I heard of the passing of a retired, former colleague this morning. Just last night, as I was about to turn over, I said to myself I wonder how he’s doing. He had been ill for quite a while, following a heart attack, after which a myriad of treatment-related issues followed. It was inevitable that he would never be the jovial man he had been before the cardiac arrest, but the news has still left me feeling awfully sad.
…Bang, bang! You shot me down. Bang, bang! I hit the ground. Bang, bang! That awful sound…
Today I’m going to talk about triggers. Not the thingies that you pull to fire a gun, but the ones that fire something in your brain that leave you feeling explosively emotional, whether happy, sad, angry, overwhelmed, excited and/or (insert whatever you’d like to here).
I had two instances over the weekend that triggered negative emotions in me. One was an altercation with a frog-eyed woman who was undecided about what cereal to put in her shopping cart. She was standing on one side of the aisle looking at the variety on display telling another woman with dark hair to bend down and look at something lower down only to tell her “No, I don’t like that flavour”. The Bean asked, “please can we get past?” and the brunette moved out the way. She then said something about “just standing a little to the side” and Mrs. Frog Eyes got all in her face about “we’re all shopping here”. The Bean replied with something in the line of “that’s why we should be considerate” and The Frog shouted down the aisle for her to “Shut up!” I turned around, angry, and said rather loudly, “Excuse me?” and she carried on with “your mother is rude”. I told her she was being rude, and she rewound to “we’re all shopping here!” I think if I’d engaged with her a bit longer, her skin might have tightened so much she would have suffered an ocular proptosis, or worse. I wonder if she ever told her mother to “Shut up!” or if she would allow her children to yell at her to “Shut up!” Either way, I hope her fishwife behaviour left her feeling proud.
Needless to say, what was supposed to be a fun outing for The Bean and I had been rained up both literally and verbally.
Should I ever be in the unfortunate position of having to deal with something like this again the future, I’ll take a leaf out of David Sutcliffe’s books in the first episode of Cracked. I imagine it would provide for some kind of entertainment. Either that, or it could get me committed.
The other was a tv feature called Mighty Cruise Ships which is airing on Discovery. Each episode deals with a different line, vessel and route. It’s extremely interesting, but it left me feeling a bit empty, especially after watching an episode that dealt with various ports of call in the Med and Europe, which co-incidentally would have been the route I would have been on with Charlie for three weeks starting later this month, but life happened and that dream is back in the box. Sure, I’m going to Victoria Falls which is something I’ve dreamt about since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, but part of me longs for the original plan that I was so excited about and looking forward to. I read today that people wanting to do The Devil’s Pool excursion in Victoria Falls need to be able to swim a portion of the Zambezi against the current, so I will have to start swim-fitness again.
In both instances I recognized that I was being set off into a spiral of sadness and also that these things are not a result of something I have done. Still, it doesn’t make me feel less meh about things, so I did what my therapy dictates – I journalled about it, albeit only today, I drank water (because my brain doesn’t work properly when it’s thirsty), I read a bit and I had a (reasonably) early night.
Anyhow, tomorrow I start work for a new company (the one I’m with has merged with another, so it’s business as usual; only it’s not). My social calendar is full for the next two weeks and work is also major-league busy with financial year-end. It’s going to be an interesting last quarter of the year, that’s the one thing I’m certain of. Let’s all keep our wobbly bits crossed that I don’t do my nut before the end of it again, because I am taking a bit of strain again.
