Before I begin with the tale of Prince Hanspian, I’d like to correct an unintentional omission from The Cowardly Lion, The Which and The Front Door. I forgot to mention that at the age of 16 I discovered over a summer holiday that my group of friends could no longer be considered such. They had been spreading rumours behind my back and it really felt like a knife. My best friend of five years had told people I was gay. I don’t really care what people think about my sexuality, I don’t really think that homosexuality is an insult. But what hurt was that if this friend had paid any attention to me during our friendship they would know that I am in fact heterosexual. Apparently though homosexuality is genetic and having gay siblings means I am now gay regardless of my sexual preference…
So it is also possible that the loss of pretty much all the people I had called friends a year before the depression began was a causal factor. Anyway let’s continue.
A few years after the depression first began, wondering around my mind was a little bit like what Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy must have felt upon their return to Narnia. It’s a place that at first they don’t recognise, then they realise that the overgrown crumbling stone walls were once the majestic walls of their very own castle, Cair Paravel. My mind was once a peaceful kingdom ruled over by me. Now it is nothing but an ancient ruin with a continuing war for territory going on. The dastardly Telmarine Depression has taken control of the lands and rules with an iron fist. But the rightful heir to the kingdom, King Depression’s nephew, Prince Hanspian, is a wily upstart gathering together all who’d fight for his cause.
Not many came to Prince Hanspian’s aid however… I had never had to fight a mental battle before, I had never really had to use my brain before. Growing up with four siblings meant I had never needed imaginary friends or even an overly active imagination to entertain myself (when I watched Inside Out I was very disappointed I never had a Bing Bong of my own). So when Prince Hanspian desperately blew on a magical horn supposedly owned by a benevolent Queen, not much happened. It turned out to be nothing but myth, a nice story. My mind had never had imaginary figures so those strong characters could not spring to the defence of Narnia. I’d already chosen to stand around under the lamp post hoping something unlikely would happen. So I hadn’t met any kindly Narnians, prepared to fight for Prince Hanspian against King Depression. And there was no Peter to challenge Depression in a duel.
I continued to study English Literature and at the same time found myself a job. I absolutely hated this job but everyone’s gotta make money right? So I persevered. The job meant that I would have to converse with 30 to 40 strangers every day, which was not a lot of help for my anxiety. And though the anxiety seemed to get worse and worse what really stood out most for me was how much I hated ‘other people’. This is a term I use not to describe everyone that isn’t me, but instead to describe the vast majority of the population. The people I don’t know (and don’t want to know), the people I’m not related to and the people who make up that strange group of people called ‘the general public’. I don’t think I hated ‘other people’ before I was depressed. But you know when you’ve decided you don’t really like someone, and then from that point on everything they do makes you hate them a little bit more? Well it was like that, only ‘other people’ combined together to make one mess of a person. One person could easily continue the degradation of ‘other people’s’ reputation.
However at this work place I managed to struggle through a general dislike of people to create workplace friends of my colleagues. I wouldn’t say we were friends in the conventional sense because I had no intention of spending any time with them outside of the workplace but we got on well enough at work. I had one friend I could have intelligent conversations with though they were a fair amount older than me and probably had more in common with my parents. And I had two friends I could have silly fun with, to keep the workplace from becoming a real drag. There was also the mother hen of the workplace, she seemed to care about all of us, she’d give advice and stand up to our bosses to protect us. Or so I thought. Instead she snitched on me to the bosses, not something little that would get me a slap on the wrist. Something big that could have cost me my job, fortunately I have a way with words and can act truly deeply apologetic when I am anything but. I saved my place at work but had been betrayed badly… again.
A combination of my dark and twisty depressed mind and this knowledge that I was twice betrayed by “friends” caused me to take an interesting approach to this. I knew who had snitched on me, she was the only one with the opportunity to do so, my bosses were not particularly clever or subtle so didn’t bide their time in telling me off. However, instead I publicly blamed the mother hen’s best friend at work. Treated her with scorn just to highlight what a terrible friend this “mother hen” was. If she were a good friend she’d own up, confess her backstabbing ways and protect her friend from my wrath. But she wasn’t a good friend… She took advantage of this “good fortune”, thought she was getting to know me better, thought I was someone she could trust… I had an excellent plan to get her back but I was temporarily lifted out of my depression a little and realised I didn’t want to continue with the collateral damage. I made repairs to my relationship with the best friend of the untrustworthy snitch, over a lot of drinks, still never confessing my knowledge of who had been my downfall.
Not long after these events I moved but was still kept reasonably well informed of the large amount of karma that was coming to bite the snitch in the arse. It involved a few STDs, some poor life choices and a surprise (and early) grandmotherhood…
I hope this little exploration of that time in my life demonstrates just how unrecognisable I found my mind. I had always had an almost Mafioso mindset, you hurt my family, I hurt you. But this was more, darker, crueller. I didn’t care about collateral damage and other people’s feelings. My mind was not the beautiful structure of Cair Paravel any longer.In Narnia time alone had let the magnificent castle crumble, but in my mind Depression had been dumping toxic waste in the peaceful countryside hoping no one would notice, leaving a contaminated, radioactive waste land not safe for human life.
I had no clean up crew waiting in the wings to help me sort the mess out and my decision to go it alone meant the clean up process was a case of one step forward and two steps back. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy would not be stopping by to turn the tide of the war over the territory of my mind and clean up the mess in Depressionia.
Appropriately my first big move coincides with The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader so hopefully I can keep these chronicles going. Though what we are learning so far is that Depressionia and Narnia are very different places with very different outcomes in their chronicles.
PS. This post has reminded me just how clever and wonderful Inside Out was. And I am definitely going to be doing a post on the children’s film turned deep and careful look at mental health.