This is an interesting idea for a link up. Which is my favourite piece of writing so far? Not such an easy question to answer, to be honest.
I have written little bursts of three different novel ideas here on Written by Sarah: Murphy's Mysterious Mysteries(a children's novel); Life and Lemons; and Snapshots of Sophie.
I have also included writing prompts from a couple of different places. I think this post below (first published on Friday 20th July) is my favourite at the moment:
This writing prompt comes from Jeff Goins’site.
I’m not totally convinced that this is a story I am unwilling to share. It is certainly an uncomfortable story and one which makes me look back on one of the most difficult times I have faced in my life so far. But am I unwilling to share it? Probably not. I am open about that episode in my life. The way I see it, if even one person who reads this account of my illness is even remotely helped, supported or encouraged because of that, then it is worthwhile being open about it.
In the winter of 2007 I was struck down and almost entirely bowled over by depression. Looking back, I now realise that this was something that had been creeping up on me slowly but surely over a long period of time. At the time though, it hit me like a freight train. It came shooting at me out of the blue and rocked my world to it’s very core.
Here’s the background to how it all began: I was doing really well at work. My job as a teacher was stressful (of course) but I had been promoted twice and had settled into my school quite well. I played for a local band and had a full social life. In fact, I had been playing for three different bands in the area. And working in a language school during the summer holidays. And attending a book club. And attending weekly belly dance classes. And following a very strict (and for me ultimately) fateful diet plan.
I had lost more than two stone on the diet. I looked at my best ever. As I mentioned there was a lot going on in my life at that time. Looking back, I think that was the problem.
Slowly, bit by bit, I started to withdraw from social activities one by one. Not all at once, but gradually. The big band rehearsals and concerts went first, followed by the military band and then finally my beloved brass band. The book club was taken over by another person and became something a little less than it had been, so that had to go. And the belly dance class went last. I had no energy for it.
Slowly but surely, the only constant thing in my life became my job. I told myself I had to do this, as the other things were taking up too much time. My banding was taking over my life – I didn’t want that.
There were other things happening at the time too. Some messy and painful relationship stuff had knocked my confidence. All in all, I was a vulnerable person who was shutting herself off from the world.
I started to have issues at work. I was ill a lot of the time. Colds, flus, bugs – you name it, I had it. Never anything serious (so therefore management took a dim view of each and every absence) but the absences became more and more frequent.
I was on my final warning about absences when I woke up and didn’t want to go in. There were not physical symptoms I could hide behind this time though. I didn’t have a cold or a headache. Or a tummy bug. I just didn’t want to go in. I couldn’t face it. It was then that I realised that I didn’t really want to live any more either.
I sat with that shocking thought for a moment and began to cry. I cried hard. I could not understand what had happened to me, or where this thought had come from. I had a good life with a well paid job. I had just bought my own flat in a lovely seaside town. Why then did I suddenly want to die?
I phoned work and left a message, then immediately booked in to see the doctor. Something was clearly wrong with me. I didn’t honestly know what that something might be, but I knew something was wrong. I told my tale to the doctor, again bursting into tears and he knew the answer – he knew what was wrong in an instant. I was suffering from depression.
The relief that he understood – that there was a word for this genuine despair and that it was indeed a genuine medial condition was palpable. It made such a difference to me. The doctor immediately sorted out some medication and counselling for me. I had a plan and a way forward.
It wasn’t an overnight success though, this plan. I tried and failed to return to work. I tried and failed twice. I thought I had gotten over everything. I hadn’t. In fact it took three separate counsellors to get me back on track. With each successive counsellor I was able to delve deeper and deeper into my feelings, into the possible causes of these feelings of worthlessness. But back on track I got. Eventually.
What do I take away from this experience? That I am not invincible, and nor should I be. I am human, I am flawed and I deserve the same level of respect and understanding that I would give to anyone else in their time of need.
I do know this also: I am a better person for having survived this episode and come through to the other side.