Write hard and clear about what hurts.
A quote from Ernest Hemingway has spurred me on to write this post. I won’t say I’m at rock bottom, but this is definitely the lowest I’ve been in a very long time, if not ever. There has been no drama, no problem that has caused the low, but just an all-encompassing, anxiety-ridden and despair filled ‘low’, that is defining everything.
I can’t really decide or remember where it started.
A few weeks ago, there was a week when I could not have a face to face session (I wrote about it here), though I can hear a lot of hope in that post. Since then, that feeling of being defined by sadness has broadened to feeling a multitude of negative emotions – all a bit too much. Sadness is still there, in its bucket loads, pouring over me and through me no matter what. Anxiety has hit me with a sledgehammer – my fear of losing my friends, job, house, car, life is so huge and it doesn’t matter how much reassurance I get, the anxiety is still there in monstrous size. There is a whole load of despair, too; separate from sadness, as it seems to hold my frustration and fear that I am here yet again – that we’re back in this low place again and no matter what I try, we always end up back here. Despair is probably the biggest of the emotions. It is despair that has been dragging the blade over my skin. It is despair that has been sobbing to the Samaritans. It is despair that breeds this feeling of eternity – the fear of an eternity of this cycle is too much to bear.
I’ve had two sessions with T since, one where we met in person and though I remember curling up with her whilst she read me a story, I cannot remember a single other thing about it. The other was when she was away, so we spoke by phone, and I mostly ranted in a similar way to this blog post. The most useful session during this low patch has actually been with R – for the third session in a row, we haven’t managed to talk about what we have planned, but it was overwhelmingly supportive in helping me put words to the minor-key music inside my head.
It’s not enough. Three words that I repeated to R, over and over. It’s not enough that I have good weeks or months. It’s not enough that I’m making progress. It’s not enough that this too shall pass. It’s not enough that people are beside me along the way. It’s not enough that people understand. It’s not enough, it’s not enough, it’s not enough. My ex used to say that the thing he loved most about me was that I never took ‘no’ for an answer – when I want something, I get it. I am exceptionally determined and because of this, I get to where I want to be. Even when nobody thought I would. Even when even I didn’t think I would. It is that part of my personality that got me my degree, that dragged me up when we split up, that got me my job, that gets me through these lows. Up until this time round, I have always seen this part (Sass?) as a positive thing, as has everyone around me. The phoenix out of the ashes is such an amazing image, and it is one that the people around me repeatedly praise me for.
But it’s not enough. I have met twice in the last few weeks with a woman from the NHS intermediate services – and in our first meeting, she said to me, “people who are as ill as you are, aren’t at work. You are exceptionally brave”. Her comment stuck with me as I was driving home… brave? Or stupid? I drag myself into work every day. The anxiety and pressure of it is definitely contributing to my general ill-being at the moment, but still I go in. The time-requirement of it prevents me from doing a lot of the therapy work I need to do around self-compassion – hard to go for a walk in the gorgeous scenery when I leave and come home in the pitch black night. It prevents me from attending lovely NHS run courses on mindfulness or restful sleep; it stops me from having duvet days where I listen to my heart and follow what it needs. I drag myself in every day, but is that brave, or is it actually a sign of immense stupidity?
I tell myself I have no choice. If I went off sick, the anxiety of being away from my job would almost certainly be worse. I would only get sick pay for so long – after that, money would run out and I would very quickly find myself having to give up the beautiful place in which I live, therapy (because she is amazing but expensive!), I’d have to move to a less expensive part of the world, or back home. When I’m well, I’m also intensely ambitious and there is absolutely no way I could sit at home and watch everyone else get ahead in their careers – it would kill me to have to drop out of what I’ve worked for. I’d have to give up all the good things that I have built up – so realistically, I don’t have a choice. Of course, there is technically a choice – but it isn’t a choice for the better. I’m choosing between the unbearable, or the even more unbearable. And that isn’t enough anymore.
