Progress (and the power of anonymity)

Since my last post in January, things have changed hugely. I have made progress which only a few months ago I could never have believed possible. However, this has involved a significant amount of change and hard work. I know it’s a cliche, but despite the progress made, every day still feels like a big mountain to be climbed. And it’s hard to see that changing any time soon.

For me, moving on with my life and returning to the world of work after my most recent episode of severe depression and anxiety has meant moving to a new and much bigger city, where I feel a sense of freedom, energy and confidence which I have never felt in my home town. For me a massive part of this is the feeling of anonymity (which I love), being in a huge city where I don’t know anyone and where I am one amongst millions. For many, this would be the last thing they would want, but for me I feel like it has given me my life back. A life I thought only a few months ago would never be possible again.

This is not unchartered territory for me I must add. After recovering from my previous severe episode in 2005, which took the best part of a year, I moved from my home town to the “big smoke” in 2007. The two and a half years I spent there were a hugely positive and successful period of my life – I met my wife, I found a self confidence I never believed I would experience, I found a job I enjoyed and which I performed successfully in. But after a while a part of me longed to be home. I missed family, I missed an affordable home and I missed the quality of life that came with living in a smaller city in a more remote area. Therefore, shortly after we got married we moved from the big city where we met to my home town. Whilst all of those things listed previously remain important to me, I realised at the start of this year that the only way to get some sort of “normal” life back, for myself and for my wife and children, was to return to the big city, where I feel “normal”.

This has entailed a lot of sacrifice, both personally but also for my wife and for our parents. Without their help with childcare none of this would have happened. Nor would it have happened without the unwavering love and support of my wife. I moved to the new city alone, leaving my wife and children behind, for the time being. With my eldest son in school, a house to sell and my wife in employment it wasn’t feasible for us all to move at such short notice – but for me there was a definite feeling of now or never. We decided I would move on my own initially, with the plan of the family following at a future date if all went well. Those living with recurring mental illness will understand that is a very big IF. After 2 months in my new location and in a short term contract job, it remains a big IF. If it doesn’t work out I have no Plan B.

The biggest and most positive change to my life since relocating two months ago is the increased sense of self worth and purpose that comes from being in the world of work again after a year out of it, and being able to provide for my family again. I still think that it is very sad that we define our self worth by our ability to earn money, but in the world we live in I struggle to see that ever changing.

Despite the progress made over the last few months, I constantly live with the fear that in an instant things could return to the way they were this time last year – being incapacitated by depression and anxiety. For that reason I now struggle to see how it is possible to live in anything but the short-term. The thought of committing to anything frightens me like it never used to – whether it’s the prospect of us buying a new, albeit more affordable, house or booking a family holiday – because there is a feeling that lives with me that whilst things are ok today, tomorrow they could be very different. However, that’s not the way I want life to be for my wife and our two boys, so somehow I have to change my outlook. The phrase baby steps comes to mind, and for the time being I guess I have taken quite a few.

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