Sundays as an Anxious Christian

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I think that our churches are failing the masses when it comes to mental health. I have been a Christian all my life. I am more comfortable in a church service than I am in the cinema sometimes – at least I know the etiquette, and the message I’m getting, whether I’m in church in South Africa, New Zealand or England. It’s a place where I’m supposed to feel safe and where, when things are tough, I’m supposed to find love and support.

There’s nothing harder than changing churches, because those places become your home. My last true home was in Wiltshire, where I worked as the Children’s and Youth Worker at a rural church. For over 2 years I attended that church, for some of that I worked for it, and no matter what I was going through in my life, that church was there to support me and lift me up. Considering that I worked and attended there when my diagnosis of depression and anxiety took place, that church cared for me and loved me like none other. That said, it was only really leadership that knew what was going on, as I was an employee, so maybe that’s something to do with it. Either way, leaving it for Coventry was one of the hardest things I had to do.

And today I attended my fiance’s church for the first time as a regular – I’ve been before as a visitor, but all of a sudden, this is my church, the place I’m supposed to find spiritual rest.

Being an anxious christian is hard – and that’s something I think I will save for another blog post. Suffice to say, if one more person tells me ‘do not be anxious about anything’ I might well hit them round the head with my bible (not literally… I hope!). Starting a new church as an anxious christian takes a lot of courage. Picture this:

Perhaps she held onto his hand a little too tight, her nails digging into his flesh as she clung to him. The physical closeness of his body did nothing to soothe the racing of her heart, and the sweat starting to form at her forehead. It was too late now to back out… the welcomers had said something… she didn’t quite hear what so she tilted her head towards Jack and half smiled on one side of her mouth. Was that rude? Were they still talking to her or to the person behind? Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, she thought, as her breathing got quicker, her chest tighter. Ah, more welcomers, these know Jack and say hello to him as he pauses, despite the little tug she gives his arm. Her legs are shaking, she’s tired and frightened and she needs to find a seat that will become her haven for the next hour and half of her day. She lifts her head slightly to peruse the layout, the rows and rows of chairs already filled with bodies of people she doesn’t know, the chatter and laughter of children burning on her ears that only beg for peace and quiet. Jack turns to look at her and she says something along the lines of ‘we need to find a seat, now’. She doesn’t quite know what she said because her heart is beating so loud in her ears that she can’t even hear her own words, let alone those of the welcomers who continue chatting. Jack dithers on choosing a seat, she tells him to pick one quickly, and when he does she sits on it in a panic – has anyone seen how nervous she is? What if there’s communion? More people surround her as she sits on the seat that has become her sanctuary, talking to her, talking to Jack. She smiles and nods, trying to form words but knowing it doesn’t really matter because they’re all excited to catch up with each other anyway. There’s no order or service, no indication of the structure that the service is going to follow, no list of songs that she can look through to see if she knows any. The anxiety is in full control now – she doesn’t want to talk to anyone, she can hardly breathe, and she sits there staring fixedly at the floor. It’s a relief when the music starts, because she knows how to do this bit. 

It’s a huge amount of anxiety all wrapped up in something familiar. New faces, new songs, no tangible structure, not knowing how this church does things. It’s a hard thing to do. Bear with me if you will, as I continue:

The service has ended, the safe familiarity is complete and the anxiety she felt at the start goes into overdrive. Jack is out at children’s work, and no one came and sat with her during the service. So now she’s alone. She recognises the person behind her, but her back is stiff and turning around is an issue. She sits, anxiously tied to the spot that was chosen at the beginning of the service. Around her people reunite, chat about their week… start packing up the chairs. Vaguely familiar faces pass to and fro in her peripheral vision, but she’s so wound up by this point that she can’t even force the edges of her lips to lift into a smile. She sits hunched away from the aisle, wishing someone would come and talk to her because if they do that, then she has an ally against the anxiety, someone who she can borrow some strength from to fight it. But no one comes. And Jack is late. She waits for what seems like an eternity, grabs her things, and goes outside to wait in the car. 