So I stick at it, because that’s what I do. But the monotony of these repeating circles, the constant bad-okay-better-okay-bad cycle that I can never break free from. And yes, I am making progress. This time a year ago, I had no job, no house, no friends, no hobbies, really not very much except for my degree. A year on and things look comparatively amazing – but it isn’t enough anymore to be collecting all these trophies. They’re materialistic and basically fake, put on show because that is what my parents and I want to see. But it’s not enough anymore. The good doesn’t make up for the bad – it doesn’t make the low hurt any less. If anything, it makes it hurt more, a jeering insult from what I could be, to what I truly am. It is not enough for me, anymore, to continually be revisiting this low place.
I know, with absolute certainty, that I have the capability to get myself out of this low. Given time, I will build myself up and take the baby steps needed to claw my way out. I have done before, I always do, and I will do it again. But that isn’t enough anymore.
R listened to me talk about this for a little while, and then I started to cry. Hot, wet, awful sobs from the most grief-stricken, panic-filled place that maybe this is my life. Maybe this is all I am ever going to be. Maybe I am always going to be stuck in this cycle of okay and then not okay. Maybe my greatest successes in life will be that I drag myself up whenever I get low. Maybe that is all I am. But that’s not enough anymore. I talked with such emotional anger about how I’d rather have something phsyical, something incurable (god help me), because then at least a doctor takes over. Here, take this. If you’re a diabetic, you take insulin given to you by someone else, and mostly, that does the trick. But when it doesn’t, people blame the diabetes, not you. Mental health is different – I am expected, and expect myself, to cure myself by just thinking differently. When it all goes wrong, blame comes at me from all angles. The anger spilled out from every place – you can’t take me home, you can’t fix this, you can’t make this stop, nobody can make this stop, I’m so lonely… I put my head on my knees and let the sobs overcome me. R moved to sit next to me, and rather than using her grounding to stop the tears, she pulled me into her and I sat, knees up, head tucked under her chin, whilst she rocked with me and stroked my hair and I sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed. We sat in that way for a little while, until she whispered into my hair, “You are just so tired. You want someone to take over for a bit.” But there is no-one, I sobbed. There is nobody who can take over. It’s me, and I am so alone in this battle. This cyclical process. This ‘never quite escaping’ place. She held me until my sobs finally quietened, and promised me that she is going to be alongside me through this, she isn’t going anywhere, and she desperately wants me around. I know I’m not enough, she said, but I mean it.
In the phone session I had with T this week, we discusssed similar themes. T reminded me that I am trying to do all this work on myself (ugh, I hate that phrase), whilst also doing a ridiculously stressful job. She pinpointed that perhaps it is my self-care strategies that we need to work on – building in time for them during my week, and ensuring that they are robust enough to support me through. I made noises of agreement, but as she began to talk of reading books and other strategies, tears welled up and soaked her blanket wrapped around me. Talking about being kind to yourself is hard, she suggested. And she’s probably right. Considering being kind to myself is hard. But mostly because I have no more energy to give. I have no space to consider becoming a little more organised so I can fit in time to read before bed. I have no strength to make sure I keep my Friday nights for myself as sacred time. I have no strength to keep the thoughts of death from digging their claws in. I have no space or strength left – I just want someone else to completely take over. Feed me, keep me warm, rock me and promise me that this isn’t going to happen again. They won’t let this happen again. But that isn’t possible. As R said, she’s not enough. Nobody is enough. Nobody can do that for me, but me, and I don’t want to, or maybe just purely and simply, I can’t.
I am dreading therapy this week, because I just don’t want to anymore. A much more helpful hour would be to hide under blankets, read stories, sleep and be safe. But because I’m me, because I’m always good and can always be depended upon to do this, I will go to therapy this week and we will talk strategies. I saw the NHS woman last week and she has given me anti-psychotics to stabilise my mood. I have taken one, and it made me sleep for 14hours straight. Bit scared to take the next one in case I just sleep through work altogether tomorrow. But I will, and I will set thirty alarms to ensure I don’t. I will do all the right things, and in a month’s time, this low will be a distant memory. Until the next one. And the one after that.
It’s not enough anymore to know that I will. It’s not enough. I am so scared that it is no longer enough.