So, let me just spoil your mood for a moment and tell you that in the past several months there have been countless times in which I have thought I was dying. Homesickness, financial woe, loneliness and their resultant depression are at fault here. Suffering them has become an inescapable, recurrent facet of my life. And in those moments when I've felt they were killing me –– eating me from inside –– I have often wished they'd just hurry up and get the job done.
But as I said in a previous post, I am cursed with good genes and a healthy lifestyle. Death will not come for me anytime soon unless I force it, and I'm too awesome for that.
I have reached a point of extreme imbalance in my life. On one side I wake up each morning to Jenn, who I swear gets prettier every day. I'm sure I'm not just imagining that. I think it is physiological fact. Though, when I look at pictures of her and I when we were first starting to go out, she's damned hot there, too. Either way, I sometimes look at her and think: "What? How is this my life?"
And often just she is enough to outweigh the extreme misery of homesickness-induced depression.
I'm going to digress for second here, but, dude, where the hell did that come from, by the way? Remember when I was going crazy with need to move to Britain? Remember when I first moved here and only half-jokingly said I planned to throw away my U.S. passport because I didn't intend to use it anymore? Where's all that sentiment now? And how did things swing so far in the opposite direction? OK, yes, a lot of awful things happened, but how I feel is now so incredibly different from how I used to feel that it is hard to fathom.
Whatever the case, this homesickness-induced depression is so, so, so awful. I have had days in which I've sat there in bed thinking: "I can't go on."
Each breath hurts, such is the emotional pain. Every single intake of breath is filled with sorrow and ache and hurt and loneliness and fear and the terrible, terrible feeling that too many of my 37 years have been irreparably wasted. And then comes the awful realisation that even though I'm curled up in a little ball, crying and thinking, "I can't go on," in fact, I will. I'll keep breathing for years and years to come. And I'll have to endure this evil hurt for decades more.
This hurt is exacerbated by circumstance. Caused by or causing it all is the feeling that I have lost my creative writing mojo, that I will never be the writer I want so much to be able to call myself.
That, mis amigos, is imbalance. On one side is this incredible, beautiful woman. On the other side is every negative emotion one can generate.
I do want to go home. I'm not cagey about that anymore.
For a long time, it was the case that if someone asked me about moving back to the United States I would do that thing my father does when he's asked a question he doesn't particularly want to answer: starting his response with a protracted "Well..." and following it up with diplomatic language he hopes will bore the person into forgetting their question before he has to get around to actually answering it.
So, I used to say: "Weeeeeeeeellllllll, you know, I'll grant you that on the outset it can appear that there may be certain areas in which the overall quality of American life may perhaps rival or in some cases exceed that which is experienced in the United Kingdom. Climatically, for example, one might prefer the greater variations afforded to the United States, especially in terms of summer months. This all said, however, it's important to weigh other aspects...."
And on and on. Now, though, my answer is: Yes. I want to move back. If you can help me achieve that goal, let me know. Otherwise, stop rubbing salt into my wound (1).
Because the fact is, y'all, this is where I live. I am here now. And in as much I can either keep wishing each breath could be my last, or I can try to rediscover myself and the whatever-it-was that made me give up everything to come here in the first place.
This is a realisation I was coming to in November, as the rumblings of a new great depressive episode were becoming impossible to ignore. In the months previous I had managed to shake off an exhausting bout of depression and writer's block to complete work on a book I've titled Tales of a Toffee-Covered Llama. Already by that point the project's momentum was beginning to falter. I had written the thing and sent it off to my agent but was now doing little more than waiting.
Since then, of course, the agent has rejected the project, which was/is the source of all kinds of pain and confusion about who I am, what I want to be, or what I even can be. But I'm digressing.
The point is that I knew a depressive hell was coming and I wanted to counteract it. At roughly the same time, I had suddenly become terribly interested in motorcycles. The interest fed into by desire to fight against depression, to find a way to connect with this place that is my home at the moment, regardless of whether I want it to be anymore.
"When have I been happiest?" I thought. "When have I felt most myself, or, at least, most like the self I want to be?"
