Day 18 – under the weather

Challenges, challenges, challenges. This task I dared myself with is beginning to show its true colours. It asks a lot of me, and I am having a bit of a rough time with it. I am feeling a bit under the weather, if I may say so. For day 18, my last day in the city, I therefore cleared my schedule. No reunions, no challenges, no meetings, no appointments, no to-do lists, nothing. Just a full day for me and my love to enjoy. It will soon be time to say our farewells again after all, and that gets harder and harder. We’ve had a lovely breakfast and my boyfriend nipped my upcoming urge to perform in the bud by suggesting to paint a wall in the flat. You remember my tremendous efforts of the last week , right? I was sceptical at first, the weather was fairly nice, and again, my nagging voices told me to go outside, to do something, to earn and achieve. But then I thought, heck why not. I slept terribly the night before, 5 hours at most, and I felt very tired. I felt too tired, to do anything, let alone, painting a wall. I did what I could and then stepped back, to let my boyfriend do his thing. I even fell asleep once shortly, while sitting on the sofa. Me! Falling asleep whilst sitting somewhere! That never happens. Seriously. It never happens. I am usually the kind of person who’s awake after an 18-hour flight, who’s wide awake on the train, the bus, no matter for how long I’ve been awake before. I am a terrible sleeper. I sleep badly in my own bed. I need it to be dark, quiet and to be absolutely undisturbed, to be able to fall asleep. And even then, I wake up a lot with long periods of being unable to fall asleep again. So, for me to fall asleep in the middle of the day, sitting upright, on the verge of painting a wall, was a very, very clear sign that I needed some rest. This tiredness and the lack of sleep actually slowed me down so much, I didn’t even start to think, I should get my lazy butt up and to do some work. Well, I thought it a bit, specially when I watched the wall getting near completion, but I was too tired to do anything. I am not sure if this shameless display of laziness is actually worth mentioning in the same sentence as the word challenge, but it was challenging-ish to, for the first time, not work to exhaustion or doing something I know would make me feel worse. I comforted the nagging voices by telling them, it was his idea to paint today, after all. I told him, I was tired, right? Right. It didn’t help a lot, but it helped a little. And then I went to bed, to try to sleep for real. Without any luck. Apparently, sitting on a sofa, in the middle of a home improvement, accompanied by chaos, is the way to go, sleep wise. Body, you are silly. Mind, shut up, you also are silly.

We had planned to go for dinner in the evening, to celebrate our three wonderful weeks together and to make the farewell easier. I felt so tired, I was shortly before calling the whole thing off. Hunger prevailed, and off we went. It was a nice evening, even though we never made it to the little wine bar I had spotted close to our flat two weeks ago and wanted to check out before I left. I usually am quite good at telling myself what a sour loser I am, that I had so much more planned to achieve and do. Again, my boyfriend provided a great solution to calm myself down, before I could get lost in my depressing thoughts and self-critique, by reminding me, that I still had a lot of packing to do and that the wine bar will most likely still be there, when I return. He is right, of course. And depression lies. Always. One day I will learn to like myself and to be proud of my achievements. Without the friendly reminders and me half-heartedly agreeing with them.

 

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Day 17 – Once more, with feeling

As I will depart from the city soon again, I used day 17 to reflect on my time in the city (again, I know, I know, get a life, girl!) and to meet with my step-dog and his owner. Step-dogs are a thing, you guys. A very nice thing. In this case, his name is Paul, he lives with his owner relatively close to me and we are in love. I used to walk him a few times a week previous to the breakdown and he even spent some weeks in my flat, when his owner was away. I love dogs. I really do. This one is a special case. His owner is a friend of my mom and consulted me with dog questions when she first got him one year and a half ago. So naturally, we bonded (Paul and me) and we met up more often (his owner and me). I didn’t see him at all in the past 9 months, I couldn’t just leave without seeing him once at least. We set up a date for the afternoon. Great incentive for me, to really get up, have a shower and to welcome the day with determination. Although I love that dog, I usually do not feel comfortable enough to sit around at his owner’s place for hours, just chatting. So I was prepared to leave after an hour or so. But guess what, I stayed for almost 3 hours. It was a nice day, we sat on the balcony, the dog was sleeping at my feet, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I didn’t have problems with talking or listening and I even just sat there and listened to the birds. In many ways, the breakdown made me more calm. Inside. I always was more of an introverted person, but I lacked the inner peace and calm. I always counted the seconds, striving to do 100 things at once. This was different, it felt different. That was nice.

