Have you seen the suggested posts on Facebook, I’m thinking of one in particular; “Are you depressed about the fine lines around your eyes”. I see red every time I see this. Why do we throw away words in such a thoughtless or careless manner, mindless of the implications and effects over others. Whether it’s using such a powerful word to describe a few lines or making promises to friends we can’t or aren’t prepared to keep.
Depression isn’t being upset over a few lines on our faces, it’s being alone with your thoughts and those thoughts are telling you over and over, you’re useless, worthless and unlovable. It’s pain and not just emotional, it’s physical, and your body aches all over. It’s finding it damn near impossible to put one foot in front of the other, let alone get out of bed in the morning. It’s exhaustion, physically and mentally, but not being able to sleep. You can’t eat and when you force yourself, everything tastes like cardboard. Every sense in your body is numbed, colours are faded, images dimmed, sounds muffled and then there’s the hypervigilence and every noise makes you jump. People talking around you is akin to a jackhammer pounding away outside your door for the last eight hours. You can’t leave the house because crowds make you panicky, shake and sob. Your dreams die and your passions and loves no longer interest you.
Then comes isolation, as people drift away from you, the few that stay around, well you can hear in voice and see in their eyes, their desire to be a long way from you. And why not, you’re not fun to be around and you sap their energy and they’re busy getting on with life. And the others, well they can’t be found, later they’ll tell you, “I didn’t know what to say” or “I wouldn’t have been much help anyway”. Don’t you know I would have given anything to hear you say, I love you and I’m here for you, if you need me. Why couldn’t you have given me that choice. You’re trapped inside this aching body and insidious mind and you just want the pain to stop, so you consider what is unthinkable to a healthy person, and the planning of it is as mundane as making a shopping list. And if things aren’t bad enough, people will tell you, there’s no such thing as depression, why don’t you just pull yourself together. Everybody has bad days. To my mind depression is a grieving process, and the loss is of one’s self. That’s the face of depression. To use this powerful word in any other way denigrates the suffering and desperation of those with mental illness.
But I was one of the lucky ones, I had a great GP, who kept in contact and who knew when it was time to hand me over to the experts. I got a proper diagnosis, my medications were changed and adjusted gradually till they worked for me and then months of therapy. A wonderful space to explore, talk and cry, where I wasn’t judged or hurried away. I learnt ways to process my thoughts and emotions in a more positive and harmonious way.
That was me two years ago, today I’m so much better, but I have to work at it everyday. I can never become too complacent, but I’ve learnt to recognize my triggers and I know when I’m beginning to sink again. What works for me is communication and open dialogue, the power of words, but sometimes it falls on deaf ears, and I’m left reeling from the emotional turmoil. I am overly sensitive and in this dog eat dog world, I struggle. Utopia to me is a world filled with compassion and empathy, what a caring and wonderful society we would then have.
I want to embrace life, it’s experiences and challenges, as well as new and renewed relationships, fully, but how do I do that without getting hurt. Is it at all possible? That is my challenge, I’m back looking for work, a somewhat disheartening process, but I keep my head up and move on to the next possibility. So I’ve got the experiences and challenges under control, but relationships are very different. I always seem to end up getting hurt. Why do I dive in head first, and get so emotionally involved, when I know it’s going to end in tears. Why do I keep making the same mistake. Words again, I get lulled into this sense of security, of believing and trusting, in what others say, but at the same time I’m scared of not believing and not trusting and missing out on something wonderful. What is the key, I really wish I knew. All I can really do, is keep positive and strong and in time too, perhaps my relationships will come good.
I’ve been going back over my old posts recently, two reasons primarily, the first to reevaluate my own personal journey. The second to explore how I’ve developed as a writer. So today I’d like to revisit an old post and explore it further in light of my recent experiences, my own story rather than my growth as a writer.
I do like what I wrote back then, it spoke to me at that time, of how I wanted my life to be and I recall a feeling of being uplifted on completing it, but did writing it make any difference, the short answer is no, not then, not for a long while. We think if we say something often enough it becomes real. If only it were that simple, the reality though is that, we are what we believe we are and back then I still had to hit rock bottom before I could start believing in a better, happier, worthwhile me. Why are some people perfectionists, in a nut shell, we have low self esteem, we strive to prove our worth, to ourselves and to others by reaching for unattainable perfection. In believing in our low self worth we anxiously strive to prove ourselves, there is no in between, we’re black or white, all or nothing and success or failure. Low self esteem patterns of behaviour are extensive, but for me I’ve always listened to and analysed the words or statements of others. That was my trigger, my pattern of destruction, and believing myself to found wanting fed this cycle of perfectionism/procrastination. Words hurt, nuances and tones crush.
