Day 11 – sunshine and roses

For christmas, I got a little voucher for a hot springs spa. I’ve only been to a hot springs spa once before, two years ago, with a friend, shortly before christmas. It was really nice. So when I opened the voucher, I thought, that this is just what I needed. Maybe one or two days, without worries, sorrows and everyday activities. As one dear friend put it so nicely just a few weeks before: a time-out from working on myself and rebuilding my life. I was expecting to go there either alone or again with a friend. I would have been totally fine with that. Regained independence wise, you know. I was really surprised, when my boyfriend started to look at offers for the weekend and out of the blue suggested, that we go, for two days, spontaneously, together. I was astonished. Thunderstruck. Who are you, and what have you done with my love? It was kind of new for him to be the decisive one, something I always wanted, something that my therapist and I determined to be really important for me. The more decisions I have to make, the more I feel in control, the more I am made to take charge, the more overwhelmed, exhausted and overburdened I feel. But important and conclusive at the same time, which made it almost impossible for my old self to just let go. Sometimes, no matter how strong you are, how controlling you may be, how self-contained you think you are, it is nice to hand over the reins, to feel taken care of, to feel spoiled and treated like someone who matters, whose well-being matters. When my boyfriend and I had some sessions together with my therapist, this was one of the topics I brought forward. I was hoping, he’d understand how important it is for me to have someone determined and equal in my life, to have at least one place, where not everything depended on me. Turns out, he did not only understand, but really thought about it and incorporated my wish into his everyday actions. So much more, than I ever expected. He’s the greatest.  And so he decided and booked a room for us. Just like that. I was happy, but I couldn’t really show it the day before. Depression lies. I was shortly before cancelling, but I managed to gather enough positive energy the day before, and so, off we went.

On the train ride there, I felt really excited, like a little kid, which has to do with the fact, that I was very familiar with the train route. My family lived close to the hot springs spa for a few years when I was very little, but we took that train so often, that I remembered almost everything about it. I pressed my face against the window to not miss the road leading to that small village we lived in and I didn’t. Yay! I have almost only good memories of that place, our family was still intact and relatively happy then. I also saw hares, deers and even a pheasant on the train ride, which furthermore lifted my spirits. I love animals. I love nature. So exciting! Enough about that now, let’s start with the actual blog purpose – the challenges. It won’t surprise you, that this trip challenged me in many ways. To go away for a weekend, to leave my own four walls, is something that still takes courage for me, but it wasn’t as bad this time, I had great, protective company. When exiting the train, I realized we weren’t the only guests that day and time making their way to the hotel, but we decided to walk there, as it was sunny and beautiful and we’d be doing a lot of slacking around in the next days anyway. My old fear of being the last to arrive, to be overreached, to get a worse room, because of the others, to arrive at the spa a few minutes later and to, of course, miss something really huge (please, don’t ask me what huge thing one could be missing out on at a spa) overtook me, and I lamented about it a bit on the way there. It did help, that my boyfriend dismissed these worries and we had a little laugh about it even. When we checked in and went to the room, I was relaxed again, as it was very nice and I felt confident, that we had exactly the room, that was supposed to be ours. Next challenge, bathing suit. I am pretty aware, that amongst us, I probably won’t find a single person really confident with his or her looks in a bathing suit, or even naked. We all have our problem areas and low self-esteem concerning our bodies, so I won’t bore you with a long explanation of why this is difficult for me. Moving on.
The silly girl I am at times, at the moment believes I can only go outside, if wearing make-up. I feel more confident with it, like not giving anyone a point of attack, when seeing my face. I didn’t wear a lot, I am not that silly doh. Once in the hot springs, it took me an hour or so, to let go, but then I felt relaxed and more sure of myself. With a devil-may-care attitude, I washed all of the make-up away and even dived underwater, which makes my hair look very weird and leaves me looking like a poodle, who was out in the rain for hours. How some people manage to look elegant, beautiful and really pretty when swimming or diving is beyond me. Sigh.
For a quick afternoon snack, hotel guests can go to the lobby to have a soup and fruit. When I was there the first time, my friend and I were told, that it was totally acceptable to eat while wearing the bathrobe, the hotel gave to us. This time, no one told us, and my insecurity got the better of me and I wanted to go there fully dressed. In between a hive of half-dressed people in bathrobe, we looked like dorks. Moving on.                                   When we went to dinner, after a really nice, relaxing afternoon, sparkling clean, with elegant clothes and make-up on (me, in case you were wondering) I again felt nervous. Entering a room full of people, where usually all eyes are on you, because, you know, people like to stare, being seated maybe very close to another table or even at a table with someone else, being watched as you sit down, get up again, is usually not my comfort zone. I never can be who I am in these situations. I try to adapt the habits of everyone else, I am afraid to laugh, to talk or to, you know, just sit comfortably on my chair, concentrating on my company. I constantly check the room for everyone else, what they do, if they are not looking at me, if I do a good job of being as pleasant, low-key and as invisible as possible. Also, where would our table be located? I like to sit with a wall or window in my back, I guess that’s because our ancestors had to battle all kinds of wild animals and leaning against a cave wall, usually means, that at least you weren’t going to be attacked from behind. I do not like if my table is located in the middle of the room, next to a pillar (I need space, come one!) or very close to another table. The table we were led to was very close to being perfect. The only thing worth mentioning, challenge wise, that evening, was that you had to get up to the buffet to get your appetizers. Silly as we were, we went to the buffet separately. Not very clever. I managed though. More to come in the next blog entry. Hope you are staying with me.

