I got engaged last year. My partner proposed in Bournemouth, because he knows I am at my happiest when I’m by the seashore, looking out at the horizon, pondering the future with a vague, gut-born optimism, my hopeful thoughts only intermittently dispersed with worries about rain.
In the evening, he asked me to join him on the hotel room balcony. I looked out to sea, and idly watched the ferry shuttle cars between Swanage and the exclusive village of Sandbanks. When I turned back, he was squeezed awkwardly between the table and the patio door, on one knee, holding a H Samuel ring box and wearing a stiff grin.
I chose to write about this moment for two reasons: firstly, to my own surprise and disappointment, I have morphed into the stereotype of a newly engaged woman: giddy, keen to tell the world, without the slightest regard for the world’s net level of interest.
Also, because this story helps to illustrate the only positive side of depression that I’ve ever been able to identify: any moment of joy that a depression survivor experiences is never, ever taken for granted. Post-depression happiness will only ever be treated with the absolute reverence it deserves. And have no doubt about it – I wrung it dry.
I hurled myself into the joyful news-spreading. I savoured each reply. I sipped champagne and was grateful for the sensation of each tiny, bursting bubble. I forced myself to notice each detail – the flower in the centre of the table, the brisk wind, my bare, cold feet – and planted those details, with brute force, in my long-term memory.
That evening, I felt utterly determined to never sink again. I would be a veg-eating, yoga-doing, positivity-reinforcing, medication-taking because-I’m-worth-it-chanting goddess. This was a new chapter. A new me. Yes it was.
We stayed on the balcony for some time. In the fading light, my attention turned back to the ferry, which had been trundling away in the background all evening, indifferent to our delight. As my excitement settled, my thoughts began to mirror the ferry’s back-and-forth action. I thought about Sandbanks, and the millionaires who lived there. I wondered if we’d ever have a modicum of their wealth. I wondered if we were doing okay, financially. I wondered if we could even afford a wedding. My mind, in its infinite wisdom, handed me the words ‘bailiffs’ and ‘ruin’.
My fiancé frowned. ‘You have your thinky face on,’ he said. ‘Stop it.’
So I did.