Anxiety is a disease that attacks you at your weakest. If it’s that hard for a practised, seasoned christian, I can’t imagine how anyone without faith walks through the doors of a church. Anxiety is a monster that is trying to take the safety of Christianity away from me. I question my faith (a post for another time), I am scared of churches and gatherings, and I feel totally alone in it.

And so our churches begin to fail those with mental health issues. They welcome the newcomer, but the vaguely familiar face is left on their own. They share their stories of faith and hope, forgetting that they are the hope of Christ to those who are struggling to get by. They eat biscuits and drink coffee and talk to each other…even the familiar faces walk past without so much as a glace, and the anxiety wins.

Sundays as a christian are tough in familiar settings. They’re tougher on your own, wondering if anyone will notice the devil on your back.

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Moving Day

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So, I know I’ve just started writing my blog daily, however, I am moving house tomorrow! And we don’t have wifi set up yet. So I might got get the chance to for a little while.

Tomorrow I am leaving Coventry, where I currently live, and moving in with my fiance Jack in a flat that we have rented together! It’s the first time we’ve lived together, and the first time either of us have rented an unfurnished apartment. So we’ve already gone bed shopping and bought a brand new bed for ourselves, but we really have a mish-mash of furniture between us and nothing that useful (like a sofa or chairs) so it’s going to be a bit of an adventure that we’re happy to take together, of course.

As you can imagine, moving with anxiety and fatigue (and depression) is a bit of an issue. I had melt down in Wilkos today because I couldn’t find boxes… I literally walked out the store, leaving Jack holding what we had already picked up to buy, and had to sit on a bench to settle down. It made me very stressed and anxious. Jack’s been amazing – he’s done a lot of the cleaning and packing all day today and the flat is looking ready to leave. I just feel really out of control, and really tired and really stressed.

So… bring on moving day!

“Maybe you should go to bed earlier”

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The last time I went to my doctor, before I had the appointment that had me signed off work, I told them this:

“I don’t think I’m really suicidal. Like, I don’t think I actually want to die. But I’m so incredibly tired, exhausted, just tired all the time, that it makes me want to kill myself, because I don’t understand how I am supposed to be alive and be this depth of tired all the time.”

My Head of Department and mentor at the school I was working at understood that I was ill, but she kept telling that ‘everyone is tired‘ and ‘welcome to your first year of teaching’. And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that everyone gets tired, and of course anyone on any teaching training programme is tired beyond imagining. The problem is, I’m tired beyond imagining when I’m not doing anything. Adding work on top of that, especially the intensity and number of hours that teaching requires, and maybe I can start to see where things started going wrong.

My constant tiredness is still being explored medically, with an appointment at a rheumatology clinic in the near future being the next step. I’ve had blood test after blood test, examination after appointment and several different doctors, and no one can tell me what’s wrong with me. The only thing that keeps being repeated is this idea of ‘chronic fatigue’, but everyone is so reluctant to diagnose it – it’s next to impossible to pin it down at the moment. But something is wrong with me, and until I have a better name for it, chronic fatigue is all I have.

Let me tell you a bit about what that’s like.

I’m tired. All the time. I can sleep for 6 hours, 8 hours, 10 hours, I can take naps or not take them, I can be out in the fresh air or resting inside all day, and there is not a single moment where I am not TIRED. It’s just constant, relentless tiredness. It often starts in my legs, where lifting one leg up and putting it in front of the other one is a really conscious effort because they’re so heavy. Like when you wake up from deep sleep and you have mild sleep paralysis and they feel heavy to lift. My legs feel like that during the day. I feel weak, so weak that I can’t even lift my bag to take it home, or struggle to open the door. My commute to school was 20 minutes – sometimes I’d be so tired I’d have to take a break after 10 to make sure I was safe to drive. My eyes will feel like I’m having to force them open – whereas we normally use our eye muscles to blink, I feel like I’m having to actively engage them to keep them open. My head gets foggy, I can’t form proper sentences.

Then comes the pain. Just pain all over my body. My legs aren’t just heavy, they hurt. My back aches, like a serious muscle ache. Now, I do have a historically bad back with ongoing problems and a slipped disc, but this isn’t always to do with that. My whole body aches, like a recovering twisted ankle. It hurts so much. Sometimes, my nerve endings get so sensitive I have to strip all my clothes off and find a way to lie that aggravates the least number of nerves and just lie there still. Those are the times where Jack can’t even snuggle me to make me feel better because I hurt too much, and those are the times where the depression really starts to kick in because even Jack, with all his sensitivity and gentleness, cannot help me.

