Work In Progress
I’ve had an unexpected struggle in the past few months and it has reminded me that, for some of us, there is no ‘well done’ sticker, no clean bill of health from the therapist and no fairytale ending. I’m humbled as I realise that I may be the project that I work on for the rest of my life.
I mean, I never really thought I was ‘done’ with down days, but I definitely didn’t expect to be hit with feelings of loneliness and despair at a time when I was feeling good, self-assured and about to launch a blog with the intention of inspiring others.
Launching a blog about trauma and survival has been scary at times. As someone who has lived through a lot and spent most of their life in a state of self-doubt, it was hard to decide to put my stories out there. I wasn’t sure if anyone would read them, but I still worried about the feelings of the people I love and (sadly) the opinions of those I don’t. I also worried about being defined by it as ‘the depressed/mad/sad girl’. However, in spite of these concerns, there was a cathartic nature to writing and the hope that I could help others to feel less alone that kept driving me forward to the launch of Surviving Sundays on 25 February.
Once I realised that people were actually reading it, panic set in, as anxiety started to rise about how people might judge me. In addition, I felt pressure to be ‘OK’, because I now had a blog about healing and recovery – people were connecting with me to say how helpful they found it, and how brave they thought it was.
When I look back now, I think the word ‘brave’ may have been the trigger. I heard it over and over again. And I suddenly thought, ‘Shit! Have I done a stupid thing? Will I be unemployable? Undateable? Unlovable?’ Also, ‘Who am I to offer advice to anyone? The old demons started talking again, when ironically, in writing it, this blog is one of the few places I have never felt like an imposter because this is my truth.
I then reread what I had shared and started to view my life as a collection of stories – and these are just a small number of the unfortunate incidents that have been part of the fabric of my life. Reading them all together, I felt proud of my growth, but a realisation came: I had experienced enough pain for a lifetime and I couldn’t bear that level of pain again. I’ve had enough.
And so, despite ‘business as usual’ on the outside, I hid in an emotional bunker for a while, not wanting anything or anyone to harm me. Throughout this time there was a great loneliness, as I felt disconnected from others, while at the same time really wanting to be held. These feelings surprised and frustrated me, as I thought my time in that place had been well and truly served.
There have been some bleak days, but thankfully, nothing close to the depths of pain or debilitation of five years ago. To me this is proof that I have grown and that the tools that I have learned do work, but this time still acted as a humbling reminder of how pain is always a possibility, and that it’s how you grow through it that makes the difference.
Something new also happened: a level of clarity that was so raw it was painful. I had a real sense of wanting to protect myself and it resulted in action. I didn’t think there were any more boundaries to be set, or house cleaning to be done in my life, but then suddenly there was. I chose to disconnect from a friend I have loved very much. I knew our relationship didn’t make me feel good sometimes, and I often felt like I was compromising myself while fighting for acceptance. Having recently revisited the past through my writing and with the help of my therapist, I have acknowledged that I have been re-enacting a difficult relationship from earlier years over and over in a bid to prove I can be loved. To be able to accept myself, I had to accept things for what they were and let go ... I couldn’t believe this was happening again, after five years of sifting through my life, but here I was again, cutting a cord and feeling it.
On the romantic front, there's been a lot of 'WHYYYY' going on just lately because it's been so long since I've felt truly loved and connected to someone else. Some days I have worried that this will always be the case, but as lonely as I have felt, I have reminded myself that I have worked so hard to value myself, and that I deserve someone who is ready to love and be loved. So it is just a matter of knowing that and accepting nothing less, as lonely as that may feel at times.
I also stopped drinking for a while, because I know that this has often been a way to numb my feelings and escape when I’m in a bad place. I know also that when I'm the Disco Queen on fun nights, it impacts my mood in the days after, so I quit for five weeks and went on a major detox, which made me feel great physically, but mentally I was then even sharper to the change that was happening and that wasn’t always good …
When I started to drink again after abstinence, I realised the most challenging thing about being open and sharing what you are feeling and that is JUDGEMENT. I now felt called to account by myself far more than I ever had and that’s a lot (Catholic guilt will do that to you). There was now also another dimension to this though because people may read what you say and may feel a need to remind you of it. This was true when, after laying off the booze and then sharing a post about being interested in a better relationship with alcohol, one spikey comment was made in a pub as I ordered a glass of wine. Me being me, this made me question myself, and whether I should be sharing my life and its challenges (still pondering FYI, but here I am). These days, most people I know are on a similar path of change and, whether it’s pasta, ciggies, toxic men or prosecco, they’re trying to have better relationships. The only ones they have to justify their actions to are themselves but, when you write a blog, you can suddenly feel like you also need to justify your choices to others.
At moments like this, and on other days too, I have just wanted to pull the plug on Surviving Sundays. But I can now say that I have found a way back to a place of comfort and, most of all, acceptance of myself and the fact that I am a work in progress.
Self-awareness has pulled me through this bumpy time. Being able to connect with my feelings is a gift. Yes, it hurts to feel things and man, I am not thankful for some of the memories that have emerged in the past few months, but these days there is growth. Where I might have suppressed things in the past, now I choose to sit with the feelings without burying them.
Finally, I decided to give myself a break and to make a change. I’ve been sitting in groundhog day for a while before this blog began and now thanks to it, there has been this period of review and ultimately, clearing. I believe this all happened to make space for new things. I have recently made new friends, reconnected with loved ones, seen some brilliant coincidences happen and, in turn, new opportunities have presented themselves. And so .... I’m heading out of London for the next six weeks (maybe more, who knows?!) to see what happens when I throw myself open to life. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be physically in a different place – I like to think this is the next step on the journey. And I look forward to sharing it with you.
Every message I’ve had and every real-world conversation about mental health has lifted me and made the shitty days feel worth it. Wish me luck and keep in touch. I’d really like to hear your stories. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re stronger together.