Day 19 – there and back again

It is time to go back. Back to the countryside, to concentrate on getting better, to resume therapy, to learn how to be with myself, how to be myself and to identify where this journey will lead me. As nice as the past three weeks were and as hard it is for me to leave now, I do look forward to a few things in my voluntary exile. I do already miss things from the city though. Balancing these two lives will be my challenge for the future. Or maybe just bringing the countryside into the city. Time will tell.

After I had breakfast and stuffed the last things into my already filled suitcase, I went to the station, said my good-byes to my love and expected a tiring, long journey ahead of me. When someone sat down on the empty seat next to me, my spirits hit the bottom. No, no, no, that was not how I wanted to spend the next 7 hours! I had two choices: to do, what I always do and get cranky, angry, desperate, counting every minute and wishing I had more space to myself, or to try and relax and make the best out of things. I chose the second and grabbed a book. OH BOY! I had completely forgotten, how fast time travels, when you are able to read. To be able to read again and to enjoy it, is one of the many things, I am most grateful for, since recovering. And faster than you can say ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious‘ – I had the seat next to me again at my disposal and I rushed through the pages, diving into the story and blocking the world out (thank you, earphones, screw you kid behind me kicking the seat). 7 hours still are a long time and I was happy to get off the train. When I entered the train, the sun was shining and it was spring. When I exited the train, it was raining, it was cold and grey (and it should stay that way for 3 more days, but I didn’t know that yet), but I was in a relatively good mood. Why, you ask me? For the next two weeks I will take care of a very cute dog! Her name is Dana, she is 1 1/2 years old – and she belongs to my stepfather’s boyfriend. That is a whole different story.

Fact is, I knew Dana would have been sent to a shelter for two weeks, and I couldn’t let that happen. I met them an hour after arriving by train, usually a very tense situation for me, something I usually avoid completely, this time though, he behaved, and I was soon alone again, with Dana. The challenge for the next days will be to not replace my needs with the dog’s needs. I am not sure, if I went back to an old pattern by agreeing to look after Dana and I do hope very much, that this responsibility isn’t too overwhelming and exhausting for me still. The focus will and should definitely be on myself. Let’s see how I will do!

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Day 16 – an unexpected treasure

Day 16 – time really flies when you’re having fun, or, in my case, a lot to reflect on and even brave the odd challenges along the way. I got up ok, determined to avoid another binge watching incident. I did, what I (now) always do in a situation like this: write a new blog entry (I am still behind!). What followed afterwards was a matter of hours, I kid you not and I will also spare you the technical details, but I managed to salvage some of my lost data. It’s magic! Not really, I used a software, and thankfully, it almost did, what it was supposed to do. I will have to look at each file and reorganise it (400 gb, no biggie), but not now, this task won’t run away. Relatively proud, I walked away from the pc after salvaging a few files, without spending even more hours to organise and browse through everything. Why bother with a gruesome task, when there is so much more to do.

In my case, that was risking another gruesome challenge. I sat down, trying to identify why I didn’t feel as good in the city, as I hoped. It could have been way worse, but also, a bit better. After the excitement of the first few days (home improvement – I definitely need more excitement in my life), I felt like spiraling down, without any means of stopping it. The energy was down, the mood was down, the lust for exploring anything was gone, I went to the great outdoors only three times in three weeks, I didn’t sleep as well, I made myself a smoothie only once (once – in three weeks, when it previously was a daily thing), I felt exhausted once again, desperate, sad and depressed at times. Even though I had my little book full of challenges, things to do, places to visit and so on, I never even picked it up anymore, everything seemed too hard, too much effort and to scary. Time to meditate on that. Without the actual meditating – laying down on the sofa serves me just as well.