Sometimes I feel like this by 10am. Sometimes I go a day or two without it getting that bad. But I repeat, I am tired all the time. There is never a waking or sleeping moment where I’m not. Even in my dreams now, whatever character I am is tired, too tired to go on.

It feels like it’s never going to end. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t like this – I’ve been told that I wasn’t, but I can’t remember it.

Being tired like this creates a vicious cycle – several in fact. Tiredness feeds anxiety and depression, and they in turn feed the tiredness. There are often several days in a row where I can’t even leave the house, and I eat because I’m a comfort eater and I gain weight because I can’t exercise because I’m too tired to leave the house. When I was working, I ate drive through McDonald’s at home far too much because I wasn’t up for cooking. This tiredness, this depth of exhaustion, impacts every waking and sleeping moment of my life and never in a good way.

And trust me when I tell you I’ve tried all the advice. I’ve tried eating well. I’ve tried setting a regular schedule. I’ve tried more sleep, less sleep. I’ve tried naps and resting and specific concoctions of vitamins and minerals that are supposed to help and nothing does. Nothing helps this tiredness.

It is endless. And I feel like it is killing me.

Oh Brave Warrior

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Today has been a heavy day for reasons that aren’t mine to share. So I don’t have much to say. Instead, I thought I’d share with you the feature image of this post, which I will also insert below so you don’t have to do the constantly scrolling thing!

My fiance Jack drew this for me last year when things were really bad. He tried to capture the demons that afflict me, and the battle I face every day to combat them. It was the first time I had ever seen my fight with depression through someone else’s eyes and I always return to it when things are really bad. This is the first time I’ve shared it in a public place.

Depression breaks down your soul until you don’t feel like a fighter anymore. Until you’re tired, so tired, and the only thing you look forwards to is the end. I always undermine how I feel because ‘it’s not as bad as someone elses’ experience’ or ‘I get to work’ or ‘I wake up in the morning’. But what I fight is real, as tangible as the demons Jack painted. And to see myself as a warrior…

Well, it helps me to fight another day.

(find and add my gorgeous artist on instagram @narrativejack)

https://www.instagram.com/narrativejack/

“You can’t cure depression with ice cream”

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This post is inspired by and its quotes (including the title) are taken from Bill Bernat’s Ted Talk “How to connect with depressed friends” available here:

 

I have a friend who for several years dated a man with diabetes. I may be slightly biased when I say this, but she was phenomenal. She went away and researched the condition immediately. She learned more about it than I even thought possible. Over the course of a couple of months she became an expert, supporting her partner in managing his condition, keeping the ‘right’ foods and supplies in the house and helping him as he pursued different routes to manage his condition better. She went from knowing nothing, to being the most caring, supportive and knowledgeable partner this man could have had, because she was able to understand the condition and its treatments.

I bring this up, because I thought of it today when I was looking for an image for my blog. How many pictures have you seen out there like the feature image used in this post that are needed to explain diabetes? I did a quick google search, and most of the images that came up were practical ways to combat the disease (the implements used to measure blood sugar and the needles or pumps used to deliver insulin). Depression needs more because there is no simple way to understand it.

As much as I relate to the feature image of this post and find the artwork beautiful and pertinent, I think that such pictures can sometimes cause anxiety in the healthy, especially those who have no experience with depression except for the fact that their friend has just told them that they are suffering. Depression is so individualised that there is no way to truly understand it. There are hundreds of different treatments, and they might work for 100 people, but there are another 100 people out there that they will do nothing for whatsoever. So we turn to art work and poetry and creativity to express our illness, which I think can sometimes be isolating for those who don’t suffer. I’m not criticising, I’m just reflecting (and up pops the anxiety!) because I am one of those people who finds this type of artwork helpful in expressing how I am feeling and I appreciate those who create it.

