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 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 3 – old habits die hard…

This morning, I woke up to a really gloomy weather, but my mood was as good as it could be under the circumstances. I already had my mind made up, that, after the past days, today would be a great day to spend without big challenges, demanding tasks or ambitious steps. Today would be a good day to maybe tick one or two little thing off my little book, to relax, unwind and think about what happened lately. I remembered some of my own words, that I mentioned in yesterday’s post; that sometimes it is a good idea, to let the world present us with challenges, to react different than usual and welcome everything that can happen. With that in mind, and a few little things from my list I thought were worthy of today, I readied myself to embrace a quiet day. I was a little bit upset, that I did not manage to make myself my usual breakfast smoothie (a habit I only started 2 months ago) or drink a cup of tea until well into the day, but no matter, little set backs happen, right? Not all days have to be good days. After having provided my body with some water (tea, I am sorry, I will make it up to you tomorrow) and a filling, but not very nutritious or healthy breakfast, I walked to my computer, ready to listen to a bit of music, maybe even my favorite radio plays for gloomy days ‘Die drei Fragezeichen’ and look at some pictures I took in the past years (with big breaks in between, of course, you know why) and maybe even edit some of the good ones. Gasp! Bold plan, I know! It won’t come as a surprise to you, that I am not very confident with the things I do. I like to take pictures, but I don’t think they are any good. I like to write, but I don’t like my style and I would never consider me talented. I love to bake and cook, but only for a very selected audience/tastience, since I don’t think I do anything out of the ordinary or special with food. When I take pictures with my camera, I pretend I am a pro and save them in raw-format, instead of jpg. I don’t use a camera, that would allow me to view or show my pictures instantly in an acceptable quality (colour, sharpness, light), I went for a good one instead. Oh boy. Oh boy! In the rare events, where I manage to bring my camera with me (depression is a fickle friend, you guys, depression lies) and take some pictures, afterwards I have to face the process of shaping the raw thing into something presentable. Naturally, all that work and effort was way too much for me to even think of, let alone, even starting to look at what I actually captured. But today was going to be that day. Or not?

After starting up my computer, I had a really stupid idea. Why not download a new antivirus software? I used two already, but I wasn’t happy, since they took up way too much space on my very limited hard drive. I researched a little online, decided on one program, downloaded and installed it – and that’s where it all went wrong. That exact point in time and space, will from now on forever be known as the day, where I lost a lot of my pictures. “Don’t you back up your files?”, the smart ones amongst you, will ask. Yes, of course I do backup my files regularly. I own two external hard drives! I know things, ok? Ok. The files I lost were all acquired in the last 14 months, shortly before the breakdown and in the time that followed. I only spent 3 months after my diagnose at home, then I sought retreat at the countryside, far away from the daily tasks of life, the stress, hectic, intimidation, the old job and the people. Where I didn’t have any electronic devices with me, apart from my phone and my camera. No wireless, no tv, no Playstation. (Try it, it is great for inner peace, calm and the luxury of being unavailable. Back to topic!) I did have a radio though! You see, where I am going with this, don’t you? I had no chance to save any of my pictures in that time. And these are the pictures and files that are now lost forever. Vanished into the black hole, that is my hard disk.

This is, when today’s challenge presented itself to me. Us humans of the modern age, living in wealthy areas of the world, are used to problems with technology. First world problems. We’ve all been there. I didn’t write all of this to complain about this wrongfulness, this tragedy, this bloody technology, that fails us from time to time. My challenge today, was to handle the situation differently.
I am no stranger to computer errors. I used to find them rather challenging and very satisfying when resolved. After I resolved them, I found them challenging and satisfying. In the hours before that, I raged. I cried, lost my temper, panicked, blamed everyone stupid enough to offer help or coming near me, behaved erratic, aggressive, desperate, violent. Not your ordinary nerdrage, no-no. I changed into something out of control, something frightening and impossible to deal with. Some guys (my dear readers excepted) might be tempted to giggle now and think “that’s a great description of all girls when encountering a problem – or their period”. Yea…no, not really. Trust me on this one.

At first, I tried my very best to recover some of the pictures. I googled, downloaded recovery software, I did what I could. Hours well wasted. What I didn’t do though, was freaking out. Of course I was, still am, sad and heartbroken about my lost pictures, but I remained calm and in control. I didn’t yell at my love, I didn’t tell him to fix it for me, from distance, while still at work (really, that’s not a completely crazy request, you guys. Right?). I didn’t cry, I didn’t smash any cups, the keyboard, my phone or the screen. I also didn’t smash myself, as you can tell. I did not let it out on anything or anyone, that/who was or wasn’t responsible for my loss.     So what did I do, you ask?

I made Granola. Lots of granola. And egg salad. And potato salad. And lentil-quinoa patties to go with the salads, not the granola, of course. I would have made cookies, bread and ice cream, if I had all the ingredients at hand. Going out to buy some, was, after all, not really an option anymore. Did I keep myself busy with baking to not lose it? Yes, definitely. Did I overdo it? No. Yes. Shut up. You’ll all receive a glass of Granola soon. Leave me your address, if I don’t know you yet. I overdid it a little. My urge to perform kicked in. I cooked for 4 hours. I am not beating myself up over it. But I do look forward to the wise words of my therapist about today – and  I look forward to better days.