“You’re an idealist, Jenny,” someone said the other day, citing my blog posts about the NHS, peaceful warriors, etc., as evidence.
I’m not a fan of labels, but if fighting for what I believe in makes me an idealist, so be it.
Come to think of it, I’ve been fighting for something or other ever since I was an angry little girl defending my right to be seen and heard. It’s what keeps me alive and sane.
For when cynicism and hopelessness get the better of me, I fall into a deep black hole, where death seems like the only way out.
Yes, depression has been a recurring feature of my life since my late teens and I am no longer ashamed to admit it.
I was in my late twenties and early thirties, and in the midst of my PhD studies at a prestigious university, when self-doubt, excessive drinking and bulimia, followed by the sudden death of my father, saw me steadily slipping into that black hole again. It was only with the help of a superbly empathic therapist (and antidepressants) that I survived.
Years later, I was broken hearted when I learned that the therapist who played such a crucial part in my recovery, had committed suicide.
The birth of my first child a few years later was one of the most magical moments of my life, followed by marriage and another child, and on the face of it, I had no reason to complain.
Depression, however, has nothing to do with what you have or don’t have in life and experience soon taught me that being blessed with a wonderful family of my own didn’t protect me from falling into those dark holes.
Where do my depressive tendencies come from? Are they genetic? Biochemical? Or are they a sign of spiritual crisis? Do they have something to do with early childhood trauma caused by multiple surgical interventions? Or are they a consequence of being bullied, made to feel I don’t belong or measure up?
I don’t think I’ll ever truly know the cause of my depression, though many therapists and well-meaning loved ones have offered their views on the matter.
I still dip into my black holes every now and again; usually, it happens without any warning as it did a couple of weeks ago when I found myself sitting on the bus with two happy children, suddenly wishing I wasn’t there.
Writing helps. I use different journal methods to work through my self-destructive feelings as they come my way.
I’ve always been drawn to writing as a means of self-expression but only in recent years have I come to understand that for me, the act of writing serves a fundamental purpose: healing.
So I write to stay alive and sane in an insane world.