly decent future, no matter how unbelievable such nonsense may sound when you’re being hit real hard.

The feature image is a photo of Lough Corrib, released to Public Domain by the English Wikipedia user CubbyBear82. For the original source of the image, see Wikimedia Commons.

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