Some people may find an epiphany through meditating – I didn’t. But I compared my days on the countryside with my days in the city and realized a few things. The city, my own flat, my friends, my love, my family distracted me a bit. A distraction I don’t have at the countryside as much. That’s not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, I went to the city as some kind of holiday and trying out new things, to reconnect with my loved ones and that’s what I did, mostly. I meant, that having these many distractions and temptations at once, is still too overwhelming for me. It showed me, that I am not ready yet, to throw myself into the hectic life. I am not yet as well as I can and will be and I am not able yet to look after my own needs in a more hectic surrounding. I still need the quiet and alone time to be able to put myself first. I still lack interests, stuff to do, things that keep me busy. In those moments, when I felt lost, I didn’t know what to do and I looked for comfort in what I knew to have worked in the past, to silence the inner nagging voice: improving the flat, cleaning, organising, watching tv, playing games. Basically doing and thinking about anything else, than me. I didn’t actually watch tv or played a game, but the temptation was there. It could have been so easy to just let it all slide and retreat to a world without challenges, without having to work on myself. There’s a few things I can’t quite put my finger on. I get up more easily at the country side. It’s easier for me to make a smoothie, have a nice breakfast, to ready myself for the day, to go out, do some grocery shopping, to have a walk. That last one is no shocker, there is nature everywhere basically. I have more energy, at least it feels like it. I think in a way, I feel safer. Of course, spontaneously booking that yoga course or talking to people, really talking to people, is still a problem for me, even at the country side. If you, dearest readers, have any input for me on that matter, please, feel free to contact me privately or share here. Many brains think better than just one.

Still some work to do! I am looking forward to what it feels like at the end of the rainbow. I aim to think about my fulfilled desires, how it will feel, not the hard, rocky way to reach them. Feel free to remind me of that, sometimes.

Day 15 – The cake is no lie.

When I woke up in the morning of day 15, I thought to myself: ‘today, my dear, today, we’re going to outsmart myself”. Don’t worry about the pluralis majestatis, I haven’t lost my mind. Yet. Neither did I acquire servants and fortune over night (damn). But when trying to achieve something and pull yourself together, you’d best address all of your inner selves. I grabbed my phone first thing in the morning to set up a lunch date with a very dear friend. Luckily, she said yes. Timing couldn’t have been better! Second thing I did, was to call another dear friend, who honored me, when she asked me to be her first child’s godmother. And what an adorable child that is. I suggested a walk in the sun in the afternoon, and again, fortune was good to me. Booyah! That’s one challenge down. Not the actual meeting my friends, but the effort it takes me, after a black day, to outsmart myself and set goals or meetings up, that I can’t or won’t cancel. Instead of comfortably sitting around in the morning, waiting for what today would bring or to look at my list, I chose the one thing, that asked a little more of me. Going out, meeting friends, talking, interacting, laughing – and eating cake. That last one was a lie. I do like cake. And the one we shared was exquisite. We as in me and my friend, not as in me, myself and I, doh.

It took me a little longer than anticipated to ready myself for going out. I wanted to wear something comfortable, something nice, that provides me with security and confidence. Well, to spare you the story, I found something like that. It took a while. With my battle outfit and edgy, classic and totally non-synchronous eyeliner on, I left home, already late. We were supposed to go to a new restaurant, that turned out to be so popular, that we couldn’t get a seat there. Another challenge for me. Deviations from a plan. Adjusting to be spontaneous. To resign myself to find another place. The horror, the horror. But as I told you previously, I am getting way better at that. Today’s city girl knows just what to do in a situation like this: google. I found some good options nearby, and guess what, we picked the absolute best one. When we arrived there, however, it was full, too, but we were told that a table would be ready any minute. We waited in the entrance area – totally awkward, I know, but I managed. It’s always better with a confident friend at my side. Or just a friend. It’s always easier if I am not alone. We had the best lunch ever. Light, delicious, satisfying, beautiful and clever – just like the company.

