by a Friend of St Beuno's
I attend a therapeutic, creative writing group, from time to time, in connection with a charity I support. I participate and listen. One day, the facilitator requested that we might put to paper any major change which altered the course of our lives. Negative or Positive. Interesting, I thought!
My change came out of the blue, and was radical. It affected my career, where I chose to live, and my social life. Clinical depression struck in the 1970s. I had a nervous breakdown. I was forced to leave London, and a successful job. I returned to my elderly parents, who ‘nurtured me’. This was a massive upheaval, and retrograde step for me.
I entered a sad, dark and bewildering world. I felt helpless, hopeless and isolated. It was an effort to do anything. I felt intellectually impaired, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t sleep, eat or concentrate. I reverted to a state of childish dependence.
I was trapped in a meaningless prison of fear. My faith crumbled into dust.
On recovery, I discovered that depression had in fact become ‘my friend’ – giving me a new direction, and a reason to live. I had emerged mentally battered and bruised from two years in the doldrums. It had been a struggle grappling my way out of a deep, black pit of despair. I now needed to change a very negative experience into ‘something’ positive and meaningful.
During my convalescence, I joined the Samaritans as a volunteer, and attended adult education, part-time, at the local college. I was attracted to psychology and social studies. My intuition steered me towards a new career in mental health. I approached Brookwood Psychiatric Hospital in Surrey – I was taken on! Now, I have completed 34 years with the NHS, nursing on the wards, and in the community. My major life-change was indeed serendipitous! I found God again.
Years later, during my summer retreat at St Beuno’s, I happened to pick up a book from the library. I was compelled to read it: an incredible account of a priest. He had experienced the same fate as myself, that of mental illness, pain and anguish. He lost his faith. He contemplated suicide. For a priest to lose God must be the ultimate test, I think, but with guidance and time, he too recovered his spirit and equilibrium. I am reminded of the following lines from an anonymous proverb: