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We are back today with the third and final part of Greg’s series ‘Unseeing the Bus’. Greg has written this 3 part series for the Community News Blog to share his experience of depression after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Greg writes honestly and openly about how he felt during this time. Missed the last two posts in the series? Why not catch up on part one and two now?
Unseeing the bus: #3
For part 3, I was going to write, “what bus?” and leave it at that.
It might have been funny. And I suppose there is an element of truth in it.
A lot of the time, I no longer see that old, heavy foe hurtling towards me at top speed down the quaint, narrow streets of my mind. Most days I really don’t think about the futility in trying to run away from it. And some days I really do forget that it is there at all. I feel like the old me again. The person I never thought I would be again. Enjoying what I enjoy. Worrying about what I worry about. Living life the way I live it.
But really, painting just that picture tells only one piece of a complicated story. Because I know deep down that no matter how long I turn away from it, no matter how long I bask in the warm sunshine, the bus is still there, waiting. As much as I hoped it wasn’t true, as much as I force myself to wipe clear my mind, as much as I lose myself in the warm glow of a bright sun, it is in fact impossible to unsee that bus. So I guess I have to acknowledge it - my “unseeing the bus” project is doomed to fail.
And the main reason for that demoralizing conclusion is because I have come to realise that when all is said and done it is quite frankly impossible to turn back time! You might say it was pretty obvious really, why were you wasting your time in such a futile endeavor, but it has taken me a long time to understand, and indeed accept, that the bus is here to stay. As much as I might hate it, as much as I might fight against it, as much as I might pretend that the past never happened, I am never again going to experience that wondrous feeling of carefree abandon or the protecting embrace of blissful ignorance.
That sounds dramatic.
And I suppose it is. But this conclusion is now no longer as devastating as it once was. I have after all learned to turn my back to the bus with exceptional skill, and I’m even beginning to enjoy the deliberate masquerade.
And what’s more, we all know eyesight deteriorates over time, so when I do turn back around and see that the bus is still bloody there, it is looking increasingly hazy now. Often, if I squint tightly enough, it merges into a vague horizon.
And, another thing that I’ve decided this past year is that a part of me doesn’t really want to unsee the bus anyway. A part of me doesn’t really want to lose that mental clarity of staring into an inescapable destiny. That time when the bus was all I could see was incredibly painful, more painful than anything else I’ve ever experienced, but in those moments, the world and my place within it was also so crystal clear. Everything made perfect sense, like it never had before.
And I promised myself never to get consumed by the drudge of a daily existence ever again.
I promised myself to latch on to the simple essence of being alive and never take it for granted ever again. Ok, even if an aspiration like that is completely unachievable for a mere human, a part of me still remembers just how lucky I am to have this second chance and how I have to make the most of it. The smallest things mean so much more than they ever did before.
Happiness is so much sweeter now I’ve been through the sadness. So yes, a part of me is strangely thankful that I ever got the chance to see that bus in the first place. And what’s more, that experience is an important part of who I am today, so to try and unsee it would be as if I am trying to wipe a part of me away.
So three years on from that desperate slide into the abyss and the terrible, mad experience of the bus’ bumper pressing against my nose, I guess the conclusion is that I really did get myself better. Not brand spanking new, something more like functional, but that is not a bad result from where I once was. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a tidy, clean, cute happy ending like you see in the movies. I am still not at peace with the concept of the bus, let alone its presence in the field of my vision, in any sort of way at all. When some incomprehensibly vague symptom flows through my fragile veins, I am transported into a mysterious place of fear, anger and anxiety where not much else in the world makes objective sense. All of the rationality comes crashing down in an out of body experience, like I am watching a re-run of a film about my time in the abyss - I recognise the feelings but they are watered down, grainy, less real, like historical recordings of times gone by that feel familiar, but don’t truly reflect a present reality.
They are like tiny little snippets to remind me for when I get too snug in the warmth of the sunshine. But I can now also truly say that not everything in my existence is defined by that bus. Every moment does not need to be about it careering towards me. My mind is no longer destructive nor frightening.
“Live in the moment because tomorrow you might get hit by a bus.”
It is a statement with a lot of truth to it. The bus is very, very real, and it’s going to get us one day, maybe it will be tomorrow? So we have to enjoy today, we really do.
But, the notion has its flaws also, and as much as I know I will regret this thought in the future, I still can’t stop myself from asking who truly lives their life in the moment anyway? As humans, we are built to dream of times to come, built to wonder what a far-off future holds, built to paint fanciful visions of what might be.
So I find myself dreaming, I find myself wondering. I find myself fantasising about days long after tomorrow. And that’s fine. Even if it’s not meant to be. Because I don’t have a right to happiness, it is not as fixed or permanent as I once perceived it to be. It is a gift to be cherished and enjoyed while I have it, even if it is as fluid as everything else.
We are together in our impermanence. Every single one of us has our own double decker to contend with, whether the bus is a niggling concern of what is to come, whether it is staring us in the face, or whether it is like it is for me now, back in the garage having it’s engine fixed. That pristine red paint, that shiny new bumper, those sturdy black wheels, they’re all waiting for me whenever the bus decides to rev its engines once more. But, I, like everyone else, have just got to deal with that bus in the way that works best for me. And that is to dream long into the future as much as it is to live in the moment.
Ultimately, all I ever really wanted in all of this was to feel was that in the end everything will be ok. And after 3 long years, I got to that place. That is the mind I live in right now.
I know the past me would not begrudge me that simple peace. I really hope the future me thinks the same.
Thank you again to Greg for sharing the above with us. I hope that some of you who read this piece are able to take positives from it. Thoughts on improving your mental health and staying positive? Go ahead and share them with us using the comments section below. Need to talk? Not only our Community members here for you, but so are our Support Line teams. You can talk to them 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm on 0808 808 00 00. Mind offer ample support for taking care of your mental health - you can find this support here.
Thanks so much Greg for sharing all this with us
Nice one, Greg. Including the inconclusive end. One of the things I have found hardest since my diagnosis in May is what I call the "tentative hope". Hope against hope but completely, as you describe, irrepressible for a human being. With best wishes for you to stay away from the actuality of the bus for as long as possible.
Beautiful and so very true I wish you peace
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