Long, long time ago…

Hello friends, it’s been a while since we last spoke, so to say. I hope you are still with me. Let me take you through the last month and why there were no updates on the blog (there will be, again!). It’s going to be a long post, so grab some hot tea, maybe a biscuit and keep on reading. It would make yours truly very happy. Warning: contains dog talk.

When I started this blog, I was hopeful, I could manage this challenge without a break. It did look good for a while and I was on a high, constantly looking for new challenges, looking for content to feed you, dearest readers, with. Reality turned out to be a little different. When I went back to the countryside, a lovely young dog, Dana, was waiting for me. Waiting to be loved, looked after and to be taken out for walks. Boy, we had a good time! I wasn’t happy, when she had to go, I can tell you that. We bonded instantly. She would sleep in my room (a dog in my bedroom? If you had told me that 5 weeks ago, I’d have laughed in your face, snootily telling you, that animals have no place in my room) after we found out, that if she couldn’t be close to me, she would not get any rest, and neither would I. I even allowed her to sit next to me and curl up in my lap on the sofa (on a dog rug, relax, you guys), also something I strictly oppose, normally. She really captured my heart in a beat. We loved relaxing on the sofa, me reading (yay!) and her sleeping or chewing on a ball, after we went out early in the morning and shortly after again, and we always went for really long walks in the afternoon. She doesn’t bark. She loves all other dogs and humans. She is very easy-going.

It wasn’t only a bed of roses. At my best days, I took her outside 8 times, for hours and hours. 8 times! It’s not like I just had to grab her leash and walk out the door. I am currently living on the 4th floor, that’s 74 steps up and down, each time I leave the house. That’s 1184 steps. Add those to 3-4 hours of walking, running and play time and you may easily see, that my two weeks with this beauty, were challenging on a physical level. Dana was very clingy; I learned later, that she was a street dog in Spain, almost dead when she was found, so I guess, it’s natural for her to keep close to those looking after her. That also meant, I couldn’t even pop out to the supermarket for 5 minutes, or go visit the doctor or anything really. It was either, I can take her with me or I am not going. It’s not as fun as it seems. As she slept in my room, I had to adapt to her rhythm, meaning, go to bed at 9pm, get up at 6am latest. She also turned out to be in heat – two day after she arrived here. If you never had a female dog, let me tell you, it’s not an easy time. The best trained dog turns crazy for a couple of weeks, looking for love adventures, demanding to greet and sniff every single dog around and they also leave blood trails on the floor. Lots and lots of blood. Where before she could be off the leash, running around freely and listening to me yelling at her to come, she then would run away, not listen to anything, the leash was her most favourite enemy, she started to hunt ducks and the flat looked as if I had slaughtered a cow and garnished the scenery with piles of fur. Two challenging weeks, I tell you. Physically and mentally.

But, yours truly hasn’t yet learned how to say no, so I agreed to take another dog, Paul, for one week after Dana. I knew Paul from before, and I know he is a handful. What I didn’t know is, that the two dogs, overlapped for a few days, so for a long, LONG weekend, I had two dogs to look after. We are not talking about dogs tinier than a squirrel and almost as deadly, Dana and Paul are both shepherd mixes and over-knee high. And: they fell in love. Don’t tell me dogs don’t fall in love -these two did. Maybe it was due to Dana being in heat and Paul not having lived with another dog ever, but they were inseparable. They did everything together. And made twice the mess. Paul is a handful himself. He is hard to take for a walk, as he thinks he’s the alpha male from the block (bow to me, puny insect dogs – you get the idea) and never plays with other dogs, there’s only growling, barking, teeth and dominant behaviour. Not something I would accept from my own dog, but I am just the sitter. He also doesn’t listen, so you can’t take him off the leash, ever. With that in mind, you will maybe understand, that for these 3 days I had both of them, I went outside with them at 6am, after 7pm, and somewhere very isolated during the day. Even with all precautions, there were some incidents. Paul decided chasing joggers is totally awesome, you guys, and hunted them down, never biting of course, but barking and testing my nerves. He also loves chasing down bikes, cars, ducks, swans, squirrels, cats and pigeons. Basically, walking with him means, being on the lookout constantly for anything: dogs, other animals, humans, bikes, balls, cars and joggers. Something quite enjoyable like a walk in the sunshine turned to a nightmare very quickly. He was so jealous of other dogs, that when his beloved Dana, still under the influence of hormones from the heat, would merely look at another dog, he started barking, behaving like the big bad wolf, posing as the deadliest alpha around, when he normally is the sweetest dog. Dana was very slutty, in his eyes – to be honest, I can’t blame him. But that’s nature, what do you want to do. After one day of having them both, I was a snap with a finger away from breaking down.

It’s not only the dogs’ fault. 5 days before Paul arrived, I ran out of my antidepressants, both of them. I tried to organize a new prescription, but I couldn’t take Dana with me to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy insisted on a prescription. My lovely sister jumped in and ordered them from her office, but they only arrived a week later. I stupidly thought what’s 9 days without, I’ll just take them when they arrive, no biggie. Well, I was wrong. I couldn’t sleep, I was on the verge of crying for the smallest things, my nerves were all on the edge, I behaved aggressive, irrational and with a bad temper. I suddenly felt again, what I haven’t felt in some months before. I felt alone, miserable, desperate, hopeless and exhausted. My body reacted with withdrawal symptoms and a roller coaster ride doesn’t nearly describe, what was going on with me. Two dogs behaving like the little missy and mister above are tough to handle for anyone. For me in that situation with all of these emotions it was almost unmanageable.

