It may sound strange, but for me the change from summer to autumn has little to do with the calendar, or even the weather; every year I wake up one morning and just feel different. There’s a brief sense of euphoria as I experience the first morning of the new season, but it is quickly replaced by a gradually increasing conscious feeling of dread that the darker nights (and accompanying thoughts) are drawing inexorably closer.
This time of year has always been one of often profound introspection and self-analysis. I continually question my worth, as well as battling to balance the co-dependent nature of dysthymia, with a desire for periods of lone reflection. I am aware how selfish that sounds.
Over the past four years, I’ve been able to focus on my “challenges”—thinking up new ideas, planning, finalising arrangements, training or practising for the physical tasks—and that focus has, on occasions, proved a compelling distraction.
But as I write, I only have five unticked tasks on my list of one hundred. When I look back at the photographs (which I have been doing quite a lot recently), there is an element of pride in what I’ve attempted and maybe even accomplished, but it is becoming outweighed by a growing anxiety about how I will fill the void that will undoubtedly be left when the challenges come to an end.
There’s no doubt that these past four years have made a positive difference to me, and more importantly to Elaine. She has given me the strength and belief to push myself beyond what I thought were my mental and physical limits; and the love, support and encouragement to keep going whenever emotions looked like getting the better of me.
And whilst I want to keep trying to raise mental health awareness (to show that it is fine to talk about mental health and that no one should be afraid to ask for help); equally I also need to keep trying to be the very best husband and friend I possibly can … that’s the very least Elaine deserves.
I already know that 2018 will see the publication of my book “Today, Just Like Yesterday” by Trigger Press. It’s not been too difficult telling the stories behind some of the challenges, but recalling (sometimes long-suppressed) memories and emotions has been quite a strain at times. I’ve learned when it’s fine to write, and when I need to switch off; and hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy the rest of the process as those memories and experiences are translated into something tangible.
I’m in “virtual” contact with several other Trigger Press authors – trust me, they are amazing people; and I really hope that at least some paths will cross over the forthcoming months. The members of publishing team are wonderful too; you can almost sense this relatively young company is about to achieve something very special in the field of mental health publishing (and beyond), and it such a privilege to be involved.
Hopefully I will be able to support Trigger Press at a few events next year; and I’m really keen to explore the possibility of doing talks to any groups that might think that my experiences are worth hearing. I know for certain I can be open and honest; I can be serious, maybe even a little bit interesting; but I can be quite funny too … as anyone who watched me spar with Josh Leather will testify.
Today has been tough. I’ve felt like I could crumble several times, but I’ve managed to maintain a pretty convincing “work face” (at least I think I have). Perhaps the tears will fall silently when I’m on my own; maybe writing these few paragraphs is the release that will help the feelings to pass—either way I’ve been here so many times before and whatever lies ahead next year, I’m confident that tomorrow is going to be a better day.
Richard... Jack of some trades... you can guess the rest