In 2019 I was fired (as managing director, somewhere). It’s a long story and the most important thing for me, was underestimating its consequent impact. An impact on an emotional level that was a bruise developing in extreme slow motion. Imperceptible over the following months yet ultimately profoundly debilitating. I had worked full time (drawing a salary from the same company for around 27 years and then moving to a new one – out of a need to change, a desire to take on a new challenge, a response to a vague malaise) since I was 16. With the exception of 4 years college, during which time I continued to work and didn’t view my studies as a ‘break’ from working. Parting company from the last employer was largely a relief. It was not unexpected, and that employer / company went bankrupt a couple of months later (after we parted company) – I had been part of a sacrificial ritual and I didn’t realise how hurt I was from the experience. The previous year had seen me cultivate my relationship with alcohol and to not put it mildly – I was a functioning alcoholic. In that state I entered my sojourn / sabbatical (with 3 months full-pay, before I was to become officially a member of the unemployed class. After nearly 40 years of working life, and free of the classic anglo-saxon work ethic, I took it easy. I even went on the wagon for around 6 weeks, to acknowledge to my loved ones I had a problem, and I had to lick it and intended to do so. On my own and in my own way. Most of us know where that one ends.
In 2019 I went on a journey in November and most of December. The itinerary involved large intakes of vodka throughout the day, each day and week and this went on for 2 months. It was an interesting journey and an interesting year. Many of the symptoms associated with depression became my companions: terribly disrupted sleep, irritability above and beyond simply having a bit of the blues, a retreat from others (yes, a clearly self-imposed social isolation on my part), and lots of morning stretches of sleep. In retrospect it has to be said I had gone on a sort of ‘strike’. It was a feeling of not wanting to go back to before and not knowing where I wanted to go to. My creative juices and skills, during this period, went on unabated. I made pictures every day and lots of them. That was a part of the part of me that remained committed to a meaningful and fulfilling existence. I did not become violent but my moods did become more volatile, and the self-‘medication’ was becoming sloppy. The booze was doing my body no good of course. I had, for the first time in my life, become a slave to it. The voice inside that was its spokesperson had become dominant and very persuasive, and the prospect of taking back control of my life looked rather bleak. Fortunately, I retained certain qualities that were able to wrestle back control and unleash a climax of pain, frustration and hopelessness that resulted in self-harm (a cry for help) and hospitalization (chosen and embraced – finally, by me). 2019 ended with me spending my time (full-time) in a psychiatric clinic. I had finally admitted and accepted I needed help and fortunately the help was at hand. I emerged from a state of isolation and began, in earnest as well as light-heartedly, my healing. 2019 ended on that note of healing and growth and I made it the motto for my 2020: Healing and growth. I have been feeling wonderful since 16 December 2019. I remain unemployed but will put together a new working pattern, over the coming months. Before the Coronavirus hit, I was intensely involved in gathering my strength, resources and focus together – in an organic, sustainable and dynamic fashion. Over the last months I have felt the kind of excitement at being alive I remember feeling when I was approaching 18, and had moved to London. I intend to maintain that excitement, to remain committed to healing and growth. The Coronavirus will not take that away from me. In many ways my personal crisis and its aftermath have somehow equipped me to engage with the ‘new world’ better than I possibly would have before my crisis. I am grateful I have the energy and drive to actually get up and throw myself into the day. I am grateful I have embraced not drinking and 96 days later that absence of alcohol is one of my best friends. I am grateful that I have a wife who stood by me and children who care about me and I am grateful I can give them some positive shit. I’ll give them my last roll of toilet paper if necessary.
These are new times. The time of the Coronavirus is not a blip on an otherwise relentless passage of time. It is impossible to identify anywhere and anyone who is not affected by what has now taken hold on a completely global scale. This is a world virus, a world crisis. Not a gun has been fired, not a bomb has been dropped. In the hours, days, weeks, months and year ahead there is going to be waves of change, layer upon layer of subtle and unsubtle adjustment, modification, restriction, loss. The flip side of loss is gain and the opposite of restriction is freedom. It is those opportunities that, in my mind, should be foregrounded as far as possible. Each person is well advised to reflect on not only what they are losing and have lost but on what they want and need in these new times. Not in terms of exploiting others and the situation of course. There will be enough of that without our help. This is a time of profound reflection, of reflection upon oneself and of society.
In 2019, around this time, I was experiencing ‘burn-out’ and heading (little did I know) for a major personal crisis. It’s now 2020 and I am not burnt-out, and the world is in crisis and the best I can do, I believe, is to heal and grow. The best I can do is to be open, loving, respectful, supportive. The best I can do is to be mindful, to heal and grow. That is what I intend to do in 2020. Even in this time of Coronavirus. Actually – especially in this time of the Coronavirus. I wish all who have read this a safe time, a healthy time and a time of nourishment in as many ways as possible. May we heal and grow.