The Flakiness Factor

Amazingly, considering the complete shit-show that has been 2020, I’m exiting the year in a much better place emotionally than I entered it. I mean obviously it’s been stressful and fearful, with month after month of how-long-is-a-piece-of-string extended rules and restrictions ebbing and flowing and effectively keeping us isolated and apart, especially from those we love. And yet somehow I feel that now I’ve got used to this insecure, narrowed, smaller way of living, I find overall it suits me more than it grates on me.

In many ways, internally, life has continued as normal for me. Granted, the external stuff has altered beyond all recognition but the way I feel about it all has not. I’ve struggled for years with ongoing depression, but to be honest that feels much the same to go through whatever the trigger for each difficult episode. Anxiety always gnaws away at me anyway, with or without Covid raising its ugly protein-spiked head, leaving me feeling flaky and fragile more often than not. A lot of the time I just pretend to be OK until eventually I am OK – basically I fake it until I make it.

But this year I’m finding I don’t have to pretend so much any more. External life has slowed down enough, has shrunk enough to fit my personal skin far more comfortably these days. I’m able to truly belong in life in a way I have never felt before. Expectations of excessive extraversion have evaporated, quiet contemplation close to home is the new order, and all is turned on its head as I find my previous weaknesses have become my new strengths. In this topsy-turvy life of lockdowns and limitations, to my surprise I no longer feel quite so flaky.

Of course I’d love to be able to see my family as I choose, and yes it would be nice to be able to go out for dinner now and again, but in 2020 it seems it’s the quiet home birds rather than the usual go-getter party animals who have at last come into their own during this pandemic year. Rather than me always running to try to catch up with the rest of the world, everyone has necessarily slowed down to my pace, and that feels amazingly liberating. My internal reality now rubs along in perfect tandem to my external reality to the extent that those feelings of flakiness have finally fallen away.

I know things won’t stay the same into the future, that as a society we do need to return to some kind of capitalist normality in order to continue to survive as before, but nevertheless there are some things I won’t forget about this year – what is known cannot be unknown, and that experiential knowledge gives me a personal power and a deep-rooted belief in myself that for me willl hopefully over-ride the flakiness factor forever…

Trick Cyclists and Other Balancing Acts

No idea where I’m going with this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday post with the prompt word of ‘trick’ other than steering well clear of all things Halloween.

I also have no idea why we Brits use the rather derogatory slang term ‘trick cyclist’ to refer to a Psychiatrist, but we do! I could always look it up on the internet but where’s the fun in that? Anyway, suffice to say I’ve seen a couple of Trick Cyclists in my time and both have been perfectly non-tricky. Nice guys (not being sexist here – both Psychiatrists whose care I have been under were actually male) who clearly acted and advised with concern and my best interests at heart. Definitely much appreciated.

Sadly I can’t say the same for all the Psychotherapists I’ve seen though – the last one clearly had a narrow agenda all of her own and on our last meeting where I sat silent for the entire hour with tears running down my face in sheer frustration because everything I had said previously had been twisted to suit her preferred pathway of thought, I decided enough was enough and I wasn’t ever going back. It still smarts when I think of it, years later, to have felt so disempowered and disenfranchised and tied up in tight knots by someone who was supposed to be helping me loosen and unravel my long-term mental health issues.

Trying to stabilise and level out my own psychological problems does sometimes feel like a bit of a balancing act though – here I am right now feeling caught in the spotlight of my very own personal circus ring, the rest of the world looking on as I struggle to stay upright and show that I really can do this life thing, watching me fly my freak flag high and keep my multiple plates spinning while constantly adjusting my balance on my rickety old unicycle. A collective sharp intake of breath from the front row as the world watches me fall, then exhales in relief as I pick myself up, dust myself off and get straight back on again.

So these days I am basically my own trick cyclist, allowing everyone else to be able to mutter gratefully under their breath ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ as they leave the tent reassured that thankfully I have finally found the ability to keep my own show on the road and my melancholic monkey-mind under some semblance of control – for now at least… 🙂

Blogging Insights: Distractions

What distracts you from blogging? Apart from family or work what factors or forces prevent you from creating content?

Very timely question from Dr Tanya at Salted Caramel this week. What distracts me most from blogging – and from eveything else that counts as fun in life for that matter – is the infinite black hole of recurring depression.

Chronic depression is (and always has been) without doubt the single most difficult life issue for me, and after the last couple of seriously down weeks where focusing all my efforts on still going to work and otherwise maintaining the basics of life as a priority (cooking, eating, cleaning, keeping the household ticking over, etc.) was the absolute best I could do, I’m beginning to feel it’s time I picked up where I left off and got back to creating some semblance of blogging normality around here.

