Hello Darkness My Old Friend

“Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”
Simon and Garfunkel

Life is a struggle at the moment and I’m trying hard to keep my head above the parapet and not sink into the depths of depression. Sometimes it feels as if depression is what I know best, it’s like an old friend greeting me, the familiarity means I feel comfortable there and that makes the fight all the harder.

I look around at friends and family and wonder how they manage to stay positive when things go wrong, how they can keep things in perspective and manage to keep going. I find it so hard and all I want to do is sink into my bed, put my head under the covers and just the let world carry on without me. It feels as if I’ve always been like this. I look back on my life and all I remember is how sad I’ve always felt; how hard it has been to keep going when I feel so bad about who I am. Therapy has helped me understand that this is depression talking, this is what I have to master, not letting that voice become so loud that it drowns out everything else.

I have never let depression debilitate me completely, always managing to keep going despite feeling like I don’t want to. I think my job has played an important part in this, seeing how the lives of other people can be so hard and yet their resilience enables them to keep hopeful; believing I could contribute to making a difference to others has made life have some purpose. Hope is the key, without hope we’re left with nothing. I was once scared to be hopeful, thinking that by hoping life would be better I was setting myself up to fail. This is when I turned to food, cigarettes and spliffs, as a way to block out all feeling and just live with numbness. It didn’t feel good, but it didn’t feel bad, I just didn’t really feel anything. I have stopped this behaviour and am learning to manage my feelings, but there are times when all I want to do is fall back on old coping strategies.

I believed losing weight was the answer to all my problems; that if I was thin I wouldn’t feel so bad about myself; if I was thin I would have the confidence to take on the challenges of life; if I was thin everything would magically work itself out and I would suddenly feel fulfilled – the emptiness would go. Losing weight has indeed been incredibly helpful but it certainly hasn’t been the all encompassing ‘everything will be all right now’ that I thought it would be. Losing weight has given me the courage to try and undertake some of the activities that I believe might help me overcome depression, the strength to adopt more healthy coping strategies where being overweight was an excuse not to.

There is a reason I feel so low at the moment. A relationship with someone I loved very much has ended. A good friend is emigrating to the other side of the world in a matter of weeks, this seems to be an emerging theme amongst my friends! Other friends have moved away from London as they have children and so I feel more isolated than I used to. And then there is work, the one place I have always managed to absorb myself in.

Work is very difficult – first I had to overcome a new boss who seemed overwhelmed with the responsibility and to compensate micro managed, which in turned made me feel like I was inadequate. After some difficult conversations we appear to be overcoming this. However, now I have a deputy who is angry and upset with me for not giving her what she wants. She is known for her difficult behaviour but I have always met her at her level and not let her intimidate me. We have had a good relationship and I felt I understood her and tried hard to support her. This has now broken down and I have been on the receiving end of her bullish and intimidating behaviour. She has picked her moment well, kicking me when I’m down, and although I feel supported by colleagues she feeds into the vulnerable side of me, the depressed side of me, the side of me that feels useless and unable to manage.

I know that I can’t give in to my feelings. I need to take steps to overcome them – meet up with friends, engage in activities to get me out and about, do some exercise, eat healthily, talk / write about it, focus on events I have coming up and remember good times I’ve had and the things in my life that make me happy. I don’t know why this is so hard but it is. Depression is selfish, something that goes against my nature, but it makes me forget about people who are really suffering and I become absorbed in my own misery and the empty feeling inside seems overwhelming. I worry I’m unlovable, fear that I’m worthless and can’t see that this will ever change. Depression makes me feel as if I’m always here, as if nothing has ever been good and nothing ever will be. This is not a truth, this is depression talking. I’ve allowed it to pin me down too often and am determined not to let it do it again. It is a constant fight and I hope that one day it won’t feel quite so hard.

Heart versus Head – that age old dilemma!

I have always been ruled by my head. I used to wonder what people meant by being ruled by their heart, for me that seemed so illogical. People have described me as being a strong, intelligent, grounded, sensible individual (they have also described me as being an awful lot of other things too, some not quite so pleasing, but that’s another blog!). I’ve always thought that I’m viewed this way because I follow my head and don’t let emotions rule. I’m sensitive to people’s feelings but logic and rationale have always led my actions.

That is until now. Now for the first time in a long time I am having a head/heart dilemma and don’t know what the right thing to do is. Last July I met scrabble friend. He emailed me through a dating site suggesting that from our profiles he thought we would get on. I thought he was too young, lived too far away and pretty much represented everything I didn’t like in people. I emailed him a cut and paste email giving him the brush off. He responded immediately saying that he would have appreciated a personal response rather than a standard email. I found his cheek appealing, it seemed we were both online at the same time, so I sent him another email and before long they were flying back and forth as we started to get to know each other. To my surprise I enjoyed his conversation, had similar views to him and when he showed me his pic I found him to be cute, if not a little young looking!

