Day 19 – there and back again

It is time to go back. Back to the countryside, to concentrate on getting better, to resume therapy, to learn how to be with myself, how to be myself and to identify where this journey will lead me. As nice as the past three weeks were and as hard it is for me to leave now, I do look forward to a few things in my voluntary exile. I do already miss things from the city though. Balancing these two lives will be my challenge for the future. Or maybe just bringing the countryside into the city. Time will tell.

After I had breakfast and stuffed the last things into my already filled suitcase, I went to the station, said my good-byes to my love and expected a tiring, long journey ahead of me. When someone sat down on the empty seat next to me, my spirits hit the bottom. No, no, no, that was not how I wanted to spend the next 7 hours! I had two choices: to do, what I always do and get cranky, angry, desperate, counting every minute and wishing I had more space to myself, or to try and relax and make the best out of things. I chose the second and grabbed a book. OH BOY! I had completely forgotten, how fast time travels, when you are able to read. To be able to read again and to enjoy it, is one of the many things, I am most grateful for, since recovering. And faster than you can say ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious‘ – I had the seat next to me again at my disposal and I rushed through the pages, diving into the story and blocking the world out (thank you, earphones, screw you kid behind me kicking the seat). 7 hours still are a long time and I was happy to get off the train. When I entered the train, the sun was shining and it was spring. When I exited the train, it was raining, it was cold and grey (and it should stay that way for 3 more days, but I didn’t know that yet), but I was in a relatively good mood. Why, you ask me? For the next two weeks I will take care of a very cute dog! Her name is Dana, she is 1 1/2 years old – and she belongs to my stepfather’s boyfriend. That is a whole different story.

Fact is, I knew Dana would have been sent to a shelter for two weeks, and I couldn’t let that happen. I met them an hour after arriving by train, usually a very tense situation for me, something I usually avoid completely, this time though, he behaved, and I was soon alone again, with Dana. The challenge for the next days will be to not replace my needs with the dog’s needs. I am not sure, if I went back to an old pattern by agreeing to look after Dana and I do hope very much, that this responsibility isn’t too overwhelming and exhausting for me still. The focus will and should definitely be on myself. Let’s see how I will do!

Day 9 – Soft kitty, warm kitty.

I woke up to a quite unusual sound, like a belling call from a stag during rutting season. That couldn’t be it, so I got up to see what lunacy came off in the bathroom. Unfortunately, no stag party (I am easily amused),  it was my love being quite sick. That can only mean one thing. Get the poor thing back into bed, make tea, check for fever, cancel on work and to nurse him to death, or to healthiness, more accurately. Right? RIGHT? That’s what yours truly would have done a year ago. Forget all about my needs, my plans for the day, my own health; basically putting someone else’s needs before mine – even though they did not ask for it. I am not talking about letting the poor thing rot on the sofa, till the suffering becomes too great. I am very caring, let me assure you. Excellent nursing practise was given, no need to file a human rights complaint. I just paused for a minute, after I made tea, got some pretzel sticks, checked for temperature and made sure, he was as comfortable as he could be, regarding the situation. Was it really so easy for me to jump right back into my old patterns? It is a relatively small thing to care and nurse your love for one day, but for me it was a symbol of everything I did and sometimes still do – putting everything and everyone else before myself. At work, I used to take as much responsibility and assignments as I could, when everyone else’s plate was already full. My own plate included, but hey, how can I be regarded as a valuable employee or colleague, if I don’t work my butt off, if I don’t put in as much effort and passion as I can? After work, I went home to take the lead there, too. I was exhausted, but nevertheless, I cleaned, I organised the place, I bought groceries, executed everyday commodities and prepared dinner. Eventually, after dinner, I allowed myself to relax, and that meant going straight to bed. No one demanded of me to take control over everything and manage my life, others lives, work and household. Of course, someone has to do these things, and I am so much more energetic and efficient, no one else can do, what I do, right? I am tremendously valuable. I made myself tremendously valuable to everyone, my family, friends, colleagues. I only felt valuable, if I worked to exhaustion, sometimes, till I heard a ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ – and if that wasn’t the case, I worked harder, longer and busy as a beaver.
Your day is already jam-packed? Of course, I will look after your kids or run some errands for you! Can’t make it to the shops or the post office before they close? Why didn’t you say so earlier, I’d love to do that for you! (No sarcasm, I really loved to do these things – only then I felt loved in return, too). That would have been fine, if not my own day would have been jam-packed already as well. Since years. I never stopped for a second, not realizing how deep my exhaustion went over the years and how automatically I jumped into my pattern of helping, doing things before they even were asked of me, working, cleaning, listening – performing ‘normally’. I never even took my holidays at work – I am way too important and happy to go away!
Those memories came back to me on Day 9. I was determined, to be a good girlfriend, valuable nurse but not to let my love’s sickness interfere what I had planned for the day. He made it relatively easy for me, as he was pretty much passed out the whole day, stayed awake for minutes at tops, just to have a sip of tea, to assure me, that he was alright, needed nothing and was feeling much better already. He made it quite clear to be honest, that he wasn’t a child anymore, was well enough to drink enough fluids and to call or ask for help, if he got worse.
Right, so, there I was. Not really needed. Fighting the impulse to think, I was only a good girlfriend, if I stayed home and forgot about everything else. After I washed the dishes, made the bed – pretty much, did what I could without disturbing my love and what was needed to be done, I was a little restless for a while. What to do, what to do? If you remember, I had made plans, the day before – and that’s what I set out to do. I went to a place, I never go alone. Usually, because I felt like ‘ooooh, but we need to share that experience’, often because I can’t carry all of that junk and always, because I just didn’t go there alone, as the independent being, that I now am. Decisions have to be made together, the tiring journey there, is much more fun together and, after all, it wasn’t just for me, that we had to go there, we needed stuff or inspiration. Are you catching up already? Yes, I am in fact talking about a trip to Ikea. When I got worse and worse, these trips usually were as fun as a ride in hell. Everything about it made me tired, exhausted, cranky, aggressive or desperate. I ended up hating to go there, but, you know, we both back then worked a lot and neither of us had the time or nerve to go alone. Us couples need to stay together, in good times and bad.
I am really relieved, I no longer think that way. I went there, knowing what we needed. Not only was the trip there much shorter and pleasant, than usual, I didn’t feel angry, exhausted or aggressive or overwhelmed for the first time in years. I got my stuff, even walked around and browsed a little and carried everything back home. That part wasn’t so great, as I forgot the real huge bag we have at home and was struggling with carrying 10 kilo on each arm. But I managed. Without desperation, tears or anger. When I arrived home, I was tired, I won’t lie, and I felt pretty much deadly exhausted. But instead of following my usual pattern of nursing, cooking and hovering around like a bumblebee, I sat down, and relaxed, gathering strength again. Honesty, I promised you, though, so, ok, I went grocery shopping that evening and made a meal for myself and my love, but come on, the man was sick! Show some heart, you guys. It could have gone way worse. And he was back on his feet the day after – without my constant nursing. I guess the world does keep on spinning for a day, even without me. Hard to accept, but a good lesson.

