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.

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.

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.