It’s been a while, I know. Quite a bit has changed in the months since my last post, but before I go into any of that, I’d like to work through some things I’ve had on my mind, and try to make sense of my moods lately. It’s not a fun post, or in any way light-hearted, and I’m not sure why anyone else would ever want to read it. But there’s been a lot of things eating me up inside lately, and I’d like to let them out. A blog is as much a form of therapy as it is a diary, so this is just me talking to my digital counsellor, and keeping the door open throughout the session . . .
To understand how hard it is to live with depression as an adult, you’d have to understand how happy I was as a child.
I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful childhood -the best I could ever have asked for. And everyone remembers how it felt to be a kid. The time in your life when the world was bright and wonderful. When it seemed all you ever ate was chocolate and sweets. When you always had energy. When the world was bright, and forever new. When school was an exciting blur of games, classes and friends. When every trip was an adventure. When there were creatures flying high in the clouds, and monsters hiding underneath your bed. Every day was exciting, every moment brought something new, and every night I went to bed happy, and hopeful. Every moment of every day and night, I believed in life, love and magic.
And then, time began to pass. I had to leave my primary school and friends behind. I went to a new school, a bigger school, and got bullied for my weight, for my lisp, for the fact that I loved to learn – for being me, essentially. I would come home and cry, and wish every night that my primary school would become a secondary school, so that me and all my friends could go back there together. The best parts of my days were the hours I spent in English, Art and Drama classes, and coming home to be with my family, and feel like myself again. We’d play games, watch films and be silly together. Even with everything that had happened during the day, it was still so easy to be happy.
After some time, I made friends with a nice group of girls, who nicknamed me Bubbles for my weird personality. I liked making them laugh, and having a nickname – it made me feel part of the group. After a year, I got a place at the school I had originally wanted, where my brother was, three years above.
And it was wonderful. I made friends, inbetweeners like me, nerdy and weird and silly. I fell out with some, and made others over the years, but at that school, I always had a friend. It wasn’t as easy for me to be close to them as it seemed to be for others. I’d see girls playing with each other, holding hands or linking arms as girls did, but I was awkward, and overthought absolutely everything. So, as you can imagine, I was a nervous wreck when it came to boys. But only if there was ever a hint of interest, which fortunately, there rarely was. Once a mutual ground was established, I got on with them just fine, and often felt more at ease in their company than I did with girls, feeling more able to talk about my nerdy passions freely.
But at this new school, where I quickly made friends, I realised just as quickly that none of them were into Drama. Looking back, I’m sure even then I had a kind of ‘New Girl’ complex, and, fresh from an environment where I had never been accepted, I was afraid, as I had been conditioned to be, of being the weirdo, the nerd. The target. Not a lot of people were into drama, and the few that were had the confidence or popularity to back it up. In this new school where I’d managed to make friends, I was reluctant to do anything that might isolate me. So I quickly learned to take a back seat in drama classes, enjoying the games discreetly, though it remained one of my favourite subjects for at least another year.
English was another matter entirely. I excelled. I let my passion come to life in the new school, where, unlike the one before, intelligence was not to be laughed at, but commended. I quickly became the little know-it-all in the front row, hand up to every question, eager to talk to the teachers. I loved it all – the lessons, the books, the essays, the homework – and made no effort to hide my passion, in a place where the pupils were that less likely to judge. For the first time since primary school, I found myself in an environment where intelligence and passion were not only accepted, but often revered. And after years spent in silence, I was hungry to write about, talk about, scream about this subject which I so loved and enjoyed, and to let this side of myself, one of my favourite parts, be shown.
I was a nerd – I won’t even try to deny it. Front-of-the-class, hand up, yes-miss-no-miss nerd. As the years went on, thankfully, I calmed down a bit, and learnt three very important lessons:
- My passion for writing was better conveyed with a pen
- Just because I knew the answer didn’t mean I had to shout it out
- No one likes a know-it-all
Me and my friends laugh about it now. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I was just so eager to show that side of myself, and to excel in my favourite subject – if others could show it in sport, drama, or even on the playground, why could I not show it in mine? I got A*s in almost every assignment, and cried over the one I got an A for (I know). But that’s just how much it meant to me. It was more than just my favourite subject. It was my outlet, my means of escape, and one of the few things I liked about myself.
By the time it got to the last years of school, I found that I had less energy than I used to. That people didn’t play games as much. That I was suddenly supposed to care about what I looked like, how I behaved, and why the other girls’ boobs were bigger than mine. GCSEs came and went, we signed each other’s t shirts and cried, and promised we’d all keep in touch. A levels sped by, and I found that I had even less energy than I used to have, and the games were even fewer, still. Soon, the people in the year above us were picking their university degrees, and before I knew it, it was our turn. Our turn to decide on degrees, careers, and what we wanted to do with our lives.
Maybe that was the time when life first became a little harder – a little more ‘real’. Our tutors told us to write a personal statement and start looking into courses. I made a note of several English degrees, and applied to three English Literature courses at different universities. One day I found myself looking at degrees in Drama. I came home with an application form I’d printed out for an audition at an acting school in London, and told my mum and my brother all about the course – to their great surprise, and dismay. My mum asked if I really thought I was confident enough for an acting course, and my brother told me I was too old to get into it now.
And then it was my turn to be surprised. To feel shocked angry, upset, and . . . betrayed? I remember telling my mum that it’s not just confident people who become actors, that Johnny Depp would probably seem shy to most people, and yet look what he could do on screen. I remember looking at my brother in horror and saying that I was only 18 – 18! Did people not become actors after a certain age? Was there a cut off point in life for learning a new craft?
I remember that moment so vividly. It feels like an important ‘first’ in my life, though I’m not quite sure what occasion it marked. The first time people started throwing the word ‘reality’ at me? The first time I was asked what kind of job I hoped to get from it? The first time in a long time I had to stop and doubt myself? Their concerns were not unfounded – they had every right to say what they said. But I’ll always remember throwing away those application forms, and crying in bed that night.
I didn’t go to the audition. And, despite the effect my family’s opinion had on me, that decision was no one else’s but my own. It worked out for the best, and I’m glad I chose English Literature over Drama. But that moment has taught me another important lesson:
More often than not in life, the only person who has to live with your decisions is you.
You can always be sure of people having an opinion – every choice you ever make will be met with the views of others. And often, those opinions will come from the people who want the best for you.
But even if they do. Even if they know you as well as you know yourself, or better. Even if they tell you what you want to do is crazy – they are not the ones who have to live with your decision.
You will have to live every day knowing what you chose. And, ironically (maddeningly), the people who advised you to air on the side of caution will more often than not be the ones asking further down the line why you didn’t give it a try . . .
People are quick to give opinions, but slow to take responsibility for them. And in years to come, whether you went against what you wanted at the suggestion of someone else or not, you will only ever have yourself to blame, or to thank, for your decisions.
. . .
There’s a lot more I’d like to talk about, but it’s getting late, and this post is lengthy enough as it is. So I’ll continue tomorrow.
If you’ve made it this far already, thank you for your company. And wow.