“To the well organised mind, death is but the next great adventure”- Albus Dumbledore
Do I believe in the afterlife? I’m not sure.
Why do people worry so much about the afterlife when they are given this life?
One life, short, precious and in one blink it could all be over. What would you do if you knew that your death was nearer that you thought?
My mother died when I had just turned 16 and it taught me more than school, college, travel and working combined, even if it took a few years for the lessons to sink in.
I wasted years after my mothers death being unhappy and honestly depressed. I did well in my school exams to go to study Law because I thought it would make her proud. I hated almost every second of University. I was lonely. I was awkard. I was a silly country girl in a lecture hall with adults. I was 17 starting college, far too young. At the time, all I wanted to do was leave home and start a new life in Dublin, but I wish someone had held me back until I got my thoughts together. At the time, I was stubborn, determined and there would have been no stopping me. At the time, I thought it was what I wanted.
I barely passed any of my exams because I didn’t care. I drank a lot, but not in the way most college students do. I misery drank. The more I drank, the more I wanted to drink and the more depressed I became. I often stayed in bed all day only leaving to eat a chicken fillet roll or pizza. I skipped a lot of lectures, again not because I was doing something more fun, but because I was too miserable to leave bed. I gained a lot of weight and became depressed about that too.
I don’t think anyone realized how bad I was in college. I was close to suicidal for most of my first and second year. When I started college just a year after my mother died, it hit me hard that my mother was gone for good. It was so hard to hear about other people’s mother’s looking after them at the weekend when they went home.
Things got better in third and fourth year. I went for counselling and started exercising which was transformative. I wish I had just pulled up my socks sooner but I didn’t. By then I decided that Law wasn’t what I wanted but felt that I had to finish it to make my family happy.
I had some great friends, don’t get me wrong. I have realized now that I am not one of the popular people who will always make friends wherever they go. I am shy and introverted and truth be told, I wouldn’t even like to have tonnes of friends. I had small groups of friends in college that mean the world to me but again, I couldn’t tell them how wretched I felt. Except when I was drunk and most nights out would end in tears. My family had no idea what was going on I was good at hiding it I suppose (or else they think it’s just my personality).
I travelled for 4 months after college and I loved every second, but I went home in December out of guilt about missing Christmas. I definitely regret giving up travelling so easily but I had honestly partied too hard and I think that I needed to mature for a another few years before travelling again.
I took the first job I got after my trip because I was broke, which I hated. It was supposed to be an in between until I decided what I wanted to do. Before I knew it I had been there a year. I changed jobs to another that I hated just as much. Before I knew it, I had been there a year too. All of this time though, my mindset was changing. This was inextricably linked to me starting to work out harder. When I hit milestones in the gym, it made me realise that if I worked, I could achieve and get better. It was something I always knew but forgot through my disillusionment with doing a college course that I hated. How exercise changed my life is a story for another day, but as my mindset got more positive, I started to realise that I needed to take action and leave again.
I realised that I needed to give myself a break. I felt like I had completely messed up in college but I had to forgive myself. My mother’s death didn’t hit me until I left home and I was still little more than a child. I got completely stuck in my exams and school and tried not to think about it. I put my best foot forward, not wanting to let anyone see how much pain I was in. I know now I was being a martyr for the cause.
I felt like no one cared but when people asked me how I was I was too afraid to say I wasn’t ok. I realized that making other people happy was all in my head. I realise now that people would have been willing to help had I let them and this is such an important thing to remember if you are feeling depressed. No one was scrutinising me as hard as I was scrutinising myself and I decided at last, I had to live life on my own terms.
My mother will be 10 years dead this week. I started to feel that way again around my birthday. My mother died 3 weeks after my 16th birthday and I will always remember that we did nothing but argue for those last three weeks of her life. Every year, I feel the same around this period. From my birthday until Christmas is over, I fight the battle.
What is different now is that I acknowlege the battle is there and have equipped myself with the weapons to fight it. I am careful to eat properly, train hard and avoid alcohol. I meet up with friends because I know they always make me feel better, as hard as it is to find the energy. I read, mediatate, do yoga and write. I took a few days off work, not because I coudln’t get out of bed as was the case in college but to reflect, relax and allow myself the time to heal and feel myself again.
I struggle to laugh at jokes, appreciate my friends and enjoy the sunsets during these times. I hate being that person, the misery guts that struggles to smile, but I know it is temporary. You always have to believe that the feelings will not last forever.
After my period of depression, I always come out with a clearer head. It is like a switch is turned back on, a cliché maybe but that is what it truly is. Suddenly, I am grateful to be alive again. I remember that each breath is precious. No moment should be wasted. I always make life changing decisions after this period, such as the decision to move countries 2 years ago.
Now I am deciding to travel, which had been my plan all along, I had just forgotten because I love living here so much. I have always had the Wanderlust in my from when I was a child. There is no road long enough for me as they say in Ireland.
I have also accepted that I am often happiest in my own company and am the ultimate introvert. People drain me most of the time. I used to think I was lonely but I don’t think I have ever felt lonely in my life. I would compare myself to others and feel guilty for not enjoying nightclubs and getting drunk as much them. I still drink but it had such a negative effect on my moods, I rarely do it to excess anymore. Now I see friends that have plans every night of the week and are always making plans with other people. Sometimes I feel jealous, but I know I would not be happy in their life. I like being by myself.
“You never know the day or the hour”. The bible reading from that is always dutifully read at funerals. How many times have you heard it, agreed and then continued to live your life as if it doesn’t apply to you? How many times have you heard of a cancer diagnosis and think that is too young to be given a death sentence, yet you too are living on borrowed time? How many times have you gone to bed angry or not speaking to someone and yet it could be your last night or their last night?
I sometimes worry that I am being selfish about living this dream. I am sure that my family do and will worry. I remember that I am no use to them at home depressed. I know I was never happy at home and I will probably never settle down and continue down a conventional life path. The thought of a 9=5, mortgage, marriage and kids fills me with dread and has done for as long as I can remember. I know I never want to work in an office again unless I absolutely have to. I think maybe they would have liked a rich lawyer in the family but would they have been so proud if they knew how miserable I was keeping up this pretence?
Th richest in pocket here are the poorest in spirit. The more money you earn, the more you spend in an effort to convince yourself that you like who you are and what you do. The happiest people here have little but appreciate it for what it is and many times we have heard it said. Yet you get caught in the trap of saving, spending and working without ever stopping to question any of it.
My mother’s dream was to swim with dolphins but she died before she had the chance. I want to breath my last breath knowing that I did everything I wanted to do or I at least tried. Death and depression have taught me how to live my life, even if it has taken 10 years to realise this.
“Without darkness, there is no light”