Personal Blog: 2018 A Quick Reflection

Christmas was hard this year.

It hasn’t been easy or wholly enjoyable for some time, but this year was the first Christmas without mum.

Life, for the past few months, has felt a little like going through the motions. So it was no surprise that Christmas managed to sneak up on, and then past me before I could really process it.

Those that got in touch over the festive period I very much appreciated hearing from. Even now though, the thought of replying and acknowledging reality leaves me with a knot in my stomach that is twisting and making me feel more and more ill as the days go by.

Anxiety is crippling me lately, and in the last few weeks, in particular, it feels like it is shutting me down both physically and emotionally until the very idea of trying to function leaves me a wreck.

I cannot go it alone, I understand that I need help, but asking for it is hard. Asking a stranger is ultimately easier to do than a close friend. The closer a relationship the more likely that rather than being able to pretend or hide how you are, you will be forced instead to be who you are at that very moment in time.

2018 wasn’t a bad year, far from it. But it was the hardest year I have ever faced, and it has taught me more about who I am as a person than I could have ever hoped to learn. It wasn’t always easy, and I am thankful for the support network I have. Even with such a strong set of friends and support though I admit that it hasn’t been easy.

After my mum passed I began thinking again about suicide. Not as a course of action, but as an option. One which I acknowledged, but more as a reflection of my past. Like getting hung up on old thoughts. As well as my support network of friends, I have been working closely with a counsellor for almost 18 months. Thankfully I can detach myself from these dark thoughts, knowing them as memories rather than desires.

I started going to counselling after losing myself to life in 2017. I had to take three months off of work to get my head straight, and it was in this time that I began to address what was important to me. I looked at my life and did not recognise how I had gotten to where I was. I looked at my life and did not recognise the person I had become. This was the hardest thing in the world for me, to realise I had spent so much time looking after other people, that I had no idea who I was as a person.

I felt insignificant, worthless, and of little value. Yes, I have great friends, but I didn’t feel like I was worthy of their friendship. I began to avoid people because in my head I was protecting them from my company. Depression and anxiety lead to irrational thinking, you can tell yourself you are well, but this is a lie, and until you recognise it as such, you will perpetuate negativity in your own life, wilfully living a harder life than you need to, seeking this hardship as a self-imposed penance for your own existence.

Gradually I came to realise which of my thoughts were rational, and which were not and slowly I became calmer. Not all of the time, but generally.

My life changed considerably over the course of 2018 whether I was ready for it, or not. The end of a long career, the loss of the same part-time job, twice in the space of three months. Moving to a new flat, but never being there. Becoming a full-time guardian and carer, again, and having to put someone else needs first at all hours of the day; providing waking night support. The complexity of a relationship and ultimately the end of nine months spent with someone I grew to love. Recovery from surgery, two weeks of quarantine, and three weeks of Tonsillitis, my first broken bone. Then, of course, there was the loss of my mother, this was the hardest of all things, and something I still find myself in disbelief of often.

But the challenges weren’t all bad. I applied for and was accepted into college, despite everything else going on. I got in and have so far not only completed work but done so well. I have learned more than I ever thought I would and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am doing what I should have been doing all along. I joined a band, and after eight months of rehearsals we played our first paid gig, and have more lined up. Despite the relationship not lasting, 2018 was also a year in which I fell in love, and was loved in return; getting to share my life with someone in a way I never had before. The best part of this last point was when my mother met my ex and got on well with them. Considering how little time I have given to relationships in my life, I was so thrilled my mother got to see me being loved before we lost her.

And of course, I wrote. More than I have ever written in such a small space of time, and intend to keep on doing so.

I hope that 2019 is a continuation of all of the good things I have had in 2018 and that the harder things push me onward, serving as reminders of just how far I’ve come.

The one thing I hope people take away from what I’ve learned is that there is always help available you just have to have the strength to ask for it and the patience to accept it. Life is hard, and it will challenge you whether you are ready or not.

If you are feeling lost especially, don’t give up. It’s harder to make good decisions all of the time than it is to make bad decisions just once. But some bad decisions can only be made once, and if you just persevere I promise you will find something worth continuing for.

Sometimes you have to give up on the things that you are comfortable with or that you are good at, these things may be easy, but if they do not offer you fulfilment, you will invariably never find what you need the most. Be selfish, do things that are just for you and no-one else. Try things you haven’t done, push yourself when your first reaction is to throw in the towel. But if you try and it hurts, walk away and hold your head high knowing that you gave it everything you have.

Love, yourself before anyone else. Be beautiful, be yourself.