Bernat’s talk offers some chance for reflection on my own depression, some ideas for those who might struggle to connect with sufferers of depression and some comedy – all wrapped up in 13 neat minutes. His definition of depression – “The absence of the ability to ‘just get over it’ is depression” – is especially heart wrenching, because if there is something I want more than anything in the world, it is simply to get over this.

One of the things that really stood out to me was this advice to friends of the depressed:

“don’t take a negative response personally”

One of the things that I love about Jack is that when I’m having a bad day, he’ll suggest a bunch of stuff that might make me feel better, then he’ll take his cue from my response. There are some days where a bath seems possible, and some days where it doesn’t. There are some days where eating chocolate seems okay, and some days where it doesn’t. What I love is that Jack respects my limits no matter how I express them (and sometimes I come across as angry/defensive). He still looks after me though. If I refuse food/drink, for example, he’ll hug me for a bit so I feel safe, then he’ll emerge later with some food. Something that I need, sustenance that he knows will help but that I can’t even face thinking about. It isn’t until it’s in front of me that I know that it’s what I need. Even then, sometimes I can’t eat it all, and he never gets angry at that.

Alternatively, he knows that sometimes I’ve said no because I can’t manage all the steps – going upstairs, running a bath, getting into it, getting out of it, getting changed… and he’ll take control and take some of those steps out of my hand. I’ll go upstairs and find a bath already running, with towels laid out ready for the end of it, and sometimes, if we need to go out, I go downstairs afterwards and he’ll have laid out my clothes for me so I don’t have to make too many choices at one time. Things like that help to make the bad days bearable. But he never, ever, gets angry at me if I can’t do something. He might get upset and frustrated at the situation, or angry that I’m suffering, but he holds no anger towards me. I hope that everyone has someone in their lives like that.

One thing that I think is really not understood by the masses is this:

“we feel it (depression) in our bodies. It’s a physical thing for us.”

Depression is about so much than just feeling sad. I get a really bad pain in my side on really bad days. It’s like a muscle pain, but deeper, almost like I’m being stabbed constantly. It’s like when you’ve laid on one side too long and then it won’t stretch out… I don’t really know how to describe it. I get tooth ache or ear ache which will disappear the next day. My depression doesn’t just control my mind, it takes over my body too, making putting one foot in front of the other too painful. My limbs get heavy, to the extent that I have to crawl up the stairs because I can’t walk. It’s a painful experience and when you feel like you’re losing yourself to this illness already mentally, it is just a cruel trick of fate that it impacts you so severely physically as well. It was reassuring to hear someone else confirm that this is a part of the illness, because I feel so broken so constantly, I feel like it must just be me.

Today is a bed day for me. I’ll probably mostly just binge watch Criminal Minds and move only when necessary. My brain is too tired to read, too active to sleep. This is why I was signed off work, to give me the space to rest like this, yet I find it so hard to do – to rest and ‘recover’. Because unlike when I fell down the stairs at my friend’s flat and sprained my Achilles tendon 2 weeks ago, I can’t see or feel any difference to my ‘injury’, no matter how much rest I get. I just feel like I’m sinking, trudging my way through a life that doesn’t feel worth living, exhausted and sad all the time.

Depression isn’t a cloud hanging over me, or a veil colouring my sight. Depression is deeply rooted inside me. And I’m not sure how to get it out.

A Change of Pace

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To date, this has been primarily a book-review blog with the occasional nod to its other namesake (exercise), mostly in a ‘I might do it sometime’ way, with one post about anxiety. But I think it’s time to take this blog in another direction. Don’t worry, I’ll still criticise and praise, moan about and celebrate every book that I read. But it’s time that I was more honest with myself, and as a result, I want to use this blog to support what I think is going to be a long road to recovery.