After lunch, yet another great time with my friend and a full stomach I made myself on the way to the palace park nearby. I outsmart myself again, by asking to meet my friend right after lunch. If I went home first, I usually find it extra hard to leave again. I know, I know. Get off my back, nagging voices! That’s a challenge for another day.
My friend and her daughter waited for me at the entrance and we strolled around a bit. Out of the blue, yet another challenge arrived. We were approached by a group of strangers, nice looking people, not scary ones. I’d probably have kicked them, if they seemed scary, but instead, I decided, to not stand back and let my friend handle them, I took the lead. I am getting good at this, at least when accompanied by my trusted bodyguard – a cute baby. They were playing a game, where they were supposed to exchange random things with random things of strangers. All I could find, was a pencil, that I exchanged with some pastry. Win. Apparently what I wrote on day 13 didn’t really sink in yet. I again apologized mid-talk to be chatting about my spa weekend and everything for what felt like ages to me. I still do not trust the people around me, to decide for themselves, if they are ‘happy’ with me. I still try to make myself as acceptable as possible. Failed that challenge. To reward ourselves after the tiring hike (I am joking, just in case you couldn’t tell) we went to a really great coffee place, that my friend suggested. Oh boy, oh boy. They had cakes! We shared a piece, we are not insatiable. My little godchild got a little cranky towards the end, so we went to say our goodbyes, extra hard, when the baby in question is super cute. As is her mother. Oh my!

I went home, even made myself dinner and went to bed with a book. Not bad, what do you think?

Day 8 – is staying in really the new going out?

Yesterday was a bit of an up and down rollercoaster. I had made plans, thought of challenges the evening before and was determined to see them through. When I woke up, I sensed, that something was wrong. I slept way longer than usual, yet I felt incredibly tired and was unable to get up. It took me almost an hour, to put both my feet on the ground and to take a step. Not to worry, I said to myself, this is nothing, you didn’t sleep well, just go easy on yourself, you are not late for anything. Well, it didn’t get better. I felt frustrated, I tried to find out what it was, that has changed, since I arrived in the city. My usual drive, motivation, positivity, reliance, strength and relaxed manner seemed to have gone down, down, down since two weeks. That’s pretty unfair, don’t you think? I already had all of them again in my life, so what the hell is happening? I couldn’t find an answer and felt very sad, helpless and depressed, so I reached out to my therapist, whom I consider to be very wise and always really helpful. After our talk on the phone, I felt a bit better. It was already late in the afternoon and I was tempted, ooh, so tempted to just call it a day and stay comfortably at home. My inner chicken though, let me down. And so I gathered all my remaining confidence and courage and went outside.

Sunshine, warmth and spring welcomed me with open arms and I was very happy to have managed to leave my fortress of solitude. Instead of taking a long errant trip, I decided to just walk down a street and see what I’d find. Well, that is half a lie, actually. It was 4 pm already and I haven’t had a bite to eat yet. The girl of today knows what to do: google. You see, I had my mind half made up on the route, but then, fate intervened. I stumbled across a wall colour store – and went inside! Alone. With just half a plan and maybe a colour in mind. Half an hour later, with less money in my pockets and two really heavy bags to carry I stood outside the shop and marveled about what just happened. Not only did I go into a shop that was unbeknownst to me, I went there alone, spontaneously, I talked to the sales assistants (yes, plural, because one is not enough challenging and able to tell me what shade of grey looks warm or cold) and I even bought something. Without lamenting the loss of money or questioning my decision. (That’s no longer true, I am afraid, now that the colour is sitting in front of me, waiting to be applied to the wall, I dare not to open the lid. What if…!). And yet again, I changed my plan and went home directly to unload the bags. I still felt hungry, but in no mood, to cook something. I went outside again and sat down at a near restaurant. Alone, without my phone (it’s a trick you see, my phone works as a shield for me a lot of the times) and no occupation whatsoever. I had a small bite to eat, watched the sun go down and went home. Writing all of this down, just reminded me and showed me what a great challenge that day had been and how positive the outcome was. Thanks blog, thanks inner chicken – you made it work in the end. I didn’t do what I set out to do and I had no energy to move a muscle, let alone cook dinner, after that short afternoon, but it was fine. I was fine with it. I even was fine with me watching a couple of episodes of a tv show, because I had no energy for anything else. I bought a wall colour, had a drink and a falafel sandwich, what more do I want? It’s the little things on days like these that challenge me, and sometimes, its stuff, that used to be really easy for me in the past or was beginning to get easier for me in the last months. I am moving forward, nevertheless, one step at a time.

Day 7 – Reunions, ice-cream and family

Yesterday wasn’t a good day, challenge wise. It was a really good day for many other things. There’s a little voice inside me, nagging, that I wasn’t able to provide you all and myself with a worthy challenge for Day 7 – the end of week 1. One quarter, you guys. We are getting somewhere. And although I can’t tell you about a great, soul-searching, fear confronting challenge today, I still very much liked my day yesterday. Let’s say, I celebrated week 1, ok? There was ice-cream.

