2016… I Guess It Was OK.

Ahhh, Christmas, it’s so good that it’s finally fucked off for another year. This summer I’ve been blessed with solitude. Three weeks with an empty house. Tasty-but-intense Flatmate, has moved on and taken Jealous McCuntbeak with him, and the kids have been staying with the Ex. And I’ve been… I don’t really know what I’ve been. Not lonely, just… in a state of limbo. It’s like being suddenly pulled from a busy, noisy train station and sucked into a noiseless vacuum. I miss Jealous McCuntbeak. Not her incessant squawking, but I miss her affectionate play-fighting, and the way she went ape-shit if you gave her a ball or a box to play with.

My immune system has taken a dive again, so I’ve been bombarded with colds and viruses, and a nasty kidney infection. Instead of enjoying my me-time I’ve been run down and my sleep schedule is all over the place. I miss the kids, but I know that their return is going to hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m looking forward to it anyway.

Last year was, frankly, horrific for so many people. For me it was a deep personal struggle, but for others it was more than that. Families torn apart, loved ones lost, and lets not forget Bowie.

8206685620_d382defe12_k_edited

But then, tragedy strikes every year, and there is no such thing as a “bad” year, it’s just a matter of perspective. While 2016 was difficult, there are many things that I’m grateful for.

♥ From hardship comes personal development. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve grown.

♥Help from my community. Huge thanks to Rocky Steer, Gail Golding and Nicky Hughes (and co.) from the Kai Kitchen/Donation Station for saving my arse when I was falling apart. These incredible women and their friends provided me and my family with ready cooked meals, and home baking when I lost the ability to function. The food was a huge help, but what really got me through was the unreserved kindness and caring. I’ve never felt so loved, you kick-started my recovery. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

♥My daughter was awarded an exemption from school so that I can home-school her. It’s not easy, but it’s the best option for her and to see the change it’s made in her makes it all worth it.

♥My parents helped me financially more than they should have, as well as helping out around the property.

♥Love from unexpected places. Someone I would never have expected showed up on my doorstep and gave me a firm “you’re not okay and you need to get your shit together”.  She believed in me enough to give me the strength do make the changes I needed to make to get well. Sometimes we need someone with brass balls to call us on our bullshit.

♥Everyone who bought a tutorial or a piece of jewellery. Thank you all. It’s you who make ends meet.

As Desperate As An Ice-Cube In Hell

I thought about turning on the TV tonight, but I can’t get my head around watching it alone. Since my separation, I’ve hardly really watched TV at all. Which is weird, because it’s not like me and Ex really watched anything together toward the end anyway, mostly because we couldn’t be in the same room as each other. I vaguely recall spending most evenings either beading with my headphones on or laying in the bath for hours with a bottle or two of wine, while he either slept on the couch in front of the TV or skulked off into his shed to pretend he was busy.

Before it got like that, back when we did watch shows together, it was always what he wanted to watch. Typical male king-of-the-remote-control stuff. He would fall asleep and I would gently pry the remote out from between him and the cushion. I would slowly turn the volume down before changing the channel, hoping that the sudden shift from one show to another wouldn’t startle him awake. There’s an art to it, but I never mastered the skill. I invariably failed and would receive a glare and a, “I was watching that.” He would reclaim his precious prize, switch the channel back and nod off again.

Now days, if I’m faced with the challenge of deciding what to watch, I’m like a crippled little lamb. So mostly, I don’t watch anything except for The Walking Dead. If I’m with someone, I can watch, but I can’t make the choice. Even if there’s something that I want to watch, I’ll concede to someone else’s preference. It’s part lack of confidence in speaking up, and part being so desperate for company that I don’t want to risk them deciding not to join me on the couch.

img_20161126_212623

 

You see, I’m stunningly needy. I’ve only just come to realise this. I’m fairly certain that everyone who has ever dealt with me has been long aware it, while I’ve been existing as a shapeless mass of oblivious desperation. I’m horribly lonely, even when I’m not alone. I require constant reassurance that I’m a good person, a good mother, that I exist, that I’m not losing my mind, not a burden, not a hellish mash-up between The Blob and Freddy Kruger.