All the best when it comes.

DSC x

Free Verse: Chaos

I feel like
Everything is happening
All at once.

I can’t tell
If the chaos
Is abnormal,
Or if it is just life?

Trying to find
“The new normal.”
Was there ever
A ‘normal’ to begin with?

Unanswered questions
Far surpass, those to which
I can answer with any certainty.

I seek clarity,
Yet am surrounded
By chaos.

It fills me physically
Shutting me down
Until I am nothing
More than Raw Emotion

Overpowering and unprocessed,
Like a pit of snakes
Each one filled with venom.

Fear, Rage, Lust,
Ego, Shame, Guilt,
Resentment.

Each one venomous,
Paralysing not killing.

Drawing out an existence,
Into a slow and terrible
Spiral to downfall.

Is it hubris
Which fells a man,
Or obstinance?

At least a man
Who falls to hubris
Can say he is proud,
I cannot. I do not feel
Proud of myself.
I feel like I’ve walked away
From every good thing
I ever had,
Because I was tired.
Now I find myself
More tired than ever,
with less than ever
I thought I could have,
That which remains
is precious and heavy.

Love, Duty, Honour,
Obligation, Frustration,
Devastation.

Love, Ignorance, Demanding,
Beautiful, Incomparable,
Inexplicable.

New. Everything is new,
I recognise nothing,
And am further displaced
From paths so far ventured.

Rather than trying to find
My way back to them,
Perhaps I should be
Moving forwards.

I have been given a chance
To whitewash my canvas.
The heavy pattern and colour
From my painting so far
Still there, lurking
Under this new,
Crisp layer.

But even with this fresh start,
I am afraid to mark the canvas
As I know how easy it is to fill
And overwork, so desperate
For the result to be beautiful,
But not trusting myself
As an artist to create.
Working to a standard
Beyond my own ability.

My canvas remains
Unpainted on,
But marked regardless
By outside influence.

I allow myself no control,
Sharing my canvas
Rather than fill it
With my own Masterpiece.

Free Verse: Hustle & Bustle

As I woke up this morning
I was greeted by this sight
(I say when I woke up,
This was not
When I opened my eyes,
But rather two cups of coffee
And a shower later.)

The Isle of Skye.

A place of beauty,
Serenity, and other nice words
That end in –Y.

There are five of us here
And it is our own private escape
From reality. In my mind however
I can’t help but feel
That this place is more real
Than any other place
I’ve been too.

The “hustle and bustle
Of inner city living” is monotonous,
And inevitable, yet stopping
And looking out
At this wonderful place,
You are hit by the impression
That there is more life out here
In these remote Isles
Than in any of the over-populated cities.

There are of course many parallels
Between these two separate worlds,
Cars going from A to B,
Sheep in fields doing the same task
Over and over, day after day.

The only difference that I can see
Is that the sheep seem to have
An oblivious sense of contentment
Within their routine lives.

This is not a parallel
To the accountants,
To the bus drivers,
To the care-workers,
They may be drawn into routines
In their lives, but looking at them
They do not seem happy; they work
Through their lives with death
In the back of their minds
As an inevitable end goal.

Whereas the sheep,
While death is still inevitable,
And somewhat predictable,
They just don’t think about it.

Masks

Written on: Wednesday, 28th June 2017 – 11:43

I have a doctor’s appointment today. When I remembered at 10:20 and checked my phone I immediately threw myself in the shower getting ready to try to make it to Stirling for 11:00am.

I arrived in a panic, sweating and out of breath having run to the surgery from my car, left abandoned on the street I used to live, hoping against hope that I would not miss it.

After arriving in the doctor’s surgery I sat waiting for ten minutes before the receptionist told me my appointment was not until 12:35, not 11:00.

I moved the car and walked into town, passing a coffee shop my brother worked in many years before. The gentleman who stepped in to cover my post while I have been off work was working with a client. I think they saw me, but rather than engage I kept my eyes front and centre and walked faster. My only intent was to ‘get away’.

The prospect of talking to an employee I could handle. All they or a colleague want to hear is, 

“Yeah, I’m doing better. Thanks for asking.”  

(Better? Better than what? Better than contemplating ways to die? Most things are better than that.)

It wasn’t coming face to face with a colleague that scared me. It was the idea of having to talk to or even acknowledge a client. I am in a type of pain that often seems indescribable and selfish. I can’t face the idea of being around clients when it would mean putting the mask back in place.

The longer the mask is left on, the harder it is to take off.