I doubt I’ll be one hundred percent hunky dory tomorrow, but I’ll follow Dory’s advice: Just keep swimming – both emotionally and physically – because #DevilsPool is on my #bucketlist
‘Til Next Time
* Note: This post is a jumble, because my mind is mishmash of emotions, but if it can help one person to know they’re not alone, then my making myself vulnerable on such a public forum will not be in vain*
Something I haven’t talked to anyone about for almost a decade if my disease; the one I’ve been in remission from for almost as long. Without meds or any kind of treatment. I bet almost of you made the leap to the Big C, but no, I’m not talking about cancer. I’m talking about depression. I know that I shouldn’t be ashamed of it, but there is still a stigma attached because you don’t look ill, or if you just think positive thoughts, everything will be easier, or there’s nothing wrong with you or you really need to just learn to cope better, or I listened to a motivational podcast which said you only really find true strength when you’re alone. I can list hundreds more of these snap out of it! things people say because they’re either plain ignorant, or think they’re being supportive. In the case of the latter, I get that they mean well, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
Looking back, the signs have been there, all through the remissive period. I just did well to hide them from everyone, even those closest to me. For a long while my blog entries have leaned towards something being off, but I never thought it could be that I was spiralling downward into a relapse. It had been almost ten years, for goodness’ sake!
When I was diagnosed, I didn’t have psych therapy – I was merely given anti-depressants for six months (told I’d drink them for at least three years) and left to my own devices. I grew to a whopping almost 80 Kg’s and I didn’t care.
The photo on the left was taken in April 2012 and the one on the right was August 2018. I’ve subsequently lost about another 9 Kg’s since then as a result of my illness.
I was a happy, fat person (and I mean no disrespect to anyone that is overweight), until one day I was brushing my hair and I saw my mom’s reflection in the mirror. She had tears in her eyes because her daughter was gone. The girl in front of her had a smile, but it was empty and she her size was exacerbating other health issues. In that moment, my brain dropped a gear and I made a change. I started gymming (which I am now able to admit became an addiction) because the endorphins replaced the meds which I cut cold-turkey shortly after. For reference, this is not the right thing to do, because it can have immediate, dire effects. It may also give the prescribing physician a heart attack. In my case it didn’t, but it could have.
This round I’m seeing a psych (along with taking meds – different ones than before), but will have to stretch the consultations out due to constraints on my medical aid benefits. I have an amazing support structure, so I should manage. If I can’t, I will seek help; that is one promise I have made to myself, and I will keep it. I can’t speak for all people suffering from this silent, often invisible disease, I can only speak for myself. I want to be heard, I need to be heard – with understanding, empathy and no judgement and the psych is helping in a way my well-meaning friends are not equipped to. He gives objective advice, with practical tools that I am learning to apply in my life. Some days I win, some days I lose, but I’m trying. Friends sometimes offer ill-informed-although-well-intended-advice, but sometimes I just want to say please don’t, because I’m confused enough already. Platitudes have their place, but for me in a fragile state of mind, hearing something in the line of life is a metamorphosis, or nobody determines your happiness except you or you have a life some people could only dream of, you should be grateful is enough to send flames flaring out of my nostrils because I didn’t choose this! I would give anything to be the person I know is somewhere inside this shell that comes to work every day. It’s not like I want to be on this emotional rollercoaster, but I am, and for now, the machine operator doesn’t seem to be slowing this (not)funfair down any time soon. I have to just ride it out.
I’ve been told by many people that my personality and sunny disposition are my best traits; that people gravitate towards me because I’m open. Truth be told, I don’t make friends easily; If you are my friend, then as arrogant as it may sound, you can count yourself lucky. As Harriet so rightfully pointed out the other night over a cup of jasmine-infused-rooibos, (my) friendliness costs nothing, but (my) friendship is an expensive gift. Once I’ve let you close, I am probably the most loyal person you will ever meet, often to my own detriment, because I often allow people to get away with murder, but I’m working on saying “No!” Despite what many people see as a friendly, outgoing person, I’m awkward and shy and I either hide behind humour when I’m nervous, or I sit at a vantage point where I can merely observe, until a polite amount of time has passed and an “out” presents itself.
I’ve never thought of myself as attractive, and after being told by my first ex-boyfriend, “You’ll never be a pretty woman”, the picture I had of myself was cast in stone. It’s been extremely hard for me to accept compliments about my appearance and it’s been going on twenty years since those words stung my soul. Last year at Sarah’s wedding (my first time ever as a bridesmaid) I was told you look beautiful and I had to fight the noise in my head telling me anyone can look beautiful with professional make-up and hair and an expensive dress, but it’s only for a few hours. I’ve come to realize that the debilitating voice of depression is always there, even when I think it’s packed its bags and buggered off to the Bermuda Triangle.
