How Delving Into My Past Has Brought Me Into The Present

Author - Mari L. McCarthy
Published - November 22, 2016

By Alan Croft

Alan Croft Book.jpgDepression is certainly not a laughing matter but it helps if you have a sense of humour. This is a lesson that I was forced to learn at a very young age. I was born in 1957 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Many Americans don't seem to understand the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is actually a part of the United Kingdom, although at the end of the day, I suppose that depends on who you ask. The bitter conflict between Catholics and Protestants tore Northern Ireland apart for the latter part of the 20th century. The worst period is known as The Troubles, and extended from 1969 to 1977 and beyond, right smack dab in the midst of my adolescence and formative years.

My high school and late teenage years were marked by experiences that would make most people gasp in horror. I saw people shot in cold blood, had relatives die, and know firsthand what it sounds like when a bomb goes off twenty yards away. These are not ideal circumstances for a young man to come of age in, but at the end of the day, you play the hand you're dealt. Although my juvenile years were very dark at times, I also have very fond memories of the good times in the early 1960s before The Troubles began and even after. It is my experience that humans always manage to find joy in even the bleakest of circumstances. I have long-thought that humour is an important tool to deal with traumatic experiences, although so is honesty.

In 1977, after nearly a decade surrounded by violence, hatred, bigotry, and bloodshed, I finally decided I'd had enough. I jumped on a plane and headed over to England to get away from the madness. There I met some incredible people, including my future wife Nancy. We got married, and after having two wonderful sons, we moved to Canada in 1990. We've been there ever since. The last few years have been some of the best of my life. My two sons are grown up and off with their own lives, and my wife is now retired and I hope to do the same in the next few years. After working hard for our entire adult lives, we managed to save up enough money to buy a small house on a lake about an hour north of Toronto. Nowadays, my ideal Saturday afternoon is spent sitting by the lake, watching the birds go by, and reading a good book. But just a few short years back, things weren't so idyllic for me.


The Most Dreaded Crisis


Nowadays the word crisis is all over the news - financial crisis, social media crisis, refugee crisis. A few years ago, however this word only meant one thing to me: the dreaded middle age crisis. As my 40s rolled along, there was a dark cloud hovering over me. At first, I didn't even know it. I was petulant, selfish, huffy and argumentative - but apart from that I was a barrel of laughs! When my wife bluntly pointed out that I was slipping into depression and suggested that I should see a therapist I thought that she was mad. After some deliberation, I accepted that all was not right inside my head and maybe I was going nuts so I should at least make an effort to seek some assistance. And I did go for help.

My doctor was very laid back but it was his sense of humour that made me feel at ease. When I asked him what I should do if I was having suicidal tendencies he simply replied: “Pay your bill today”. He delved deep into my past to discover that I may have been suppressing traumatic memories of growing up during the political conflict in Northern Ireland. I have never discussed those times with anyone before, not even my wife so reliving them to my therapist was not easy but it lifted the heavy dark cloud off my shoulders. I began to feel optimistic again and the negative thoughts that constantly swirled about my head began to disappear. When he recommended that I should write about my past I felt an instant sense of escape as I relived my early years enjoying the good times and confronting the bad times.

My first book is a memoir detailing 20 years of my life growing up in Belfast during The Troubles in the 1960s -1970s and the effects it had on the young growing up in a culture of bombings, intimidation and sectarian killings and how it became part of everyday life. Happy go lucky children saw their personalities change for the worse as the people of Northern Ireland adapted to survive. The struggle to find an identity raged between the Protestants raised as British and Catholics as Irish as each were educated with a totally separate agenda.


Writing Opens A Window


Since the initial consultation with my doctor a few years ago my life has changed for the better giving me an extremely positive attitude to life. Writing has opened a window into a chapter of my life that I had tried to put in a box and forget about forever. Although it is important to live in the present, it is our pasts that make us who we are.      By taking an honest look about where I came from, and putting my experiences down on paper, both the good ones and the bad ones I feel that I have tapped into a new and creative side of myself. I also feel more emotionally healthy and stable than ever as a result of confronting my demons. The icing on the cake has been hearing people's reactions to the book. I believe that writing should be for yourself first and foremost, but if you can write something that touches or entertains people on top of that, even better.    

Most of my friends and colleagues now know of my depression and have read the book. Some of them have thanked me for helping them openly discuss their hidden issues, something they would not have dreamed of doing before reading it. Even complete strangers have given me their feedback about how the book taught them new things and helped them to understand themselves better. I am close to finalizing my second book and am preparing for a third. Knowing that I have helped others confront their demons gives me a happiness and a self- satisfaction that keeps me writing.

A lot people find it difficult to admit that they have depression particularly men as they perhaps feel it weakens their masculinity but the results without treatment can be devastating. The therapy of writing is a powerful tool that I would recommend for anyone suffering in silence and maybe too afraid to seek help as I was at first. To be able to create this blog is another testament to how writing has made my life much richer and how I managed to exorcise my troublesome past forever.


Eastbourne 2014 269.jpgI am a first time author that has struggled with depression in the past and after a consultation with a therapist managed to turn my life around. Part of my book’s introduction details how difficult it was for me to seek help but my doctor’s advice to write about my past saved me. I have self published my book and am searching for assistance to promote it with the wish to help others that are desperate for a way out.

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