When someone doesn’t want to spend time with me, I “know” that it’s because of who I am as a person, or how I look. If someone rejects me, I feel like hideous monster who should be shunned from society. Conversely, if someone chooses to spent time with me, I feel like maybe I matter. If I’m lucky enough to spend the night with someone or be shown affection of any sort, I start to think maybe I’m not so bad. So I crave touch; a hug, a hand resting on mine, any kind of gesture. It’s not romance or love that I want, it’s just the feeling of being worth…. something. Hell, some days, I would be happy to be punched me in the face just for the sake of human contact, some kind of acknowledgement that I’m here and I matter. And that’s not a healthy way to be.

I’m learning a lot about myself as I work through this process, and most of it isn’t great and it hurts like Hell. But all the same, I’m glad that I’m figuring myself out, so that I can work on fixing it. Three steps forward and two steps back is still progress. Eventually, I’ll have found all the little pieces of me, I’ll cut back the rot and I’ll be content to be me. I’m not going to get any younger or prettier, so best I start learning to accept myself now before I’m a lonely old hag preying on handsome young Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on my door, insisting that they have one more cup of tea.

Catharsis

My head isn’t in the best of places today, but it’s probably just necessary to work out the kinks (although, some kinks I’m happy to keep ). It’s 1.30pm, and I’ve only just gotten out of bed, but today isn’t for pressure, today is for catharsis and for planning. My house is a mess, but fuck it. I don’t need to impress anyone today.

Today my plans include, sitting and crying; laying on the couch playing games on my phone; writing a list of small goals and a plan on how to achieve them; drinking lots of water; cat and rat cuddles (not at the same time); mindless drawing; walk on the beach.

img_20161112_170359

I need to stop trying to be what other people want me to be. I was me for a little while there, and I’m going to get that back. I need to stop feeling guilty for not being good enough, strong enough, generous enough, pretty enough. Changes are coming.

A Public Service Announcement For My Fellow Mentals

I have changed anti-depressant medications, and it was an awful experience. I have since found out that the standard New Zealand practice for changing SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor) medications is different from that of the rest of the world.  Australia advises a withdrawing period of 4-7 days, waiting 3 days before starting the new medication. America is on the most cautious side of the scale, reducing Zoloft over a period of 4+ weeks, waiting 7 days then introducing Escitalopram.

In New Zealand we just switch straight to the new one immediately. Going cold-turkey from Zoloft is risky and difficult, particularly if the dose is high and has been taken long term. Withdrawal can take several painful weeks. I thought it was unusual, so I made a point of asking the doctor if that was correct. She told me that because they’re both “short-acting” drugs an immediate change is suitable. This is so unique to New Zealand, that it is even mentioned as a side-note in the official UK GP Guidebook.   I have my suspicions that it is likely to be about money. In New Zealand we have a heavily subsidised healthcare system. In my area, I can see a GP for $17 and get prescriptions for $10, and three months worth of meds for $5, the government foots the rest of the bill. It’s pretty sweet. But it’s not perfect.

a11

I believe the reason that the method for switching SSRI’s is an over night change, is because weaning means more doctors visits, more prescriptions as each week is a different dosage, and therefore more cost to the Ministry of Heath. So people are suffering unnecessarily, because it’s cheaper. And I mean really suffering.

I was unable to function. It felt like I was moving through treacle, my head was spinning. I couldn’t make sense of anything. The simplest things were baffling. I was profoundly sad, and tired. At first, I couldn’t do much more than lay down and cry. There were times when I was detached from reality that I felt like I was an observer, watching the world from the outside. My responsibilities as a mother became monumental hurdles.

It’s been six days now, and I’m still feeling pretty run-down, but it’s getting better every day. I have learned a valuable lesson and I will never, EVER make a cold switch again. Always insist on tapering off SSRI’s

The Ocean Is Pretty, But It Will Fuck You Up.

