“You cannot lay bare your private soul and look at it. You are too much ashamed of yourself.” – Mark Twain.
I am depressed/suffering from depression. There, I’ve said it. I’ve made it public.
That wasn’t easy.
I’ve admitted it to myself numerous times, but saying it aloud, even to Jo, is very hard to do.
This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this, having felt this same, black, bottomless void a number of times in the past. Most notably when I was living in Edinburgh where I piled on the weight and really struggled to see a way through and to find a direction.
The sense that I am never happy, or always seem to be searching for something, something other than I have already got, never feels far away. I hate it!
What is it that I’m looking for? What am I lacking? Why can’t I answer these questions, despite repeated ‘lessons’ from life? Why is it that when I can recognise life lessons, I can’t seem to see what the learning from it is?
Let’s put this into perspective, though; I have Jo and we have Ferdinand, as well as another on the way. This is pure joy and love at its deepest and most genuine. These two (soon-to-be-three) are my rock, my light, my energy, my salvation, my love, my family. So, why then, when I have these amazing people in my life, can I feel so low and empty?
What the fuck is going on?
Lying to the World
I have seen a couple of counsellors in the past, which has helped with some things. I have also worked with a career coach, which also helped, in a different way. But I still, somehow, seem to end up back here. I still feel stuck.
I do a lot of psychoanalysis – mainly on myself. As far as I know I’ve worked out what my issues are. What has irked me. Where my biggest fears and failings are and tried to tackle them.
Is it that these things are always pressing at the door and so I must always fight to keep them at bay? Or can I actually hope to get to a place where these things are a mere memory?
Why do I write this? Well, partly because someone may have an answer (ha! wishful thinking), but mainly because feeling like this and having only Jo know how low I feel is like a prison. Having to constantly sound happy, positive and upbeat when I’m actually flaking away inside feels awful. Like I’m lying to myself. Lying to the world. And if I’ve learned one thing it’s that when you lie to the world it lets you know.
What I actually want to say is this:
I fucked up. Big Time!
I’m still living in the ashes post-fuck up. I walked out on my career for love (this part I do not regret – though I wouldn’t mind still having that salary!), but I have somehow found it impossible to resurrect any sense of a career, merely dabbling in this and that to try (and fail) to make ends meet for the last 5 years. How the fuck did it all go so wrong at the same time as going so right? How have I gone from a career-blazing professional to a ‘few-hours-per-week-odd-job-man’? (no matter how I dress it up, this is basically what it boils down to at the moment).
Dealing with Regrets
I only have one regret in life and it is straightforward: I was far too hasty in leaving France. Fuck, I wish I had stuck it out another 6 months to give it enough time to see if it would work. Because, not only did I return to the UK, but I brought Jo back with me. She’s been hovering just above downhearted since (though she is much better at ‘bright sides’ than I am). I mean, we gave up sunshine, mountains, clean air, warm lakes, amazing bakeries and an outdoor sports mecca for rain, drizzle, wind, sleet, dampness, more rain, more drizzle and barely any sunshine at all. Could there be anywhere with a more miserable climate than the west of Scotland? Fuck, it’s horrendous!
The answer, you’d think, would be a simple; ‘just go back to France’, but it’s not that simple any more. Where would we go? What would we do for work? (we burnt the employment bridges we had – or at least singed them). How would it work now we have a family? And, more fundamentally, what if I was right to return to the UK and no matter what the circumstances are, me living in France doesn’t work? If that scenario came true I’d be destroyed.
So, why don’t we go back to the Alps? Fear, most probably. Fear that it won’t work for a second time. Fear of fear.
Why did I leave the Alps?
Why did it not work first time around? Well, here we go, this is the first public airing of this. Time to put the record out there. I left the UK in a whirlwind in 2011. I was a bit disillusioned after leaving Oxford for Windsor. I really liked Jo. She had left her marriage and moved to France six months previous. If there was ever to be a chance for me to see if we could make something work, this was the window of opportunity. The only window of opportunity.
So, I hastily found a ski job (I had no idea what I was doing and couldn’t speak any French!) and in the space of 6 days I’d quit my career and moved from Windsor to la Plagne and was already issuing ski boots to holidaymakers. Wow! It was like a movie!