Harking back to an old mantra of our childhood and the schoolyard.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
If only we’d learnt to believe that, all those years ago. But words have the power to be the most inspiring or the most destructive force on earth. And the careless words of a thoughtless person, became the catalyst to all that came after for me. Do I blame her, not entirely, not even mostly, if my own worth had been strong, those words could never have held that much power, but we all need to take responsibility for what we say and the consequences that unfold. So were those words, derogatory, offensive or damning. No they were fairly innocuous in themselves, but to me, with low self esteem and reeling from having just lost my job and security, they were overwhelmingly devastating and undermined everything I had worked hard for. Those words only lost their potency in recent months, when I came to a powerful realization, so powerful that with the tears and release, went so much negative energy. That was the moment when everything started clearing for me, when I accepted and let go. In letting go of those words, everything else started falling away. The need for approval, the need for constant company, the need to always say yes and the need to be perfect, all gone.
My inner demon is quiet now, I hardly ever hear from her, and if she does make an appearance she gets ever so quickly gagged and pushed to the back of my mind. So how then too is the perfectionist in me fairing, I honestly don’t know, I haven’t been in contact with her for awhile. That feels so good to say.
I’ve completed my Advanced Diploma now, although it very nearly became another casualty, what kept me going, the support and friendship of the three very wonderful women that I met through my studies, without them I would have pulled out, without a doubt. The final part of my advanced diploma, a thesis on the practical application of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, was completed in April this year, was it perfect, no but I was happy with it. And the best part of all of this was when I stopped worrying about how good it was, it freed me up to do a paper that my teacher thought worthy of publishing on his website. Yeah I’m never doing that perfectionist rubbish again.
In letting go, I’ve also started taking more risks, and no longer living a life of ‘what ifs’, I’m ready to start working again, and to start seeing clients. And best of all, I’ve grabbed hold of nerves and doubts and reconnected with an old friend. To my memory, the sweetest and kindest boy I’ve ever known and it’s been great getting to know him all over again. I could never have done all this two years ago.
I’m coming rapidly to the end of my therapy. I was talking to a friend about it last week, she asked how I felt about it. In the spirit of positive thinking I responded, that I was great and it didn’t bother me, but the reality is a bit different. I’m scared, scared of retreating back inside me, with only my horrible critical self for company. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not admitting defeat, because I’m going to work very hard to stay positive and strong. I’m on the usual drugs, antidepressants to lift the depression and anti-psychotics to stop me from getting too high and I’ve no doubt they’ve helped me considerably, but having someone to talk to about living with bipolar depression has been a god send and without the therapy I don’t believe I’d be anywhere near where I am now.
Therapy has given me the space to talk, cry, howl in pain, to strip my very being down to the basics and start rebuilding and accepting and really living. It’s given me the tools that have allowed me to become once again, content, strong, independent and hopeful. Recently I was asked to think about what makes me resilient, to write about it, I was excited at first but as I sat down to write, nothing came to mind. I know I’ve developed great resilience but it was an unconscious enlightenment, I just was, I feel ready for anything right now. But that isn’t enough, to have any hope of meeting depression head on the next time, I need awareness. So I began journalliing, I forgot about an audience and wrote just for me. What a powerful tool a journal is, to write as thoughts come to mind, no matter the order, as you release one thought another comes to mind and another. What I’ve learnt is to be aware of all my thoughts, to challenge the negatives and challenge the critical thinking, don’t allow them to own you and never give power over yourself to any other human being. Be your own master and let others be theirs. To own who I am and make no apologies, to love my own company and to allow that aloneness to energize and strengthen me, to find lots to laugh at and always be hopeful, nothing is insurmountable. And finally hindsight, I’ve survived depression and suicidal thoughts, a few times now and I’ll do it again. That’s what makes me strong right now, and right now is where I’m at.
But right now, I’m still in therapy…..
I’m not a fool, I’ve had several bouts of depression over the years, and I doubt this recent one will be my last. If and when that time comes, will I be able to meet that challenge without my crutch, will I remember everything I’ve learnt or will I be doomed to repeat the cycle of pain and loneliness and descent down that dark and bottomless tunnel. Journal, hindsight and challenging the thoughts. Let it become my mantra.
When I first started writing this blog the superego in my byline was a very dear friend. And yes he’s still a very dear friend and still capable of some amazing superego qualities (you’re smiling aren’t you, Exultatron). I tended to live vicariously through him back then, to look to him for approval, he was the exciting to my questioning and doubting. But as I’ve emerged that superego has slowly become me, the me I am right now, right this moment, the me I want to continue being, an exciting and wonderful future that is my doing. I’ll still at times be that sidekick, because I’ll always continue to question, occasionally doubt, and maybe I’ll even hate me. To ignore that possibility, is to put my head in the lion’s mouth, a dangerous folly. It is strange that this is my blog, my journey and yet I made myself invisible. Instead of being a participant in my own life, I became a watcher from the sidelines.
The observations and obsessions of a Superego’s sidekick. I’ve come full circle, I’m the superego and occasional sidekick. I’m now an active player in my own destiny and this is my story.
Depression is a cruel and crippling disease, but it is a disease, not a weakness. It’s still very much a taboo subject, and the days of institutions and mind numbing drugs still exist. We’re becoming more educated though to mental illness, and this is a very good thing, but we’ve still a long way to go. There are so many treatments out there, the right medication, therapy of all sorts and sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is find someone to talk too. Back in January 2013, my most recent bout of depression struck, I turned to my GP, a wonderful, wonderful man. He understood and recognized what was happening to me, and stayed with me, supported me, and listened to me no matter how long it took. And when the treatment wasn’t working, he turned me over to the care of people who could. I’m so much better today and am so grateful to him, I couldn’t have done it without him. My struggle was long and difficult, but I’m nearly there, but I would of loved to talk to someone who knew what it all felt like, to tell me things get better.
So if I could go back in time , just for five minutes to reassure and comfort myself. I’d tell myself this will make you stronger and more independent, more forgiving and kinder to and of yourself. You’ll be more understanding of family and friends, all those times when you think they’ve deserted you, they haven’t, they love you, but they just don’t know what to say or do. Be kind to them, they’re doing their best. That night, 3 o’clock in the morning, walking the streets in so much pain, you do have a choice and you’ll make the right one and life will get better. But from that experience, you’ll become more compassionate to those who are suffering. You’ll learn that it’s ok to put yourself first, because putting yourself last didn’t work, you became overwhelmed and broken. And you were no good to anyone, when you could hardly get out of bed in the mornings. Life is precious, wonderful and amazing and you’ll come to believe that again and there’s always someone who can help and cares. Do always try and find something to laugh at or some one to laugh with, the best medicine of all.
If my words and experience bring you comfort, then I’m pleased, look that person and ask for help. It will be given.
I have recently started therapy, a ongoing attempt at re-connecting with myself. CBT with John on Tuesdays, a space to talk and explore. No egos hurt, no damage done. Last week, a compassionate letter to myself, I sat for ages looking at a blank piece of paper and all I could come up with was I’m a good mother and a loyal and loving friend. Pathetic! Difficult! Apparently this is common, somewhat comforting, misery does love company. This week it was social interaction and isolation, that opened deep wounds for me. Then art therapy with Sarah on Thursdays. Art therapy shows me I can do contented isolation well, I get absorbed in what I’m doing, as I caress the paper with my charcoal covered fingers and I forget all around me, I become calm and at ease with myself. I also do it well, when I snuggle into bed with my faithful companion, my Kindle. I get lost in the worlds of Bilbo Baggins, Elizabeth Bennet and Scout Finch and I feel my pain ease and my breathing slow.
I can feel myself sinking again, I’m turning back inside, the critical and angry me, the hyper-vigilant me, the despairing me. I’ve learnt how to recognize the signs, and I attempt to self isolate, although that doesn’t always work out, in an effort to avoid further damage to my already suffering friendships.
