A retreat, but no surrender

January 19, 2019

This time next week I will be at Mill House Retreat a beautiful old house in Devon. This will be the second time we will have been there and almost exactly a year since we were there last. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that a year has really gone past. In some ways, so much has changed, and in others so little…

In the month before the last retreat, a few weeks before Christmas, I finally admitted that I had depression. It was not the Christmas present I had been expecting. I was off work and at my lowest ebb. I had stopped writing and I didn’t see the point in going to the retreat.

My family and my fellow WordWatchers were amazing, they rallied round and got me to the retreat. The atmosphere of Mill House was calming and soothing and over the weekend I tentatively started to write again – unsure if I actually had a story in me – but at least willing to give it a go.

I wrote a story, themed around ‘fire and ice’ for a competition that my publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing, was running at the time. I wrote the story – I read it out to my fellow WordWatchers on our final evening, sitting round a roaring fire. I could not have asked for a better scene, atmosphere or audience. Responses to the story were positive, suggestions to tweak it were insightful and were, over the next week or so, made.

I submitted the story.

It was long listed.

I was as surprised as I was delighted. I could still write!

The story is currently in a state of limbo since FBP haven’t announced how many of the long listed stories will actually make it into the Anthology. I really hope I do make it into the anthology, not for me, not really, but because I told my counsellor that I just wanted to write again. She helped me achieve that. I’d really like to present her with a copy, as a thank-you, for being my guide from the darkness back into the light.

So, throughout 2018 I ‘ticked over’ – low dose antidepressants, practising my CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and lots of walking. I presumed I was doing OK. I wasn’t writing much, but I had several short stories accepted for publication and I had half a dozen 75-worders published on Paragraph Planet.

I took a chunk of November and all of December off work to spend time with my family, in particular my wife, Vee, who was recovering from major spinal surgery. I mostly ignored work, I cut back on my time on Facebook (and was so much better for doing so) and we, as a family, had a lovely Christmas.

I returned to work at the beginning of January to discover, in my absence, a course that I ran, that had been cancelled the year before, was no longer cancelled and that I had less than a month to get it organised to be run again. That’s when I discovered that depression, like many other illnesses, isn’t cured, it just goes into remission. I felt overwhelmed again, heard the little voices whispering the excuses I could make to not go to work today, or not even get out of bed.

I went back to my GP immediately. We had a really good chat. He doubled my antidepressants (still a low dose, but, also, still doubled) and wants me to get a refresher on my CBT, to make sure I haven’t picked up any bad habits over the last year.

So, here we are again. The WordWatchers retreat is upon us and I’m depressed again. I’m nowhere near as unwell as I was last year and I’m much better equipped to cope, but this blog is the most I’ve written in several months. So, I have set myself a target. There’s a flash fiction anthology competition being run by EllipsisZine which has a closing date a few days after the retreat. I intend to enter that competition.

Wish me luck! I think I might need it.

As ever, I thank-you for your time.

John Hoggard

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Comments

Comments

  1. Denise Sparrowhawk says:

    Good luck.
    One word at a time.

  2. Tanya says:

    I hope this year’s retreat is as enlightening and therapeutic as last year’s. And best of luck with entering the competition!

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