But wearing all of the masks at the same time. The masks of definition by action…

Every role and every person I have worked with over the years which have required me to be something for them have necessitated the creation of a new mask. Sometimes they are worn for short periods. Sometimes longer. While they are on, you can be anything. But wearing them drains you. The masks drain whatever lies underneath them to give them power.

Now, all of the masks are off.

When they were created, they fit like death masks. Designed to fit my face and my face alone.

While being worn, a mask never changes. But the person underneath does. Without realising it, the mask changes things about you that you may not have even known about yourself until eventually, you pull the mask away only to realise that the face underneath is no longer one you recognise.

Once the mask is off though you know. You know that you are no longer the same. When it comes time to wear that mask again you have to put it back in place ready for those that need to see it. But the mask was made for your face, and your face only. The face you used to know. The face that changed under the mask into a face you don’t recognise. The mask no longer fits, making it harder to wear and harder still to convince people that you are the same version of yourself that once wore it.

*****

Response: Thursday, 27th September 2018 – 12:15

During the Summer of 2017, I had to take a sabbatical from work. My mental health had been in a place of decline for some time, and the stress eventually led me to a place where the only thing I could do to get better was to step away from all of my commitments for a while to address my problems head-on and work on getting better.

During this time I wrote a lot, and most of that writing will stay private for a bit longer until I have had a chance to review it and decide how I feel about certain things.

This entry into my personal log, in particular, is the first thing I wrote in a brand new notebook and after filling the last page of the notebook yesterday, it is where my transcription of this notebook begins.

I wanted to share this because I feel so very far moved on from this place and time. But still, the underlying message I was trying to put into words seems so insightful and was the beginnings of the ends for some parts of my life and the start of a whole new chapter which I am only just beginning to tell the story of now.

My lesson learned from this was to spend more time being around people, and places where I could be myself without having to rein myself in or have to put the needs of others first. I talked about being selfish but learned that if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t care for others without it being to someone’s detriment.

The masks I’ve worn may have changed me, but after a while I did begin to recognise myself again. I learned to listen to my own voice of need, and by slowly meeting some of those needs, I realised I was the same person as I’d always been, I just had to make more time for me to ensure that I was still being the truest version of myself.

It takes a lifetime to master being yourself because every day you will learn and life lessons will change you. Embrace the changes, and love yourself. You deserve that love the most and have likely worked hard for it.

19th May 2017

One year ago today, I was at the very beginning of a mental breakdown that led me to write this.

I shared it on Facebook at the time, but the words seem so powerful still that I wanted to share them again. This time as a reflection, and a reminder of where I have come from, and how far I have come to get to where I am.

Life is so hard to evaluate at the time, but rather than saying “is it better?” It has helped me to say,

“What is different?”

In the time since writing this so much has changed for me and likely will continue to do so, but I feel ever closer to the life I should be living. It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I remember to do what I do for me and no one else.

*****

Two days ago, I became so overwhelmed I cried at work. On that same day the exhaust fell off my car, and when I finally made it home it was to find my washing machine had broken and the kitchen floor was very wet. But the time I was done cleaning it up, I was laughing at just how ridiculous a day could be.

Since then I’ve done very little. I’ve pressed pause, and I’m currently evaluating. I’m going up North with my family for a couple of days, and in that time I’m going to try and figure out what the next step forward is.

Sometimes it is about stepping backwards from the things that upset you and looking at the bigger picture. Once I have a better idea of what is really going on in my life I can consider what I do armed with information, clarity and hopefully for once in my life, my own interests at the forefront of my decision making process.

There have been more than a few people who have helped keep me together over the past… how long has this really been going on? It’s been a while.

Thank you for your ongoing support and thank you for giving me the space to get to grips with things in my own time. It can’t be easy being friends with someone with depression, but know that even when I can’t speak to you directly or when I cancel on plans that took far to long to put in place that I love you for your support and will always do my best to come back to you when I am ready to try again.

Tomorrow

So often in school we say,

“When’s the next holiday?”

While it is lovely having something to look forward to; I find myself thinking lately that if we continually pray for tomorrow to come, we end up losing the present.

I don’t want to wake up in ten years and pray for it to be yesterday, I want to wake up and think,

“Yesterday was good, but what is today going to bring.”

Never Play With Fire​

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Sitting quietly outside the doorway he was invisible.

Eyes the colour of earth, soaked with rain took in everything. Not the details of the room, nor the occupants; so enraptured in their conversation that the quiet boy went unnoticed, even as he shuffled closer to the door.