I think one of the greatest losers in depression is friendship, the desolation that depression brings affects everyone. I find myself now very isolated, my children are grown up and I rarely see them. My family a long way away, my friends are few and even fewer are my close friends. And over the months I feel some backing away, retreating somewhat to protect themselves, I get this, I don’t blame them, I was horrendous, I only hope that when this is all over, I can regain what I’ve lost. My friends are precious to me, to me they’re my family and family is everything.
I lost Liz at this time to sudden death, the ultimate isolation. I get so angry with her, then I think of the senselessness and futility of this and I get angry with myself. I still see her face everywhere, and sometimes I forget she’s gone and I smile and start walking towards her and then I remember. I’m exploring my grief in therapy but sometimes I feel I’m moving backwards.
I know the greatest gift I can give myself is contentedness in my own company, the gift of being alone not lonely, see I know this, but doing it is something altogether different.
Two or three months back I was thinking 2012 should have been my year, the year of the Dragon, my Chinese astrological sign. My year for wonderful things to happen. Dragon the fearsome, loyal, kind and hard working, the traits that could lead me to greatness.
In the last two weeks of 2011 I was made redundant from my job of 8 years. If you’d asked me to sit down and think about what defined me, my job would probably not have made it to my list. But losing it undermined my very core. For me it was about security in a world in recession, an income, getting out and meeting people, and in holding down that job, a belief, that what I did, I did very, very well.
At first I embraced the opportunity for change but when the shock was replaced with the reality, my optimism seemed to die. I reeled through the emotions like a woman possessed. Fear, frustration, helplessness and a loss of control over my own destiny, anger, so much anger, mainly towards my employer, someone I’d once counted as a friend and a sense of betrayal. My demon was the alter-ego who has dogged me most of my life. She ridicules me, second guesses my intuition, stamps all over my dreams, she takes me by the hand and leads me down the path of the worst imaginings my mind can create, and devours my confidence. And she always shows up when there’s a flicker of weakness. “What’s the point in trying, you know you’re going to fail”, my perfectionist/procrastinating nature chimes in.
If only I had been left to my own devices, I could have coped. Lunarcy the everyday and my alter-ego Lunarcy the superhero, righter of wrongs and with the ability to take flight and soar, working together we could have been amazing, we could of risen to the challenge, but my demon was in her element.
The turning point, my 48th birthday, end of April, all I wanted to do was sleep through it. Friends though had other plans, a surprise party (the surprise bit I spectacularly messed up – no point being a perfectionist if you don’t do something spectacularly). I went begrudgingly, annoyed with them for forcing me to acknowledge the event. Sometime during the night though something wonderful happened to me. Something shifted in me, what it was, who knows, I still don’t. Maybe it was just being in that room with people who just wanted me to be happy. I wonder do they know how important that night was to me, how much strength I gained from their presence, thoughtfulness and warm friendship, and how it helped to turn my life around.
I now have a direction, I won’t say plan, for me now, plans imply something set in stone. A direction allows me to move forward and allow for change. I’m going back to learning, am I scared, hell yes, but I won’t allow that to derail me. I want to explore an area that intrigues and energizes me. Psychology and Hypnosis, the mind, infinitely creative and destructive. The power to conquer and defy our past or to bring us to our knees. A text delivered a selection of books to me, “some summer reading” he said. Light summer reading it ain’t. I laugh, but I’ll enjoy them so much more than some soppy novel.
I still struggle with this desire to be nothing less than perfect, but the dream is strong, and hopefully enough to push me out of my comfort zone.
I know now that losing my job wasn’t the beginning of the end for me. I was never going to jump, I had to be pushed and glorious new starts often include pain, fear and doubt. Perhaps 2012 will be my year to shine after all.
Where do I see myself in October/November and beyond, will it be with my hand shooting up to answer yet another question, teeth grinding behind at the Noddy Know All in the front row, or standing behind the toilets smoking trying to look cool but in reality just terrified by life. I’m hoping closer to the know all, but without the ‘me being annoying’ bit.
For now I’m reading my books, swotting as it were. A challenge presents itself, deliciously tantalizing and I’m poised and ready. I sit relaxed, a smile comes to my face, and a sense of excitement and the beginning of my path to fulfilment, as the words swirl into my brain, like fingers massaging the little grey cells long dormant, I think ……..
“I wonder does he have any copies of these books in English”.