So I’m going to make a concerted effort to try to join in with some of my usual prompts and challenges over the next couple of days and see how I get on… wish me luck! 🙂

Grey Days Continue

My miserable grey days continue unabated…

For now my inner world is still feeling far too dark and tearful for comfort, but I do try to find life’s fragrant roses amongst the world’s abundant thorns wherever I can to remind myself never to lose hope that better days are always possible…

Ironically yesterday was the 2020 World Mental Health Day and I meant to post something poignant to mark the occasion, but sadly my non-motivated despressive mood means I didn’t quite get there after all…

Life lived closed down on autopilot can only take me so far…

Breathing Space

Think it’s time that my blog took a rest

Gave me breathing space, that would be best

Just a short blogging break

For my sanity’s sake

Till I’m not feeling quite so depressed…

Today is a New Day

Reflecting on my life experience always tells me a lot of things. Right now it tells me not to worry too much when I have a down day or two, or three or four or even more, because I know that this too shall pass – and sure enough, so far it always has done. Thankfully this miserable depression I struggle with never lasts for too long these days, and even when it does linger more than I would like I understand enough of life to know that now is not forever.

Understanding my life experience allows me just to sit tight and breathe my way through the dismal down days, to distract myself by looking for the inherent beauty in the natural world around me. On closer inspection even the simplest of red flowers in my conservatory where I sit shows such beautiful dark rivulets delicately threading the back of its throat, its finely-veined petals gently flushed with the deepest pink shading as if its life-blood also pumps through a vibrant beating heart. I listen intently until I almost hear its heartbeat mirror my own, and I feel strangely comforted.

Nothing in life is ever as simple as it seems, things are rarely starkly black or white, good or bad, and nuance colours us in a variety of shades with each hue bringing its own specific spectrum of understanding to our lives. I feel blue at times and I see red at other times, I have dark moods and bright moments and very occasionally find myself bathed in glorious rainbows of hopefulness. But however much I stumble or falter along the way in times of darkness, I always know I’m travelling along the right road and my still-beating heart, fragile as a flower, tells me I’m doing just fine… 🙂

Weekly Prompt: Reflections

Brightening my Day

We’ve just had Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020) and I’m very aware that my mental health is not great just now.

My motivation for doing anything much, in tandem with my melancholy mood, has been pretty low lately. I’ve been pushing myself to do ‘fun’ things to try to force myself out of it, bringing temporary relief at times but overall I feel I’m failing miserably at keeping my head above water. So while the weather is nice today I’m simply spending time pottering about aimlessly in the garden, letting go of the stranglehold grip on my own feelings and just letting the colours and smells and sounds of nature work their magic on me.

We had a lot of rain over the last week so all the flowers are looking bright and plump and the foliage is a really rich green; everything looks sated and content. I notice the old roses I cut back so drastically before the winter are finally starting to bud, and I’m relieved to see the large fuchsia bush by the gate I also hard-pruned almost to the ground is filling out nicely. Not having killed off either the fuchsia or the roses the first year we live here is certainly a good reason to bring a soft smile to my face.

As well as the ‘frequent flyer’ wood pigeons, seagulls and crows never far from sight we also have several blackbirds visiting regularly, the drab brown understated females as well as the striking black males with their orange beaks. And for the past couple of days I’ve also seen a few delicately-tinted blue tits flitting about hither and thither, pale yellow breasts and soft blue backs catching the sunlight as they dart about. Learning anew to recognise some of the childhood birds I now see regularly again makes me smile a little, too.

So in a week where I’ve been struggling to smile much at all without frantically forcing it through sheer willpower and definace against the lingering lure of depression, today I’m finding surprising solace in my garden by simply letting myself be – allowing myself to feel down when I feel down, and in turn feeling powerfully rewarded by the magic of nature’s own remedy helping to brighten my day.

Weekly Smile

Anxiety, Boredom and Creative Doom

Day 53 of lockdown, and I’m having a crap day. I just can’t be bloody bothered to try to be anything other than meh. My anxiety levels are simmering at just below screaming, my brain is bored of nothing but the same old, same old, day in, day out. And my motivation to be creative, which has been faltering fast lately, seems to have flat-lined completely.

So far today I’ve showered and washed my hair, I’ve done a load of washing and have hung it outside on the line, and I’ve tried to generate enough enthusiasm to take some photographs of a vase of flowers but honestly, my heart is just not in it today. I can’t even find the emotional wherewithal to go out for a walk, and that’s almost unheard of for me.

