Monday 30 March 2015

A Week in Cornwall

A week in Cornwall can work miracles, at least that is how it appears to me.

As many of you will know, I have been suffering from the debilitating effects of depression and anxiety for several years now.  I have been hospitalised on 3 different occasions.  I take no less than 13 pills every single day to keep the chemicals in my brain finely balanced.

The good news is, they appear to be working finally.

I remember when this all started asking my psychiatrist how long it would be until I was better.  He said "A long time."  I thought he meant 6 months, maybe a year on the outside.  I had no idea that it would take several years and several tweaks of the medication, several more years of psychotherapy, and even more time just trying to overcome the demons that ranted inside my head.

For now, the demons are quiet.  They aren't completely silent.  I can tell when I've missed taking my medication.  So can my friends and family.  I leave the house regularly now without the pit of dread tightening in my stomach.  I still find social situations uncomfortable which is annoying because that isn't how I see myself or how I used to be.  

But the demons have reduced their screeching to a mere whisper.  And some days, I don't hear them at all.

In mid-February, a very generous friend offered us the use of their seaside cottage down in St Ives in that gorgeous southwest corner of England known as Cornwall.  The cottage is absolutely delightful and exceeded every one of our expectations.  We took my daughter's best friend and her mother with us.  It was an eventful few days to say the least.

On the first day we were there, our one-year-old black Labrador puppy, Guinness, decided to take a flying leap (literally) off a sea wall.  I have that moment of her suspended in midair between her jumping and her falling etched into my mind's eye.  She looks like a cartoon.  She fell 30 feet to the rocks and grass below.  I ran to see her landing on her rear haunches, yelp, and try to stand.  She struggled and whimpered.

My husband managed to get down to her.  He tried to get her to walk but it was clear she was hurting and had a minor cut on her knee.  She was shaking and her heart was racing.  She was going into shock.  My husband carried her down the hill and went to get the car.  We raced to the vet.

Fortunately, after several hours at the vets on a fluid drip, antibiotics, opiates, and tranquilisers, she made a full recovery and was just sore for a couple days.  Talk about stressful!

The next night we were informed that a combination of spring tides (when the tides are at their highest) and rough seas caused by the gale winds and torrential overnight rains would mean that the sea was likely to breach the seawall at the harbour in St Ives.  Our cottage was perfectly placed just a few doors up from the seawall at the harbour which was a great location until that warning was issued.  

Every few hours we made our way the few steps down the street to evaluate the threat.  It was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure as the waves crashed over the wall and into the buildings on the seafront.   In the end, this also passed without any real danger posed to man or beast.

We spent the days walking on the beaches (there are no fewer than 5 beaches around St Ives) and walking around the town exploring galleries and art museums and used book stores and odd little shops.  We ate out.  We cooked in.  I even got breakfast in bed one morning delivered by my daughter and her friend.  What a treat!

I was surrounded by positivity and tranquillity on the trip. When I returned home I felt as if a fog had lifted.  I started writing.  At first it was just in my head.  A story had taken hold of me and was busy organising itself.  Then 2 weeks ago it felt like the harbour wall had collapsed and the sea of words was rushing to get out.

I sat at my computer every day, some days for more than 14 hours.  I managed to write over 110,000 in 10 days.  It was emotional.  One day I started crying about 5 pm and kept crying through the night until about noon the next day.  The tears lasted on and off until I was finally able to finish that chapter.

The book, All My Loves, is about a woman dying of a brain tumour.  She is in the hospital and in the final stages of dying.  She is revisited by the memories of the men she loved and those who loved her.  Some are good memories.  Some are excruciatingly painful memories.  Same are hilarious.  Woven into the story is also the love of her parents as they divorce and remarry, and the love of her grandmother towards her alcoholic husband who died with their youngest son in a drunken car crash.  It is about how love changes us, not always for the better.  It's a little bit saucy.  What book about love could possibly avoid sex?  It's sad but it is also hopeful, I think.

I am now in the editing phase.  I have edited the first three chapters with the help of a very dear friend of mine who is labouring away on the next 8 chapters.  The editing was more difficult than the writing.  Who would have guessed?

I am now looking for a literary agent.  I have someone who has expressed a possible interest which is very exciting but I'm not counting my chickens until a contract is on the table.

The road to publication is long and winding.  But the words are still flowing out of me.  So, I am back to blogging.  I also have an illustrated children's book that I completed a few years back with a very dear friend who did wonderful illustrations for me.  I've got to get that all gathered up and repeat the agent process for it.  I have several more ideas for novels inside my head.  I need to let those organise themselves but one is already starting to take form.  I might be back burning the midnight oil when that comes out of me.  Finally, I've got the novel I started before my depression took over my life.  I want to go back to it and see if I can do anything with it.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my musings.

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