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The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Posted by dirkgently1066
18th Nov 2014

Christmas.

What does it conjure up for you?

Presents? Family? Turkey?

How about just being happy?

For me, it conjures up very different thoughts and feelings.

Stress. Judgement. Fašade.

The pattern over the last few years has been broadly the same. The inevitable conversation will start about what you want for Christmas and I will always say the same. There is nothing I particularly want, don't waste your money. This in turn leads to a charge of being a misery guts as those around me attempt to coax me into a jovial spirit.

For years I perpetuated this sham, forcing a visage of outward happiness whilst all the while inside experiencing a sense of isolation and misery that I did not understand. Why couldn't I just be happy?

Of course now I understand. I have been depressed.

It is now more than twelve months since I left therapy. With Christmas fast approaching, it seems a good barometer to measure my progress and see how far I have come. And so how do I feel about the big day this year?

Exactly the same as I did before.

Why? Has nothing changed? In fact plenty has changed but plenty still remains to be done.

I am reminded of something I was told at work once to explain the cycle of learning, which I will paraphrase. Broadly speaking, we go through four basic stages of development;

1) We know nothing (the 'Jon Snow' phase).

2) We know a little but we don't know what we don't know.

3) We know a lot and we now know what we don't know.

4) We've finally cracked it.

Phase one is perhaps our childhood. As children we have no concept of stress or worry, the biggest conundrum we face is which story we want read to us at bedtime.

Phase two is perhaps our teenage and young adult years. We become independent, striking out into the world, yet always holding on to the comfort of the Bank of Mum and Dad. We may pay rent but we have no concept of mortgages, bills, children, careers. Life is care free, time is for friends and fun.

Phase three is where I find myself now, the most difficult of all. I am in my mid(ish) thirties. I have experienced life, built up a bank of knowledge. I have lived and loved. I have lost. I have been humbled, humiliated, shamed. And I have been in therapy where the world finally began to make sense.

For it was at therapy that I learnt that what I was experiencing was not weakness but illness. I was not broken and I was not flawed. I needed help, support and understanding. I needed to be kind to myself, to give myself time to heal.

And I needed to change.

The last twelve months have been both the most difficult and the most liberating of my life. I returned to work. I lost my dad. I became a father again. I became a published author, in a manner of speaking.

And for the first time, I understood that this is a daily fight. I will never be 'cured', that was never the point. But I can stay well. I can be happy.

Life is a series of lessons. Learning leads to understanding. By understanding, we can begin to change.

I have learned to accept my illness. I learned to live with it. Now, I am trying to learn how to live without it.

So if I look 'miserable' or 'grumpy' or 'not in the Christmas spirit' this year, please remember that I am still learning.

Oh and phase four? I'll probably never get there, I just hope to enjoy the ride.

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