I’m a crier. I cry a lot. It’s not that I cry at the slightest hint of emotion, I don’t cry unless I’m genuinely, deeply upset. But there’s the problem: I feel too much.  It’s like I’m standing on a shore and my emotions are waves rushing towards me and over me. The bigger the waves are, the harder it is to stay standing. Sometimes it’s a torrent and I’m pulled under, I can’t breathe, I can’t speak. I don’t have the words at that time to communicate or ask for help. I try, but the words don’t come. I want to show someone how I feel, I want to transfer a snippet of my experience to another person’s mind just for a moment, because then someone would understand what it is really like. For them to experience that helplessness, the feeling of being trapped, that suffocating pressure on their chest.

23929226275_5f90b3e4c8_k

And here we have a representation of the inner turmoil I feel while waiting to find out who Negan beats to death with Lucille on The Walking Dead. It’s gotta be Glenn, right?             Photo credit: Luis Ascenso

To say that I’m ‘over-emotional’ or ‘too sensitive’, is misleading, as it is often said as a synonym for ‘weak’.  Such expressions are often hurled, when what is really meant is “Your emotional response makes me uncomfortable and I don’t know how to react, so you must be faulty,”.

I am not weak, if I was weak I would have broken long ago. I’d be a drooling mess in a funny farm or worse. But I’m not, I’m still here. I’m fractured, but I’m still holding all the pieces in place. I am what Psychotherapist Joy Malik, calls a Deep Feeler. I am easily overwhelmed by my own feelings and the feelings of others.  My feelings are real and valid, they are not something that is enhanced intentionally. It is as much physiological as it is mental. Malik said, “For those with high sensitivity, strong emotional responses are natural and need to be processed in order to metabolize them.” And so I cry, and I write.

I write my most honest thoughts privately, and share publicly some of my struggles. I do this in writing because talking about them out loud is difficult. Being upfront about your emotional and mental health is not easy. It’s mistaken as self-pity. Some think I’m an over-sharer and should keep things to myself; have some class and dignity.  But the fact is, it’s taken me years to get to the point where I can be open about it, where I can say .”I’m not okay today” . I’m not ashamed of it anymore, nor should I be. I want to show my children that it’s safe to speak up when they’re not OK. The world is changing and the stigma is gradually lifting, but there’s still a fog of taboo that needs to be burned off. It’s time to clear the air.

24 Hour Depression And Why It’s Not All Bad

*Written earlier in the day, feeling much better now, think it’s passed*
My mood is fragile today. A thing happened that shook my confidence and I feel worthless and unappreciated. My empathy levels are too high and the struggles of others are tearing at my soul. Some of the time I feel pulled, stretched and taut. Other times I feel limp and empty. And tired, always tired. I thought my post winter depression was over. This feels like a one day-er. They happen now and then. A day of stupidity, to interrupt the usual flow of life. I don’t mind one day trips into the abyss, they’re a good reminder that I no longer spend months at a time there. That’s a blessing.

Today I’m incapable of being productive.

“Depression” by Mary Locke

I’m craving human contact and comfort, but a noisy part of my brain I telling me that I don’t get that anymore now that I’m single. This is a stupid thought because, in reality, I never got that when I was married either. I’ve gone too long without affection from an adult human and I feel like a dog thats been left chained to a fence and neglected. That noisy part of my brain also likes to tell me that I don’t deserve the affection I want/need, and that makes me feel a little sick.

I recently met a new friend who is affectionate and tells me nice things about myself. My mind struggles with the idea that someone thinks these things about me, and wants to spend time with me, and so I came to realise that my self esteem is still incredibly fractured, beyond what I thought it was. I’m grateful to this person for making me aware that my self-image is skewed, and also for giving me the gift of feeling good about myself during the rare moments we are in each others company. To find a friend who is a kind and genuine person, around whom you can be completely yourself, is rare. It’s nice to know that my naive faith in the goodness of humanity isn’t entirely misguided.

I know myself and my depression so well now, I know I will be better tomorrow.