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.)

Not the best of weeks

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”

OK, I’m not superhuman.

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.”

A Normal Day at Work

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”

A Tale of Two Chunks of Rock

IMG_2583[1]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”

Checking In – A Marathon Fortnight

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”

Changing My Mind

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”