I am a little shy. I am not warming up easily and talking to strangers or people I hardly know is a big deal for me. Before the breakdown, I met my people regularly, with joy, for hours. I wasn’t afraid of strangers, friends of friends, colleagues at university. Although, that all changed in the past years, I am working my way up to the top again. In all these regards and many more. For someone, who has great friends, that take pride in being my friend, following my journey and helping me through it all with calls, comments and text messages, it may seem odd, but I am not seeing a lot of people these days. Until 2 weeks ago, I only had visited one friend at the countryside, maybe 4 or 5 times. In the course of over 8 months. I kept in touch as well as I could, but picking up the phone, sending a reply or writing an e-mail, was an intractable task. I wanted to, but I didn’t have the strength. I came to the city almost 11 days ago, filled with energy, strength, plans, challenges, tasks. And the joy of what it meant for me to see a few of my best friends. I met the first one on sunday. And even that reunion wasn’t something I made happen. It was a surprising coincidence. Get a grip, you say? You want to see your friends, don’t you? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. I want to, I am looking forward to and I can’t wait. What makes it a little hard for me to go through with that plan, is myself. My need to be perfect. My overwhelming tiredness, when presented with a challenge, may it only be to shower, get dressed and meet someone. My own 4 walls, that provide so much security for me. And my inner chicken.

Yesterday, I met 3 people. 3 people! High-five, or rather, high-three! I had an amazing lunch date with an even more amazing friend, that was everything: funny, deep, delicious, joyous, easy-going, relaxing, profound. As if I’d never have left the city for almost 8 months now, we connected, shared, laughed. And I extended the invitation. Booyah! Afterwards, I felt like sitting in the sun for a little while, but when I called my granny to let her know, I was going to arrive a little late, my beloved cousin took over the phone and told me, he was at her place too, skipping a university class, just to meet me. It was meant as a surprise, and boy, was it a good one. He skipped class. For me. Oh boy, OH BOY.  Needless to say, I hurried there as fast as possible. My gran is that sort of gran, that is incredibly intelligent, in top shape and totally in love with me. She also has the tendency, to rant about everything, mostly my family. None of this, yesterday. She couldn’t have presented me with a more valuable gift. We chatted for over 2 hours about history, books, politics (did I mention, she is close to being 90?) and music. Before the burnout, talking to her was frustrating, depressing and extremely exhausting for me. Yesterday I left, light on my feet, a little tired, as it still is fatiguing for me, to concentrate for a longer period and to follow and focus on people and a conversation, but very relieved and thankful for the pleasant surprise. My cousin and I had some super decadent ice-cream afterwards, (because treat yourself, right?) and I shared the blog and a challenge idea, that includes him. The darling sweetheart that he is, he was excited, interested and agreed instantly. Keep your eyes peeled – you’ll soon know why. I feel like this first day of actually taking the plunge and meeting people, took a lot of pressure and unease off of me and that there are and will be many more reunions soon. I took the first step – all following steps now, will be a lot easier. Also, ice-cream, you guys. Treat yourself.

