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 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 4 – being alone, doesn’t mean being lonely

Today’s challenge seemed easy, was easy, but is quite a fundamental one for me.

“One is the loneliest number.” I really used to agree with that. I would wait with going out, doing things, starting projects, even food shopping, cooking or cleaning, until anyone would go with me, do the errant with me. Sharing is a beautiful thing, no doubt about that. I still prefer being together with my love instead of being alone. I still love doing things as a couple. But I do not depend on it anymore. During my time at the countryside I lived alone, mainly. I consider this as one of the hardest tests I have ever done. I didn’t fail the test. The first weeks were hard. Lots of knitting, staring at DVD’s, not being able to get up to get a glass of water, no drive to cook a nice meal, if it was only for myself, no strength to clean, shower or do anything really. And the gloomy mood, oh boy! I couldn’t stand myself like this. But after a while my I started doing things on my own. For myself. If I loved food shopping together, it surely couldn’t be so bad when doing it alone? It wasn’t. I had a great experience one day, when I asked a friend, if I could join her while food shopping at a quite exclusive shop. I usually would have grieved the whole time, thinking about my love and how bad it is, to be doing it alone now. None of these thoughts occurred. I really, really enjoyed myself alone, with a friend. The best thing was, that she told me afterwards, how much she realized in that hour, how often she is sad, when she doesn’t share things with her sweetheart, and what a pity that was, since she really enjoyed herself too, that day. And slowly, day by day, I enjoyed doing things on my own more and more. Up to one point where I actually thought “its nice to go on a walk together, but hell, I’d rather be outside alone right now”. That was a bit of a shocker. Time to do a little socializing!

Today I was still upset about my lost files and it took me hours to get up and start the day. Nevertheless, I was determined to go outside, to a home improvement center (my idea of a nightmare) to look at wall colours alone. As this is my idea of a nightmare, I naturally wasted a lot of time preparing breakfast, having a shower and making myself ready. When I was ready to leave the flat, it was almost time for my love to arrive back home. One year ago, I would have waited at home. I would have waited grumpy, and already way too exhausted to go through with the plan. Any minute of a delayed arrived would further challenge my mood and energy. And the trip would have been a disaster. I would have wanted to leave the horror place as soon as possible, without looking at things or being constructive in the slightest. I would have gotten angry at the mass of people. I would have hated every single minute of the journey there. It would have been a complete waste of our time.
I was tempted to wait but I saw the challenge through. I had set my mind on being as independent now as I was at the countryside and I didn’t want myself to get in my way. I went there, I browsed, I took some colour suggestions home, I didn’t get angry. I was very exhausted and tired after just 20 minutes though, but one thing at a time, right? It felt good nevertheless. I wanted to think about a new wall colour, so I went to get some inspiration. I didn’t need anyone to be the driving force, I didn’t need a helping hand. I totally count that as a huge success, even if it’s just going out alone, when I could have gone out with my love. I do believe, that this is also a huge relief for the people close to me, to know, they are not responsible to do the things I want, for me or with me. I will do my projects from now on, although I won’t ever say no to a helping hand. Double the fun!