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.

 

 

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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 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.