I got a shock last week when I went to the doctor for some help, and the help they gave was to sign me off work for a month, citing ‘stress and depression’ as the main causes. I knew things had been bad – I hadn’t read a whole book in a while, and my health has been constantly bad since October. But I’ve spent a long time blaming the colds, viruses and tonsillitis for the growing exhaustion, anxiety and depression that I’ve been feeling. Those who know me will know that I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression back in 2016, and that I’ve been dealing with it mostly on my own ever since (with support from close friends and my wonderful fiance Jack). Added to the top of that is this suggestion of Chronic Fatigue – the chasing down of a diagnosis for what is actually wrong with me is still ongoing as no one seems to want to pin it down and make it official. Anyway, I’ll leave that for another day. What’s been getting consistently worse is the anxiety, even about leaving bed some mornings. The dark thoughts and depression – and dare I admit it, the suicidal rushes that come and go. This deep and bone weary exhaustion that never seems to go away and is eating me from the inside out. The pain I feel in my body all the time – sometimes so sensitive that even Jack isn’t allowed to touch me. These are the things that aren’t stopping and that I need to really address. I need to get myself better. This was brought home to me on a recent visit from my best friend Aislinn, who reminded me that I haven’t always been like this. That at university I was lively and happy and full of life. The girl she described doesn’t exist anymore, and I want her back.

So, with the doctor’s note as a wake up call, I’ve done the only thing I have left to do – I’ve given up. I have resigned from Teach First and my job at the school. I am relocating to Cheltenham to live with Jack earlier than expected. I am exhausted, run down, and about done with life. Now, this isn’t a defeatist ‘giving up’, don’t worry. What I’m doing is something I haven’t done for a very long time. I’m about to put myself first. Instead of trying to work 60 hour weeks in the few hours a day that I actually feel capable, instead of forcing myself out to work everyday and ignoring the warning signs, instead of prioritising everyone else and putting myself last, I’m taking stock and I’m listening to my body, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Enabled by the pure love and dedication of my other half, I am stopping. I am resting. On days where I can’t get out of bed, I’m not going to beat myself up. I’m going to create a weekly timetable of activites, based around research into my conditions. I’m going to eat better. I’m going to go out in the air and just enjoy it, whenever I can. I’m going to soak myself in the unconditional love of Jack, my fiance, who is working extremely hard to make this happen, and giving up a lot to help me.

I want to use this blog to be honest about what is going on. I want to share my journey with you – the highs and lows, the struggles and the victories, however small. I want to be able to look at this website this time next year and see that the bleak despair that colours my every moment is at least lightening a little bit. I want to be accountable to you, my friends and the strangers who might read this. So it’s time to be a little honest.

I hate my body
I hate my health
I hate being in pain all the time
I hate wanting to die
I hate panic attacks
I hate feeling so incredibly alone all the time
I hate my personality
I hate feeling like a burden all the time

I want to run again
I want to write – fiction, poetry, this blog
I want to smile for real
I want to know what’s wrong with me
I want to find my faith in God again
I want to feel real joy

So there it is… on paper (well, on the screen), and out there for real – the things I feel like I can’t stand for another day, and the things that I don’t feel I experience any more – at all. It’s not going to be easy, I know that. I want to commit to writing here every day, but at the moment I can’t even promise that. But what I can promise is that I am going to start working at making myself better. And maybe, just maybe, it might work this time.

The Shadow Rising – Wheel of Time book 4

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Book 4 of The Wheel of Time series has come to a roaring conclusion and it most certainly ended with a bang! Between The Battle for Emond’s Field and both Nina and Rand’s fights against the Forsaken, it was action packed for those last few chapters and every single page from the first to last contains a piece of information that answers something, or comes up later, or leaves you with a hundred questions. This time, rather than focussing on character as I have done previously, I’d actually like to comment on some key sections of the plot. So be warned, if you ever intend to read this series, every word from now on will contain spoilers.

Hmmmm… where to start! Book 4 raced along at a pace even I struggled with a little bit. So much has happened in a relatively short space of time.

