I promised you the second part of my journey a few days ago so here it is.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
This is a long post, longer than I meant it to be. I love this poem, for me it’s a perfect example of how I see my life’s journey.
I’m backtracking a bit in this one as I wanted to write a bit about where my head was at at the end of last year. Also in the last couple of weeks I’ve read some posts from different people that have either struck a chord with me or brought me close to tears, sometimes both. I thought I’d share a part of my experience of dealing with depression. No doubt in the future I’ll talk more about it. I think we need to talk about these things more, get rid of the stigma that surrounds mental health in all its forms, to let people know that they aren’t alone, no matter how much it may feel like it sometimes. This post is not about my depressive episodes or what caused them. It’s more about my road not taken, or rather when I decided to go back and take that other road. Although today I am a little bit sad because today is the publication day of the last book written by Terry Pratchett. Pterry’s books helped me, a lot, and I know a lot of people who would say the same thing. But this post is already too long so I’m not going to talk about that now.*
I enjoy writing and I’ve been trying to keep a journal for years, I have dozens of pretty notebooks with a few pages written on but the rest are blank. Last October I was determined to actually do it right. To record my thoughts, write down any story ideas I had, my attempts at poetry, quotes I came across. I had set myself the target of one page each day. I wrote in it pretty much every day, although I found it hard at first to fill a page, after a while it did get easier. I tried to just write without thinking about every word, this was for me, it wasn’t for anyone else to read. I started an online course about writing fiction and that made me more determined to keep writing. I had a half written novel from a couple of years ago and what with all the craziness going on in my head from my hormonal changes I started writing another one. In my notebook, by hand. I now have half a dozen of these notebooks, for personal stuff, the novels and one for filth. Having flicked back through the original one I can see I really was a bit of a mess but the writing helped me to organise my thoughts, work through things. And by doing this I was slowly getting myself together. Plus I could look back and remind myself how things were.
There was definite thread running through all the journals over the years – how crappy I felt about everything, how lonely I was, how much I resented everyone and everything in my life. And how many times I had tried to drag myself out of the cycle of my depression.
I struggled with depression for a long time. Having depression is horrible. It robs you of yourself, robs you of the joys of life, robs you of the energy to do anything, to care about anything or anyone, to care about yourself. I hated my depression, hated the way it made me feel, or rather the way it made me not feel. Every morning I woke up at the bottom of a black pit wishing I could just stay asleep and not have to deal with my life anymore but every morning I dragged myself as far out of the pit as I could. Some days I got further than others, I could see the little dot of light at the top getting bigger, some days it almost completely disappeared. During that time the best day I had was when I finally told my ex it was over. That was the day I finally started to deal with me. That was ten years ago, I still had a long way to go but that was the start. I stopped struggling with the depression, stopped being a victim. I started to live with it, to understand it, the causes, the triggers. Started my fight back against it.
I have always read, I would read anything to try and get away from my life. I had always been creative and I’d taken up various hobbies over the years as an outlet. I had started several different evening classes when I lived in England but never got to do more than one or two evenings before my ex would come up with some reason why I couldn’t go. So once he was gone I found the local Adult Ed. centre. I started doing an evening class in computers, it was aimed at people with at least some idea of how to use one. I was already pretty good at things like Word and Publisher, I knew about e-mail and how to use the internet so I was hoping to learn a few new things. I actually felt a bit annoyed at most of the other students, none of them seemed to know anything but in the end it was good for me. The tutor gave me more advanced stuff while she continually showed the others how to open, save and close documents, over and over. By the end I felt pretty good. I signed up for more part-time courses; Art, Ceramics, Photography and whatever else I could do, all the time meeting more people and feeling a bit better about myself in the classes. I still wasn’t very confident in strange situations, still didn’t really believe that my opinion mattered, or that I was as entitled to voice that opinion. The next step was a full time course. The centre only has a couple of full-time courses, the starter is a two year return to learning course which covered computers, maths, art and various other subjects. I decided that the time was right, my youngest would be starting school and I had nothing else to do so I applied and got a place. I think it has to be one of the best things I ever did. By the end of the two years there was no stopping me, I knew then, really knew, that I wasn’t stupid, that people wanted my opinion, they trusted my opinion. If I can’t find something positive or constructive to say then I don’t say anything. After spending most of my life being put down there was no way I was going to do it to anyone else. The routine of classes helped me deal with some family stuff that was going on at the time too. I walked out and back every day and during the walk I would gradually slip from the ‘home’ frame of mind to the ‘school’ one. It helped give me some perspective on the situation, calmed me, made me less stressed about everything. I was also very lucky in having a couple of tutors that I knew I could talk to about anything.
I still have a way to go, I have more good days than bad days and the worst day now is still a hundred times better than my best day back then. On the worst days I still make myself find at least one positive thing about my life, I write all the negative shit out of my head, I go for a walk. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely free of my horrible little companion but at least now I know how to tell it to fuck off.
And I promise that the next part will include my meeting with Sir and the opening of a whole new world of possibilities 🙂
*I wrote this before I saw all the Facebook and Twitter posts about the Guardian article. Also does anyone know if I can get the Clacks Overhead thingy on WordPress and if I can how? I’ve looked at the support pages and it might as well be written in Klatchian for all I can understand it.
If you have time watch this TEDtalk by Andrew Solomon.