Tag Archives: 2012

Words, they elude

19 Oct

As I chatted with a friend the other day, I realised – again – how much life has changed over the last twelve months.

October 2011 was a truly bleak month, followed by several more. No work. No money. Life felt like a weight, a burden, rather than a joy. And my coping methods didn’t seem to help.

October 2012 is here and I feel so different. Work is abundant, we are financially more secure, we have a new home and are starting on a new adventure.

I am so grateful that the darkness – the days of depression and despair – are no longer my ever-present companion.

Grateful for life itself.

Have all the “problems” disappeared? No.

Of course not.

They just feel less overwhelming at the moment.

And I want to celebrate this – the fun times, the joys and gift of life itself.

And yet, these times seem harder to write about.

I am struggling to know what to write here on the blog.

I struggle to find words, they elude.

I don’t want to stop writing. I don’t want to write only occasionally. I don’t want to write only when life is painful.

It feels as though my blog about failure is failing.

What can I do?

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Summer, do you have to go?

20 Sep

Yes, I know – the blog has been somewhat dormant over the summer months. I guess it’s the opposite of conventional hibernation. I took some time out to reflect on why I am writing here. I was busy (it was indeed a fun-filled summer). And I had a little holiday. But, I am back in the world of blog once more and I hope that my writing will appear more frequently than it has of late.

Books I have loved this summer include:

Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Won’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain) – this deserves its own blogpost (one is on its way). Absolutely brilliant.

Stone Arabia (Dana Spiotta) – original, intelligent fiction. Really makes you think about memory. Fascinating.

Ten Letters: To Be Delivered In The Event of My Death (Chris Russell) – there is so much goodness in this that I am reading it very slowly. Much to absorb and think about.

Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy – I read these earlier in the summer. I became obsessed. More than I ever have been over books. Utterly compelling, clever and creative. So sad that he died before he could write more books. I am now officially a fan of Scandinavian crime fiction (never thought I would utter those words!)

Blogs I have discovered:

Grief, 3 little girls, and God somewhere – http://deeperstory.com/author/guy/

Anecdotes of a manic mum – http://manic-mums.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/dear-alex-no-matter-what.html?spref=fb

Very powerful blog on depression (and absolutely brilliant writing) – http://tamaraoutloud.com/2012/09/14/the-longest-way-back-home/

Favourite summer moments:

Going to the Paralympics

 –

A little holiday in Greece:

Getting completely and utterly, totally obsessed with the Olympics

The launch of LIV UK – an extraordinary charity that is building children’s villages for South Africa’s 5.2 million orphans. I am thrilled that I will be working for LIV UK over the next few months.

Keeping going

11 Jan

It’s January – dark mornings, cold days, dark a lot of the time, and most of us have the post-Christmas bank balance problem. I don’t know about you but I don’t like January. The Christmas break is over. Summer feels a long way away. And New Years resolutions tend to get broken, leaving us feeling weak and ill-disciplined on top of everything else!

Sometimes it’s hard to keep going, to keep on getting up in the mornings, to stay full of the joys of life. I have found January particularly difficult so far in 2012. I’ve longed to hibernate. Either that or relocate to a land of sunshine, beaches and cocktails! The January blues have hit me hard. And I know I am not the only one. But what is it like to struggle with depression and hopelessness in a more sustained and serious way? Mental health issues continue to be mostly taboo in our culture – a culture that doesn’t like to talk about the minefield of unseen health problems.

I think we need to talk about it. I have struggled with depression. I have been through burnout. I tend to feel particularly low at a certain point in the month (sorry boys!) and sometimes this hits me so hard that getting out of bed feels as hard as getting to the top of Everest. I feel listless, lethargic, bleak. I feel as though I am walking around under a cloud – a black cloud that will not leave me alone. I have mostly learnt to get through these times – to listen to my body. And so sometimes I give in and stay in bed; others I get up and fight it. Sometimes I just sit and cry; others I sit and write. Sometimes it defeats me; others I feel like I might be winning.

It is definitely not “in my control”, and probably never will be. But I am learning to navigate the uncertainties more confidently than I used to. I am learning to be able to talk about it too. At first I hid it from all (except my husband). Now I want to be able to talk about it more openly – although I still find that difficult. I am naturally quite a private person – but I feel strongly that keeping this in the dark only makes it feel more overwhelming.

This morning, the cricketer Freddie Flintoff was on Radio 4’s Today programme talking about a programme on BBC1 tonight about depression within sport. You can read about it here

I think this will definitely be worth watching – breaking taboos about depression within the sporting field is long overdue. Maybe it will help others, whether into sport or not, to talk about their struggles too. Depression is not glamorous. It is horrible. And I think it is still widely misunderstood too – sufferers cannot simply “snap out of it”. They have not “brought it on themselves”. As Freddie says – anyone can suffer from depression (and other mental health problems). Depression does not discriminate – you can be rich, famous, successful, happily married and with beautiful children, yet still get sideswiped by this condition. I know, I have been there.

