Drowning

When you are drowning you are supposed to stay still and float, go against your instinct and stop thrashing around. It is in the stillness that you will find the strength to fight, not in the struggle, the pauses between the punches.

I have been still for so long, trying to downplay the madness, willing it away, sitting back and accepting and acknowledging, witnessing it, being self aware, without fighting back.

And the waves they keep coming, bigger and bigger, and I am smashed against the rocks like a ragdoll, and the rocks, they are winning, soon it will be me who is fragmented into sand.

I have run out of caring and reasons to live and now of words to tell you. I’m sorry. I am drowned, not drowning.

Relapse- The Blog I didn’t want to write

I’m just back from holiday, I’m experiencing my first hangover in 6.5 years and I have cuts on my arms from self harming this weekend, something which I haven’t done for about 4 years.

I’m feeling everything from disbelief to shock to remorse, and a little bit gleeful for the naughtiness of it all, because self sabotaging is so familiar and warm sometimes.

I’m wondering whether to consider it a ‘relapse’, or just another bump in the road, because I still think that it was the right thing for me to do.

I don’t feel like I have to explain myself to anyone as such but I think it’s important to be honest, and as so many will have seen me getting in a nick I wanted to be clear about why and look at how I can stop it from happening again, and accept or even embrace my choices without letting them make me feel worse about myself.

The simple answer as to why it happened was that I hit crisis point and just ran out of ways to cope and I resorted to old methods.

Had I been at home I might have been able to pull together enough resources to not to resort to that, I may have called upon the mental health crisis team, or gone to my mums or spent time with friends in a quiet environment. As it was I was at a festival abroad, and so full of sadness and anger and woe that my options seemed to be: burst into tears on and off all day (publically or in private), hiding in my apartment, or knock myself out with sleeping tablets and lose the last day of my holiday. I knew that the only way I could get through it and enjoy it was to find a way to relax myself and go with the spirit of the event and join in with the festivities, instead of feeling like an outsider or isolating myself and slipping into a deeper depression.

So it happened. I had my first booze related relapse.

And it was fun, and I didn’t do anything too wild or destructive that I can’t live with it. Of course I suffered for it the next day (hangovers and long journeys are not a great combination), but I am glad that it happened away from home, as it’s not something that I can repeat any time soon and I don’t want to feel as though I can just pick up drink and put it down just for fun any time soon. Because I still can’t.

I’m in the middle of moving house and I’m tired, stressed and heartbroken and I’d love to numb and relax myself with a drink, I’ve already considered going to the off license or sneaking off to the pub, as my addict brain is very much alive, and I know that it would feel like a huge step back if I went down that path. So I am glad that this happened away from home.

I’m accepting this as just another twist in the road. Aside from being fun and relaxing this holiday was supposed to boost my confidence and help me prove to myself that I can do so much more than I used to be able to, but it’s taught me so much more.

I’m going to earn my sober sesh crown back and my self respect, and stay more vigilant. I finally have access to the psychology department again at the end of this month and I’m gonna do my best to get and stay well. I took a detour for a while there but I need to focus on myself again and put myself first.

I have scars for souvenirs and plenty of good memories to be grateful for. But the last couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster and I have a lot of healing to do.

Taking your depression on holiday

It’s a terrible thing, when you go on holiday, only to find that you’ve taken yourself- including your mental illness, with you. All you bad habits, and destructive thought patterns, all your self loathing and woes and anxiety, all firmly strapped to your luggage, just like at a home but in a significantly warmer climate. All of your coping mechanisms are pushed to the absolute limit, squeezed like a lemon slice, into your holiday cocktail.

On this delicious holiday menu:

For starters a panic attack on the plane brought on by the fact that turbulence when experienced in a budget flight tin can will make anyone feel a bit edgy and claustrophobic but especially when you’ve not flown in years and have a very user friendly panic button built into your head. I put my headphones in, my music on and held my sisters hand for most of the flight. I actually love flying and enjoyed it until then, I try to convince myself that it is excitement rather than fear but I’m fighting it off for about an hour and a half which is exhausting. I try mindfulness and deep breathing and distraction techniques, because I will not let this ruin my trip.

The next day I have a lie in, my sister brings us breakfast and has attended to some practical matters regarding our camping and finances, really I am spoilt, but I am tired and grumpy as I had to take a sleeping tablet the night before and I’m feeling the bad bile gather in my brain. I think of home, of who I am missing, I worry about who is missing me, or more specifically who might not be. Why would they? I am nothing and nobody. Ah good, the self loathing has found its way out of my rucksack!

But that’s just the aperitif! Today’s main course is a solid helping of body dysmorphia!

Whoever the confident, slim bitch who made me pack all these bikini tops and short shorts is, she is in hiding, perhaps inside my massive belly, because I can’t feel comfortable in anything and I look like absolute shit. I change approximately 40 times (in a sweaty tent none the less) and have crying fits, like a toddler at a beauty pageant, and end up wearing a dress I had planned to travel in because it covers me up. I don’t know if it’s seeing all these young, beautiful European women in their bikinis or if its just how I am feeling today, but I am not the body confident, ‘learning to love myself’ body positive blogger I was just a few days ago. I fucking hate myself. I am so gross and fat and repulsive. I may have lost 4.5 stone in the last year but it’s not enough, I am still unacceptable and hideous and I just want to hide but it’s too hot to wear too many layers.

