Making New Year resolutions, such as giving up chocolate, aren’t usually my thing – they don’t sit well with my inner rebel. Plus I adore chocolate. However, I do secretly like to think about what I can change and achieve in the coming year, rather than what I’m giving up. I don’t always act on it, but this time last year, somewhere between waking up and actually opening my eyes one morning, I knew I could not ignore the nagging voice inside my head any longer; it was time to decide whether to honour a commitment I made to myself several years ago. The decision required was whether to finish the book I had already written and hoped I was not far from completing. It had been set aside in a drawer for over a year and was all but forgotten, except by me.
An Inconvenient Posting, an expat wife’s memoir of lost identity is about my personal experience of getting depressed and getting well. Not sounding very cheerful? There’s a wee bit more to it than that of course – for people to want to purchase my book I knew it needed to be an entertaining read about expat life, with all the highs and lows. So, although my ‘story’ was true, my goal was to capture the drama, humour, characters and set them against an interesting backdrop. Most importantly it needed to be useful, such a benign little word, but that was my motivation for writing it; to make my valuable, hard won, painful learning, available to others in a way that would be easily accessible in the form of ‘a good read’. Whether I achieved my goal is for others to judge.
Fortunately, by this time last year much of the graft was done, I already had the potential backing of a publisher; I just needed to finish the job. What was actually stopping me doing it was a road block of fear. As I say, I’d been procrastinating for over a year, trying to weigh up if it would be okay for me to reveal myself in such a public way. I didn’t see myself as depressive so how was it going to be, admitting to the world that I had really struggled? Even if I did survive and learn from it.
I brought to mind my earlier inspiration for writing; if I could avoid being seriously depressed until my forties, then surely it could happen to anyone? As a therapist, I had understood some of what was happening to me and yet could not by an act of sheer will alone, get myself out of the mire. Ashamed and guilty as an expat wife, I felt I should surely be counting my blessings (I knew there were many – goddamit I could see them with my own eyes, I just couldn’t feel them) and fell victim to the black dog, Churchill’s apt description for depression.
The reasons for my descent become clear as you read my memoir. Lonely and isolated, immobilised by my own frustrations, particularly at not being able to work, and faced with the inevitable culture shock of a new posting, I was stalled. There were too many losses, too quickly, and the plusses of living in a different place just weren’t enough (at least not initially, not this time) and I began to wonder who the hell I was. The term for it is identity loss and it can happen to anyone.
Thankfully, last New Year, once I had rekindled my passion for sharing my experience and how I got through that emotional crisis, I was finally able to put aside my anxieties and get stuck into finishing the book. Ten months later to my great delight An Inconvenient Posting was published (in October) by Summertime Publishing.
Is there something you would like to move forward with or change in 2013? Do you have any mental road blocks or potholes? You could try breaking things down, distilling the issue into a few key actions, or make ‘bring ups’ in your diary, schedule yourself some time to work on it. Ask yourself what would help me decide? How can I make it happen? What is the worst that can happen?!
It helped me to talk through my dilemma with people whose judgement I trusted. Perhaps if you can’t think of anyone you might seek some professional advice. Not forgetting there is so much available on the web nowadays that is free. For example, if I’d had blogs such as Adventures In Expat Land and Expatwomen or wordgeyser with all their resources to draw on, it would have helped me better understand my isolation and my situation. For me attending the Families in Global Transition Conference gave a boost and the opportunity to share and network on similar issues. This year’s ‘FIGT’ conference is all planned and ready for people to sign up and go along. Hope to see you there…
I digress! If there is something you would like to achieve in 2013 however small or grandiose, might I suggest you spend half an hour making a clear and detailed plan of what you want to do. Its such a simple thing and I certainly don’t mean to patronise anyone, but If we can just get past the challenge of the blank page staring right back at us, the results can be so effective.
Sometimes we do need to take time, weigh up the pros and cons of a dilemma, let it ferment so we are sure; that’s not wrong. Equally, its good to come to a decision after a while, even acknowledging there are downsides, it may still be the right decision. And if its not, you can decide to forget about it and move on with the knowledge that you thought it through. Good luck with trying and a happy New Year to you whatever you are doing.