Upon arrival, the visiting adults had gushed over the artwork which the twins had brought home with them. From drawings and paintings to the hula hoops wrapped in crepe paper which hung ceremoniously at the bottom of the stairs. These props and pictures had been instrumental to the event the twins had attended earlier in the day. Now like all children’s crafts, they awaited their fate of either being discarded or moved into another room to be forgotten about for a while.

The twins often attended events like this and each time their parents marvelled at what they had created as if each project were a priceless work of art. Darren liked this, and getting to show off what he created to more grown-ups when his relatives visited was an added bonus.

The twins godparents came to dinner about once a fortnight. The routine always the same. Dinner, drinks and then hours of chatting and laughing together in the living room. The only variation came when a football match was on, and the men would slink off to the kitchen to watch, all the while shouting and cheering along so that everyone knew what they were doing.

After the first round of drinks, the twins godfather would take out his pipe and load it up. Darren loved watching his godfather smoke his pipe, from the way he tapped out the ashes, to the packing of the tobacco into the empty bowl with the edge of his thumb. The way he licked his lips before placing the pipe firmly between his teeth and taking a brief pause as he fished his gold-plated Zippo lighter out of his pocket.

This was Darren’s favorite part. The glint of golden metal as the lid flipped back, the spark which caught just as the smell of gas which came from the lighter became noticeable. The fire as it jumped to life, as if by magic, so brazen and free. Yet, contained as soon as the lid snapped shut and quelled the flickering flame.

Darren often watched quietly as his godfather smoked, and reveled in the moments he could watch this fascinating device be used.

From the doorway to the living room he watched as usual as the Zippo was freed from its pocket.  Produced with a flourish it opened and lit in one fluid movement. With his pipe already between his teeth, he puffed away happily until he was satisfied it was lit. While normally the lighter went straight back into the pocket it had come from; on this day it was instead placed on the floor, to the side of the chair his godfather occupied.

Darren paid no attention to the adults in the room, as they likewise did the same to him. Whether they were aware of him or not, Darren didn’t know. His eyes were fixed on the golden treasure before him. There was something alluring, adult and powerful and the draw to this power was too much for Darren to resist.

He stole into the room and without interjection lifted the lighter, before making a hasty retreat. After years of watching this giant of a man create fire from nothing; Darren now held this prized device in his hands.

The movements his godfather made to open the lighter were movements made with practiced hands. Practice Darren had never had. It took minutes to open the lighter, yet once open the magical flame did not erupt. Instead, Darren was left staring at sharp metals, contained within the metallic casing.

Growing more curious, and frustrated Darren retreated from his doorway hiding place to the sanctity of the stairway. The walls on either side giving him a little more privacy to fathom the secrets this metal mystery held uninterrupted.

Copying the motions made by his godfather, Darren was surprised when he finally managed to flip the lid properly causing the flame to appear, as a genie from a lamp. Ready to appear, but waiting to be released.

The flame itself was beautiful. The yellow, red and orange which danced in synchronicity around a core of black which lay at the heart of the flame. The longer Darren stared the more entranced he became.

If he’d paid attention, he may have noticed the body of the lighter heating up. Instead, it wasn’t until his hand released the hot metal that Darren realised his mistake. In his haste to create; he had given no thought to how he would destroy this rapidly growing beast.

After escaping his hand the lighter landed on the bottom step. Picking it up quickly and carefully, wary now of the hot metal Darren closed the lid.

The damage, however, was already done.

The flame having escaped the confines of its metallic prison was now trying to flee. It crawled along the carpet, slowly as if testing the limits of it’s new found freedom.

Self-presevation was the first instinct to kick in. Hastily entering to the living room Darren returned the lighter to the spot he had taken it from before moving back to the stairs. The fire on the bottom step still moved slowly, but as Darren looked on unsure how to tackle this beast he watched in horror as the flame moved towards the crepe paper, which dangled still from the hula hoops hanging on the end of the stairwell.

The paper exploded with heat. The walls, the carpet the very floor melted under the intense heat caused by this unexpected fuel source. As the hoops were engulfed so too were the stairs and Darren realised all too late that things were out of his control.

He thought of fire extinguisher in the kitchen. He thought of the adults who could better help, but he was so conflicted with the idea that he’d be in trouble he froze. Eyes locked on the growing inferno, tears escaped as finally, an alarm sounded.

At once all of the adults sprang to action. The men moving to extinguish the flame and the women moving to console the child frozen at the bottom of the burning stairway. They removed him from the house until the fire had been dealt with, and Darren learned a very important lesson.

Never play with fire.

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