When we returned to our Balinese home at the end of our UK the summer, eight weeks of constant moving, emotion, comfort eating and lack of exercise took its toll. My joy at being back, was tempered with the realisation that we had only three months before our permanent move back to the UK to launch Fox & B, the womenswear label Denise and I have created. I’m excited to launch this new business, but also rather overwhelmed by the amount left to do in this short few months and shaken by the depths of my sadness at saying goodbye to the life we’ve created here, to the kid’s school and to the vibrant community that surrounds it and, perhaps most of all, to my business partner and friend of twenty years, Denise and her family, who took a big leap of faith to join us here, and who I know, I can never coax back to the UK.
I began sinking into depression, a state I am no stranger to. My limbs felt like dead weights. The smallest of tasks took a ridiculous amount of effort. I wanted to sleep all the time. The joy had slipped away from all the places I’d normally find it. At a friend’s ‘Desert Island’ party, I used up the last of my reserves to appear happy and ‘normal’. Before I could leave, the tears were streaming down my face and I knew I was in trouble. The next day I cried and cried. Then somewhere in this dark, foggy process, something utterly magical happened that changed EVERYTHING…
I felt compelled to share how I really felt on FaceBook.
This may not sound like a biggie, but if you have ever suffered depression you will understand the fear that people might find out. You will understand the shame of not being able to cope, the feeling of failure and the abject terror that this time you won’t make it out alive. It is not to be confused with ‘feeling depressed’ but I understand when people make this error, because the name is so misleading.
Anyway, I am not a big social media sharer. It took years for my friends to coax me into joining Facebook and many more, before I actually used it. Only the move to Bali changed this and I started to see the positives of instant connection with distant loved ones, but also the negatives of ‘the perfect life’ it tends to project.
For whatever reasons, I had a sudden urge to blurt the truth of how I was feeling and as I started to write, I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders, just verbalising the mess in my head, began to make sense of things. I realised I was grieving! I was grieving for Bali and our life here, for the friends and kiddies I wouldn’t see grow up, for another chapter ending, and just realising ‘why’, made me feel a bit better. I pressed ‘Post” and off it went into the ether.
I sat back with tears streaming down my face and waves of realisation washing over me. I realised that…
I was not just grieving for Bali but for other, older grievances.
I have yet to fully process my past and that it will cripple me, unless I work out how to acknowledge, forgive and fully release it.
There may be a reason I’ve experienced past pain and hurt. I may be able to turn it around if, instead of running from it, I can sit with it, tend to it and watch it blossom into something good and that to do this I will need to trust and be brave.
It is not what happens to us that matters, but how we react to it and what we do with it, that counts.
There may be more to my story…and then I started to feel scared, because I realised also that…
My book is already half way through and the pages are turning fast. If I want my story to go how it plays out in my head when I meditate, swim or dance, when I embrace blue sky thinking, then I need to crack on and make it happen!
…and suddenly I am facing my biggest fear – that all my crazy hopes and dreams will forever remain just that, that I will never make a difference, never discover my true purpose and that I will die wondering ‘what if?’
I feel a sudden sense of urgency, the same one that made me share my experience of depression, and I realise it’s my own hopes and dreams! They’ve rushed to the surface and are hammering to get out, to be made real! Holy shit!
And then my laptop starts pinging. Ping! Ping! Ping! Messages of love and support are pouring into my Facebook page. Ping! Ping! From all around the world Ping! Ping! For days and days.
Something that I thought would ruin my professional reputation and send friends fumbling awkwardly for the door, instead, results in a tidal wave of love and support. Ping! Ping! I discover that the moment I jump, a multicoloured net of friends, family and clients appear, from all across the globe, to catch me!
It is the most magical, humbling experience. I feel loved. I feel like the luckiest person alive. I receive messages from people who suffer the same way with depression, but have been too ashamed to admit it to anyone, who felt like they were the only ones. I get messages from people I’ve never even met before. I make new friends. I feel buoyed up in a sea of humanity and it’s right where I’ve always wanted to be – listening to people’s stories, speaking my truth, sharing, feeling connected, making a difference, as small as that may be. I feel like I’ve come ‘home’ and that my purpose lies in here somewhere. That this was all meant to be, that everything is beginning to unfold exactly as it should.
So I am reminded once again how worthwhile it is to keep pushing though the fear of rejection or humiliation or whatever else it is that stops you being fully, 100% ‘you’. It’s been a long journey for me to accept the melancholy that is part of my psychological makeup, to stop trying to hide it and ignore it and distract myself from it and to just accept it. If I allow myself to feel it and to trust that when I do, rather than killing me, it might actually teach me what I need to know, to live the life I’ve always dreamed of…a life of compassion and sharing, of helping and connecting deeply with all kinds of different people, of lifelong learning and new experiences! I love the sound of that life! Already, just sharing my experiences of depression, has brought me some of that life and that makes me so happy! It makes me feel alive!
My default setting is actually really positive, I see the best in people until proven otherwise. I expect things to go well if I put in the work. I get hilariously excited about the smallest of things, going for a walk in nature with my husband, rummaging around an antiques fair or snuggling up on the sofa and watching a movie with my kids. I am a hopeless enthusiast when it comes to anyone’s personal development or new entrepreneurial ventures and frequently have to stop myself jumping in too many projects at once (or my husband will!).
But I also have episodes of depression, and as much as that is not a state of being that’s embraced socially or viewed as healthy or attractive, I need to stop trying to hide this part of myself, because none of us is perfect. I hate the culture of ‘perfect’! I mean perfect is so uggghhh! Its so dull. If I hide my so called imperfections, if I hide a sizeable chunk of what makes me ‘me’, then I’m encouraging others to feel ashamed of their imperfections too and I would HATE to be the person who does that to anyone! I’d be adding to the problem.
No matter how much it scares me to show these less attractive aspects of myself to others, to post my messy internal wanderings on my blog, before I’ve finessed them into something I feel happy to publish, I am determined to ‘just do it’, because in a frantically busy life of parenting and working and launching a new business and moving house and country again and this and that and the other, I’m damned if I’m not going to sprinkle something raw and honest and meaningful into the mix, because not doing so, for any protracted length of time, makes me depressed!
There, I said it! I don’t actually know WHAT I said or if it makes any sense to anyone else, but I feel like I got something out of my system that will make me feel (a bit) more sane today! Haha!
If you made it to the end of this meandering ramble, well done!! and thank you. Please do let me know if any of this strikes a chord with you, so I know I’m not just talking to myself. Although, maybe its better that I am…at least until I work out what the hell I’m doing…but where would be the fun in that? Right? Real, not perfect – maybe that should be my new mantra!