Much of what I have written on this blog down the years has been born out of pain. The feeling of something being lost or a desire to make sense and order out of bad news or despair. This was the emotion that future US President Roosevelt articulated beautifully in his diary on Valentine’s Day of 1884, when just 25 years old. It was just 36 hours after the birth of his only daughter, Alice, when he held his wife in his arms as she passed away from undiagnosed Bright’s disease. This was remarkably just hours before, in the same house, that he had said his final goodbye to his mother, who lost her life to Typhoid, aged 48.
“The light has gone out of my life.”
My strongest lifetime memories are for the most part recollections of my losses; my darling, extraordinary Nan; my innocence at the hands of the school bullies; my community’s suffering on that bright Sheffield Saturday and for a generation and more after; our loss of the unborn child we never met; my relationship with my father; my mental health. I have been – and continue to be – blessed with the most wonderful family and friends and have been granted spectacular experiences and privileges which I replay and savour in my head and heart every day, including the love of my remarkable wife and daughter, but it is these vivid challenging experiences – the traumas and the pains – that have really left their mark.
I rarely sit down to write from a place of joy or contentment but from a restlessness with wanting to right a wrong or repair something that feels broken. I write mostly to get these pains in perspective. To get them off my chest. To arrange my thoughts.
I pick up my virtual pen today with an eye on an important appointment tomorrow. A meeting. A follow up. A checkpoint. A second visit to see a psychiatrist. A second visit to the shrink’s couch – even though it is just a chair and a desk!
This is to follow up our first meeting four weeks ago when I received my formal diagnosis of depression and attachment disorder and started on medication to help treat the depression. The restlessness I feel this time is tempered; somewhat subdued. I feel well. I feel good. As I type today, I feel – as I have over the last four weeks – settled.
I don’t know how much of that is down to the tablets – I know my recent excessive wind can be linked it to (!) – and how much is a contentment with having a new tool in my toolkit – something else in my corner – a new plan. I know that despite a little nausea and the gale force winds – the side effects have been limited and I’ve felt as composed and assured as I have for as long as I can remember.
I know that – cliche alert – Rome wasn’t built in a day and that I haven’t found a silver bullet or a simple solution – and that only after six or twelve months will I know whether it has worked for me. But, in the meantime, I am enjoying the absence of pain; not searching for my old self again; not wishing things were different.
I remain vigilant. I am not complacent. I know the case is not cracked. I know I need to keep up my good routines and good habits. I know I will suffer from depression for the rest of my life – as I now know I have for most of it so far – but for the first time in longer than I care to remember those feelings of loss; of pain; of darkness; of worry; of uneasiness; of crippling, strangling inertia have taken a step back. They have moved to the shadows. I have some pain relief. I have some more light in my life.
To return to Teddy Roosevelt, who years later as President wrote:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty….”
I hope he’s right. I know one thing; I feel blessed again today as I prepare for my appointment tomorrow. I feel blessed to be bathed in light again.
The photo of President Theodore Roosevelt is taken from Wikipedia