Day 5 – the great outdoors

I’ve always loved nature. I was born in a city and raised in a city for 4 years, but I actually never really lived in a city until I went to university. I spent years living in the most isolated houses, farms or flats on the countryside, playing with animals, branches and flowers instead of actual toys. I endured grim winters, hot summers and beautiful spring and autumn wherever I was at that time, as long as I could go outside, and by outside I mean taking a step behind the house to find a forest, rivers, mountains, fields or at least a garden, right before my eyes. You see where I am going with this, you clever people you. Once a country girl, always a country girl – nature sticks to you like odor from a horse shed, and if you ever had to clean a barn full of horse poop, you know what I am talking about. When I moved to the city to start my education at university, I was blinded by the abundance a city has to offer. Streets and shops took over my walks in the forest. Meeting at coffee shops and restaurants took over barbecuing outside or just sitting at the river, enjoying the sight. For a brief while I forgot what nature meant to me, how much I missed it in my daily life. I still went outdoors whenever I travelled home, went on a hike or took a bike ride. But that’s not really the same to being outdoors every single day.
In the years, that led to my break down and burnout eventually, where the lurking depression got more and more hold of me, I almost completely lost touch with my inner country girl. And when the big collapse was inevitable, I didn’t have the desire to go out anymore completely, let alone, taking a walk somewhere outdoors. Even when I moved to the countryside again temporarily, the green was not alluring anymore. Sunshine, clouds, water, rain, summer, spring, autumn, were indifferent to me. I felt no joy, when the warm summer air touched my skin, I didn’t even realize it. I still went outside almost every single day, as part of my treatment. One activity each day, no more, no less. That was the deal. So I went outside, without joy, without seeing the beauty, just because I had to. At first, I had a swim, rode a bike, walked a bit, sat at the lake, because I had to. It gave me nothing. Over the course of many months though, something changed. Grass seemed green again, sun was something to look forward to, a swim in the lake had an almost irresistible allure and when I looked around, I realized, that there was reason to smile again, to breathe in deep and to appreciate the peace, quiet and calm of nature. It was great!

I am currently back in the city for a little while. Breathe that air again, see how it feels and to test, how far I have come with my recovery and treatment. At first, I was very energetic and had a lot of drive, similar to the days before. Then, something changed. I felt stressed again, restless, overburdened and almost helpless, as I didn’t know why or how that happened. I still don’t. But I am not giving up like this. Yesterday was a beautiful day. There was sunshine, springy temperatures –  and it was saturday! I took a big leap that morning, when suggesting to my love to go outside to a very big national park like area in our city. For 10 years, I have never set a foot there. Of course not, for a country girl, this is just a park. Silly city people go there, with their hiking shoes and outdoor clothing, pretending they just took a real, challenging hike! As my condition got worse, I never had the will or strength to go there first by public transport, which seemed like a day long assignment (people, hot, sticky, long!) only to walk somewhere with trees and grass, when I didn’t find that any relaxing or beautiful anymore. Hence the leap!
I went there yesterday, and it was really nice. The journey there didn’t take as long as feared, there were only a few people, not the masses of chattering city people I expected. I thought, it was going to be a moderate walk, with maybe one or two little inclines – boy was I wrong. In total, I went up and down 400 meters in altitude difference, walked for more than 12 kilometers. Dressed in a thick, woolen roll-neck sweater, of course, it was supposed to be just a little walk and it was windy outside, ok? Give me a break. What was really wonderful for me to see was, that although I spent close to 6 hours outside, I didn’t feel as if I have missed anything. A year ago, a saturday, would have been THE day, to get as much done as possible. Get up early, clean, organize, do food shopping, have a coffee somewhere, take a stroll along the near farmers market, have breakfast, go to the city and buy something or browse, get home in time for dinner and pretty much afterwards collapse on the nearest sofa. That’s a huge pile of nonsense, of course. I do believe, that you only think, that you are missing out on something, when you fail to enjoy the life you live, when you don’t live the life you want, when you are afraid, that you are always one step behind life. Feel free to remind me of what I said right now, in a year or so, when work has caught up with me again and I forgot about enjoying each moment, as it comes. Which will hopefully not happen. Close to the flat, I ran into our neighbour, who has been living next door with his girlfriend for 5 years now, and I never was able to take the step and invite them into our home. Yesterday, out of the blue, without weighing pro’s and con’s before, I asked him, if he and his girlfriend would like to come over sometime next week, for some table top games and talks. Just like that. He said yes, and I am already nervous and doing my best to maintain my zen and to fight the urge, that everything has to be perfect, including me. I will let you know, my dearest little army of readers. Have a beautiful sunday and enjoy each minute of it.

PS: It was pointed out to me, that with this blog, I once more fed into my urge to be perfect, successful and to accomplish something. I expected a lot (reader wise, site view wise, writing wise), wanted it to be perfect, only thought of the challenges as topics for the blog, when it originally was intended as some kind of public diary, where I would talk about my challenges for myself, mainly. Instead of writing an entry for day 5 yesterday evening, when I was really tired and exhausted, I chose to blog about it today. One step at a time.