I end up paying £24, a big part of my frivolous holiday spending money, on a top that will cover me up enough to convince me that I am not an ogre. It’s a nice top but I know that one day I will resent it and what it represents! But it’s just one of many ways in which I will have to adapt and sacrifice in order to survive this holiday. I try to reason with myself, recite positive affirmations, remind myself not to compare myself to others and that literally no one gives a shit what I’m wearing or what I look like, that they are not here for me, and that I have every right to be here in whatever attire I feel like wearing. I try to list all the ways in which I am grateful, I know how lucky I am to be here, to be alive and privileged enough to experience such things, but it takes me nowhere, the toxic grip of this black shadow is just too strong.

I start to feel guilty, because I know there’s people back home with families and jobs who can’t afford such a holiday, either because of time or money or both, I’m stressing about ‘first world problems’ like a big baby, and I go on a shame spiral, I don’t deserve to be here. I mean I saved bloody hard for ages to afford this, I sold my stuff on ebay, went without a lot for a long time, and it’s my first holiday abroad in years, but still.. I do mental maths and weigh up how worthy I am and how justifiable it is for someone on welfare to be allowed a holiday.

I do an hour of vinyasa flow yoga, then a dance therapy workshop based on exploration of colour which finishes with some abstract group painting. My feedback is that I ‘found comfort outside my comfort zone’- I lied of course, I found it impossible today and felt horribly self conscious and insecure. We rest, we eat, we wander. Later I watch stunningly gorgeous empowered belly dancers and I am admiring their costumes and taking photos, in awe of the skill and beauty all around me, I am people watching and even step into the Danube river for a paddle. And I feel like I want to die.

And that lingering thought, feeling, is today’s dessert.

Here I am with this opportunity to freely enjoy and relax and participate or rest and I just can’t exist comfortably in any of it. Like I just can’t experience this life anymore being me as I am, inside myself. There is so much beauty and colour and opportunity here and for all my external reaching for fulfilment, there is nothing that can convince me that I will ever feel anything different inside. I know that I am easily overstimulated and tired and maybe I am just drained and need some peace and quiet but I do my best to slow down and rest and find quiet spots, luckily my sister understands and is in no rush to push herself in this heat either. I just need to get through this day and hope that tomorrow feels better. I have burst into tears so many times today, I can’t really hide it, apart from the sunglasses covering my eyes, and I have a few breakdowns. My sister comforts me , we give each other massages, we eat ice cream, I write, express how I feel, doodle, meditate, breathe, dance. Soon I will go for an early night and pray to the universe that my future self can handle this shit, that this mood will pass and I will start to feel better and enjoy myself more.

It hasn’t been a bad day in all, in that I tried my very best. Fun things were apparent, exercise was done , adequate nutrition was had, I had a big sleep, we saw some wonders of the world, I took deep breaths, I didn’t panic, I saw my sadness for what it was- a temporary madness- and said ‘this too will pass’. But I hope to god it passes overnight. Because soon I will be well again and craving the sun and fun and festival madness. And instead I will be at home, skint, moving house and back to questioning what the fuck I’m doing with my one precious life. In that state I would be able to fully appreciate all of this. Why can’t I time my mania and depression to suit life events?

There is a famous travelling art installation here that you can contribute to called ‘before I die I want to….’ and you fill in the blanks on a chalkboard. I’ve been thinking about what to write, what my contribution might be. All I really want to do is live. Just not like this anymore.

Cave Dweller Me needs love too

There’s a bit in my head, a bit that won’t leave, firmly nestled in there pulling on my energy and attention in between the pulsing goo and sinew. It’s the bit that feels loneliness the deepest, that is so sad she can make me cry on a sunny day, the one that makes me feel alone in a room full of loved ones, sometimes she has the loudest voice in there. And I know it’s Me, at least it sounds a lot like Me.

I call her Cave Dweller, not only because it matches my initials CD, but because she is hiding in darkness, wild and gloomy and hermit like. She keeps me away from the positive, grateful me, she steals my inner joy, smears the windows so that I can’t see the horizon when I am lost in a stormy sea.

She tells me dark dirty untruths about myself, but so convincing is she that sometimes her stories are the only ones that I can recall.

She hates me. She tells me that I am worthless, reminds me that I am undeserving of love, that I am alone and unloved. And she is gleeful in it sometimes, the bitch. But I have to befriend her, and show her that she will not burn in the light, that not everyone will hurt us, that trusting others is a risk worth taking, that I will look after her and together we can step away from the shadows and breathe clean air and get through anything together. If I punish her it only serves to break internal relations down further.

She is bitter and mutters away and I try to drown her out with a clear crisp voice but it doesn’t always work. Last night she told me that I was alone and abandoned, and I found myself lying in the dark listing everyone that I knew for sure loved me, my mum and dad and sisters (beyond that I swing between surety and uncertainty), but she spoke far louder and quicker than I could. My voice came out small and shaky and unconvinced. I can feel it, this deep familiar knowing, it is not a thought but a sense of self, that I am no good and wrong. And she speaks to me in sharp daggers while I repeat the mantras I love myself, I love myself, I love myself, and I am good enough, I am good enough, I am good enough, over and over again, before my body finally gives in to sleep.

Today I start the day anew and instead of two warring sides, I let myself sit empty and sad, because it is close enough to calm. I try to fill in with music and dancing and thoughts of all good things. But good ‘things’ are only temporary, and I know the greatest healing is done from within.

I try to coax her out, to soothe her, but she lives on fear and controls the guts of me. So for now I sit and observe her, one hand always outstretched, lest she decides to join me in living.