I’ll admit, for a very long time, I was the proverbial ray of sunshine, living in my oblivious little bubble – I refused to watch- or listen to the news because it affects me negatively and sometimes I hear things that trigger bad memories for me. I am extremely sensitive too, with the memory of an elephant. It’s a blessing and a curse. As far as I’ve been able to, I have tried as far as possible to have the mindsets of be grateful, count your blessings, live and let live and everything happens for a reason or everything that is happening to me is taking me to a higher level of consciousness. It is only now, for the first time ever that I am seeing a therapist that is helping me understand that through almost the entire time I thought I was fine and over it (because that’s what people expect of you), the depression was still there, just well hidden.
At this stage, I am not going to go into what triggered my relapse, or just how deep the degeneration is, partly because I’m scared of being perceived as weak and because I feel like I have failed myself and others. These are things that I must work through (and my support network is being amazingly patient and caring) but until I have, the story of my setback will remain mine. Maybe down the line I will, maybe I won’t. I’m not going to make promises, unsure if I’ll be able to keep them.
Someone I know through work, Ida (or as she’s known Awesome Ida) popped in today. She has a debilitating disease of her own, so understands what I’m going through. I haven’t shared much with her, but somehow, she’s always touched base with me when I’ve needed it most. She said to me this morning, “You need love now girl, and you need to love yourself. If you have a good day, celebrate it! If you have a bad one, remember that it’s okay not to be okay. You have to have the same love and patience with yourself that you do with others. Some days will be easier than others. If you need to take things ten minutes at a time, do it. And remember that you are loved.”
Last night I went to have my nails done; something many people question because it’s a luxury or it’s expensive or surely you can just paint your own nails. Not that I need to explain myself, but it is something I do for me. For my self-care. It makes me feel good about myself and the art is representative of what I’m feeling. And I’m supporting a friend’s business, which on some level makes me feel like I’m contributing to a bigger picture.
Once Elena’s previous client left, she took one look at me, having last seen me before I was admitted to hospital following the Major Depressive Episode that resulted in my relapse and my resolve crumbled. Completely. I spoke, she listened. I cried, she squeezed my hand. She asked me if I have suicidal tendencies, because I told her I don’t want to be awake, but I was honest that while I’ve thought about it, there is still a sane part of me that knows I have a purpose (even when it feels like I don’t); I explained that the reason I don’t want to be awake is because when I’m asleep, it’s the only time my thoughts are silent. She was awash with relief and I was comforted to know that she had the courage to call me out on something potentially fatal. In that moment, her care touched me very deeply.
I already had an idea of what I wanted to do with my nails, a thunderous sea-storm because I feel like I am in a storm being tossed by the waves. This was the final result.
I’m glad I opted for the lighthouse, because even though I’m up and down most days, when I look at my nails, I will be reminded (for the next fortnight at least), that there are steadfast beacons in my life that will guide me to safer shores.
As is custom I sent the photo of my nails to a number of my friends, and Carmen replied with this zoomed-in screenshot, caption with “Do you see the face, Misfit?”