Day 8 – is staying in really the new going out?

Yesterday was a bit of an up and down rollercoaster. I had made plans, thought of challenges the evening before and was determined to see them through. When I woke up, I sensed, that something was wrong. I slept way longer than usual, yet I felt incredibly tired and was unable to get up. It took me almost an hour, to put both my feet on the ground and to take a step. Not to worry, I said to myself, this is nothing, you didn’t sleep well, just go easy on yourself, you are not late for anything. Well, it didn’t get better. I felt frustrated, I tried to find out what it was, that has changed, since I arrived in the city. My usual drive, motivation, positivity, reliance, strength and relaxed manner seemed to have gone down, down, down since two weeks. That’s pretty unfair, don’t you think? I already had all of them again in my life, so what the hell is happening? I couldn’t find an answer and felt very sad, helpless and depressed, so I reached out to my therapist, whom I consider to be very wise and always really helpful. After our talk on the phone, I felt a bit better. It was already late in the afternoon and I was tempted, ooh, so tempted to just call it a day and stay comfortably at home. My inner chicken though, let me down. And so I gathered all my remaining confidence and courage and went outside.

Sunshine, warmth and spring welcomed me with open arms and I was very happy to have managed to leave my fortress of solitude. Instead of taking a long errant trip, I decided to just walk down a street and see what I’d find. Well, that is half a lie, actually. It was 4 pm already and I haven’t had a bite to eat yet. The girl of today knows what to do: google. You see, I had my mind half made up on the route, but then, fate intervened. I stumbled across a wall colour store – and went inside! Alone. With just half a plan and maybe a colour in mind. Half an hour later, with less money in my pockets and two really heavy bags to carry I stood outside the shop and marveled about what just happened. Not only did I go into a shop that was unbeknownst to me, I went there alone, spontaneously, I talked to the sales assistants (yes, plural, because one is not enough challenging and able to tell me what shade of grey looks warm or cold) and I even bought something. Without lamenting the loss of money or questioning my decision. (That’s no longer true, I am afraid, now that the colour is sitting in front of me, waiting to be applied to the wall, I dare not to open the lid. What if…!). And yet again, I changed my plan and went home directly to unload the bags. I still felt hungry, but in no mood, to cook something. I went outside again and sat down at a near restaurant. Alone, without my phone (it’s a trick you see, my phone works as a shield for me a lot of the times) and no occupation whatsoever. I had a small bite to eat, watched the sun go down and went home. Writing all of this down, just reminded me and showed me what a great challenge that day had been and how positive the outcome was. Thanks blog, thanks inner chicken – you made it work in the end. I didn’t do what I set out to do and I had no energy to move a muscle, let alone cook dinner, after that short afternoon, but it was fine. I was fine with it. I even was fine with me watching a couple of episodes of a tv show, because I had no energy for anything else. I bought a wall colour, had a drink and a falafel sandwich, what more do I want? It’s the little things on days like these that challenge me, and sometimes, its stuff, that used to be really easy for me in the past or was beginning to get easier for me in the last months. I am moving forward, nevertheless, one step at a time.

