Hi, my name is Bethan. I run a web design and branding business and I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. I’m a failure who has deluded herself of her own potential. What an idiot. I have an incredible boyfriend, but I’m terrified he is going to leave me the moment he realises that I’m just a worthless, depressed, fake. Another failed relationship down the drain. I live in Portugal by the sea which is great but I’m not sure for how much longer as I’m scared my money will run out and I won’t be able to get more clients. Everything feels like a constant uphill struggle and I’m really, really tired.
Given a chance, this is the kind of introduction I would give myself on any one of those dreaded black days that used to rule my life. Writing anything else would have made me feel like a complete fraud. Thankfully, I haven’t had one of those days for what feels like a very long time. I’m writing this story to tell you, and probably myself, why.
I think I was about 7 years old when I started to develop a belief in myself that I was meant for something big in life. Casting my mind back to that time however, I don’t know really where it came from. My grades at school were consistently terrible, I was always in detention, and I couldn’t seem to remember to wear matching shoes let alone achieve something extraordinary. But if I had to find a reason, I guess it was because I never fit in and that made me feel extra-ordinary in some way. It gave me a voice that was different from the rest and I knew there would come a day when I would use it. That was what happy Bethan believed in anyway.
For as long as I can remember however, I have had to deal with two Bethan’s. There was happy Bethan who would build wonderful things, and sad Bethan who would tear them down. The most painful experiences in my life have been whilst observing this destruction happen. The best way I can describe it is like watching a stranger pour gasoline over all the things you care most about in your life, and watching them throw the match in slow motion. Apart from the fact that the stranger is actually you.
You see, when you have lived most of your life either circling the drain of depression or struggling for air in it’s dark and treacly depths, happiness feels distinctly uncomfortable. Happiness will only cause you unbearable pain as you will inevitably have to watch it disappear, sitting powerless on the sidelines. So instead of waiting for it to happen, it’s much wiser to take a sledge hammer and destroy it yourself. Of course, this is never a conscious train of thought. It’s deeply subconscious which makes it almost impossible to see it happening or stop it before it does.
For a long time, I was caught up in this perpetual cycle of creation and destruction, and I can’t begin to explain to you how draining it was. Nowhere was it more evident that in my relationships and jobs. I would burst on to the scene, glittering with all the potential that happy Bethan could possess. Men would fall in love with me, employers would jump to hire me. Everything would be marvellous and I would totally forget that sad Bethan existed. Then, almost like clockwork, I would spot the first tell tale sign and the fated cycle would start again. I would destroy whilst at the same time desperately cling on to that person or job in the faint hope that I could change the outcome.
As the years went on, my energy for life started to get weaker and weaker as my hopes for a happy life seemed to appear more like a silly illusion I once convinced myself of. The increasing lack of energy, coupled with the break down of a long term relationship timed perfectly with unemployment, meant that at the age of 27 I was ready to give up. I wasn’t just circling the drain of depression anymore, I was circling the drain of life. My scariest feeling after surviving this, is just how close I came to not surviving it.
What happened in the end was that I chose life. As I stared down the gorgeously tempting, invitingly numb darkness of the black hole, I couldn’t distinguish a small flame in its depths. It was casting its light on the figures of my friends and family whose lives I knew would be destroyed by my disappearance. The supreme knowledge that life was my only option forced me to take severe action. With the last scraps of my remaining energy, I reached inside of myself and rekindled the burning desire to achieve everything my 7 year old self knew was possible.
A shift in perception made me realise that my recent grande finale of sledge hammer destructions had actually presented me with a blank canvas on which to build my ‘last attempt’ life with. At the time, the rubble from this destruction looked like a sea of black bin bags in the bedroom of my fathers house I had tearfully filled with the remnants of my life upon my most recent break up. I had a bit of money saved up and, from the many years of therapy and reading, quite a good idea of what would potentially make me happy in my life. I had a list and it read; nature, creativity, independence, an active lifestyle, spiritual balance and love. I placed all of these items in my line of sight and, with no boyfriend or job to hold me back, I just went for it.
I brainstormed every point until I found a direction. “To be independent I need money, but I need a job which won’t compromise my independence to get it. What am I good at? Which industries do I know? Ok, so I’m going to start a design business for entrepreneurs. Done”. And this is how I went about my life for a few months, slowly placing the building blocks of my life together to resemble something that would make me want to live it. Thinking back I must have looked a bit crazy. Amazingly, my family and friends were behind me every step of the way believing in me and giving the energy I needed when the black dog would come and bite at my heels again.
It’s now been 6 months and I can happily say all the items on my list have been ticked, with a few unexpected and joyous bonuses thrown in. What maybe isn’t so surprising, to me at least, is that by following everything I knew would make me happy it actually worked. I now live in a natural park in Portugal, where the wind from the atlantic brings a welcoming cool breeze every day, and I have draw droppingly beautiful cliffs overlooking the wild sea a few minutes walk from my house. I run a branding and web design business for inspiring entrepreneurs that amazingly allows me to live the independent life I always dreamed of. I get to be creative every day and to engage with people and ideas that keep me constantly inspired. Now, when I cry, it’s usually because of something happy; a brother’s engagement, an inspiring story. When the black dog rears his head I give him a friendly pat, maybe let him sit with me for a few hours, and then I send him on his merry way. He doesn’t have as much strength here.
After a while of being fervently single, not wanting anything or anyone to jeopardise my new found happiness, I opened myself to experience love again. Two days before meeting this person, I was sat in my favourite spot on the cliffs near my house, telling my friend that I would only give up my cherished independence for someone who gave to life and love what I gave to it. Someone who was in love with the infinite joys that life has to offer, yet at the same time not unaware of its pain. If these words could metamorphose into a person, it was the person who showed up two days later to remind me again of how wonderful life can be when you choose to live it.
I have realised whilst writing this that through all of my achievements in my career and my life, the most extraordinary of them all will forever be pulling myself back from that black hole. And that’s something I know my 7 year old self would be extremely proud of.
If there’s someone reading these words and feeling caught in the same cycle I was in, then I want you to know something. The minute you choose to take the reigns of your life is the moment EVERYTHING will change. Whether it’s a relationship which is bringing you down, a job that makes waking up feel impossible or living in a city that makes you want to scream, find whatever energy you have and make the change. Do whatever it takes to make you fall in love with life again. Because life is too fucking short to spend it staring up at your bedroom ceiling waiting for the pain to stop. If that means taking a sledge hammer to your current environment then so be it. You really have nothing to lose if you are at the edge of the black hole where I once stood.
I called my business Spirit and Blue, because the blues have played as big a role in shaping my happiness as spirit has. I learned to acquaint myself with my depression like it were a friend. The darkness this friend has shown me will forever light my path and help me help others along the way.
If you want to chat to me about depression, overcoming it, knowing what leash to buy for your black dog then please contact me on my personal email - firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in working with me for branding or web design, or to create your inner self portrait with me (as seen below) then please either reach me through my website www.spiritandblue.com or through my email email@example.com.
Social media links - https://www.facebook.com/spiritandblue/@spiritandblue.
Thank you all for taking the time reading my story, and to Skyler for giving me the space and support to share it.