Right now, I am just going to keep going. I am going to be kind to myself. I am going to try to do things that help – like exercise and eating well. I am also going to make sure I talk about it more too. I think depression is like a spectrum and I find myself at different points of the spectrum at different times. Don’t we all?

Maybe one of my resolutions for this year should be to  talk about this more. For the taboos will only be broken if we play our part in breaking them.

The Other

6 Jan

The need to belong is a powerful one, maybe as visceral and “human-y” as the need for love. Each of us needs an emotional home, that safe place where we are accepted fully, where we belong. Yet belonging is, by its very nature, about differentiation and preferences. I cannot be friends with everyone, therefore I choose some. I cannot help everyone, therefore I prioritise some. Such differentiation, “tribe creation”, seems to be the way of human beings. We create social norms, standards by which “normal” people live, and those on the outside are invariably marginalised, isolated and pushed to the periphery. Playground cliques do not, it would seem, end when we leave school.

So then, what does it mean to be “the other”? The one on the periphery? The one marginalised by depression? The one who is homeless and losing hope? The one with HIV/AIDS? The one with a disability? The one working in a brothel? The one with an unexpected teenage pregnancy? The one longing for a baby, yet unable to conceive? What would it be like to not be in the majority? What would it be like to carry the invisible stamp of differentiation?

Many of us in the West live lives that are impoverished by their homogeneity. Our friends, colleagues, community are “like us”. We have not heard the stories of “the other” and we are encumbered and enslaved by our own presumptions. The homeless became a sub-tribe of addicts, the mentally ill become “those we avoid”, street kids become criminals. We do not understand, and so we create boxes and confine individuals – each made in the image of the divine – within bland, beauty-less boxes. And so we lose out. We create an impenetrable chasm between “them” and “us”. We fail to enrich our lives because we do not acknowledge the worth of someone else’s story, the worth of someone else’s life.

And the reality is, that for many of us, “the other” makes us feel better about our lives. We are more together/successful/wise/normal than them. We have made better choices. “They” confirm our place in the centre, where we need only occasionally glance at the unfortunate souls on the periphery of society. We remain “normal”; “they” remain marginalised and misunderstood.

Could 2012 be the year where we seek out the story of “the other”, giving dignity and worth to those silenced and overlooked because they are “different”? Could it be the year we seek to understand and know – truly, not superficially – those who are not like us? “The other” is, after all, simply another one of us – a fellow human being with unique emotions, hopes and desires. A unique individual who shares our intrinsic human needs for love and belonging.

A New Year: An Unknown Path

3 Jan

Happy New Year! On NYE, my husband and I spent some time reflecting on 2011 and dreaming for 2012. 2011 was, in many ways, a year of trials and tribulations for us. A year of disappointments, loss and having-to-persevere. I lost my job. Tim’s new job – the dream we had been working towards – fell apart. We were burgled and lost, amongst other things, the watch I gave Tim as a wedding present. The dark night of the soul hovered over both of us. Yet, as we wrote down our highlights and lowlights, we found there were more positives than negatives. Not because we were trying to be super-positive but, actually, because we remembered how much we had to be thankful for. Our holidays in Normandy and Jersey. Having an article published in the Guardian. Tim’s new course. The arrival of another nephew. To name just a few.

I ended the year profoundly thankful that, in the midst of the storms, there were oases of joy, peace and laughter. I ended the year committed to not-making-all-the-same-mistakes-again. The future is uncertain for us – we have to leave our home in August, Tim’s role in the church ends then. I still don’t have enough paid work. Money is tight. We cannot buy our way out of uncertainty. Yet trying-to-control-what-happens-next is no longer of interest to me. Last year, we tried to mould our own future. This year, we are, in essence, going to let the future (and the present) mould us. My hands are cupped around my ears now, rather than tightly on the controls. I am not abdicating all responsibility; rather I am trying to let someone else sit in the driving seat. And this is hard for me – I like to know what is happening (also known as being a control freak); I like a plan and I like it to be my plan. However, I have learnt – the hard way – that it’s better to allow my faith to drive my decision-making. Much better than relying on my decision-making. Much better to be open to the bigger picture; open to unexpected detours, new paths and divine possibilities. Much more exciting.

So, at the start of this New Year, why don’t you join me on the unknown path? You see, the reality is – none of us can control the future anyway. It doesn’t matter how rich/talented/beautiful/organised we are – we are still at the mercy of the uncontrollable, unknown future. We cannot organise our way out of possible failure; we cannot control our way to success (it’s all an illusion if you think otherwise!). We can only choose how we show up each day. We can only take small steps on the unknown path. We can only choose to walk this path with others (or on our own, if we prefer). We can only extend a hand to those who are in need as we walk. We can only get up when we fall over. Who knows where we may end up?

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