Day 17 – Once more, with feeling

As I will depart from the city soon again, I used day 17 to reflect on my time in the city (again, I know, I know, get a life, girl!) and to meet with my step-dog and his owner. Step-dogs are a thing, you guys. A very nice thing. In this case, his name is Paul, he lives with his owner relatively close to me and we are in love. I used to walk him a few times a week previous to the breakdown and he even spent some weeks in my flat, when his owner was away. I love dogs. I really do. This one is a special case. His owner is a friend of my mom and consulted me with dog questions when she first got him one year and a half ago. So naturally, we bonded (Paul and me) and we met up more often (his owner and me). I didn’t see him at all in the past 9 months, I couldn’t just leave without seeing him once at least. We set up a date for the afternoon. Great incentive for me, to really get up, have a shower and to welcome the day with determination. Although I love that dog, I usually do not feel comfortable enough to sit around at his owner’s place for hours, just chatting. So I was prepared to leave after an hour or so. But guess what, I stayed for almost 3 hours. It was a nice day, we sat on the balcony, the dog was sleeping at my feet, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I didn’t have problems with talking or listening and I even just sat there and listened to the birds. In many ways, the breakdown made me more calm. Inside. I always was more of an introverted person, but I lacked the inner peace and calm. I always counted the seconds, striving to do 100 things at once. This was different, it felt different. That was nice.

When I left, it was almost time for dinner, I love it, when I don’t have much resting time in between reunions (I am totally aware, that this sounds super odd after the first sentence and all that inner peace and rest stuff, but it does make sense to me, just roll with it). I don’t get tempted that way to stay at home. My friend and I treated ourselves to a dim sum feast (I just had breakfast, but I am getting hungry again, just thinking about it) and after dinner, I did something spontaneously. I invited her over to my flat for a night-cap. Just like that! I am getting better at this social stuff! Although I almost fell asleep after the second homemade nut liquor, it was a nice evening. One more day, then it’s back to the countryside-time. I have mixed feelings about this.

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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.