Three weeks ago I had to quit work because I was no longer able to cope with having to stand up in front of a class and interact like a normal human being with my colleagues, even though some of them are friends. On Monday I move out of my rented room. And I have no idea what comes next.
I am lucky, of course. Years of depression have meant few nights out and treats with friends so I have enough savings to keep me going for a while and ensure I don’t end up on the streets. I know other people are not so lucky and I am now completely aware how easy it must be to end up homeless and unemployed due to mental illness. When I give a coin or two to someone sitting on a flattened cardboard box in a shop doorway, wrapped in a thin sleeping bag I think about how, if I were less lucky, that could easily be where I am heading.
I am grateful. But I still have no plans.
When I tell people I have no plans, they sometimes look curious, sometimes uncomfortable. Often they clearly don’t believe me. They tend to make a complimentary yet slightly bemused comment about me being a free spirit or “alternative”. They express envy or admiration, even if that is false, even if inside their brain is yelling are you crazy???.
That’s exciting, they say. I wish I could do that. I’d love to have that freedom, lucky you! They don’t believe it, of course. They are happy in their ordered lives with people who love them and a purpose to get up in the morning. I try to humour them even as I drift further away from normality, even as those empty days and months stretch blankly ahead of me as a void I can’t fill.
And I try to put a positive spin on it. I can’t work, that much I know. I shouldn’t be around people too long. Also true. But I am trying to think positively these days. The CBT people tell me it’s crucial. I would get better if only I could stop being such an idiot and drowning myself in positive thinking. So, I tell myself that this is a good thing. A chance to breathe. A chance to re-evaluate. I can write a bit, study, go for long walks, start exercising and eating properly. Figure things out.
All of which could well be true. But it doesn’t make the blankness of the future any less terrifying.