My conscience is pacing the clothes-strewn floor of my bedroom in despair. ‘oh great – are you REALLY going to make this your first post of 2019?’
If I wake up after my one measly hour of sleep and these thoughts are racing around my brain, then why not write them down – I’m only being honest with myself remember? Just go away and leave me to it.
‘Look … get it all off your chest, then FFS delete it so THEY don’t start their year wishing they’d never opened this post. *stalks off and trips over half a pair of shoes worn on Christmas Day*
A monster with teeth and dull eyes, a billion arms with dimensions so big it could engulf me in one if it really wanted to. Poised, always, just under the surface of wherever I’m rowing my wobbly little boat. That’s how I see depression; like it’s a thing, a presence, separate from me but something I’m permanently attempting to travel further away from. Knowing what it looks like since facing it head-on after 18 months of counselling (which ended over a year ago) has been my saving Grace.
During those months I actually managed to stab it on a number of occasions, while the experts had it tethered. It was quite shocking at first when they encouraged me to pick up machetes and knives, chainsaws and rifles. They cheered when we heard it wince and moan. We’d celebrate when we watched it retreat with barely any of its multiple arms intact.
‘I bet that salt water stung!’
I thought you were downstairs making tea?
Sometimes I stop rowing. That might be because I’m tired or perhaps I’ve forgotten the direction in which I was going. It’s then that the ripples slapping at the sides of my boat become shadowed with the dark looming shape. The punctured surface, with droplets of white froth as a slimy limb emerges, a few feet away might indicate that the monster is back, amused by its own regeneration and hungry to feed. Mostly I pick up the paddles at this point and type, I mean row, and often it is enough. I find my boat’s painted sides reflected in shallower water, glittering fish darting every which way beneath the surface come to joyfully investigate.
I can always hear them sharing their happiness bubbles with me and I am left light in mood, strong in arm and off I row for miles and miles, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets there for the taking. Days and days worth of sea I cover past islands filled with travellers who invite me ashore, dance and sing with me and help fill my little boat with supplies. The world is so full of goodness, I find it enthralling and many times I think about those islands and wonder how life is upon them.
Occasionally, I lose the oars over the side. If this happens out in the dark depths, in the middle of the night when you can no longer see where the horizon meets the ocean, then it’s bad news. I become easy pray, lying dormant in the bottom of the boat amongst broken pieces of detris, maybe an odd shoe. I listen to the monster’s teeth rasp along the bottom for hours, vibrations travelling through my back. Suckered arms with taloned ends usually appear over the sides, dripping foul smelling sloshes of water onto my limbs. This happened in the early hours of this morning when about seventeen arms gripped the sides from beneath, and pulled the boat down into the depths, dark death-water gushing in over the sides of my oval world until I could no longer see the stars.
‘Here’s your tea, and you have to go and bloody well visit those islands if you want to know how they are, not bob about simply wondering!’
God, do you have to listen to EVERYTHING I’m thinking? Can’t I have just ONE moment’s private headspace?
‘Yes to the first. No to the second. And if it wasn’t for me, you’d have disappeared a long time ago. Now you’ve got ten more minutes before I’m bringing Martha and Antonio in.’
Oh, okay. I nearly forgot about them.
‘Yeah, well…. they want a … you know’ *gesticulates wildly with pursed lips and swaying hips*.
Now I’m giggling. I adore my conscience. It is my instinct and my friend all rolled into one. It sat and listened when I simply sobbed through some of those counselling sessions and thank The Lord it did.
This tea is good, and the first morning of 2019 is underway. I hear birds singing through the double-glazed windows. Cheap. (Hah!!! I should be a comedienne). Mother in law is cooking lunch, I’ve a manuscript not far from its finish line, I’ve my health – as far as I know – and two happy children. Our daughter stood on Primrose Hill last night with her BF to watch the London fireworks along with thousands of others, it seems, and had an amazing atmospheric time (and a free night’s sleep thereafter in her West Hampstead studio flat). Our son is on the other side of the globe in New Zealand having celebrated the New Year in 13 hours ahead of us. He is now spending some well-earned days off in Queenstown doing boys stuff and practising his language skills. I think jet-skiing was on the cards for yesterday and he’s much too busy to be sending his mother photographic evidence of his shenanigans (‘quite right too’).
I also have Man of the Woods, who has changed alongside me these last few years. We talk things through now when something doesn’t sit right. We just used to argue before and ultimately hurl competitively horrendous insults betwixt, which of course got us nowhere. In fact it gave him ammunition to use in future arguments that I was unbalanced and like my mother. That always hurt the most, that one.
I don’t believe I am like my mother (who rang at 6pm last night and almost whispered down the phone that ‘Your father is down to his final £6.90 and he’s incredibly stressed about it. Yes, we are probably seeing the start of the end. His shakes are worse and he’s obviously got Parkinsons but refuses to see a Doctor. It’s selfish really, when I’m dealing with my diabetes. Oh, and have I told you I’m going to drive to Scotland in the New Year to find a man who wrote a book about a diet which undoes the damage diabetes causes? I knew I was right and the hospital were wrong. I’ll prove it yet, you wait and see.’).
Her call content, and face to face conversation content come to think of it – is 97% inappropriate, it leaves me feeling very uncomfortable like I’m riddled with leeches and responsible somehow. What she doesn’t know is that I’ve wanted to gift my father some finance for some months but I know he’ll try and turn it down. I have to find a way, but I bet she thought I’d be offering it to her. No chance lady.
`Wondered how long it would take you!’ *stands by window staring out at the dew glistening in sunlight on the grass, arms folded, patient as always*
It was that call? Half way through ‘Spectre’ which has unsettled me?
*turns and nods* ‘I think so yes.’
I haven’t even bothered you all with her Christmas Day efforts where she left our dining table my daughter had spent hours preparing, to eat her roast goose meal on her knee in the living room with no explanation (and I’d love to admit I’d added this bit for dramatic effect, but it’s the cold hard truth of what happened). We three plus my father and MoW’s parents all carried on eating and chatting, although my heart was racing, as my father’s would have been I know. No-one went out to see if she was okay. Everyone knew she was attention-seeking and ignored it because they are all doing their utmost to help me disengage from her negativity. And in the daylight hours it works.
Well look at that will you, over 1400 words. Can I borrow them for my book?
‘They won’t fit, but you’re feeling better aren’t you?’
I so am, thank you! Shall I delete it now?
‘You’re welcome. Is it well-written and vaguely entertaining? Does it have a message others will ‘get’? I’ll never TELL you what to do as I’m only here to guide you. *leaves the room avoiding the shoe, before popping head back round the door* ‘By the way–‘
‘You might need to speak to Sam Mendes.’
‘While you were racing around getting crisps and drinks during the opening sequence of the film, I was watching and listening!’