This afternoon I read a very real piece from Sista over at Phoenix Fights about anger. She writes very well about hiding her internal anger from her (annoyingly chirpy) therapy group and pretty much all of her friends, resigning herself to the fact that a recent outburst has probably led to the end of one such friendship. It was a post that really made me stop and think today.
How much time do we spend convincing others (and maybe also ourselves?) that we are experiencing socially acceptable emotions? How many “how are you’s” do we answer dishonestly with “oh great” or “much better thanks”. We may go as far as a little “getting there” or even a “one day at a time” but even these will be followed with a cheery smile. And then there’s the shoulder shrug or head bob that always follows such a statement, designed to relieve the other person of any awkward duty to reply, implying that it’s fine to leave it at that.
Why do I not admit that I’m not always okay? Why do I not answer a “how are you” with “not great actually, see that corner over there…well I’d really like to lie down in it, curled up in a ball, for about 14 straight hours”. Who I am I lying to? Who am I lying for? I’m not sure any more. Am I trying to protect my partner from the reality that I’m always going to be a little bit not-okay? Am I trying to pretend due to some unconscious fear that he would leave me if he suspected this was me, forever? Am I trying to convince myself that this slightly-less-than-okay existence is enough for me?
I’m not really sure why I do it, but today I realised that I’m not the only one who does. And I’m guessing Sista and I aren’t the only two! Which makes me wonder…what would happen if we all told the truth?
For the first time in 3 months I have the luxury of time. Since my last post I have been working 7 day weeks, travelling non-stop for work or family events and trying to fit in those pesky little essentials: eating & sleeping. Two weeks ago I flew to Australia for a long-anticipated Xmas break. The first 2 weeks taken up with family events & social niceties but finally, this week, I checked into a beach side retreat for 2 days and, luxury of luxuries: I caught my breath! I’m not ashamed to admit that I “wasted” several hours playing on my iPad. Or that I spent a considerable portion of my first day sleeping away the beautiful sunlight. I’ll even admit that right now, instead of rushing out to explore Melbourne, I’m relaxing in my hotel lounge, drinking the free whiskey & waiting for them to bring out the free cake I’ve heard rumours of. I am well and truly “switched off”.
Unlike others who choose to disconnect from their work email when on holiday, I still have mine running on my phone. I check in every couple of days to see what’s happening & I delete the nonsense. (I like returning to a spam-free inbox.) Unlike other holidays though, I merely mark the important ones for follow up & then forget all about them. There have been several times I could have dropped a quick one-liner in reply, but I resisted by chanting the following rule: is this important enough to break the illusion that I’m uncontactable? We all know that as soon as we send that first fatal email we open the floodgates to a hundred “quick question”s and “just wanted to check”s. The web of invisibility I have successfully weaved was hard won and I won’t apologise for guarding it ferociously!
It all sounds good so far, right? There’s always a but…..now that I’m stripped bare of the emails and the “busy” and the oh-so-trivial-but-right-now-so-important things I fill my life with, I find that the real me has no where left to hide. The “new me” who practices disconnection and invisibility finally has the mental space to face up to emotions and decisions that have been buried under the flurry of my life. It hasn’t followed suit however, that the real me is ready for them. It’s easy to distract myself from inner turmoil when there’s grocery shopping to be done or a client meeting to be scheduled. Not so easy when I’m strolling along a beach listening to the crashing waves or snuggled up in bed with my beloved, eating Doritos and watching nonsense television. And so I find myself in a bittersweet and contemplative mood. This city is my oyster, promising delicious delicacies and enthralling experiences at every turn and yet my mind, and my heart, are demanding my attention. Who wins remains to be seen, although I suspect I already know the answer: if you ever find yourself in Melbourne let me know, because by this time tomorrow I’m sure I will have a detailed hour-by-hour itinerary I can send you…
I’ve noticed a trend in my blogging: I only write when I’m under a cloud.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been in a really good place. I don’t mean that I’m jumping up and down, brimming with joy and singing as I stroll down gold-paved streets – lets not get carried away! I think what I’m experiencing is being “normal”, i.e. regular life with good days and bad days, but without the usual overarching sense of bleakness that usually frames my waking hours. I’m not sure what has brought on this pleasant change and to be honest I’d rather enjoy it than question it!
The knock-on effect has been complete neglect of my blog. I’ve not been inspired to write and, other than the notifications that popup on my iPad, I’ve not even been checking my stats. And for somebody who’s sense of self has a massive dependency on the opinion of others, that’s quite a big thing. Instead of beating myself up about it though, I’ve been quite reflective on it. I’ve not tried to force myself to blog, nor have I spent time self-talking about how rubbish I am for not doing it.
So, I have now seen this blog for what it is: a coping mechanism and not my desire to be an award-winning mental health writer. It’s the refuge I turn to when I have so many thoughts I can’t keep up, but yet no energy to do anything with them. It’s a source of solace and comfort on dark days, when I engage with others just like me: I can know that I’m not alone.
For a long time I thought that I hadn’t found my self-help “thing” because I thought it had to be something earth shattering and all-consuming: jogging ten miles a day, playing an instrument for hours, meditating every night. I thought the “thing” would be akin to a new way of life, a philosophy. In true depressive fashion, I berated myself for not having one.
For the last few weeks, realising that I don’t need my blog right now has also made me realise that my blog is, in fact, my thing. I look forward now, not to needing it, but to knowing that when I do need it, maycauseirritation will be there.
I saw this picture somewhere recently and it really struck me.
I couldn’t find any details of ownership: no copyright infringement intended 🙂