I did see the face (on the finger next to the lighthouse) and I sent it to Elena. It wasn’t planned, it just happened. I like that it looks distorted, almost alien-like, because it’s how I feel – a foreign creature in a familiar pod, a lost Misfit in her bodily shell. On some level I think maybe God, or The Universe or Some Other Higher Power is telling me that the storm is indeed raging within, but that light will drive out the darkness eventually. I just have to keep taking things as they come, even if it is just ten minutes at a time like Ida said. Time, it’s said, is a healer. I know this to be true. I just need to have grace with myself and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Will you look at that? I just platituded myself 😀
(Image from: indybay.org)
Alone with my Thoughts
I’m not my worst enemy
I’m a prisoner, an unwilling hostage
Confined by thoughts of despair and solitude
Incarcerated in the darkness of my regressive mind
Images cloud my tired mind
Some strikingly clear, others somewhat hazy
Slivered light – Dawn signals a new day
Not enough to fend off my mind’s tricks
The mildew of indescribable sadness
Fills my nostrils, making me gag
My heart aches, but no tears fall
No-one hears the silent screams of my misery
Dampness clings to my cheeks
Tears have escaped, during my sleep
I’m alone. No Love to cover me
My vivid imagination my only hope of freedom
Seated on the slimy mattress
I contemplate jumping into the chasm
At least there I will be free
Thoughts…they won’t be able to harm me
There is no prison warden
With an evil grin, nor the keys
Only I have the means to leave
I need strength to fight the loneliness
Octavio Paz wisely said:
As I approach my 33rd birthday this Saturday, I’m reminded just how “profound this fact of the human condition” is in my life. Cousin Lorian passed a comment on Friday night at Mom’s birthday dinner, “We’re going to have to dust you off; you’re on the shelf now!” Normally I would simply let it fly over my head, but like I said in my previous post, I do hear the loud ding-dong-tick-tock of Big Ben in my brain and belly. And yes, I know and believe that God is still writing my love story, but sometimes the loneliness of not having my own “someone special” does get to me. I find myself almost resenting my coupled friends because they have something I don’t – and I keep wondering why God has chosen them to be, for lack of better expression, happier than me. Some days I feel so incredibly alone, despite having wonderful parents, extended family and some of the most loyal, true friends a girl could ask for. I am loved by so many, except that “special one”.
I’ve met some wonderful potential “special ones”, but I know in my heart, romantic relationships with them would not go the distance. The majority of them are at least a decade older than I am, some being divorced with kids already half my age, some having never been married, but with zero ambition…
I’ve fancied someone for quite some time, someone who could be the “another” that I could realize myself in, and he knows it, despite his pretence of obliviousness. In many ways, he is what my heart desires – well mannered, ambitious, gentle, caring, fun, stable, focused, attractive, diligent…the list can go on for quite a while…but for reasons unbeknownst to me, nothing more than a semi-stable friendship has evolved. I say semi-stable, because we’ve made progress as friends, but it is as if he is afraid of really showing who he is…fear, perhaps? Trust issues? Closeted skeletons? I’m naturally an open person, and (much to my shock and horror), some people are intimated by this. Mom has always told me to be who I am and if people can’t deal with me the way I am, it’s their loss, not mine. But, like I’ve said before, I have this deep-rooted yearning to be liked.
Mom, Elizabeth and I were having coffee at a local franchise on Saturday and there was a couple with their son (about eleven or so), and a little baby girl. She was so beautiful, so precious, so perfect, so…something I long for. And I don’t only mean the baby…I mean the whole family unit…MY family unit.
Time will tell, I suppose… until then, I’ll just have to continue to hope that soon it will be my turn.
It was just after midday here in South Africa when I got a call from my boss, telling me to put on the little fuzzy Black and White TV in his office. “A plane has just flown into one of the twin towers in New York.” I thought I’d heard wrong, but curiosity got the better of me. There, right before my eyes, on the snowy, staticky TV were images of a plane crashing into a tall building. I was still considering that the hype was possibly unnecessary when I saw the second plane. I was stunned. I continued to listen to the TV, and for good measure switched the radio on too. I even phoned Mom, telling her to check the satellite channels on and let me know what else was being said.
A while after the telephone rang and it was Mom telling me that I plane had flown into the Pentagon. Now, my US geography is really not good, but I did know that the Pentagon is in Washington DC, and that was where one of my best friends from school, Nerina, was au-pairing. I also knew that Nerina travelled quite a bit with her host family. Soon my mind was racing – was she safe? What if she’d been on one of those planes? I emailed, tried to phone, but with no success. I suspected the worst, not for one minute thinking that as a result of this terrible situation, telephone lines would be jammed.
About a week later I heard from her – she was safe. She’d actually been outside playing with the kids when she’d heard the plane fly over. I got chills.