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Day 10 – the one with the spontaneous get-together

My boyfriend has this one friend, he totally connects with. They play the same instrument, worked in the same orchestra, they have the same hobbies, and they went on a lot of longer and shorter trips together. I really got to know him a little better, when he introduced us to his girlfriend, a truly wonderful girl. Before meeting her, I always thought he was a loudmouth and, you know, a typical guy. But as soon as both of them found their way to each other, things started to change. We went out a few times, had them over for brunch, went to their place – you know how it is. They invited us to their wedding, almost two years ago and it was wonderful. In his speech, the evening before the wedding, he addressed all of his friends and how they all come from different places in his life. Some he knew since kindergarten, some, like my boyfriend, appeared later in his life and that this coincidence developed into beautiful friendships very quickly. Touching stuff, really. It was a really good night for everyone. The wedding itself was gorgeous, great people, great venue, a beautiful bride, a very loving groom, a lot of fun. It was less fun for me than for my love, as I was already rapidly approaching my breakdown and found it hard to socialize with the other guests. I was doing ok the evening before at dinner and later at the hotel bar but on the actual wedding day, my pixie dust for talking to people, feeling comfortable in my own skin, joining in, chattering and enjoying myself was pretty much used up. I stuck to myself mainly and went to bed around midnight. Of course I wish, I had been feeling better that day, but that’s not the point now. I missed or spent a lot of evenings miserable or alone, but no time for feeling sorry for myself.
After the wedding, I didn’t see the both of them for a long time. My boyfriend saw them regularly, but I was spiraling down fast and couldn’t bear the thought of seeing people, going out or doing anything but sitting on the couch, as soon as I got home. After my breakdown and the diagnosis ‘burnout’ it took me over 6 months and 3 months in therapy, to talk to my friends on the phone or managing to meet with people again. And the three-month before starting therapy, I felt worse with each day, needless to say, I stayed at home the whole time, in the dark and grim embrace of depression. Not a lot of people realized, what happened to me (and I didn’t let them in or shared my sickness), and I didn’t even tell my family for three months what was going on. These friends of ours were the only ones, except you, my dear friends who read these sentences now, to step up, go to my love and ask him, what was going on with me. They noticed, I was no longer going out with them and my boyfriend, they noticed, that they hadn’t seen me in months. When asked, he told them.
They reacted with care and well wishes, sent hugs and regards and always made sure to ask how I was, even though we only spoke once on the phone.

My boyfriend had planned to see his friend for some weeks now, and when I was back in the city, he told me about his plans. I was ok with that, it was still very unsure and way in the future, nothing triggered my panic yet. The day after my boyfriend was so sick, he reached said friend and, surprise, surprise, he wasn’t busy and invited him to his house, to meet his baby daughter for the first time. He then simply told me, he needed to get some fresh air today and that he wanted to go visit them. I was not unprepared to that, but boy, was I unprepared! I panicked a little, and started, as I always do, when feeling uncertain or not in control, to clean, vacuum and readying myself. I realize, all this cleaning does sound a bit obsessive, but the vacuuming was absolutely necessary. Truthfully, my flat is not as spotlessly clean as you may think. Shut up, now. There was one thing I wanted to do that day, a challenge or a test of courage, if you so will, and I told my boyfriend, that I wanted to do that first. I am not going to tell you about that test of courage – it went well but it’s private, but afterwards, I felt tired, ready to go home and relax from life. I couldn’t very well back out though, our friends knew of my condition, they looked forward to see me now, that I am much better. A girl’s gotta do, what a girl’s gotta do. The baby girl was adorable, I held her and laughed with her most of the time. I still feel nervous around people, even people I know I like and I know they like me back. I worry too much about my impression, possible topics I could talk about, yadayada. And, I don’t know the both of them really well. I really like them and we always have a good time and connect, but we never talked about ourselves a lot, I know most about them from the stories of my love. So I stuck with the baby mainly, but her mother was very kindly asking me a few questions about how I feel now, and in those minutes, I really let go, opened up and talked a bit. For the rest of the evening I was more relaxed, contributed to the conversation, had a few laughs and – accepted the invitation for dinner, as it was already late. I usually am very, very uncomfortable staying somewhere for more than an hour and spontaneously accepting a dinner invitation, that might take heaven knows how long, is not something I do. For a minute I even regretted it, but it turned out to be really ok. I look forward to seeing them again and I did feel comfortable at their home. I do worry about being boring, having nothing to talk about, being awkward, being just the appendix of my boyfriend or not being accepted or liked or appreciated, but bear with me – I am working on it.

Day 9 – Soft kitty, warm kitty.

I woke up to a quite unusual sound, like a belling call from a stag during rutting season. That couldn’t be it, so I got up to see what lunacy came off in the bathroom. Unfortunately, no stag party (I am easily amused),  it was my love being quite sick. That can only mean one thing. Get the poor thing back into bed, make tea, check for fever, cancel on work and to nurse him to death, or to healthiness, more accurately. Right? RIGHT? That’s what yours truly would have done a year ago. Forget all about my needs, my plans for the day, my own health; basically putting someone else’s needs before mine – even though they did not ask for it. I am not talking about letting the poor thing rot on the sofa, till the suffering becomes too great. I am very caring, let me assure you. Excellent nursing practise was given, no need to file a human rights complaint. I just paused for a minute, after I made tea, got some pretzel sticks, checked for temperature and made sure, he was as comfortable as he could be, regarding the situation. Was it really so easy for me to jump right back into my old patterns? It is a relatively small thing to care and nurse your love for one day, but for me it was a symbol of everything I did and sometimes still do – putting everything and everyone else before myself. At work, I used to take as much responsibility and assignments as I could, when everyone else’s plate was already full. My own plate included, but hey, how can I be regarded as a valuable employee or colleague, if I don’t work my butt off, if I don’t put in as much effort and passion as I can? After work, I went home to take the lead there, too. I was exhausted, but nevertheless, I cleaned, I organised the place, I bought groceries, executed everyday commodities and prepared dinner. Eventually, after dinner, I allowed myself to relax, and that meant going straight to bed. No one demanded of me to take control over everything and manage my life, others lives, work and household. Of course, someone has to do these things, and I am so much more energetic and efficient, no one else can do, what I do, right? I am tremendously valuable. I made myself tremendously valuable to everyone, my family, friends, colleagues. I only felt valuable, if I worked to exhaustion, sometimes, till I heard a ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ – and if that wasn’t the case, I worked harder, longer and busy as a beaver.
Your day is already jam-packed? Of course, I will look after your kids or run some errands for you! Can’t make it to the shops or the post office before they close? Why didn’t you say so earlier, I’d love to do that for you! (No sarcasm, I really loved to do these things – only then I felt loved in return, too). That would have been fine, if not my own day would have been jam-packed already as well. Since years. I never stopped for a second, not realizing how deep my exhaustion went over the years and how automatically I jumped into my pattern of helping, doing things before they even were asked of me, working, cleaning, listening – performing ‘normally’. I never even took my holidays at work – I am way too important and happy to go away!
Those memories came back to me on Day 9. I was determined, to be a good girlfriend, valuable nurse but not to let my love’s sickness interfere what I had planned for the day. He made it relatively easy for me, as he was pretty much passed out the whole day, stayed awake for minutes at tops, just to have a sip of tea, to assure me, that he was alright, needed nothing and was feeling much better already. He made it quite clear to be honest, that he wasn’t a child anymore, was well enough to drink enough fluids and to call or ask for help, if he got worse.
Right, so, there I was. Not really needed. Fighting the impulse to think, I was only a good girlfriend, if I stayed home and forgot about everything else. After I washed the dishes, made the bed – pretty much, did what I could without disturbing my love and what was needed to be done, I was a little restless for a while. What to do, what to do? If you remember, I had made plans, the day before – and that’s what I set out to do. I went to a place, I never go alone. Usually, because I felt like ‘ooooh, but we need to share that experience’, often because I can’t carry all of that junk and always, because I just didn’t go there alone, as the independent being, that I now am. Decisions have to be made together, the tiring journey there, is much more fun together and, after all, it wasn’t just for me, that we had to go there, we needed stuff or inspiration. Are you catching up already? Yes, I am in fact talking about a trip to Ikea. When I got worse and worse, these trips usually were as fun as a ride in hell. Everything about it made me tired, exhausted, cranky, aggressive or desperate. I ended up hating to go there, but, you know, we both back then worked a lot and neither of us had the time or nerve to go alone. Us couples need to stay together, in good times and bad.
I am really relieved, I no longer think that way. I went there, knowing what we needed. Not only was the trip there much shorter and pleasant, than usual, I didn’t feel angry, exhausted or aggressive or overwhelmed for the first time in years. I got my stuff, even walked around and browsed a little and carried everything back home. That part wasn’t so great, as I forgot the real huge bag we have at home and was struggling with carrying 10 kilo on each arm. But I managed. Without desperation, tears or anger. When I arrived home, I was tired, I won’t lie, and I felt pretty much deadly exhausted. But instead of following my usual pattern of nursing, cooking and hovering around like a bumblebee, I sat down, and relaxed, gathering strength again. Honesty, I promised you, though, so, ok, I went grocery shopping that evening and made a meal for myself and my love, but come on, the man was sick! Show some heart, you guys. It could have gone way worse. And he was back on his feet the day after – without my constant nursing. I guess the world does keep on spinning for a day, even without me. Hard to accept, but a good lesson.