Optimism and me

I like to think of myself as an optimist, hopeful and as Monty Python said ‘always look on the bright side of life’. I like to see the best of people and I do not like to give up on anyone.

However, when you have depression this is harder to do. Part of me wants to remain upbeat and hopeful of a better day ahead. But another part of me is telling me it is all doom and gloom.

I am a realist and I know that the world can be awful. I have seen, experienced or read about some of life’s darkest moments. I am a history teacher so death, war and disease are in every one of my lessons. I have felt some very dark emotions and experienced abuse. However, I also know many people have life so much worse, it is all relative to our own experiences.

So how can I be optimistic when the realist in me sees the world for what it is? Well, through all my pain and sadness I also see kindness, love and joy. I find it hard to not see them in the world. In children, in nature and in human stories. To be those are the emotions to look for and dwell upon. Seek out the moments and remember them.

When I am sad or lonely I try to go for a walk and see nature. Nature is neutral in its emotional state but it’s beauty can evoke such joy in a human heart. I watch my puppy play and bound with the happiness of freedom. The trees remind me that year in and out they will remain, growing silently with other footprints around their roots. Somehow their longevity is uplifting and inspiring.


Near where I live is one of the oldest trees in Britain. It is a Yew tree called the Ankerwycke Yew and it is believed to be around 2,000 years old. This amazes me, this tree has stood here from sapling to towering tree for longer than the years past since Jesus. Through eras, wars, heartache, peace, storms, religious changes, inventions, and so much more. It has no idea what is happening but it continues to grow and give shelter.

This tree has not done anything special and yet it is significant. It is possibly under which Magna Carta was sealed by King John. Possibly under which King Henry VIII proposed to Anne Boleyn, triggering the English Reformation. It is where I walk my dog. Without eyes it has seen so much, bearing witness to history whilst being history itself.

When I was in Cambodia many trees have grown around the ruins of temples. It is like nature wants to take back the land, it is almost disrespectful of the ruins. However it is also amazingly beautiful and somehow it feels so right that it should take them back.

Maybe it is the wonder of nature and the world that keeps me optimistic. Whatever it is I will hang on to my optimism. If a tree can thrive for over 2,000 years I can make it to tomorrow in this mental world.


The Labyrinth of my Mind

Depression is a macaber beast. It is the Minaaur waiting in the labyrinth of my mind. Depression has been in my life again since September, maybe earlier. It is exhuating to live each day with a weight pulling you down.

This weekend the noise my depression seems to have been turned up to LOUD. I am not and have never been suicidal but I do have to listen to my brains arguments that I would be best dead. It is telling me that life is too hard as it is.

It is so loud that I have been unable to read, to focus, or to sleep properly. I have been drinking tea, eating too much junk and watching mindless TV. I intend to see my GP Monday when appointments resume.

I did get dressed and go for a walk with my puppy. I sat under a Yew tree and meditated. I listened to the trees and wind around me. I looked up at the blue sky and felt the breeze on my face. I hoped forest bathing would clense my soul and clear my mind. As I sat I found a bud, showing that Spring is on it’s way.

Toby enjoying his walk at the National Trust in Runnymede.

It is hard to ignore the voice of depression but each day I will try. That is all I can promise to anyone. I do feel I am falling through an abyss, trying to crawl out grabbing any hand I can find to steady my way. Each hand I grab is slippery and I drop further down. I imagine that scene in the Labyrinth, Sarah taking the wrong door and falling through a tunnel of hands.

Image from the Huffington Post

Nature was a hand that pulled me up a little. I found hope in that bud of new Yew tree growth. These voices will quieten and I will feel more myself again. I cannot say when things will change but I have to believe it will.

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdon as great. You have no power over me.” Jim Henson Quote from the film Labyrinth

I wish one line would destroy the world of depression, like the scene when Sarah says this quote in Labyrinth. But I keep reminding myself that I am strong and I will get through this. One day, hopefully soon, depression will have no power over me.

But today this is not the case, for now depression is in my life in this mental world.