He Who Comes with the Dawn

Okay, yes, I want to focus on plot, but actually, what has happened to Rand! He has gone from a bumbling fool walking blindly in the dark, to the uniter of the Aiel, and the defeater of a Forsaken to such an extent that Asmodean has no choice but to teach Rand how to control his power. Throughout the novel, Rand gathers more and more Aiel to himself, and during his time in Rhuidean more is revealed of the prophecies he has spent so long studying. I could spend hours on the intricacies of Rhuidean, but you would definitely start to get bored. The image of a city in the sky, the role of the Wise Ones, the dream walking… it was all very well connected and explained. What I didn’t quite understand, was how seeing the past of the Aiel could be considered a test for Rand. The Aiel are supposed to enter Rhuidean to be tested almost beyond their bearing in order to show that they have the inner strength and ability to lead their clans. Jordan very cleverly manipulated the plot when he had Muradin already in Rhuidean when Rand arrived. For the reader, it showed what the revelation of the true past could do to someone who held so strongly to their belief in who they are as Aielmen – the truth causes Muradin to claw out his own eyes. But for Rand, I do not think this really counted as a test. His interest is vague, to say the least. He is there solely to fulfill prophecy. He doesn’t consider himself Aiel. He had no idea what they thought of their past, so everything he learned wasn’t a matter of unlearning a lifetime of history, but learning something new about a foreign people. Therefore, it wasn’t really a test for him. He simply had to travel through and learn what he could. Mat was tested more when he went through the door. Yet, Rand gets two tattoos and an Aiel following. I question, therefore, the importance of Rand entering Rhuidean. It allowed the reader a valued insight into the Aiel, one which could have just as easily have been achieved as following Aviendha through the heart of the city, and would have more emotionally received by the reader as they experienced the genuine pain that such knowledge can emulate.

I view it almost as a warning. It’s like in the movie Paycheque, or the Disney movie Tomorrowland – when people have knowledge of the future, they try so hard to change it that they drive themselves towards it in all of their efforts to present it. Rand has read the prophecies – as far as he is able, he has seen into the future. He doesn’t fully understand it, and he doesn’t know what it means, but the bits that he can fulfill, he does. The prophecy ends with death, and blood, and a second breaking. Being ta’veren, I know that Rand cannot escape his destiny. But it seems that he fulfills his own prophecies solely because he knows them. This brings into question the whole concept of free will, and the Christian debate of pre-destination vs free will. It is an interesting concept that in seeing his future, as it was written, Rand cannot help but follow it because he thinks he has to. Moraine Sedai seems to understand this, and keeps trying to make Rand stop and think. But, gone is the shepherd who didn’t know he could channel, who thought he loved Egwene and whose biggest problem was seeing someone he didn’t think was there. Now we have battle hardened, magic-weary Rand, who sees people as a tool for his use. Because he has to. Because the prophecies say so. I find it frustrating and fascinating.

Anyway, the final scene of the novel is Rand bringing Asmodean home with him, to learn how to control his magic. I had no idea as I worked through the novel that this was Rand’s plan – both he and Jordan managed to keep the secret thoroughly and well. The battle scene was impressive, if, and I can’t believe I’m saying this about a 14 book series, a little rushed. Rand now hold more power than anyone could ever imagine, and he’s slowly going to be going mad. Not a good sign.

The Battle for Emond Field

I have said from book one that Perrin is my favourite character, not necessarily because of who he is but due to how well developed he is as a character, and how genuine his progression appears. And, just to get it out of my system, PERRIN AND FAILE ARE MARRIED AND I’M SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY ABOUT IT. But back to the battle.

My boyfriend is on book 10 and tells me this is his favourite scene in the series so far. It was pretty incredible. I have a pretty thorough knowledge of fantasy literature and assumed I knew everything. I knew Faile would come back. I did not link the dying man to the help coming from the other side. And I did NOT see it coming that Lord Luc was Slayer. Jordan does a fantastic job of springing little surprises on you like that. It was such an emotional and beautiful moment as the battle concluded that all Perrin could see was his wife, beautiful and bold, and their reunion was so sweet. I wish that they could now ride off into their sunset, but that’s not going to happen!

A special mention here to Loial and Gaul for shutting the Waygate. It makes me sad that we didn’t spend any time on their journey. Alongside Perrin, Loial is one of my favourite characters (I can’t tell you how happy I was when they teamed up) and it would have been interesting to see Loial and Gaul develop a friendship.

Nynaeve vs the Forsaken

For ease, I call Nyaeve Nina, as I can’t really pronounce her name, and it’s also going to be easier to type here. Nina really came into her own here. I still don’t like her. She has ‘blocked’ herself, according to Moghedien, and I find this frustrating. She clearly has great power. She clearly has immense potential. But if Nina was a man, she would have given in to the madness long ago. If she stayed too long in Tar Valon, I would not be surprised to see her become the next Elaida. I don’t quite trust Nina, because I don’t think she should trust herself.

