My Story

Dealing with the Knocks | “That’s why it’s called Practice”

You know what it’s like, you’re on your way and you think, this is going okay. There seems to be a plan, there seems to be a path. Then, WALLOP! Something knocks you completely sideways and off this comfortable cozy path you are pushed, only to think … why? Why was I walking that path in the first place, couldn’t someone have warned me that this wasn’t the right path! I wouldn’t have wasted so much time, energy and emotion on focusing so hard on following it. What was the point?

It is difficult to remain positive at times like this. It wasn’t a hard enough knock to send me reeling back in time to the deeper depression, and I haven’t even considered going back onto my medication. However, it was enough that I spent two days feeling melancholy, feeling pointless, useless and aimless. Where in the hell was I going? Eight months ago I went completely off the rails and I undertook a complete overhaul of my life. Now, I suppose I am expecting to start getting back onto the rails. How dare the universe pop me on the wrong track! I trusted it to work with me to get onto the right track! What was it thinking!

This could take me down some existential cosmic rant about the human direction versus the path of fate. I don’t want to rant, but I do have a couple of questions to put to the universe. How do we know whether we’re doing the right thing? Should we be more tuned to “signs”? Should I just continue planting all these seeds, water them all and see which flowers into the greatest possibility? Are you even listening?

I haven’t read The Secret but I know the general basis, it’s not alone in giving the general message of work for it, imagine it, ask for it and you shall receive. But I’m a bit cynical about this too. What if I am asking and working, and working and asking and the Universe is just up there like “nah, you’re good where you are.” So I need to spend time here and learn more, so then what? Look out for some sign that the Universe is “nah’ing” me and telling me to learn a bit first. What if I have missed that sign and I’m still asking for something that I’m not ready for? What if, even more importantly I’m damn sick of where I am at the moment, what if I feel like I need that something soon or I’m just going to feel hopelessly disillusioned and lost? Oops, look I went on a rant.

This has been my frustration the last few weeks. I was attending interviews for what seemed to be, not just my dream job, but the fresh start I felt I desperately needed. The universe had other ideas, I didn’t get the job. Following a knock like that my first reaction is, well Amanda you obviously didn’t work hard enough, there was something that you didn’t do. I pick apart every interaction, every piece of written word. I find it difficult to accept that someone was just a better fit than me. No…. that can’t be, I wanted to fit so I could make myself fit so then I will be the perfect fit. Then, my inner Princess starts to stamp her feet and yell “But I want it!!” That’s when I start getting frustrated and I find it difficult to keep my cool.

I have to reign in my inner dialogue at these points and move it towards more positive thoughts. I’ve never viewed myself as a negative person, if anything I tend to be quite passive erring on positive. However, it seems that as soon as I am criticized, knocked back or denied I turn into some negative Queen Bitch and I don’t even recognise myself. Admitting this is a weakness has been such a huge journey, one that I will forever be on. I don’t want to dwell any further on the actions, symptoms or thoughts of Queen Bitch, let’s just say she takes a lot of talking to to calm down.

So, what does all of this have to do with my recent depression? How does this help anyone else or help me in sharing it? It’s merely a reminder that despite what we go through, our best intentions or how we portray ourselves to other people, we are DEFINITELY not perfect. None of us. I think that part of why I became so ill was striving too hard for an idea of perfect that was completely unobtainable. In my mind I had it completely in my power to achieve my ideal life and I was failing. The perfection which I felt was merely a matter of dedication, desire and dollars was within my reach and the only thing ever holding me back was myself. Viewing yourself as an obstacle to your own happiness can only take you down bad roads, you have to love yourself before you can really love everything about your life.

In yoga, there is a slightly tongue in cheek saying that it’s called Yoga Practice, not Yoga Perfect, you can never perfect Yoga, Yoga is a journey. That’s how I’m trying to view life, as a practice, as something that you experience, love and enjoy, not something that has an objective, or even several objectives. Life just is.

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Continuing to Live the Questions | Am I better?

I am so happy to share that I came off my medication two weeks ago, I have some advice about how to approach that, but I will come to that later on in the post. What really feels good is knowing that I did it.  

There are so many people who spend years and decades on their medication, I can understand now the fear that comes with coming off. Not only do you have to accept that you and your emotional triggers are going to be all alone in your brain again, you also have to deal with the fact that there are symptoms to removing it’s influence from you body.  But I feel free. Some mornings I wake up relaxed, un-afraid and content and I am elated. Other mornings I wake up in a bad mood and still I feel a strange delight in knowing that I am free to feel a little grumpy. I am grateful for how my medication really helped me through a tough time, but now I am so very pleased that I am back in control of my feelings.