Day 5 – the great outdoors

I’ve always loved nature. I was born in a city and raised in a city for 4 years, but I actually never really lived in a city until I went to university. I spent years living in the most isolated houses, farms or flats on the countryside, playing with animals, branches and flowers instead of actual toys. I endured grim winters, hot summers and beautiful spring and autumn wherever I was at that time, as long as I could go outside, and by outside I mean taking a step behind the house to find a forest, rivers, mountains, fields or at least a garden, right before my eyes. You see where I am going with this, you clever people you. Once a country girl, always a country girl – nature sticks to you like odor from a horse shed, and if you ever had to clean a barn full of horse poop, you know what I am talking about. When I moved to the city to start my education at university, I was blinded by the abundance a city has to offer. Streets and shops took over my walks in the forest. Meeting at coffee shops and restaurants took over barbecuing outside or just sitting at the river, enjoying the sight. For a brief while I forgot what nature meant to me, how much I missed it in my daily life. I still went outdoors whenever I travelled home, went on a hike or took a bike ride. But that’s not really the same to being outdoors every single day.
In the years, that led to my break down and burnout eventually, where the lurking depression got more and more hold of me, I almost completely lost touch with my inner country girl. And when the big collapse was inevitable, I didn’t have the desire to go out anymore completely, let alone, taking a walk somewhere outdoors. Even when I moved to the countryside again temporarily, the green was not alluring anymore. Sunshine, clouds, water, rain, summer, spring, autumn, were indifferent to me. I felt no joy, when the warm summer air touched my skin, I didn’t even realize it. I still went outside almost every single day, as part of my treatment. One activity each day, no more, no less. That was the deal. So I went outside, without joy, without seeing the beauty, just because I had to. At first, I had a swim, rode a bike, walked a bit, sat at the lake, because I had to. It gave me nothing. Over the course of many months though, something changed. Grass seemed green again, sun was something to look forward to, a swim in the lake had an almost irresistible allure and when I looked around, I realized, that there was reason to smile again, to breathe in deep and to appreciate the peace, quiet and calm of nature. It was great!

I am currently back in the city for a little while. Breathe that air again, see how it feels and to test, how far I have come with my recovery and treatment. At first, I was very energetic and had a lot of drive, similar to the days before. Then, something changed. I felt stressed again, restless, overburdened and almost helpless, as I didn’t know why or how that happened. I still don’t. But I am not giving up like this. Yesterday was a beautiful day. There was sunshine, springy temperatures –  and it was saturday! I took a big leap that morning, when suggesting to my love to go outside to a very big national park like area in our city. For 10 years, I have never set a foot there. Of course not, for a country girl, this is just a park. Silly city people go there, with their hiking shoes and outdoor clothing, pretending they just took a real, challenging hike! As my condition got worse, I never had the will or strength to go there first by public transport, which seemed like a day long assignment (people, hot, sticky, long!) only to walk somewhere with trees and grass, when I didn’t find that any relaxing or beautiful anymore. Hence the leap!
I went there yesterday, and it was really nice. The journey there didn’t take as long as feared, there were only a few people, not the masses of chattering city people I expected. I thought, it was going to be a moderate walk, with maybe one or two little inclines – boy was I wrong. In total, I went up and down 400 meters in altitude difference, walked for more than 12 kilometers. Dressed in a thick, woolen roll-neck sweater, of course, it was supposed to be just a little walk and it was windy outside, ok? Give me a break. What was really wonderful for me to see was, that although I spent close to 6 hours outside, I didn’t feel as if I have missed anything. A year ago, a saturday, would have been THE day, to get as much done as possible. Get up early, clean, organize, do food shopping, have a coffee somewhere, take a stroll along the near farmers market, have breakfast, go to the city and buy something or browse, get home in time for dinner and pretty much afterwards collapse on the nearest sofa. That’s a huge pile of nonsense, of course. I do believe, that you only think, that you are missing out on something, when you fail to enjoy the life you live, when you don’t live the life you want, when you are afraid, that you are always one step behind life. Feel free to remind me of what I said right now, in a year or so, when work has caught up with me again and I forgot about enjoying each moment, as it comes. Which will hopefully not happen. Close to the flat, I ran into our neighbour, who has been living next door with his girlfriend for 5 years now, and I never was able to take the step and invite them into our home. Yesterday, out of the blue, without weighing pro’s and con’s before, I asked him, if he and his girlfriend would like to come over sometime next week, for some table top games and talks. Just like that. He said yes, and I am already nervous and doing my best to maintain my zen and to fight the urge, that everything has to be perfect, including me. I will let you know, my dearest little army of readers. Have a beautiful sunday and enjoy each minute of it.

PS: It was pointed out to me, that with this blog, I once more fed into my urge to be perfect, successful and to accomplish something. I expected a lot (reader wise, site view wise, writing wise), wanted it to be perfect, only thought of the challenges as topics for the blog, when it originally was intended as some kind of public diary, where I would talk about my challenges for myself, mainly. Instead of writing an entry for day 5 yesterday evening, when I was really tired and exhausted, I chose to blog about it today. One step at a time.