CREATING MY ODYSSEY-
Liberating the Real Me After 30 Years of Depression!
Wednesday, 3 January 2018
YOU'RE COMPLETELY CURED
...Hold up. So you don't get the odd 'blah' week?'
I've had that question put to me a couple of times lately, and decided it was a very good one to respond to.
Strictly speaking it's not totally true that I'm all
fairies and lightness and hadeha the whole time because that wouldn't be realistic. But I do now wake up feeling good - a novel and lovely feeling. Particularly for me, a non-morning bod who'd grumble if anyone stood in my path first thing, thereby committing a huge crime. I look forward to things with some excitement, something denied me in the past.
It's brilliant looking forward to trips abroad, writing group meetings and redecorating our neglected home, and seeing our granddaughters. Attending sculpture class run by my lovely tutor friend, and going out for coffee with Husband every morning - wouldn't miss that for the world - and enjoy discussions about everything from the latest Doctor Who episode (she's a woman - finally!) to what the weather is doing and whether or not ghosts exist. To enjoy things and not go down that grey hole again.
Allow me to go scientific for a moment and get the facts of my recovery right.
Four years ago, my psychiatrist put me on Prozac, then buggered off for his Christmas hols. Over Christmas - Christmas Day, to be exact - I became suicidal.
Long story short, our neighbours called in to help. Purely by chance, the daughter of one of them said:
'Mum, didn't you used to work for the mental health team?' Bless daughter and mum. We contacted the team. They took me off Prozac, put me back onVenlafaxine, my normal medication, upped that dosage, and added Mirtazapine, a combination known in the biz as 'California Rocket Fuel'. I stabilised.
Months later the medication had pulled me right up. Next came a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A brilliant psychologist gave me the necessary tools to pull apart negative thought patterns accrued over years of depression. And I was the right candidate for this treatment, because I was determined to get better, and that attitude was an essential factor towards betterment. Also, my brilliant best friend/rock/carer - Husband - is scientifically minded and explained precisely why I wouldn't go down again, because I was afraid that the medication would wear off. He's also brilliant at Cognitive Behavioural Therap-ising me!
All these factors contributed towards - three years later - making me feel better than I'd ever been. I consider myself dead lucky, but I'm certain I'm not alone in this capability of being completely cured. If only others could also find the right treatment and people to give it. Seems unfair.
In answer to the question: 'Do I ever get the blahs?' Yes. But not for long, and very minor blahs. It's brought on by two things.
The first is my dislike of being in the house for too long. I used to be a homebody as a kid. Never happier than being at home, in my bedroom, being artistic, or reading. Hated primary school, tolerated secondary school because I had no choice. Given a day off because I was ill - allehluliah! But, after leaving school, then art college, I grew moody between jobs when at home. Between creative jobs, office work earned me travelling dosh, but I was lazy and didn't mind not working!
After having the kids, Postpartum Depression struck, and, rebelling against domestics, I hated being at home. Tedious. Boring. Even had I been well. I spent every moment I could out of the house. Coffee mornings, toddler groups, voluntary work with babe in buggy, visiting other young mums. Mornings were worse. I hated coming back to the house in the mornings, the day yawning ahead.
I'm now almost happy with being in the house. Miraculous! After coffee we often come home and I redecorate or get creative and I'm happy to do so, more and more often. But sometimes the glooms descend.
I was reorganizing my studio/conservatory with gorgeous new furniture, but, in the middle of this, a lowness fell. I STOPPED. The first rule of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Stop whatever you're doing and remove yourself from wherever the feeling has descended. Another rule - the feeling has followed a thought. What was I thinking about?
I was always embarrassed to call that area my studio. I was cross examined by Husband and son - bless 'em both! Because very little creativity happened there during my depressive years, I felt I didn't deserve to call it a studio. I received a thorough telling off from my men, who told me that I'm an artist, that it's my studio because I create art there, even if for ten minutes a week, and I should definitely be proud of it because it's a fabulous space. That told me.
The other area that causes the glooms is the writing of my novel. I love the wild west, particularly the hard shootin', hard drinkin' and cussin' gals. In my youth, I invented a female protagonist who did everything John and Clint did in the traditional western. The more I daydreamed about her, the more excited I grew, still am. She was devastating. A beautiful tomboy. Wall to wall charisma. A female Robert Redford. The fastest gun in the west. Bisexual.
Husband knew what I was doing in the early years but I was too embarrassed (that word again!) to go into detail. I'd drawn loads of images of my heroine (Jeannie) based on images of men. One day I could no longer hold back from him. I gave him the illustrations and hid in the bedroom with my head under the pillow while he perused them. Finally he came to me, told me she was really sexy and for goodness sake get on with the novel! I smothered him in kisses and floated on cloud nine. Goes to show what a bit of praise can do.
After the kids were born I began to write the novel, and, on and off, it's been going on ever since! I've written 'THE END' many times, but, as is common in the writing of novels, it's a beginning, muddle and end. And has been for years. It's epic. Alias Jeannie Delaney is the life story of a devastating cowgirl who's the fastest gun in the west and also bisexual. She becomes an outlaw leader, jailbird, deputy sheriff, rancher and mayor (not all at once!). The premise of the story is her struggle for acceptance.
I've worked for years on research, sentence structure, plot, timeline, you name it... because I want to get it right, and I so wanted to show the world my western heroine. WhenThe Quick and the Deadwith Sharon Stone came out, Husband said: 'Look - they've made your story into a film!' And Sharon Stone is pretty damned close to my heroine. But again, I was embarrassed about my story. My parents knew I was writing a novel, but I couldn't possibly tell them anything about it. So it had been kept under my belt for years, until my literal cure, when I decided it was time to come clean on Facebookgroups and with friends. Now Husband, who's a brilliant critic, is helping me edit it.
And this is when the gloom descends. When I'm thinking or working on it. When I see evocative films, hear a piece of music. I can't watch westerns or listen to western musical music, much as I love them. I become sad. My brain has still to accept that it's a good, if not great, story. Many people love the idea. So what's my brain doing, getting the grumps over it? I'm working on this. Really I am.
To end this rather serious post, my brain also explodes every now and then. When I'm angry, or frustrated, and I come over all irrational. Afterwards I apologise because it's always Husband who gets it, he who's cared for me all these years. I'm trying to explode less often.
So, no, it's not all sweetness and light, but we're working on it.