Words are beautiful things. They are simple, yet complex. They are real, yet conjour up new worlds of places and people. They have the power to bring you joy or fill you with tears.
Words are my one true love. They are my escape; a sanctuary and a safe place.
As a plump anxiety-riddled child, words provided an imaginary playground rich in colour; whether it was falling into the rabbit hole with Lewis Carroll, moving among witches and giants with Roald Dahl or attending Enid Blyton’s jolly nice school Malory Towers.
Aged eight, I wrote my own short stories about an energetic, playful American girl (I’m not sure why she was American, it’s never somewhere I’ve been) who flew to England to see her bestest but more reserved and bookish friend who introduced her to the beauty of Devon. Together, they got up to mischief and ran away from adults to go on adventures.
My reality as a child into a teenager and a young woman was somewhat different. I never felt particularly fun, or interesting; just a bit wonky as if something wasn’t quite working properly. As if I wasn’t really meant to be here. But I couldn’t explain why and ran away from the feeling by pretending to be the energetic, mischievous girl from my own handwritten childhood books.
Landing a job in journalism in my early 20s provided me with opportunities to spend my days with my one true love. I happily lost myself telling other people’s stories, agonising over intros and finding different news angles. I was in awe of other more experienced hacks and hung onto their every word. I revelled in heading to the pub after the deadlines has passed. After all, that’s what journalists were renowned for. We were reporters! We’re MEANT to do this! I had found my niche and I was not moving.
But of course the fear of being ‘found out’ lingered. The critical inner voice constantly told me I’d be found out that this was all a big joke. Lifting myself from the slimy clutches of this monster became harder and I became more frustrated and confused and unable to understand myself.
To the outside world I was a normal functioning adult: I worked damn hard, exercised, spent time with friends and life looked good. Inside I was a mess. I’d often feel an overwhelming sadness – grief stricken almost – and anxious. I became more intolerant and irritated. It was harder to keep the act up.
One day, amid the breakdown of a long-term relationship and following some gentle words of encouragement from a friend, I sought professional help. I was tired of tying to hide it, I couldn’t keep the lid on.
I know now there was a word for this: depression.
Depression sucks. It literally sucks your insides out and spits them out covering your world in a grimy dull veneer. It’s not something ‘you snap out’ of or can brush off.
It turns out that going to your doctor and sitting down with your boss won’t lead to a scenario where they laugh in your face and ask if you if you’re joking, but opens a path towards help and support. Counselling, while not suitable for everyone, gave me a secure path to confront fears and address my skewed internal view.
It turns out that unpicking the mess in your head is a healthy process. Yes, it’s hard and yes it can be painful but it’s also empowering. I now know that I am not defined by my thoughts and they do not define me. It turns out that telling someone you’re not OK is OK. After all, you are the only thing you’ve got and it’s a precious commodity.
It turns out that long runs or walks and staring at receding tides as the sun dips down over Devon hills acts as its own therapy and continues to do so.
So what’s this blog all about? It’s about seeing the world through the eyes of the make-believe two little girls who loved adventures in Devon. It’s about exploring the world inside us and around us and marvelling at Devon, in all its beauty and drama with its coastlines, moors, woodlands, towns, cities, villages and resourceful and friendly people.
It turns out that the two imaginary girls from the books I wrote are not simply bestest friends – they are two parts of an entire individual. The fun, energetic, playful, quiet, bookish girl who loved adventures in the enormous playground of Devon is me. And I want to share that place with you.