When I left, it was almost time for dinner, I love it, when I don’t have much resting time in between reunions (I am totally aware, that this sounds super odd after the first sentence and all that inner peace and rest stuff, but it does make sense to me, just roll with it). I don’t get tempted that way to stay at home. My friend and I treated ourselves to a dim sum feast (I just had breakfast, but I am getting hungry again, just thinking about it) and after dinner, I did something spontaneously. I invited her over to my flat for a night-cap. Just like that! I am getting better at this social stuff! Although I almost fell asleep after the second homemade nut liquor, it was a nice evening. One more day, then it’s back to the countryside-time. I have mixed feelings about this.

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 13 – You know, Bob, a company is like an enormous clock

After having stuffed my belly once more with a great breakfast at the hotel, we made our way to the train, that would lead us back to reality, back to the city. After almost 2 days of relaxing, eating, sleeping, swimming and reading, I felt tired. Not the exhausted kind, just silent, lost in thought and looking out of the window. Again, we’ve managed to spot hares, deer and a pheasant – yay! I apologized for being in-eloquent and tight-lipped to my love. That’s something I would like to learn in the next months, to not apologize for myself. I really mean it, when I apologize for anything. I don’t like that. I feel like I need to apologize, for just being myself that moment. It’s like making an excuse for not being as I think people want to see me that moment. For me it’s a symbol, that I am not yet appreciating who I am, that I am not claiming my space and accepting, that sometimes, it’s totally ok to be silent without people thinking that you are a complete lunatic and a selfish, self-absorbed ignoramus. The fresh air on the way back home cleared my mind and I felt awake and in the moment very soon. The moment I stepped through the door, I was presented with today’s challenge. I started to unpack the carry-on bag, loaded the washing machine, emptied all vanity cases (yes, cases, the man of the house grooms himself, much to my pleasure) and put everything back where it belonged. I had help, of course, don’t get the wrong idea. When my boyfriend then sat down to finish up with some work stuff before leaving tomorrow for a business trip, I still did not pause. I got us new sheets for the bed, hung the blankets out the window, shuffled through the wardrobe and dressers (which I previously had freshly organized and emptied of all unwanted stuff) looking for something to do, clean, organize. I wouldn’t have stopped there, but a friendly intervention of my love made me think. He told me that I was punishing myself for having dared to relax and be lazy for two days, that it was totally ok, to let the weekend end on a recreational note, instead of trying to make up for the time lost. He was quite spot on, although I didn’t see it like that, that moment. I even panicked a little, when I tried to figure out what to do now. Standing still makes me feel useless. As I was very behind on blog entries, I decided to post something. I just finished with the second entry, when I realized, that I had replaced cleaning, keeping busy and performing like a clockwork with frenetically writing down words, trying to write as many entries as possible. That’s when I really realized what was going on. That urge to prove myself, to achieve as much as possible, to work, work, work till its time to go to bed, is really a bitch to control. Sometimes it kicks in without me realizing, sometimes I realize it, but it makes me feel valuable, worthy, important, useful, loved and those emotions are equally hard to battle and to not give in into feeling appreciated. I turned the pc off, sat down and grabbed the nearest book. I am proud to report, that it was so suspenseful, that I didn’t stop, until I finished the last sentence. Even if that meant hours of reading, not preparing dinner and forgetting to drink my tea. Take that, urge to perform. In your face!

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.

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.