Now that isn’t to say that every feeling is wonderful, every decision is now easier, every eventuality, happenstance or occurrence flows over me like water off a ducks back. No, I have to be conscious of my feelings now more than ever, I have to be aware of what I feel when something doesn’t go my way, I have to be conscious of when I start to feel sad, or down or scared or stressed. And the biggy, I have to accept that these are all important emotions and I must embrace, accept and utilise each emotion to allow myself to move forward. 

The questions are still scary and I definitely still don’t have the answers. I am accepting that questions are questions, and to live them takes time. Taking your time is scary, we live in such an instant gratification culture it’s difficult to remember that not all of your efforts will reap reward immediately, we must be tenacious. Tenacity has now become one of my more important skills. Rather than being afraid, I am giving my all and sticking to all these new projects I have undertaken to make myself happier, to bring my life into a better place.

I have to check myself when I start thinking that it would be easier if I just went back to a job where I earned quite a bit of money, but that soul-sucking environment was a trigger in the first place. I feel like I want to write, post here on the blog or work on some of the short stories I am working towards publishing, but I decide that I don’t feel like it, or maybe I’m a bit tired. I have to check that, ultimately I am working towards making myself happy, doing something I love and enjoying life as much as I can. Why would I want to take that away from myself? At least do a little bit, start something and I end up doing a lot!

On a daily basis I am deciding to invest in the questions, to which I have no idea what the answers will be. It’s risky, but it’s life. If something doesn’t work out, I want to be able to say to myself, I did give it my all, I wasn’t afraid to dedicate time, resources, blood, sweat and tears to trying, and then I will know. Then I will look for the next question and work toward that answer. 

So, my big question right now is, am I better? How do I find out? I live better. If I find myself living better, I am better. If I find myself giving into fear and negativity then I am not better and I need to figure out how to make myself better all over again.  Some days, I can be better in the morning, not better at some point mid morning, better again by mid afternoon and then better all the way until four days later when I am not better again. We are only human and this journey is not going to be 100 km/h straight through on the highway, it’s going to be bumpy and we’re going to stall and the road is going to wind and weave and we’re going to get tired. Sometimes we’ll rest, as long as we keep going on that road, it’s okay.

Right, the medication. Coming off isn’t easy, you need to put a plan in place to make sure you can minimise the side effects. Some medications are harder to come off than others, I was on Escitalopram, which is one of the more difficult drugs to come off. Your Doctor will recommend coming off in phases, this can involve either cutting your dose down daily bit by bit, or alternating days on day usually over a two to three week period, this helps your brain adjust to the changes it is undergoing.  If you are coming off or thinking of coming off, do it slowly, take your time. Absolutely aim to come off the medication but do it so that you don’t risk feeling worse a week after you stop taking your pills. 

My first week completely off the pills, I hardly noticed anything. On the 8th day however I had one of the worst series of mood swings I have ever experienced, culminating in a rage that I felt wasn’t normal. My partner, Alex, looked at me shocked and asked if I was feeling like myself, I definitely wasn’t. At this time I really didn’t know whether it was the medication and I was scared. I spoke to my Dr and he assured me it was withdrawals and they would go away soon. That was all I needed to know. However over the next week I experienced nausea and headaches, more mood swings and this strange zapping sensation. It did go away after a few weeks, but those few weeks were certainly tough.

As with living the question and moving forward, just take your time. There is no rush.

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Jigsaw Puzzles and Questions | Starting to accept the Positive

Here we are, some time later, ready to enter the surgery phase. Otherwise known as the tear it all apart only to put it back together phase.  This is mind surgery people, this is dissection at its deepest and most emotional.

You could also describe it as similar to cleaning out the attic, you are up there all ready to go. First thing you notice, there is a bunch of stuff just to heavy to lift alone, so who do you trust in your attic? Keep looking and you notice there are broken pieces and jagged splits in a lot of the most precious and important keepsakes in the attic, how on earth will you put these back together? What tools do you need? You also notice that some of the most beautiful pictures are dust-covered and mite ridden and need to be cleaned up, will it just take a spit-shine or do you need some professional cleaners to restore your pieces to their former glory.  Finally, there are all those cobwebs, slowing the whole process down, making it all look so much darker than it really is, the cobwebs only you can clean up, with a lot of elbow grease, dedication and love to keep everything else in tact.

