I’M 40? WTF?!
But I’m still figuring out what I want to do, when I grow up!
It’s May 6th and it’s my birthday. I’ve squeezed every drip out of my 30s and it’s time to move on.
I’ve been rather vocal about not looking forward to this birthday. People are very sweetly, and correctly, pointing out that 40 is just a number.
“40 is the new 19” has been one of my favourite comments from a well-meaning acquaintance.
My age never used to bother me. However this particular milestone is troubling me. Not only because mentally I feel like 24. No.
Unfortunately turning 40 has put me in a reflective but somewhat negative mood.
Let’s face it I’m pretty much half way through life now. I plan to grow old disgracefully, surrounded by many grandchildren, wearing a kaftan, swearing a lot, not giving a shit about what other people think whilst tending to my extremely large garden and going for country rides on my Triumph Bonneville.
I know where I want to end up but I’m just not sure how I’ll get there. I wasn’t joking when I said that I’m still waiting to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.
And if I’m honest I feel very disappointed in myself.
Giving myself a hard time? You bet. I’m great at that. I’ve had 40 years to practice remember.
The Sad Backstory
So why the disappointment? Well unlike that infamous line in the 90’s version of Trainspotting, I didn’t ‘choose life’. I let life ‘happen’ to me.
Well that’s not entirely true. The one thing I’ve wanted to be all my life was an artist. But I was led to believe it would be the biggest waste of time.
It’s for wasters – so I was told. It could never be a proper job. So I drifted. I’ve had ‘proper’ jobs but they never made me content because ultimately I was just pleasing other people’s vision of what I should do.
(OK this post is about to get a bit sad here…bear with me for a moment.)
A Dog Named Blahs
At age 10 I was uprooted from a fairly content life in London after my Dad’s business failed, to a very unhappy life in Cambridgeshire.
As a teenager I was severely bullied by a group of girls. Being told by one she wanted to kill me, certainly wasn’t the highlight of my teens!
I was ostracised by people I thought were friends because they feared the bullies. I couldn’t trust anyone. I was alone. To this day I’ll never know why. It started unexpectedly and ended just as abruptly after 5 years.
But the mental scars are very deep. And at the age of 40 I still find it incredibly painful to talk about this period in my life.
Around this time, I was also joined by my invisible pet. Blahs the *black dog. He first came into my life at age 14, as my first episode of true depression.
(*Winston Churchill coined the term black dog to describe depression)
In the nineties, teenagers didn’t get depressed. Instead I was labelled simply as a moody teenager. I was left to look after Blahs the black dog on my own and I became an expert at hiding him from the world.
He’s remained a faithful but rather irritating pet ever since.
Becoming a mother at 25 made Blahs the black dog uncontrollable and post natal depression set in.
I have 2 beautiful boys but my 20s and early 30s were about surviving motherhood. It’s all a blur. I was very unhappy.
By my early 30s my (now ex) husband was made bankrupt due to the financial crash. I entered another turbulent time which cost us our marriage.
I was a single mum. However I’m an expert at fighting on so I embraced my new life and decided to go back to Uni to study for an MA and uh oh! Cupids arrow struck!
Cue a whirlwind romance with my now lovely hubby. At 34 we married, at 35 I gave birth to my beautiful Daisy and at 36 we bought a new home together.
We’ve literally only just come up for air!
But going back to having a young baby again was tough. Blahs the black dog has been on my heels ever since.
I’ve tried taming Blahs the black dog’s wild ways over the years with alcohol, exercise, self harm, sleeping pills, taking antidepressants, seeking help from therapists, psychotherapists, counsellors, group counselling, I’ve pretty much tried it all. It’s an ongoing training regime that will take the rest of my life.
Thankfully I know what the healthy options are for dealing with depression and Blahs the black dog now.
So I’m scared. I’m scared about what my 40’s will bring. Will I be able to control Blahs the black dog? He’s so destructive.
Getting to the point
Back to those dreams. It’s taken 40 years but I’ve finally realised my dream of living the life of an artist is key to my mental health. During all of the turbulent times, it’s been the one and only constant in my life. Expressing myself creatively has been my saviour in very dark times.
I enjoy solitary time. I dislike groups of people. I find it hard to trust anyone.
That’s why I create beautiful images. To counteract the darkness I’ve experienced in my life.
The Positive Conclusion
I’ve exposed my demons to you. It feels scary but it’s a relief. In fact this is the first time I’ve publically declared my depression and introduced Blahs my black dog beyond my very close family.
I still feel the shame I felt as a bullied teenager. But I’ve finally admitted creating beauty through images and my art is the path that helps me fight those depressing demons.
I choose to stand up and not be bullied by life. The decisions I make in the next 40 years will be because I take a positive stand. Not because I’m forced into something I don’t want to do.
I choose life. I choose a creative life.
Does that finally make me a grown up now?!