Do I wanna read? Nope. Do I wanna cook something nice? Nope. Do I just wanna sit here and stew in my own juice? Um… no, not really, but it’s what I seem to be doing. Enough already with the lockdown limbo blues, I’ve got no business feeling so down. Thankfully no-one I love has even caught coronavirus never mind died from it. Things could be so much worse.

But yet I feel increasingly dissatisfied, frustrated, tearful, angry, and on top of all of those feelings I feel guilty for struggling so much with having to spend a few measly weeks at home. In the grander scheme of things I know it’s really not such a lot to ask, but oh, how I want it to end soon. A month I was prepared for, even six weeks at a push. But two months feels like too much.

Physically I feel fine, mentally, not so great. Too much time to think with nowhere to go to get away from myself. No daily distractions from my depressive demons. Nothing to mask my melancholy misery. Just full-on me, annoying and irritating myself, getting in my own face 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m holding on so far, but for how much longer… who knows 😦

Tipping Point

Most of the time, me and depression have a long-standing uneasy truce. I recognise it, respect its existence, but in general I try to keep my most erratic errant emotions in check using all the coping mechanisms and other psychological tricks of the trade I’ve learned over a lifetime of mental confusion and distress.

Mapped out mathematically, graphically on an x and y axis of up-and-down emotion to linear time, life for me to date has been a parabolic undulation of relative highs and lows in perpetuity, a never-ending oscillating sine wave of sentient surfing. And as with real surfing it’s all about maintaining balance, and when I do fall off, keeping my wits about me and my head above water for the duration.

So on the surface I go about life as normal as it can be, getting on, getting everyday things done quietly and slowly, not making a fuss or drawing attention to myself but looking the part. I enjoy these good times, when life feels easy and I’m on top of the world. But there’s inevitably a point where I feel myself start to wobble, when I feel myself having to fight frantically just to continue to keep myself upright.

This is my own personal tipping point in life. Sometimes I can manage successfully to right my balance and stabilise my sure footing all by myself – hoorah, misery averted! But at other times I know there’s no stopping my roller-coaster crashing descent into darkness, gulping and gasping for air in drowning desperation.

These days I find that once I’m falling, it’s easier if I stop fighting and flailing. I feel a rush of relief and release from all that steely tension, then nothing. I simply let my body go with the flow, let my mind drift, metaphorically hold my breath and trust in life on autopilot to take me back up to the surface again when the time is right.

I’m feeling the same thing right now, five weeks into lockdown limbo. I began it all as positively as I could in the circumstances, but right now am currently having a huge wobble. My head tells me sensibly this is where we need to be in life just now, but deep down my heart is silently screaming, pounding in panic and pained with antsy anxiety.

I feel myself once more tantalisingly close to my tipping point. I feel myself holding on tight, tense and taut, wavering and waiting to see which way it goes. For now it feels about fifty-fifty, on the absolute cusp, hanging precariously in the balance…

Weekly Prompt: Tipping Point

More Stagnant than Dormant

Of all of the many words I could use to describe my life at the moment, hectic is not one of them. Life for me, as for so many just now, is quiet, on hold, just waiting… too quiet, too much on hold, so that things feel more stagnant than dormant. The days are long, without any real pressure to do anything in particular but frustratingly are neither truly calm nor peaceful. To feel calm and peaceful I would need to be choosing to stay confined at home, choosing not to see my family or friends, choosing to restrict my favoured leisurely wandering and pondering to the recommended walking for exercise.

But then again I know I’m luckier than many: I do have beautiful places nearby to go for walks, I do have a lovely garden to spend time in, I do enjoy my own company and spending time doing my own thing. My husband is still going out to work, so we do still have some semblance of normal routine in all of this, and we also have each other which helps us feel a little less isolated. I can always find little moments of fleeting pleasure throughout the day, little rays of hope, but always behind the glint of sunshine hovers this ominous dark cloud of coronavirus, tainting whatever happiness I can find.

Right now I feel very much like I feel when depression seeps through me, chilling my bones – I carry on with everyday things as far as possible but half-heartedly, heavy-limbed. I find I’m simply going through the motions as best I can, trying to find meaning in my actions and struggling to silence the voice that whispers so seductively ‘What’s the point?’. So I practice telling myself what I tell myself when I feel lost in the midst of depression – just let it be, sit with it and see it though, take comfort in those little moments of sunshine and hold them close because you know that sooner or later the darkness will pass and life will feel better again…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Practice

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Hectic