That said, what a battle! I love the image of the male a’dam – the black colour, the need for two bracelets, and the fact that the madness is transferable even to a female. It makes you wonder – why isn’t Saidin tainted? What is it that holds the women together?

Nina and Moghedien are the first time that someone other than Rand has really had to face up to the Forsaken and hold her own. It shows how important each and every thread of the strand is. Nina followed to bring the boys home, and she has rescued the male a’dam from the hands of Black Ajah. Once again, the predestination argument seems prominant and the choices of individuals almost futile.

The Fall of Tar Valon

Of course, for me the most shocking bit was the fall of Tar Valon. By the time you get to it, you almost forget Min’s visions when she walks in to the Amyrilin Seat with news. But her visions are accurate.

Firstly, my heart breaks for Gawyn and his misguided actions which led to Siuan being stilled. I hope that he can be redeemed and forgiven. The images of teacher against student, student against teacher, friend against friend… they’re very biblical in their powerful statements hierarchy and control. Many times we cheer the young ones on as they overpower the seeming enemy, but in this case we think they’re wrong. The bible says that in the final days, there will be father against son, brother against brother. Obviously, with another 10 books to go, these aren’t quite the final days, but alongside the predestination debate as described earlier, I wonder if there is more to the battle for Tar Valon than just youth and passion overpowering wisdom and age.

Then there’s the evil. Stilling. Gentling. Such calm and soft words. They hide a myriad of evil. My boyfriend suggested that they are perhaps an analogy for depression. The sense of missing something, of reaching out for something that is not there. The fading away without a purpose. The pain of it. I can see where he’s coming from. I felt such empathy with Siuan as she reached out for the power and it wasn’t there. What’s interesting is that Siuan and Logain now have a purpose together. Perhaps, by taking away the power, the Aes Sedai have created far worse enemies than they could have imagined. Because revenge, justice and a righting of the wrong, that is all they have to survive on now, and a desperate person takes desperate risks. I worry for Leane, I don’t think she’ll make it. And when Siuan reaches her goal, what will she have left? Not a lot left to live for, in all honesty.

But do I think that Jordan is speaking of depression? Does depression give you power? Can you find a purpose that is worth more than the way your life was going before, because of the depression? Is it the stilling that relates to depression, or the power itself? I think that my boyfriend gives depression too much power – in my situation that is. I’d like to take a closer look.

Depression + The One Power

Depression is a deep blackness inside you. It climbs up your spine and into your brain almost unnoticed, taking control of limbs that you didn’t know could shake like that, and thoughts that you didn’t think you would ever think. It takes over.

The one power fills people almost uncontrollably. When people are at their best they feel powerful, invincible, and when they’re at their worst they are weak and tired and beyond healing because they have stretched themselves too far. If a person were strong enough, the power would take over completely.

Depression gives you a sense of utter helplessness. You are no longer in control of your life, your thoughts, and sometimes your body.

The one power has a way of being controlled even by the unskilled. It makes itself -as Rand shows repeatedly – into what is needed.

There are strands of depression – related to eating, sleeping, talking, breathing, exercising and everything in between. Each strand effects a person differently.

There are strands of the power, some are strong in one area while others are strong in the others. Each strand of power works differently for each person.

So yes, there are comparisons. But to what relevance?

Saidin is a drug. Its users become dependent. Its male users go made. But it does hearken to depression. The lack of control, the need for more, the loss of self – age and image.

So perhaps it isn’t the stilling, as my boyfriend thinks, that is the problem. Perhaps it is the power itself. A sickness, not only in men, that drives humankind to evil and uncontrolled ends, even at the risk of damaging themselves. I can see the links between the power and depression. I think they may be stronger than the links between stilling and depression.

So what is the solution? Well, for the Wheel of Time, perhaps it is the eradication of power altogether. Without it, there would have been no breaking, would be no second breaking. People would be more equal. Perhaps that is why the world must break again. Perhaps the one power, and not just the dark one, need to be returned to where they belong.

For anyone out there who does suffer from depression, if a farm boy from the Two Rivers can do it, so can you!