Posts Tagged depression

Beginning Again

The last couple of weeks have seen a radically positive shift in my state of mind, ironically triggered by finding out that my ex-wife has her boyfriend moving in. I’ve realised that life is too short to live in the past (even though I wasn’t conscious of doing so) and that looking forward is the only way to go.  I’ve made the first few small steps to meeting people.  I actually had a mini-date last weekend, and I think I managed not to completely mess it up.

I watched a movie called “Begin Again” last weekend.  It stars Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, and it tells a story of new beginnings in the face of what would seem to be the most trying circumstances.  For Knightley’s singer-songwriter character Gretta, it is moving on from being dumped by a rock star boyfriend; for Ruffalo’s record-producer character Dan it is trying to maintain relevance in an industry which he helped create but now seems to have changed beyond his recognition.  It might seem trite, but this film has touched me in ways I cannot count.  In one scene, after Gretta and Dan have convinced Dan’s daughter Violet to play on one of Gretta’s tracks, Violet finally overcomes her nerves and starts to play and…  well I don’t want to spoil, but it becomes a beautiful rendition of the pride of a father for his daughter.  Even though it’s not the kind of movie I would usually choose, I am profoundly grateful to myself that I did (thank you, iTunes $0.99 rental special) — the music alone is ringing in my mind like nothing I’ve heard in ages.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time in the last few years thinking that I was alone.  It’s taken a while, but I know now that nothing is further from the truth.  There are people around me who care.  Some more actively than others, but such is the nature of friends — all are important.  From those that actively seek you out and talk, to the barista at the coffee shop who still greets you by name even though you only come in once a month nowadays — all are important.

I feel like I should have felt after surviving my heart attack — I feel like I have won my life back.  I feel like I’m at a gala ceremony, like I’m in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre or the Crown Palladium, and they’ve just called my name as the recipient of “Most Unlikely Resurrection of 2015”, and everyone in the place is cheering and applauding.  Befitting such an august venue, it would be proper to make a speech…

I could not possibly have done this alone.  There are people around me who keep me sane, keep me grounded, yea verily who breathe life into me; I have let them go unrecognised for far too long.  I have to mention a few names, but if I don’t say yours don’t think that your place is so much less.

Peter T, you have a knack of drawing things out and getting to what really matters — you, sir, are truly a Man Among Men and I feel honoured to know you.  Leanne, you are a subtle dose of realism when the world seems devoid of reality; our workplace, and the lives of all around you, are richer that you are there.  Grant, Gav, Tex; your touch is more reserved but no less profound and I appreciate it no less.

There are people in far corners of the world who have also helped me tremendously.  Eduardo and Peter McC: I met the two of you in a New York summer in 2012 and despite me being old enough to be your father you let me tag along while you celebrated your youth in those Hudson Valley clubs; to this day, you include me still.  Gentlemen I thank you for the camaraderie you showed then and the fellowship you show now.  For all its negative aspects, I have words to say to anyone who doubts the power of social media to be a positive influence in people’s lives.

To my family, who I have scorned and made suffer while I let my circumstances overcome me, I don’t have words to describe my pain and regret.  I have not been there for you, not because I’d stopped loving or caring but because I didn’t think I was worthy of you.  I’m sorry.

My oldest and dearest friend (although it must not seem like it) is someone who has been in my life for longer than any other person with whom I don’t share blood.  You likely have no idea what a difference you make, Brad… but you’re like a line in my palm: unchanging, always there.

To my former wife: now I know you were right.  Now I understand you, now I forgive you… now I thank you.

Finally, the most precious people in my world are my two children.  They enrich me, they teach me, they drive me, they inspire me — all of which I wish I’d opened myself to sooner.  Their energy, their laughter, their pure spirit, all are infectious.

At the start of this I said that I could not have “done” this, like it was a job finished.  Far from it, I know that I’m still on a journey, and while I’m on a mountaintop right now I know there will likely be canyons and valleys ahead.  The thing about mountaintops though is that they are unforgettable — and I never thought I’d see this one.  So now that I know it’s possible to climb the mountain, I’m damned if I’m going to accept being at the bottom of a cave ever again.  Let’s go find another mountain.  Only taller.

 Thank you.  As you have all been there for me, know that I am there for you also.

UPDATE — 12 Dec 2015, 1205 AEST:

Eduardo made a really nice comment on Facebook (thanks!) that reminded me about how easy it can be, when you’re fighting your own personal dragons, to disregard the positive effect you can still have on others.  Even when you’re at the bottom of your own metaphorical cave, there might be something in your struggle that provides inspiration, or motivation, or hope, to another.  For me, that I have been even in some small way able to help others is an honour; that it has happened even while I fought my own issues is incredibly enriching.

Oh, and I added to the mountain/cave line in the “speech”…  and added to the thank-you at the end.

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What happened to my old life

For the last eight months I have been living alone.  On 4 February this year, my wife of 15 years told me that it was her intention to end our relationship.  She told me that she understood that it would take me some time to adjust to the decision she had made, and that there was no discussion to be had about that decision.  The next day, she and our two children moved out.

For about a month I tried to hide what had happened, but the folk I work with knew that something must have happened when I suddenly went from being an occasional visitor to the office to being the first to arrive and last to leave every day of the week.  I have confided in a few of my workmates, and they have been incredibly supportive (and helpful to my sanity), even as some of them go through the same issues in their own lives.

This post is not about casting blame.  If you have read my posts about depression, you may already have put two-and-two-together and realised that this was the major event that pushed me into seeking treatment.  Initially I blamed my wife for not having the strength to help me though my illness, but I accept that she would likely only have been able to do so much in the face of my reluctance to seek help.  I envy her the courage she showed in making such a dramatic change to her own life.

I don’t accept that either of our lives are better — or will be better in the near future — as a result of this change, and the new situation our kids will have to adjust to as they grow up is one that I would still prefer to have avoided.  On this, my wife and I have to agree to disagree: I will claim that I was not given any choice in the matter, and she will claim that I made my choice by not getting treatment for my condition which would have allowed me to be a better husband.  I could be wrong on this of course, but I will never know, since my wife and I can talk (very pleasantly I must say) about just about anything except our relationship and what happened.

I’m proud to say that I have maintained a great relationship with my kids.  They stay with me once a fortnight, and while I spoil them terribly I am still keeping up the father role well.  Visibly they appear unaffected by the change, but I worry constantly about what they don’t show.  My daughter, for example, will suddenly want to sit snuggled in my arms on the lounge for an hour and not want to move.  My son has become intensely possessive (even more so than your usual eight-year-old) and is totally focussed on what toy or present I will next buy for him or give him.  Having said these things though, it is clear that my wife still loves our children as well and neither of us would consciously do anything to bring them to harm.  While this kind of situation is tough at the best of times, I think that the fact that my wife and I have been able to come to a speaking arrangement is a huge benefit to our kids.

The relationships we form as we go through life are part of what define us as individuals.  In fact, the versions of us that live in the memories of everyone we meet are entirely shaped by our relationships with those individuals, and every one of those versions of us is different because of the individual whose memory we live in and our relationship with them.  I have lived all my life with an almost pathological inability to deeply bond with others — it’s a wonder I’ve ever been able to make friends, let alone get married and have kids.  Combined with that, for the last several years I’ve been shackled by depression.

Now, without a love relationship and undergoing treatment for my depression, I find myself in a situation I would never have imagined for myself, even on 3 February 2012.  The relationships I have with people have changed, because I am not the same person I was.  I am being changed, not just by relationships I’ve had for years but by people I’ve met in only the last few months (some of whom will never know the profound effect they have had on me, even in as little as a few days).  Not only that, I’ve finally realised something that I never admitted in the past: that I have the ability and opportunity to change the people I have relationships with, just as they change me.

I am determined to make the best of this situation, by being the best friend, colleague, father, workmate, son, presenter, uncle, mentor, brother, and whatever else life sends me (including, yes, ex-husband) that I can possibly be.

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