Eleven years has passed, but let us never forget. The Americans that died that day were regular people, just like you and me. They had regular jobs, they had families, pets, mortgages. Let us instead honour their memory by being silent for a moment. America, I salute you! Your resolve is inspiring! Your bravery and remembrance give me hope.
Apologies readers, if this post is a bit disjointed, but I wanted to get my thoughts down, and I’m extremely pressed for time!
In Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, he tells the reader:
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
A colleague of mine has this quotation taped to her PC monitor and it is a permanent BBM status. The other day I was chatting to Steve at the gym and he too said, “Trust few people…”
I understand the concept, but I simply can’t trust a select few, despite having experienced a form of ultimate betrayal myself (and yes, it has bitten me in the arse more times than I care to admit). My boss even told me in my personnel evaluation two weeks ago, that I need to be meaner, because people take advantage of my good nature and tackle me emotionally. I was a little hurt by what he’d said, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized, he is right. The reason people take advantage of my good nature is simple – I trust them too easily, and beyond that, I trust them to do the right thing. Taking advantage of people isn’t right, so I trust them not to do it… I know it sounds like I’m talking in circles, but I’m sure you get the point.
That brings me to another story. For the sake of anonymity, I am not going to mention names, but refer to the people involved as Jack and Sarah.
I became friends with Jack and Sarah through a mutual friend. Sarah and I immediately hit it off. She was a bit of a rebel and part of me envies that because I’ve always been a goody-two-shoes. Jack came across as aloof, but as time passed, he defrosted a bit. As we got to know each other better, I’d learned that Sarah and Jack have been together for over a decade, and, while not married, they have two beautiful children. Sarah was a stay-at-home-mom; Jack a successful businessman.
One day during my recuperative period (after my diagnosis with depression), Sarah called asking me to join her for a drive in the country to go and visit her mum. I went and she shared some things about her past that I found shocking. She’d had a long problem with drug abuse, cocaine being her drug of choice. She had already been with Jack at the time, but left him and her (at that time) only child because of the spell of the drugs. Jack had to support his child, and not knowing what to do, as his job takes him away from home quite often, he put the child in the care of his parents, in another town. He fought tooth and nail to help Sarah, and eventually, she got clean. She continued her rhetoric, telling me that between then and getting back together with Jack, she’d been in a relationship with a much younger guy. I sat wondering how a person can love someone, yet not trust them enough to help them during one of the darkest times of their life. She’d fallen pregnant shortly after getting back together with Jack and this time it was for keeps. She was so emphatic in her statement that I couldn’t help but trust her. She was my friend, she’d paid her dues, she wouldn’t lie to me, surely?
Four years down the line I bumped into another mutual friend of Sarah and I who told me that she and Jack aren’t together anymore. She’d apparently fallen prey to the wrong crowd again. I felt so sad – strangely though, not for Sarah, who I’d forged a strong bond with that day (she trusted me enough to share her dark secret), but for her two beautiful children and Jack, who has seen to it that she has never wanted for anything, a few rules notwithstanding.
About a month ago, during a window-shopping session, I heard someone whistle at me. I was not amused, but I turned around to see Jack standing there, a shadow of his former self. I told him I’d heard that things at home were a bit stormy and he told me the whole story. Sarah’s moved out – and he wants to help her (he loves her so much), but he doesn’t know if she wants to be helped. I can’t begin to imagine how he feels – having his trust betrayed for a second time. I wonder if she ever stopped to consider how her behaviour will influence her children and their ability to trust authority figures, when they can’t even count on their own mother to provide their most fundamental needs.
It was Jack’s birthday yesterday and I sent a simple text, saying, “Hey Jack, wishing you a great birthday. All the best for the year ahead!”
He replied, thanking me for remembering.
Part of me can’t help but wonder, if we love someone so much, do we stupidly trust them not to harm us? Or do we trust them, knowing they most likely will hurt or betray us, hoping that love will conquer all in the end and that there will be no long-term harm done?