This did not go down well with those who I considered to be a circle of friends in Oxford. Who knows what they actually made of it all (did they think this was all part of a well-thought out masterplan? I wish it was as simple and stress-free as that!), but all I know is that I was instantly shunned and was even excluded from meeting up with a bunch of them when they came out on a ski trip (yet they still met up with Jo – strange). I guess in big life situations you see the true colours of some people, but this was an early blow to my confidence.
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” – Mark Twain.
Given the ostracising I’d experienced it seemed to me that there was a busy rumour mill going on ‘back home’. The result was that both Jo and I went ‘underground’ and avoided social media for fear that any photo of us in the same shot or doing something together would create any more nasty rumours. Coupled with this was a very frustrating lack of internet access, resulting in me not only losing this ‘circle of friends’, but also quickly losing touch with so many people in both Oxford and Scotland – the hasty nature of my departure didn’t allow time to catch up with friends beforehand.
As well as this, my employer in la Plagne had specifically asked if Jo and I were an item when I spoke to him about the job. The truthful answer was; no, but I harboured hopes that one day, in time, we could be and, given that I only had this one window of opportunity to try and make things work with Jo, I couldn’t risk jeopardising this opportunity. This resulted in me feeling that the whole time we were in la Plagne that I was never legitimately ‘allowed’ to be hanging around with Jo.
In actual fact, what I should have said is this: Yes, I want to be with Jo. Jo left her husband 6 months ago and serendipitous circumstances have brought me to la Plagne. So why shouldn’t I see if things can work?
Fuck. That felt good writing that. I guess I have spent too long worrying about everyone else’s feelings while ignoring my own and my own voice. Too busy worrying what everyone else might think or say, not wanting to upset anyone. But, while I’m feeling liberated, here’s a big ‘fuck you’ to those who stabbed me in the back and turned their back on me at the first opportunity.
So, for the best part, my life in la Plagne always felt like I was skulking about trying to prevent rumours, conjecture and avoid upsetting anyone. Not a good way to build foundations for a new life as living like this eroded all my confidence as a person, to the point where I just felt like a ‘thing’. It felt shit! This came at the very point where I needed that confidence to try and get to know the culture and the people and the language. Bollocks!
The other reason, which seems a mere sideshow compared to these fundamentals, was that due to a lack of snow I was laid off after 6 weeks! That totally ripped the rug from under my feet. From a salary of £30,000 p.a. to £0 in the space of 6 weeks! Wow! That was a very hard one to stomach – Bertrand, I wish you hadn’t of done that. La Plagne feels an isolated place when that’s just happened to you.
Anyway, that’s the story of me leaving the Alps, which is where this depression stems from. I’m completely blocked in by fear. And lack of funds. I mean, we have a great house and can manage a coffee and slice of cake every now and again, but my earnings have plummeted.
I feel uneasy talking about this publicly because I’m not looking for charity, just truth and openness, because if I don’t it’s like I’m imprisoned. I think my friends must wonder why I don’t arrange to meet up with them for a drink/coffee/food etc. or arrange to go down to Oxford/London to see them. Or sign up for races. The simple fact is; I don’t have the money to buy a drink, food, a cinema ticket, race entry or even the fuel/train fare to get there. I’m bankrupt. The only thing missing is the official notice from the bank.
So what agency do I have? I feel entirely at the mercy of the world and this is not how I like to be, nor is it the world I have tried to forge for myself. After all, I worked from the age of 16 until I was 25 and used my savings to fund going to university in order to shape my own future. So I’m finding having my future shaped for me quite hard to bear.
Being Truthful with the World
I don’t expect anything from this blog post other than the catharsis of having it out there in the public realm. And now that I’m at the end of the post, yes I do feel pretty good. Getting some of this shit out there feels great actually!
So, there you go. I’m entirely open to scrutiny now.
Do I feel vulnerable? Yes. Completely.
Do I feel stronger for it? Yes. Definitely.
For, in putting the record straight, there can be no more rumours and conjecture. No more guilt over things I didn’t do. No more fear of upsetting people. And, above all, honesty with the world about what went wrong and why and how I would like to learn from these mistakes and circumstances to get myself and Jo (and our growing family) out of this limbo we’ve been in for 5 years now.
I’ve had enough of it.