When I'm moving. When I'm in a car or pickup, trundling along with just my thoughts and the ability to go wherever I want. Often that 'wherever' is not so great or exciting –– in my teens I rarely drove beyond Bloomington's city limits –– rather it's the ability that's important.
I decided I should get a UK motorcycle license. Motorcycles are considerably cheaper to run than cars and better suited to the tiny roads of her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, whilst providing that all-important ability to just go. But additionally, I felt, getting my license would be an accomplishment, a thing done, that could bolster my confidence and help me to take on other challenges, like finding a way to get my book published.
Before long, the whole motorcycle thing had become an obsession with me, to the extent I even set up a separate blog where I talk of nothing else. But it turned out not to be the confidence booster I had hoped. Getting a license in the UK isn't as easy as when I got my license in the US.
Firstly, there are more tests –– five in total. I started the whole process in February and only finished yesterday. Secondly, it is more expensive a process. And thirdly, the tests are harder, especially the last one, which I failed twice before passing. This confidence-boosting exercise backfired. It filled me with anxiety and self doubt that was only exacerbated over the months by all the depression and homesickness and then the fact that my book had gone dead in the water. It ate up money I didn't really have and in so doing worsened the situation I was trying to fight against.
In March and April, especially, I felt myself drowning in frustration and sadness.
Yes, OK, let's step outside of me for a second and admit that much of this is a great big pity party. I am an educated white male with all the privilege that society still gives to such a status; I have a super hot wife; we live in a flat that we own; we live in a country that has had a stable government for several hundreds of years, which has been at peace with its neighbours for more than half a century, and which provides really great things like free health care and Strictly Come Dancing. There are literally billions of people on this planet who would lose their shit for the opportunity to have half of what I've got. And I'm sitting here going into death throes because my not-very-exhaustive efforts to get a book published were unsuccessful, I don't have bragging rights to claim immediate awesomeness in manoeuvring a two-wheeled piece of machinery according to the notoriously persnickety British standard, and I miss sunshine and Dairy Queen.
But it's the internal, y'all. This is what makes depression so hard for people to understand. I can list off my strengths all day. I can without exaggeration paint myself as the most incredible muthahuggah you have ever met. But that doesn't take the pain away. A defeat is a defeat regardless of context and it carries extra weight within the mind of a depressive.
In March and April, my book was rejected, I was turned down for a full-time job for which I had interviewed, and I twice failed the final motorcycle exam. These defeats left me feeling further away from the people and places (most of them in Minnesota) to which I would turn in such a situation. It felt like hell.
There's just Jenn trying to counterbalance all this incredible negative weight, and it's not fair. I want so much to fix myself, to be the better man I think (maybe "wish" is a better word) I can be. But I feel otherwise alone in trying to do so.
Family and old friends are thousands of miles away, as are the roads I would drive and the creeks and rivers I would swim. I went to the aforementioned provider of free health care, but in Wales that does not extend to mental health. I was told there was not really anything they could do for me. They had me go to the library and check out a book, so maybe I could sort things out on my own. In the introduction of the book it says this: "It may not be wise to undertake [the methods prescribed in this book] while in the midst of an episode of clinical depression."
But then I finally passed my motorcycle exam. The weather was perfect –– sunny and warm –– and as we rode the bikes back to Cardiff (the test had been in Newport) I felt so greatly content and at peace. I had the ability again, and perhaps that could help me rediscover my ability in other things.
Perhaps. It's hard to say. In the process of writing this post I received phone calls rejecting me in two jobs for which I had interviewed last week. I feel now the reality of my same old situation: I may have a license but I still do not have the money for a bike. I still cannot explore any part of this country I tried so hard to move to. I am still thousands of miles away from family and old friends –– both physically and financially. The energy with which I awoke this morning has slipped away.
After the second rejection phone call came I sat down on the bed and held my face in my hands.
"I'm not sure I can do this anymore," I said aloud.
But in fact, I will. And that's the most depressing part.
(1) Seriously, yo. People will say things like: "Why don't you just move back?"
Hey, why don't you just kiss my ass? Are you going to pay for an international move? Are you going to find me a job? Are you going to find Jenn a job? If your answer is "no" to any of these questions, shut your cake hole.