This attic, can take weeks, months or even years to clean out properly. Each corner needs care and attention, every little thing broken needs dedication and detail to fix, most importantly – the attic needs time. To remember what light feels like, to appreciate the feeling of the cleansing. To bask in the glorious release of the hateful airs that have been circulating for, what seems like, forever.

The moment I realised that my sadness could be positive felt like the first ray of sunshine after weeks of grey rain. Yes it still hurt, but realising that this whole experience could really be a precursor to positive change made all of it seem worth while, made the sadness and the pain feel inconsequential, in short – it was a revelation!

In that strange way the universe has of placing opportunity at your feet, I was able remove some of the worst toxins from my life. Whole situations, personalities and responsibilities that had stopped being good for me, were out the window.  I removed myself from anything that didn’t fit right, that didn’t sit well with how I wanted my life to be. This upheaval was and continues to be huge, as complete Life-U-Turns tend to be!

First thing I had to do was get out of my Netflix phase. Even though I was still in the middle of some excellent television series’, I had to try to limit my escapism and attempt to face my issues head on. For each of us this process is going to be different, for some a round of golf gives you the head-space you need to think things through, a long walk through the woods or a long drive. For me, art and writing have always been a way for me to explore my thoughts and express some of my angst. I was definitely one of those teenagers writing angsty poetry about how beautiful some boy or that was, about how painful and confusing my very existence was.  I recall there were definitely some lines about my “life going down the drain” and “hello pain, my old friend.” etc!  Sometimes I read some of it back, it wasn’t all terrible but I was definitely writing about a lot of things I didn’t understand.  Interesting how 10 years later I had come full circle, the realm of my understanding changed, the pain had changed, the confusion and the questions were much much different – and yet it all felt somehow the same. A lot of questions about existence, purpose and life were circling around my head then and now! I would pessimistically say that I must not have answered my questions then, so how do I know I’ve answered my questions now? I think, these are not necessarily questions that need answers – they need to exist and the questions need to be lived, à la Rilke;

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
From Letters to a Young Poet

I was recommended a book called “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron.  It was written based on a college course she teaches to help artists, whether they be writers, painters, singer/songerwriters to unblock and release their creative potential. It has since grown into a tool for sufferers of depression and anxiety to unlock some of the questions we have and play around with them, explore, expand and embrace through creative activities.  You don’t necessarily have to want to become a writer or an artist, the activities are designed to really pull truth, emotion and feeling out of you and onto some form of medium.  It does not require skill or artistic talent, it taught me that we as humans generally don’t allow for a  release of the more difficult emotions and questions we have. The Artists Way simply gives you basic activities which outlet a lot of these pent up feelings.

It was at this time that I decided to start this blog. I didn’t start writing right away, I brainstormed, spent some time just writing small paragraphs and reading them over and over.  What was most interesting about this practice is that a lot of where my pain came from was linked to how I initially approached writing this blog.

With Fear.

I had lived a large part of my life with a constant inner dialogue saying; “I should, I would, if only something would happen, why don’t good things ever happen to me? Why aren’t I lucky enough? This person was just at the right place at the right time, that never happens to me.”

It was all words and no action, all desire and no initiative, all negative and nothing positive.  If I actually came up with a viable path to start working towards any of my goals, there would always be some huge hurdle – a mountain made out of a mole hill. Finances wouldn’t allow, how can I find the time, I’m happier living in my fantasy world. (Random side note, It was at this time that I decided that somewhere in my family I must have a royal connection and everything would be fixed when they discovered I was alive and available to inherit some title. I haven’t completely dispelled this idea, it’s a nice dream to hang on to.)

Even if I had Royalty in my family, what had I done to try to get discovered? It’s a funny little dream, but even something silly like that, couldn’t happen unless you are out there. Being “Out There”  sounds like advice girls give their girlfriends when trying to find a new relationship. “You have to be out there, you know, available, open to the possibility of love.” Well, the same goes for life, how do you expect the universe to recognise that you are ready for a relationship if you are hiding away in your jammies on your couch watching hours and hours of Game of Thrones re-runs, as fun as that is it’s not exactly us at our best.  Much like I said in my last post, only you cure you and only you can show the world you are ready to live the questions.  I didn’t know what would happen if I started sharing my deepest darkest emotions in a blog, I initially shared more on here than I ever did in conversations with my friends. I didn’t know what would happen when I started digging deeper and deeper into those questions – but I had to go without fear.  If you trust it, the universe will provide.

 

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