We discovered a shared love of scrabble and it wasn’t long before we were meeting up on cam and playing scrabble on a regular basis. We had a real connection of minds, I felt I knew him from the moment we started talking together and although I have struggled all my life with trusting others, I trusted him. I have no idea why I felt this way but I just knew I was safe with him.

I decided that it might be fun to spend time with someone younger, that I might not find them intimidating and so would feel more open to exploring my sexuality. I have never been body confident and this has hindered my exploration of my sexuality as I didn’t feel I deserved to enjoy this side of myself. With this in mind I met up with scrabble friend and we started to enjoy having fun together and he truly helped me develop confidence in myself with regards to my body and sex.

We both agreed that we weren’t suitable long-term companions. He wants to meet someone he can marry and have children with, this is not my future. There was a time when I hoped it would be but I have long passed that phase and now I want to find someone who can bring out my adventurous side, help me to take risks, someone who passionately adores me and who I adore back. Someone I can travel the world with, whose mind I like, who knows me and loves me anyway!

There was a blip in our relationship when scrabble friend was unexpectedly, and if you ask me totally inappropriately, asked out by a nurse while visiting the dentist. She was bright and cute and he couldn’t resist her. Not to be hard done by I found myself a fireman and for a few weeks we were otherwise occupied, but checked in with each other regularly over scrabble. When both our relationships came to an end, we started spending more time chatting on cam and playing scrabble. Inevitably we decided to meet up and of course one thing led to another and we started having a sexual relationship again. Only this time round we agreed that we should both be free to date other people and look for our long-term partner, but that we would enjoy each others company until such time as one or other of us met someone else. We are both logical rational thinkers and this seemed like the sensible approach to take.

This has been working well. We have enjoyed each others company lots; when we’ve had a bad day we get on cam and talk about it, when we’re feeling in need of some company we meet up but if that’s not possible we get on cam and spend the evenings together playing scrabble and talking. It’s not unusual to start chatting at 5pm and have to make ourselves say goodnight at 1 or 2am. I have no idea what we talk about, other than knowing we’ve talked about anything and everything and there is nothing we can’t talk about. We communicate well and are very open and honest with each other. I truly love his company and find myself choosing this over other things in life, particularly dating. I think of all the awful people I’ve been on dates with and none of them are a patch on scrabble friend. The thought of spending even a few minutes with them when I could spend that time with scrabble friend is horrifying.

It seems neither of us have done anything about dating other people and quite frankly I don’t know where would we find the time given we spend all our free time with each other! Our we in a destructive relationship? This is a question we have begun to ask ourselves. Whilst we continue with how things are the chances of either of us meeting someone else is limited. I’m also mindful that the longer we spend with each other, the more attached I will become to him and the harder it will be when he meets someone else. My head tells me that I should end this relationship because it isn’t healthy for either of us. We are becoming emotionally attached to each other.

We talked about how I was feeling and scrabble friend acknowledged similar thoughts but said he was trying to put them aside. I’m not sure what happened, I’m usually someone who has quite a good control of my emotions and rarely let them cloud my judgement. However, the moment I came to the realisation that I had to let him go I felt intolerable pain, it was unbearable and I knew that there was no way I could let him leave my life. When he too thought about what ending the relationship meant he cried and told me he wasn’t ready for that happen. We spoke about how much we adored each other, how much we loved each others company and just wanted to spend time in it. I told him I was worried that the more time he spent with me and got to know me the more he would learn about my ‘madness’! He told me that he loved who I was and nothing could change that and he wanted to know all of me. We spent hours soul searching, trying to decide the best thing to do. We even discussed losing the sexual element of the relationship so we could just be friends as the thought of having nothing was just too hard to manage. We went round in circles, our heads telling us to end and our hearts not letting us do it. Neither of us had the strength to finish it, we both enjoy it too much and have both benefited so much from having each other in our lives.

I have spent years protecting myself from pain, keeping myself safe from the possibility of abuse and have struggled to take risks. Years of therapy has helped me understand why I have done this but it has also shown me that if I continue to do it I am going to miss out on opportunities to experience all the highs and lows of life that make it rich and help us develop. I have to learn not to over-think and trust that even though I might experience difficult emotions that feel overwhelming, I will manage them and get over them, I’m stronger and more together than I give myself credit for and I need to get on and live my life. For the first time in a long time I am experiencing fluctuating emotions and feel more in touch with my emotional side.

I’m taking a risk, I am going against my head and following my heart. Scrabble friend and me, I know it isn’t forever but it is for now and I want to enjoy that while it lasts.

All sprung clean!

This week I’ve had a good spring clear out and my home feels like it can breathe a sigh of relief again. I find it incredibly cathartic to put my home in order, getting rid of things that are just cluttering up the place, keeping things neat, tidy and ordered!