When Dana left, Paul alone was better to handle, but I was so exhausted, sad and an emotional wreck, that I didn’t enjoy that one week a lot. And that was the week leading to my birthday, my 30th birthday, to be precise. I was in no mood to celebrate. I never am in the mood to celebrate my birthday, let alone the big 30. I once jumped over my own shadow and thought it’d be nice to celebrate with some friends in an attempt to battle the early outbreak of depression and symptoms of being burned out. In my eyes, it was a disaster. There was no real party mood, most guests kept to themselves and left early, it was stressful for me to be the party rocket, I expected of me to be everywhere, doing everything. Afterwards I pretty much felt ashamed for that disaster of an evening and vowed to never, ever have a birthday party again. This time, I was in a different situation. Pretty much all the people I like to have around me, live in the city. Or in another country. Or on another continent. I never even thought of hosting a party, due to that. To be honest, that was a relief. (Although, in a weak moment, I once thought about gathering all my dears for a little get together, when this journey towards getting better is almost over. But that is way in the future.) And you will laugh, when you hear, that on the big day, after a great brunch, I was so eased, that I thought, it would have been nice to see at least some of my friends. On the afternoon of said day, I was quickly convinced of the opposite. You will hear about why in a bit.

Time for a break. Stretch those legs, refill your cup, ramble about my ramblings, but then do come back. I’ll be waiting. Ready again? Me too.

There is one element to living on the countryside again, that I think I haven’t told you about yet. It not only means to no longer live in the hectic city, it also means, that I am way closer (distance-wise) to my family again, than I have been in over 11 years now. I had good reasons to pack my bags after school and move to the furthest city away, while still staying in the same country. In the first years after moving out, I did my best to break off contact with some of my family (successfully), I started caring for myself instead for everyone else (being far away and not hearing about new drama helps a lot with that) and I even started bonding with some parts of my family again, after a few years. Now, I am confronted with people I broke off contact, with people I have a very difficult relationship with and people, I am closer to now than ever. All in the perimeter of 50km. My therapist says, that this is or could be the examination for my master’s diploma: to manage to say what I think, to create boundaries, to live like I want and to remain true to what I need in life, what I really want and what I do not want to do, without ‘fleeing’ from this influence, old patterns, the old milieu, like I did with my move far away. I have yet to pass this test.  I had my boyfriend swear he wouldn’t plan a surprise party or anything even remotely festive or anything that would require me to act like someone I am not. I am not ready yet for big outings and I am not strong enough to be true to myself, when something else is expected of me. I was still struggling from the antidepressants’ effects on me, the week before my birthday, I still had Paul to take care of, I was confronted with turning 30 and I was tired. And in the middle of all that, there was my boyfriend and parts of my family, whispering, being all mysterious and making a huge deal. That didn’t help with my relaxation efforts. I grew more nervous with each day until I couldn’t hide it anymore and I took my boyfriend and told him, that whatever they had in mind, it was his responsibility, that I wouldn’t have to do anything I didn’t like, that there was no party, no surprise guests, no nothing, really. Knowing my family, I knew, nothing wasn’t going to fly. I expected the worst, hoped for the best and prepared for ultimate destruction. My destruction.

I won’t bore you with minutely accurate report of what happened that weekend. Instead let me tell you, I had good times, I had exciting times, I had relaxed times (no way, right) and I had really bad times. I had brunch with the only two people on the countryside, that I can call friends, and with my precious – it was very relaxed and it went so well, that I had this little voice in my head, asking me if it wouldn’t have been nice, that all my dear ones could have joined us then? I would have been. Especially because it was the first time, my family accepted my wish for peace and quiet and never even made the attempt to join in. A brunch with friends and only friends! Who knew? I never had a birthday morning so relaxed and  not stressful. In the afternoon however, my family came around for coffee and tea and those two friends insisted on joining us as well, like normal people do, you know. I however, know my family, expected the worst, and warned them, not one, not twice, but three times. I have made the mistake in the past to let anyone of my friends come into contact with a certain family member and I have always regretted it. Badly. This time was no different. During these two hours of coffee and cake I was tenser, than I have been in the last year. Not only, that suddenly the tiny flat was filled with 4 dogs (yes, 4, two of them larger than a grizzly bear), 2 children, 7 adults, the mood was tense, the dog owners didn’t care if their dogs barked their lungs out or completely destroyed my room, everyone was helpless catering themselves, which left me in the unfortunate position of trying to calm the chippy mood, making conversation with my friends to distract them from the family madness, yelling at the dogs, protecting my room, handing out cake, refilling cups and pretending not to see old disputes rising again, not caring where the combatants are or why they are here. Not even on my birthday, my family can pretend to be civilized. In the end, what saved me (or us) were my niece and nephew, asking us to play categories with them. When everyone had left and I went for a walk with Paul and my love, the strain of the day asked for its tribute and I broke into tears.

In many ways, these past weeks were one enormous challenge, with little challenges on the way. When finally both dogs were away and I was alone again, I needed almost 10 days to recover. I felt horrible. I didn’t even think of posting. I am now back in my rhythm and pace. I am having therapy sessions again. And one week ago, when I felt pretty much like my old self again, I learned, that my health insurance, hasn’t paid me since December. For the first time in my life, since I was 15 and earning my own money, I am broke. I owe the bank money and I don’t have any cash, till the insurance pays up. I wanted to recharge the interne stick for a week now, but without money, that is kind of impossible.

So this is why there were no updates, posts or life signs from me for all these long, long weeks. I have missed you, I have missed blogging. Good talk. Let’s speak soon.

PS: I also talked about the challenges vs. posting on the blog with my therapist, and my daily posts will change a little bit for me due to that. It won’t change for you, I promise.

 

 

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.

 

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 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 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 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.