“I could tell you my adventures – beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
I have found myself in rather a happy place. I’m not entirely certain of how, or when I found it (or even if I did the finding at all) but it seems to have crept up around me and now all I can remember when I look back is when I was well and truly not in this happy world, not the road I took to arrive here. I do remember some well-placed family, friends and professionals holding large signposts in bold capitals, some of the same gently whispering directions (the majority of which I stupidly ignored in favour of the road I knew well which consistently led me in circles through misery, self-destruction and failure) but here I am. The Happy Place.
Over the last ten years I have achieved a grand total of not-very-much-at-all, over the last month I have achieved a place on a nursing course, a solo trip to Africa, a new job and a sense that this alternate route could suit me rather well thank you very much.
I am excited by the prospect of having a future, a concept which has previously been alien to me. I am willing to work hard for it and I am prepared for the fact that The Happy Place will not always remain as accessible to me as it is today but should I wander away from it, I know that it can be found again.
To begin at the beginning, a potted history of today’s launching pad. I began my nurse training at the age of eighteen years, did two and a half years of training then fell headfirst down the rabbit hole of mental illness. A few years of free-fall ensued bouncing off the walls of depression and psychosis, catching my hair on medication side effects and hospital admissions, clawing for purchase on talking therapies and anti-psychotics while my life swirled and whooshed past me faster than I could focus on any singular part of it. When I hit the bottom I lay for a while, eyes closed, fearful of moving in case things could possibly get any worse. Gulping, I opened one eye and a job swam into focus, I approached it gingerly, DRINK ME, it said. I drank and I became too small for the world around me, frightened and confused I relapsed. Creeping carefully out of relapse I, again, saw the job. EAT ME, it said. I ate and began to grow, in confidence, in skills, in friendly attachments. DRINK ME, it said, and so it went on. Drink, shrink and relapse. Eat, grow and recover.
Over the following years The Queen of Hearts, monarch of relapse, shoved me through a gauntlet of voices, suicide attempts, delusions while The Cheshire Cat, my best friend, shone a smile over me and winked in the direction of self-belief, symptom control and support. Over time, The Cheshire Cat became brighter, more focussed and walked with me for longer while The Queen of Hearts was left sulking in the background. Of course, there are other players, I know that! The Mad Hatter of forgetting my meds, The March Hare of good diet and exercise, The Dodo of apathy, The Mock Turtle of top-up psychology, Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee arguing over whether I should do more to be well or rest more to be well, The Jaberwock (Lord knows who he is or what he does), it is a complicated affair!
Anyway, I have made my way back to the riverbank, to be honest it seems more calm and sunny than when I left it. I really believe that falling down the rabbit hole was inevitable ten years ago but now I look up and I see a career to the north, travelling to the east, a family in the distant south but I am under no illusion as to the rabbit holes hidden along the road and the echo of The Queen of Hearts around an as yet unidentified corner.
So, in the true spirit of the theme, I intended to begin at the beginning but have found myself ending at the beginning. Curious.