I published my first post in May 2011 and with that fulfilled a dream of many years and although I love writing I often struggle to find something that touches me. WordPress and more importantly a handful of friends I’ve left into my secret, are always encouraging and the wonderful Daily Post email occasionally leaves me tingling and full of inspiration and such was the case with ‘The 5 Most Important Books I’ve Ever Read’. Now before we go any further I have to say I’ve bent the rules slightly and selected seven. Oh, I know there’s no rules in writing, well maybe a few, the obvious being grammar, plagiarism and common decency. But I’m a master at creating rules for myself, so forgive me for indulging myself. I couldn’t imagine my list without these 7 and to contemplate the 5 most important would have left me dithering for another several weeks if not months. And trust me I don’t need any encouragement to procrastinate.
I started this post sometime back and life did what it ultimately does and got in the way and my good intentions was left to moulder away in my drafts. Now I find myself with a great deal of time on my hands, and I’ve struggled greatly the last few weeks with very distracted thoughts and unproductive actions with one exception, reading, snuggling down into my bed or a cosy chair and losing myself in another world, lets just say it’s been my lifeline.
Of course the first book I reached for was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and for me it’s always been my great friend, my comfortable pair of shoes and my cuddly teddy. I’m a willing and happy companion in the travels of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield and company. This is a book for the child in all of us and I love reconnecting with her. Tolkien created The Hobbit as a bedtime story for his children and I imagine myself curling up and listening to him speaking and it takes me back to my own childhood when worries were few. And for a brief moment in time all my current ones dissolve too.
Of course we all remember the required school reading lists, and classics and critically acclaimed be damned, some of them were mind numbingly dull, and like all teenagers, I bucked, thank god for film adaptations I say. Of course film adaptations aren’t always sympathetic or even accurate and I was often left trying to explain myself. Sorry about that, Mr. Campbell. Until I came across To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I grew up in a home where reading was encouraged, books were ever present, but my passion for reading was ignited because of this book. I can’t explain why this book touches me so much, perhaps we just connected, maybe the right time and the right place as they say. But this I know, I always finish it with a satisfied smile and think ’till we meet again’.
Awareness by Anthony DeMello was a recent find, it was recommended to me about 2 and bit years ago and I’m forever grateful it was. His words are full of wisdom, but he’s tough and doesn’t pull any punches. I think when I first read it, I likened it to being mauled by a loveable floppy-eared puppy, and that pretty well still fits. I listen to his audio tape of the book and his voice is wonderful, the laughter, the joy but always the words and thoughts come back to me and I continually strive to find my own awareness. Dare I say it, it’s become my bible.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. I’ve read all the books in this series and I’ve preferred the storyline to some of the later ones more, but the first is hugely important to me. I first read this book some 3-4 years after it was published and it came to me at a time of great heartache. My youngest child had recently been diagnosed with a chronic life limiting disease, which left me grieving, angry and full of self blame. My beloved father had died suddenly and my husband had been diagnosed with cancer. I felt like I was in hell. This book transported me into the world of magic and Hogwarts, and took me out of my own for days on end. A breathing space, a place to hide and recharge myself.
To the wonderfully delicious offerings of P.G. Wodehouse and his Jeeves and Wooster stories. His turn of phrase, his glorious caricatures and comic genius. The derring-dos of Bertie Wooster, his bungling aide to friends and run ins with various aunts and his man Jeeves are a pure joy and a enormous treat. Read often and enjoyed always.
Now I’m not a chick lit kind of girl, but I do enjoy a bit of romance from time to time and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen certainly fits the bill. The feisty Elizabeth Bennet and the brooding Mr. Darcy. And at the end of the page when the eyelids are flickering I picture Mr. Darcy as portrayed by Matthew MacFadyen walking across the field towards Elizabeth (we’re on first name terms) coat open and flapping in the breeze, crisp white shirt, breeches and riding boots…………………..Mmmmmm…………………….. ……………..Ahem.
And finally The Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I love all the Sherlock Holmes books, but this is the book in which we’re introduced to Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes. Through the eyes of Watson, we get to experience their new found friendship and discover the eccentricities of the wonderful Holmes, and of course their first case together. A great story in itself. I can while away endless hours reading these adventures.
So, are these my most important books, definitely. These are the books that have reinforced my passion and love of reading. But more importantly they’re the ones I reach out for again and again and again.