Months went by and I didn’t post on this blog. I didn’t even notice April happen. But it did and now we are past May and well into June and I don’t remember any of it apart from the fact that it has been painful. Some of it was physical pain and some of it was just a dull ache in my chest as the days slipped past and I did the best I could.
After all, that’s all we can ever do. The best we can.
I didn’t really plan on writing this right now. It has been on my to-do list for well, months. It’s been sitting there right at the top but until now I was paralysed when it came to ‘eating the frog’ as they say. I’m tired after an eight-hour shift and I need to be in bed. My tummy is empty and my window is open and I’m slightly too cold, but not cold enough to do anything about it. But it seems that right now, this has decided to come pouring out. Here it is. It couldn’t wait any longer apparently.
I think one of the things that has got me well and truly shook this year so far has been other people noticing how ill I am. Not even people who know me really well, but also strangers commenting. I Look Like Something Is Wrong. They show concern and I don’t know what to do with it so I throw it back in their face. I wish I was better. I wish they would go on pretending I seemed okay like I try to do when I’m alone in my room and I haven’t looked in the mirror for a while. But it’s even got to that point now where they feel like they Have To Ask. And that’s just a bit of a shame really.
I’ll take you back to the beginning.
On Christmas Day 2017 I walked into my kitchen and wept. I cried ugly, loud tears into the otherwise silence. I was alone and I sat down on the floor between the counters and let myself shatter there and then. That was how it happened this time. It reminded me of how Matt Haig describes depression in one of his books, how he actually recalls the exact moment that it started. It’s like someone has clubbed you round the head with it. But sometimes the trauma takes a while to sink in.
Then in January two things happened. I stopped being single for the first time in two years and I got promoted for the first time ever, in a job I stumbled into when I was at my last lowest point. Yes, big changes cause stress and things become triggers without you knowing who’s firing. But I was already on a slippery slope and maybe I just needed a tiny push to get me right down to the bottom, quick as a flash.
When I was a kid, and depression came in cycles, I always saw a light at the end of the tunnel. My mum was always there at the end of the day to cook me dinner and I had things to look forward to, things that I just thought would happen for me. Adulthood is an expansive, expensive abyss no one can ever quite prepare you for. If I didn’t make myself dinner, I wouldn’t eat. And if I didn’t force myself to go to work there wouldn’t even be anything to make. It all becomes so much more real when your daily safety net has been pulled out from under you. It makes it so much harder.
This time it took me too long to realise that first step to helping yourself is becoming aware. For the longest time, I believed I thrived on stress and that I was just having a bad day. That things are sent to test you. But when bad days turn into bad weeks and bad months you have to accept that maybe you aren’t all that well at all. Whatever is making you feel this way needs to change. Chemical connections need to sort themselves out or you need to take yourself out of a scenario, make a change, listen to what you are telling yourself you need. Step away from these triggers. One last push to get away from whatever is bringing you down.
Acceptance is a big one. The next few months after I realised I wasn’t alright I spent in a haze just trying to accept this adjustment. One day I would be pushing and pushing myself to get better. The next I had all but given up. There have been days when I have thought about ending it. Just a thought, though. The light at the end of the tunnel seemed further away than ever. Which is why January, February, March, April, May passed in such a haze.
If there is a tumour growing in your brain you need to remove it before it starts to affect your abilities, your personality, your health, your wellbeing, who you fucking well are. Remove the tumour from you or failing that, remove yourself from the tumour. It makes sense, right?
If there is something you can do to help yourself, do it. That’s what June will be for me. Trying to help myself. Small progress is still progress and I am more than a work in progress. Healing takes time, but it starts with actually making the conscious decision to let yourself heal. To pause, gasping for breath, and say enough is enough. This ends now. Before I find myself idly walking into traffic.
This all might seem a bit depressing, but a problem shared is a problem halved. Not all of my posts from now on will be so depressing, I just wanted to set the scene on where I’ve been and what’s been happening. I just wanted to be honest, for once.
I’m trying to help myself get better. Mentally and physically. And it starts with writing this blog. I’m going to make some other changes too and maybe document them here, but just writing is a therapy in itself. It doesn’t matter if no one reads it.
What I do want to know though, if you have read to the end, is what do you do to help yourself? I want to cram my life in the next few weeks with as many good gestures to my own wellbeing as I can. How do you take care of yourself? What is your definition of self-care? What makes you feel better when nothing else can?
Suggestions on a post-it note, please.