It started after scrabble friend confronted me about my lax attitude towards money and gave me the sharp truth about how I would end up in financial difficulties if I carried on the way I was going and the importance of taking control of it now. I was impressed with his perception about something I hadn’t particularly discussed with him and his ability to have the conversation with me in such a way I heard and accepted what he said without feeling judged or criticised. He was right, I knew he was right and it was something I had been burying my head in the sand about. The truth is, I have never been fully in control of my finances, never paid much attention to keeping to a budget and have always been in debt. My financial situation is something that shames me, I feel it is something I should be in control of and after all the time I’ve invested in trying to get my life in order it is kind of shocking the lack of attention I’ve paid to this area of my life.

When scrabble friend came into my life I knew we were meant to be in each others lives, we had a purpose for each other. I am so grateful to him for so many reasons, he has been such a lovely addition to my life and what’s more it appears the feeling is mutual ūüôā We’re not going to be partners for life, but we are involved in each others lives at the moment and it’s a good thing.

Getting in control meant confronting the paperwork that has been mounting up and carefully stuffed into bags and shoved under the bed. In doing this I discovered the box of tapes that I had stored there 15 years ago and it was as if a switch went off in my head and the need for a clear out began. I have always been quite an ordered person, as a child I thrived on keeping my stuff neat and ordered, controlling my environment in the only way I could. I have never attached too much sentiment to objects, they are transitory items that can be broken and lost. I’m also not a hoarder and know that what looks like chaos to me would look pretty ordered to other people! It is all relative, there is no point judging against others as it’s is all about what works for me.

The tapes under the bed were at last thrown out, the video’s that can no longer be played because the player has long gone went into the bin and I culled some of the objects that I have acquired and loved over the years but no longer need to gather dust on the shelf. It was a great feeling having that ruthless head on that just enabled me to de-clutter. My home still feels full but it feels ordered and with space to breathe.

I feel as if at long last I am getting in control of my life, I’m learning to let go of that I can’t control and take charge of that I can. Where I always felt that I had to be self sufficient and not lean on others, I’m learning that a helping hand can make all the difference. I have had a therapist help me get my head in order, a GP and weight loss surgeon help me get my health in order and now scrabble friend is helping me get my finances in order. I am so grateful for this help, I know it is what’s enabled me to live my life and strive to make the most of it.

The message they have all given me and encourage me to follow is ‘just do it’. Stop thinking about it, analysing it, becoming frightened by it, protecting myself from what distress it might or might not bring and just get on and do it!

We have only one chance at life, it doesn’t matter what’s been the only thing that matters is embracing the challenge of living, making the most of the opportunities that come our way and dare I say it, listening to the wisdom of those influential people in my life and just get on and do it!

Living with Depression

“Hello darkness my old friend, Ive come to talk with you again”
Simon and Garfunkel

I haven’t always had a term for how I feel, that came later in life, but for as long as I can remember I’ve had periods where life has just felt so pointless that I’ve struggled to understand why I continue to exist. As a young child it was connected to life in the family and the difficulty I felt in sometimes fitting in and feeling I belonged. In my teens it got worse as I found it hard to process some of my experiences, significantly the sexual abuse at the hands of my grandfather. I took comfort in food which of course meant putting on weight and this in turn made me feel more depressed. In adolescence it is accepted that there are going to be times when you are moody and feel hopeless so nobody paid much attention to the fact that I was unhappy and never knew there were times when I seriously considered ending my life.

As I got older I learned to hide my sadness and believing that nobody likes a misery-guts¬†I became quite a functional depressive. I realised that I as much as I felt that I didn’t want to exist, I wasn’t going to end my life so I needed to find a way to live with my feelings. ¬†I also knew I couldn’t continue to suppress my feelings with weed and food as it was slowly killing me. This is what brought me into therapy.

Therapy isn’t for everyone and I don’t believe it is the only or best way to deal with difficulties, but it has been of great help to me. ¬†There are many different therapeutic¬†approaches, I chose psychoanalysis as for me it seemed to fit with what I needed. ¬†My therapist named what I was going through as depression and helped me understand how I had got there and what I could do to manage it.

I have worked hard at processing my experiences and this has certainly helped with the depression but I fear I will never truly be free of it. ¬†It seems to linger in the dark recess of my mind and rears its ugly head every now and then, as if to remind me of what was. ¬†The difference now is that when that dark cloud settles over me and I wonder why I bother with life feeling as though nothing will ever be different, I am able to remind myself it is only a feeling and it will pass. ¬†In the depth of despair it is hard to remember this and I am grateful to my therapist for reminding me and helping me to remember that there are times when I don’t feel that way because depression can make me forget and I think that is all I know how to feel.