I’m looking at my diary from April last year. I was preparing to go to India and was nervous as well as excited. It seems a wise friend said this to me: ‘You’re going to go and have the experience of a lifetime and you’re going to come back and tell the tale, whatever it is.’
After a year of disaster and grief, and now with fear of what the future might bring, there are worse approaches to 2020 than a simple commitment to telling the tale ‘whatever it is’.
(Picture is of Changuch, first climbed by Martin Moran in 2009, viewed from just below Longstaff’s Col on Nanda Devi East.)
I tell myself it’s like being California. Being relaxed sunny California hit by an earthquake. There’s little or no warning. The subterranean shift is catastrophic. There is shaking and destruction for an initial few hours; then a brief pause in which I hope it is over. There are the aftershocks that come in waves, but which slowly settle to mere wobbles. Eventually the rubble is still, help has arrived, and the wearying, depressing, hopeful rebuilding can begin.
Somehow an external metaphor helps.
Last week was a really good one. One of the best in my seven years post-breakdown. All was going well: work, relationships, energy levels, happiness, writing.
Then suddenly it wasn’t. Continue reading “Not the best of weeks” →
Because generally I still think that I am. Six years post breakdown I still think the rules don’t apply. And sometimes they don’t: in May I spent three nights in hospital and two days later ran the Edinburgh marathon. (Look how well I bounce back!)
This time it didn’t work that way.
I assumed it would. Last Tuesday when my brain started to shut down, I did the usual things. I fought it. I went to a self-help group. I went for a walk. I tried to notice the sunshine, to feel my feet on the ground. I warned my doctor what was going on. To no avail: cue the pattern she and I know so well. By the time I knew I had no other options I could barely walk. And yet, infinitesimally slowly, I made it to her waiting room, as I always do. Continue reading “OK, I’m not superhuman.” →
Today I didn’t much want to go to work. (Nothing special, I know, bear with me here.) I was tired when my alarm went off, and though I told myself the sky was a glorious blue I didn’t much fancy entering into the day. I’m an introvert, and being in an open plan office wasn’t what I most desired. I’m trying to finish a novel and working today would get in the way.
Obviously, I got up and I went to work. This stuff is just normal, like I said. But, actually, just normal is a luxury.
The last 5 years when I’ve been fighting to continue working I’ve wondered almost daily whether I was just being lazy, whether what I was experiencing was what everyone experienced when they fancied a day off and at home, when they were a bit unsure of themselves before a big meeting, when they had better things to do. Continue reading “A Normal Day at Work” →
Here they are.
The purple one was given to me three years ago in a dusty basement room in Marylebone, where I sat, shaking and crying. I imagine it had once been owned by a child and discarded. It is pretty, but small and nondescript, the sort of trinket that gets thrown away. I imagine that that child was the son of the elderly man who handed the rock solemnly to me. I have no idea where in the world it came from first of all.
The white one I picked up on the Aiguille des Petits Charmoz above Chamonix, in the middle of last week. It had been released by rock fall, probably never before touched by a human hand. I know its heritage as a trinket precisely. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Chunks of Rock” →
I have said this before: I thought I’d got through the hospital phase of my recovery, and then I discovered that wasn’t true.
It happened again.
A fortnight ago I allowed myself to get tired from working too many hours, under too much pressure, with too much travel, and then I followed that up with a weekend of activities which pressed a number of my PTSD buttons.
The following Monday I felt largely unaffected, and I was exultant. I knew I’d taken a risk. I thought I’d made it through. (My therapist thought so too. We celebrated.)
Too soon. Continue reading “Checking In – A Marathon Fortnight” →
Yesterday I ran 18 miles without at any point believing I couldn’t do it, wanting to die, screaming at myself in my head for being so utterly fat, unfit, useless and stupid, hitting my legs in a bid to go faster, denying myself food and water as some sort of punishment for not running well enough.
This, my friends, is noteworthy, because all of that was normal to me every time I ran. Absolutely every time.
I kept running for all those years. Of course I did; I’m bloody-minded like that. But it always involved that constant self-inflected brutality, which is to say it wasn’t very nice.
I thought that was the only way running could be, and I couldn’t understand how other people could run so well with that going on; it didn’t occur to me that their minds were different. Continue reading “Changing My Mind” →
Just less than a year ago I wrote that there were bright spells in my life and that I was slowly beginning to function more reliably again. That progress has continued. Here’s where we are today.
Most of all I am glad now that I am alive.
Stop there. Let’s say that again. I am glad that I am alive.
(Early on my therapist said his job was ‘to keep you alive until you can make the decision to do that yourself’. By that criterion his job is well done.)
But there is more: I also want to be happy. That’s a feeling that is entirely new to me; since my teens all I’ve wanted is to be numb or full of adrenalin. Now I want a calm, contented happiness.
It’s even been a while since my head told me that I wanted to die. Yes, I learned to stop listening to that voice a long time ago; that’s a necessity if you’re to survive the worst of depression. So I wasn’t listening, but until recently it carried on insisting, and that’s not a great voice to live with every day. Now it’s gone.
And there are other things.
Continue reading “Chance of Sunshine: 70%” →
…copied across from FB:
In the spirit that has become so important to me of revealing what it’s like, here are ten things I did without effort before 9 am today that depression didn’t allow me to do at all:
- Have a shower.
- Clean my teeth.
- Choose clothes that go together as an outfit.
- Wear a formal dress and tights to work not warm comfortable yoga pants.
- Text a friend to ask how she’s getting on. Care about the answer.
- Take the right quantity of my pills – neither forgotten, nor self-medicating by doubling the dose.
- Stick with the morning’s work meetings rather than cancelling at the last minute with a flimsy excuse I then feel guilty about all today.
- Be fairly confident I’ll get through the day without desperation and tears.
- Check my emails without fear.
- Get to work on time.
Point of clarity: I’m not here harking back to the period of my deepest depression – then I was in hospital, unable to move. I’m talking about the point four years into my treatment when I was back at work and the outward appearance was pretty good.
This was what I fought with when people around me thought I was doing well.
It took all my energy to try and fail to do those simple things.
That’s worth remembering when you hear that someone you know is struggling with depression. That’s the sort of thing they’re likely to be fighting against.
But it changes; we get well. The world has not changed to allow me to do before 9am simple things I couldn’t do at all a couple of years ago. Instead, with a lot of effort and help, pills and therapy, tears and screams, time, my brain has changed. Life is basically good. ‘Tis a miracle. A miracle.
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In the year before I broke down I was thinner than I am now. Noticeably so, as far as I am concerned. I have clothes from that period that I don’t throw away. They hold in my mind all that I remember as good. I was thin (people commented on it). I was carefree, professionally successful, and impressing people with my achievements.
I was also suicidal, but denied that even to myself. I would joke that I’d wanted to walk under a bus to avoid having to go to work. I never noticed that that being true was a problem. I flipped between personality states: the depressed, crying myself to sleep every night, and the party animal, drinking champagne out of the bottle on the dance floor long after midnight and being first into work the next day. Continue reading “Slim Hope of Perfection” →