Day 14 – black monday

I am not really sure what to write. If you were looking for another day full of passed challenges, please come back tomorrow.

Day 14 was a slip. A kind of black day, best to be forgotten soon. It started well, I got up early to wave goodbye to my boyfriend, as he was going away for a 4-day work trip. Made my usual lemon water with honey to start the day and that’s where the up streak ends. I sat down on the sofa and wasn’t able to do anything. I never drank the lemon water and didn’t get up for ages. When desperation started to really kick in, I managed to retrieve my iPad. I thought I’d read a bit or browse. Instead I ended up watching tv shows. Without pause. Binge watching at its finest. Nothing wrong with a day of indulging in meaningless entertainment, you say? I’d agree, if it would’ve been fun to watch the whole day. I wasn’t having fun. Not really anyways. I watched, I didn’t even smile at jokes or cool scenes. As soon as one episode stopped, I started with the next one. And one after that one. I didn’t get up to get some water, or breakfast, lunch or dinner. I was angry at myself, for not at least enjoying a lazy day. I was angry for not looking after my needs. For not going out, proceeding with the good way I am on. For just not managing to break free of this pattern. A nice little spiral downwards, full of dark thoughts. Luckily, I fell asleep around midnight, and day 15 was a way better one.

Bare with me having had a bad day. I do, too. Mind you, I am writing this in a normal mood and after some nice days. I am not looking for sympathy here. I promised to write some kind of journal. In good and in bad days. Today the sun is shining again.

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Day 10 – the one with the spontaneous get-together

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

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

Day 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.)

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!

Day 2 – and now the conclusion

If you made it till the end of today’s post (congratulations, I am happy I didn’t scare you off!) you might realize, that I talked about one of today’s challenges. Challenges. Plural. I initially thought my challenge for today would be something different. But as I wrote about everything that happened after yesterday, I realized, that handling myself in this situation was the actual challenge. As small as it seems to be, trust me, that was my challenge for today. Everything that happened afterwards, was icing on the cake.

In the middle of today I decided to go to a museum. A spontaneous decision. Not exciting enough for you? It was very exciting for me. I don’t do spontaneous. I don’t do museums. I only feel in control, when my day is action packed with activities. I convinced myself, that I was stupid, that I have no interest in culture or knowledge and that an afternoon in a museum is too exhausting and tiring for me. I looked at my little notebook today, a very considerate gift from my sister, that was empty until a week ago. One week ago I furiously began to scribble in said book, I filled 6 pages with mind-maps, activities, to-do’s and possible challenges for the next 40 days. I felt well prepared, organized, structured and ready for the games. I brought the book with me to therapy. And with some help I realized, my anxiety about this mighty task, originated from feeling totally overwhelmed and overburdened by the overabundance. My therapist suggested, that I could just let the world decide each morning, what today’s challenge would be. Being open for all possibilities is a task in itself. Not doing what you usually do requires determination. This morning, I browsed over my thought collection quickly, and decided to do nothing. Later, as I strolled through some random streets, I remembered an exhibition my mum told me about, that didn’t sound overly intellectual or stressful. It took me 40 seconds to find the place of the exhibition with my mobile (technology does have great advantages) and boom – there was the decision! I hesitated a little when I realized how high the admission charge was, but with a friendly little push I even managed that step.

The exhibition is called “Böse Dinge” – evil things, and circles around the topics of aesthetics, taste and misguided taste. It was good fun. I kid you not, I actually laughed through almost the whole exhibition. Let me show you why.

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I do apologize for the quality of the pictures, this is the best my phone could do.

I had a good time there and I didn’t feel intimidated, uninterested or overwhelmed at all. I am high-fiving my inner self right now!