Sunday, February 15, 2015

Depression, Orcas, Hope, Life

Ten years ago proved to be a dividing line in my life. I was severely depressed. We (my three younger kids and I) were camping at Raglan with a bunch of other homeschoolers for our annual Not Back to School camp. Three of my sons had big problems of different kinds. Several of my friends had major problems in their lives. I was constantly reminding myself of two people I knew who had been very badly affected by the suicides of others. Then I would try to plot a way of killing myself that would seem like an accident, so that no one would have to live with guilt.

The first night of camp I fell apart, and talked for hours to two friends about "Stuff, The Meaning of Life and All That, the answer didn't seem to clearly be 42" as I wrote in my journal. "I found myself saying all the bleakest, blackest thoughts, just letting the despair pour out" and they listened and hugged me and I ended up sleeping better than I had done for a long time. It was a wonderful camp -but I felt black inside except when I was swimming. One night when we were swimming in the harbour surrounded by phosphorescence, I felt great but could feel the blackness waiting to jump on me again as soon as I got out. I thought I would just drift further and further away in the dark and be done with life - but my two friends kept watching me and staying nearby so I didn't have the chance.

After I got out, I was talking to a man who had picked up that I was very bleak, and when he asked, I told him that I didn't want to be alive any more, that I wanted to kill myself, that I just couldn't go on like this any more. He looked at me and said, "So what are you going to do about it? If you actually can't go on like this, you have to either get help to get better, or you have kill your self - what are you going to do?" I thought about what he said, but the blackness just swamped my brain. The next day, the last of the holiday, we got word that a pod of orca were heading in towards the harbour, and we all rushed down there. As we watched and waited and waited I told myself (I'm not generally into magical thinking, so you know I was in a bad state) "if I see the whales, it will be a sign that there is hope for my life." Eventually someone texted me (I was the only one still out there watching by then) that the whales were already up the other end of the harbour, that they must have passed by under the water. I sat in the black mud out in the harbour and cried and cried and cried for a very long time.

Then I realised that if I didn't have hope, I wouldn't have cried over not seeing the whales. 

My friend organised me to see a counselor, who helped for a while. The past 10 years have been a series of steps forward and steps back and sometimes running around in circles, but gradually I have improved to where life is the best I can ever remember it being. I feel like there is truth in the meme, 'taking a step backward after taking a step forward isn't a disaster, it's the cha cha,' and I want to dance the cha cha of life.

So there I was last Tuesday, ten years to the week, and the orcas returned. And I saw them! On the way in to the harbour, and again as they made their way back out. And I thought, now I can die - but I don't want to, I want to live the glorious life that I have now. I remember those three people with so much gratitude, even though two have left my life, and the other only occasional communicates with me these days. They were so important to me, but though I miss one especially, I have so many other wonderful people in my life now, so many adventures to come. Life is (mostly) great.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Documented Life Project 2015: Week 1

I have often drooled over pictures of Artists' Journals in books and on web pages, but have always 'known' that I wasn't creative or skilled enough to make one of my own. However when a Facebook friend put up a photo of the first page of hers, and mentioned The Documented Life Project, I asked about it and investigated - and then signed up. 

Of course, being summer here, it wasn't easy to start. The first challenge  was for the week starting 1 January, at which time I was spending three days paddling down the Whanganui River - not the best place to get out the paper, glue, scissors and paint.
And then we had visitors including another internet friend from America....
And the grandchildren.....
And swimming and summer and gardening and summer......

However, all the time, I was reading the challenges and planning them in my head and making notes about what I wanted to do and at last, on the 1st of February, I finally began. 

The January theme was the blank page and how to face it. I certainly needed help with that! But the project gives you that help.

The first week's Art Challenge was Book Paper. Panic! What the hell is 'book paper'? It's okay, they explain. Easy.

The first week's Journal Prompt was Be Your Own Goal Keeper. Obviously the very first thing to do was to actually have a goal. I thought about that a lot and came up with the idea of allowing adventure into my life - both of the planned and spontaneous kind. So 'adventure' became my theme / goal. Except it didn't sit quite as comfortably as it should. I knew I didn't mean huge adventures like climbing Mt Aoraki or even Mt Karioi, but small adventures both physical and of the mind. Yet still I wasn't comfortable, and procrastinated. 

Eventually it became February and I knew I just had to start.  I didn't like what I made. I didn't like my 'adventure' goal. I kept going. I added 'colour' as a goal. I didn't like that either. I nearly screwed up my paper to throw it away, but I remembered how many times I had read, just cover it up, paint over it, add, subtract, change, see what evolves.

The words had to go! But they were sprawled across the page. The water colour pencils had smudged instead of washed. What to do? I was totally out of my comfort zone - just how I had been totally out of my comfort zone when I went on that river trip, and when I had invited someone I liked but didn't know well to visit. Comfort zone. Hmmmm. Then I knew what my goal really is - it is not to move out of my comfort zone but rather, to EXPAND MY COMFORT ZONE. And part of expanding my comfort zone is to accept that everything I do it not going to be perfect; not going to be 'up to standard'. And it doesn't fucking matter!

So, here's my first page. Oh yeah, as usual, I haven't done as I was told. I didn't buy a large journal as instructed - I decided that I will do my stuff on loose pages and bind them at the end.

The colourful bit on the right is a lift up tag, under which are reminders of the different areas of my life in which I especially want to 'expand the comfort zone', and notes of ways in which I did this in January.

It's nothing like what I imagined, it's unsatisfactory in many ways - but it doesn't fucking matter! My new mantra - 'It doesn't fucking matter!' I think I need to go add that to my page in big, bold letters: IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER!