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 12 – sunshine and roses (continued)

The next and last day at the spa went similar to the first one. Some small challenges, a lot of water, sauna, food, and quiet time. It wasn’t as easy for me to let go, relax and be alone with myself as on the first day. I experienced some hours of heavy mood and sulkiness, but I even managed that, with a loving helping hand. I guess, you can’t turn off and on depression as it pleases you. Even in the most wonderful places and circumstances, the embrace of the grey cloud can get its hold over you. It does help me a great deal, that the people around me now know, that this is not a bad temper or foul mood, but a mood change, that I don’t want and often do not know why. Before the breakdown, no spa, no dinner, no nothing had any effect on me, in a positive way. I wouldn’t have appreciated it. I would have stayed at home. And if someone, out of the wish to ‘help’ me and make my day better or life easier, and took me to dinner or somewhere else, I would either have cancelled or not enjoyed it. Before the burnout, if my mood changed, I would pressure myself a lot to ‘get out’ of that mood for the people’s sake, that have to endure this, even though it’s a nice day or what not and they took a great effort to make it a nice activity. That never helped and it got worse and worse, often ended in tears and fights. This time, my love realized something was wrong, asked me, told me, that I didn’t look as relaxed as I was yesterday and if I wanted to talk. It’s these small things, that make it really possible to deal with depression. It took a bit, but after a while, I felt better. I appreciate that a lot. And I love, that I can enjoy beautiful things again. The world is much more beautiful, if it’s not only gray and black.

As I sat in an outdoor hot spring pool, I noticed a couple in my age, that seemed very nice. They would laugh with each other, make funny things, and smile at other guests and seemed to enjoy themselves. Most other couples kept to themselves, did look a bit grumpy and avoided to get in contact with anyone else. Can’t blame them. But at that moment, I was reminded of a really tough challenge for me, a challenge, I really think is quite essential for me. The challenge of talking to strangers, to discard the cloak of invisibility, to melt the ice fortress I built around myself and to set a purposeless conversation in motion. I have tried this with my therapist already. A few months ago, my challenge was to small talk to the bakery lady, the cashier at the supermarket, you catch my drift. Anything, that goes beyond a hello and a grim face. Now, the challenge is a bit more. See if a conversation develops, to take interest in other people and so on. I am way better already at this. If people approach me, I do no longer hurry away or pretend to not have seen or heard them. I can talk and react to other small talk and meaningless conversations. But to initiate a conversation, to get out if my snail-shell and take the risk of actually approaching people, is a major problem for me. And my major, I mean gigantic, enormous, bodacious, humongous, immense. I am going as far as to admit, that I haven’t spoken to a person, that was unbeknownst to me, not even to friends of friends, in many years. I exchanged glances, said hello, introduced myself and would then stick to people I know or myself. Due to depression and the burnout, I can’t even remember, what it is like, to show an interest in other people. My therapist is great that way. When he gave me examples for great questions to ask strangers, I realized, he doesn’t react to people (oh, Italy, that’s nice, I was there once, blabla etc. ) he shows a real interest. He would ask: ‘What did you like in Italy? What made your trip so great? How did you feel, when you arrived there?’ and so on. A totally different approach. I found that pretty interesting and stunning. When I thought I was engaging in a conversation and showing interest, all I did, was to react and talk about my own experiences, to create some kind of relatedness. Showing real interest is something else. Really getting into a conversation is something else. Later that day, I told my love, that I thought, this couple was nice, he agreed, and I secretly thought to myself, that I would try to talk to them. I ran into them 4 times, I never spoke to them, smiled at them or showed them, that I recognized their faces. I kept to myself and pretended they weren’t there. I don’t know what I waited for, maybe a sign, an inviting smile, I don’t know. But I regret, that I didn’t manage to take this huge step, even if it was only to have said ‘Hi, nice weather’. I wasn’t looking for a friendship or anything. I won’t ever be a very outgoing person, and I am not planning to ramble with as many strangers as I can find. But I want to step out of the shadow. Just if approaching strangers serves as a test run for talking to friends of friends, the neighbour girl or that interesting person at the yoga class. Not that I have been to a yoga class. Yet.

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 6 – Sunday, Funday?

Yesterday’s challenge once more showed me what I can do already, and what is still hard or tempting for me.
It’s sunday. The flat is clean, sun is shining, no to-do’s, no commitments – time to unwind. Yours truly felt the hike from the day before a tiny little bit. I decided, that it was a good idea to stay at home, after a week of challenges and many outings. You, my dearest readers, might know me, the real me, so well by now, to realize, that a day without projects, may they be cooking, emptying the cupboard, reorganizing the shelves, planning or plotting anything really, is quite difficult for me. Mainly because I am still in the process of filling the gaps, that have been filled with work previous to the breakdown. You might want to call these gaps hobbies or socializing or going out or anything really. I never liked the word hobby. It sounds like hubby, another word I passionately hate, and for me is linked too much with stuff like model railways, remotely piloted aerial vehicles, embroidery circles or fishing. Brrrrrr. That’s not at all what I am talking about. Interests, however, is a word I can live with – not financially spoken, of course. Although…but that’s a story for another day. When depression slowly embraces you with its dark hug, you lose interest (great word, don’t you agree) in pretty much everything. Not even the basic instruments of survival, eating, drinking and sleeping, are of any interest anymore. That’s not a conscious choice, it happens, without realizing it. You basically don’t say yes to life anymore and everything that is linked with it. Activities are too exhausting, too challenging, too frightening and too useless. I got thirsty, as other people do, but in the worst days leading to and after the breakdown, answering to that primal need, meaning to get up and get a glass of water, was a task, that easily took me 2 hours, or more. It took a few years to get to that point, and in these years, I lost the ability to read, to take photographs, to listen to music, to join a yoga studio, sing in a choir, go out for drinks, kit a hat – you name it, I lost it.
I’ve improved greatly in this regard. Two weeks after christmas, I read my first book in about 4 years. I almost cried. Nonsense, I did cry. And then I started to quench my thirst for more by reading every book, that I got into my hands. Mostly detective stories, I’ve always loved them. And they don’t contain a whole lot of really heart-breaking stories, emotions or sadness – which is really, really good right now. High-five, inner book reading fanatic, we are back! I started to knit again, I cook, I bake, I read, I listen to music, not excessively and only light, easy-going soundtracks, but hey, music! Like books, music was THE part of my life for years. Losing that is like not being able to breathe but there is nothing you can’t do against it. I am grateful and really happy for all these great things, slowly finding their way back into my life.

So there I was, yesterday, without any challenges, jobs to do, or books to read (dumb mistake, I know). I was faced with a day of enduring silence, resisting the urge to keep myself with anything, saying hello to the thoughts, that try to convince me, that I am worthless, if I don’t do anything to justify my existence, if I don’t try to ease the life of those around me, even if they didn’t ask for it, if I don’t make up for imposing myself on someone by being absolutely welcoming, bringing gifts and being the beaming, bright self, that I am not these days. I keep busy, to avoid these lies depression tells me. Big challenge for me. A perfect sunday challenge. After sitting around a little hopeless, with nothing to do, I decided, that some indulgent hours in the bathtub were in order. You know, nothing fancy. Washing my hair, having a face mask, using some bath melts – normal stuff. My lovely friend from the other side of the world reminded me, how important it is, to spoil oneself and to allow someone to spoil yourself. Not an easy task, when your inside screams, that you aren’t worth it, that you don’t deserve to be spoiled, that there are much more important things to do, thoughts to have and plans to be made, that feeling better, relaxing for half an hour, is not something, that should happen to you. Depression wants your life to be misery. In the spirit of challenge, I told my inner voices to shut up and had a bath. Glorious! I would have been quite happy for it to have been my only challenge that day, but life offered me even more.

A friend with a balcony called, inviting myself and my love over to introduce the season of the balcony together. Even though this friend lives basically around the corner, I kid you not, it doesn’t take much more than 50 steps to get there, that’s not something I had intended on doing. Not for the long walk, obviously, or the company (what are you guys thinking!) but for the quite simple task of putting clothes on, making myself presentable and – imposing myself on people. Not to speak of the insecurity, that takes hold of me, when people’s eyes are on me, when I am expected to make conversation, when I should listen and show myself in the best light possible. (Fear not, this will be a thing of the past soon!). My love accepted the invitation, without giving my insecurity enough time to object and so there I was. It took me quite a while to get dressed and ready (hurrying up or being on time is still a struggle), but I went there and what can I say, I had a lovely afternoon. My friend’s sister, one of my closest friends, came over as well and we talked, chatted and even laughed! They both, actually all of you, my dear readers and friends, know about my journey and the state I am currently in, they both have accompanied me through the past year, and they are absolutely great about it. I felt accepted and loved, they were happy to see me, happy that I was there, happy to talk about whatever topic.

Even though, I don’t yet have a life filled with interests I really love doing (hell, I need to find out first, what they are!), I have really good friends. They may be few in number, but each one of them is worth at least 20 of the friends, other people have. I still have to go a long way, to get to know myself, to see who I really am, to accept my strengths and talents and to get really comfortable with myself and to say yes to life, with all its colours. And my friends help me a great deal with this, in their own different ways. I am extremely fortunate to have all of these amazing people in my life. (Although I still struggle to understand why they chose me, me of all people, to be their friend. Someone is going to kick my butt for that sentence.)