Tuesday, 24 April 2012

An ode to a person that kept my feet on the ground and a thing that keeps them off

Below is a letter that I recently wrote to my therapist, who I nervously stopped seeing a few months ago. Reading it back made me realise the efficacy of that therapy and the hugely positive impact that it had on my life.

I was always very sceptical of taking medication for my depression. Every single doctor I saw immediately tried to put me on medication when I went to see them. This happened for years and I used them on one occassion. I got worse and worse because the real issues were never dealt with. Then one doctor- to my bewilderment- looked me in the eyes (it's shocking how rare this has been for me), talked to me about my illness, sent me in the direction of therapy and told me that he believed I show only take medication in tandem with therapy. The combination has worked for me and though the ground is still rocky I'm recovering splendidly. I feel like my life has been given to me.

I've edited the letter because some of the content is personal, and not only for myself, so apologies if the general sense of it is diminished.

I hope that this can encourage any of you who may need it to speak out, search for the right doctor and seek out therapy:

I’ve been meaning to get in touch for a while. You popped into my dream last night, which I took as a friendly reminder from me to me.

So I’m having dreams, which is great. For the first time in my memory I’ve had significant periods sans nightmares (though for the past couple of weeks they have returned, to a much lesser extent). The change in my life over the year gone has been amazing, and I am grateful for the profound insights you helped me to achieve and the support and help you offered. From the little that I know about Freudian psychoanalysis, I am impressed by your technique and passion.

When I think about how deeply depressed I was I find it saddening and strangely remote. Now when ambulances pass by I think about the people inside them rather than about bumping over the bonnet. I have an overwhelming desire to be alive and to experience exactly that.

I’m able to read again now and I’ve been lucky enough to find channels through which I can explore myself, my thoughts and what it means for me to exist, and for me to not. One unlikely approach has had a profound effect on me. Have you ever heard of slacklining? If not, please look it up. Through it I have encountered this place I’ve not found elsewhere in my life where the immediacy of everything just comes quietly rushing. My breath is more apparent, the birds, the footsteps of passers-by. The wind. And then a blissful feeling comes from my stomach or my chest or somewhere thereabouts. I've tried meditation many times now but cannot achieve the states I wish to because my mind just bustles with the mundane. A short time on the line and I'm there. Or here, rather, in the now.

I can imagine it has many of the same benefits as yoga, which you once told me might work for me. I find that in order to be able to walk on the slackline, my mind has to still itself, as well as my body. I am at a point now where I can work things out of my body and mind like ironing or knots. These things don’t necessarily get better or worse or change in any way, but my grasp of them does. I have the ability to address my own problems!

Slowly things are coming to the fore that have been locked up and hidden before. Things that I could not fathom, let alone confront. It’s hard to put this into words and I’m not entirely sure I want to yet, but they come to me.

I still of course have very difficult turns.

Emma and I are ready to set sail. I’ve landed a job with better pay and a contract until the end of September, when we plan to leave. We’ll be travelling over ground and sea via Western Europe, North Africa and the Atlantic Ocean to Latin America. It will be a huge journey and we’re both so keen to get out there and experience a different way of life less at odds with our hearts and minds.

The idea of the trip is slowly becoming a reality and we’ve started to plan it slightly more concretely. Luckily, we’ve been able to save enough money for us to not really have to put a timescale on it. If things go well, then we will go with them. If they go wrong, or if something terrible happens then we have the means to return.

Emma and I are wonderfully in love and things have been gently evening out as I’ve been recovering. I grew as a person the other day when she beamed after I made her an omelette in the morning. The simple things. I am grateful for you reminding me that she is not my therapist. Each week we seem to come closer somehow. She continually amazes me and being with such a beautiful companion keeps me in check. Just her facial expressions are enough to set off patterns in my mind and help me to realise why it is so important to be good to those you love.

What I really wanted to get across in this message is that you have really helped me to get to where I am now. I am a happier person, my feet sit a little more firmly on the ground and with a little less thought. Solid ground! My mind has calmed and feels sharper and I am able to address things that I might never have without your help. Though I still sometimes have nightmares and though there have been pangs of the dreaded black dog, it is more docile now and I’m not scared to face up to it. And in my nightmares there is no death and the manifestations of death-bringers are gone. They’ve been replaced with sentiments and events from my past that I am gradually dealing with; things that I did wrong and things that others did and didn’t do.

So thank you, so, so much for your help and direction. Though I saw you in a professional context, I genuinely felt your concern and your desire to help and it affected me deeply.

I really hope that you are well and happy and continuing to help people as profoundly as you have me.

With love,



  1. Ant, your bravery in writing this blog is a gift to the world. If they haven't already, I'm certain your words here will change someone's life.

    I recognise some of what you've found in slacklining. I find a similar state of mind when splittling logs or carving with an axe. The immediacy it demands somehow brings clarity to everything else.

    If "Western Europe" brings you by South West France there's food waiting for you and roof over your head for as long as you like. We can reminisce about the age of innocence and ponder the exciting times ahead.

  2. AnthonyManrique24 April 2012 at 13:58

    Adam, thank you so much! For your words and your offer, which would be folly to refuse! I'll have a slackline with me. I'll teach you if you teach me how to carve with an axe. What kind of things do you make?

    I believe we have a lot to catch up on- and will have even more by then! How is the little one?

  3. That's a deal. I've been carving spoons mostly, though I have much to learn and I'm missing my tools which are already in France.

    And, the little boy amazes me every day. Can't wait for you to meet him.

    Let me know when you start planning your journey (at least as much as you're planning to plan) and I'll send you some details.

  4. AnthonyManrique24 April 2012 at 20:40

    So are you moving out to France then?
    We'll likely head there October.
    I cannot wait to meet him either. You're a father! I remember halloween parties at your mum's place and making ants surf.


  5. I guess that would have been a useful thing to mention! I'm losing track of who I've spoken to now, but yes, we're moving in July and going to try and build a happy life in the mountains of the Corbieres.