Big life

Mental health

In another life, I lived on a tiny island called La Maddalena. One summer evening, the heady scent of wild gorse in the air, I flew around the island on the back of a friend’s scooter. ‘Che vuoi fare da grande?’ he yelled into the sea-fresh wind, thousands of tiny stars twinkling in the sky above as we sped on into the violet night.

My Italian wasn’t great then. I translated it literally, ‘What do you want do… in the big?’ (It means: What do you want to do when you grow up?’). I told him I wanted to write. I wanted to ‘be’ a writer.

Life took over: or more accurately, mental illness took over. I spent much of the next decade profoundly depressed. It wasn’t a mild, nagging grey cloud over my head. It was massively debilitating, utterly disabling. My whole spirit totally suffocated under its power. Often, I couldn’t even rouse myself from sleep. I threw away years being depressed, but I didn’t have a choice. I really didn’t understand how to get well.

This is the monumental might of human emotions. If you let them overwhelm you, they can be so powerful and so dangerous. There aren’t many solutions offered for young people who are struggling with mental illness. At the time, I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I thought I was incredibly lazy. I thought I had an undiagnosed disorder that made me sleep all the time.

The truth is that the weight of my thoughts had left me physically immobilized. It would be many years before I started to get well. I tried many different ways of trying to recover. Having children gave me a new determination not to succumb to the devil and the dark. Meditation started to heal my brain. I could feel it happening. And each time I do it, I feel it happening still.

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