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.

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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!