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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

It’s becoming increasingly clear that  at the moment, I’m just not ‘quite right’. I’m feeling a lot more apathetic and tearful, and just can’t quite be bothered with a lot of things. I’m struggling to work productively and find myself crying a lot more than I have for some time. I find myself thinking about things I haven’t thought of since my last ‘fall’. I can’t sing at church either, which seems to be quite a good signpost for things not being right.

In short, I think I’ve officially lost the race against depression again.

This isn’t really that surprising – after all, I’ve had a good five months of recovery after the last and worst dip, but doing these things cold with no medication, is not the best way. And no matter how much I argue that it was ‘best for me’ and ‘the only way I could manage’, it probably wasn’t. I should have pushed to be put on something that didn’t make me so suicidal.  I should have had more courage. I should have realised that like everything on this earth, depression isn’t something you can beat using your own willpower alone. Apathy is my greatest enemy, at times.

The defining moment was realising that my thoughts are getting progressively more negative and dangerous, and although I suppose it’s a good thing that I recognise that they’re coming from an illness which has a solution, and not myself, I’m pretty devastated. I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like I’ve lost the war, at last.

The thing is, I’m afraid to try medication again. I’m going to Nepal for my elective in January, to work in hospitals there, for two months, so there’s not much time to play with drugs and doses. Last time, no one, let alone myself, quite made the connection between how ill I was, and fluoxetine. This was one time when being the eternal perseverer, did not have a good outcome for me. I can’t feel like that again. I’m terrified of feeling like that again – but I’m not sure I have any options left. I feel like a total hypocrite after spending so much time convincing my flatmate to try them, but it feels inevitable. I’m also not really looking forward to going back to the doctors after spectacularly failing to refer myself to the psychiatrist/renew prescriptions/do what patients are supposed to do. It feels like this is all my fault, and that if I’d been just a little less brick-headed, just a little less obstinate, or, dare I say, it, just a little less depressed and incapable, this fall back might not have happened.

I’ve not got much time to play with as I’ve got two essays that need writing in the next fortnight, and there’s a lot to learn in paediatrics too – so I know that I need to act quickly. I know I need to stand up to this and stop thinking I can do it on my own. I know I need to accede the point and then start again from the beginning. It’s like a dreadful homecoming, an unwanted baseline. It makes me wonder if this pattern is going to be all I know, now, of a few months rising and then, repeatedly, falling back and losing everything I managed to salvage. This is a house I don’t want to be in, a party I don’t want to crash, and yet, here I am. I’m stuck  inside the walls again. I’m looking for God in this, and not really finding him.

So – let’s see what happens. I hope all my readers are having a better week than I am.

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Strange parallels

I’m on holiday for another two weeks before starting my final year of medical school in early July. I’m still in the city I study in, in my flat, though may go home for a change of scene sometime next week. The last time I had so much free time, on my own, was in the run up to Christmas when I was really falling apart at the seams and was much more unwell than I realised at the time. I’m in two minds as to whether this time is doing me good or not; on the one hand, I know that I need a good rest and that having proper time to reflect on the year is important, but on the other hand, I feel like I’m mulling over things too much and overanalysing, which is something I’m prone to.

Counselling is leaving me feeling really vulnerable at the moment, like a lost child – and I think part of it is that I just don’t have it in me to fully trust that L, like pretty much everyone else I’ve spoken to in the past, isn’t going to let me down in some major, painful way. I push through, and try and get all of this stuff out of me and into the air between us, but it’s a false trust, and really, I’m just waiting for something to go wrong and knock me back again. It’s all in my head, I know that – she’s done nothing to suggest that she’s going to let me down – but still, my track record speaks for itself, and of everything, cynacism is a hard thing to fight. And at the moment, I’m afraid of falling back into serious depression, now that I’m finally on the way out – nothing scares me more. It’s eclipsed all other fears. I was lucky to get out alive, this time, and I am only too aware of my own limitations and that in the future, I might not be so lucky. I don’t think I could do it again, I don’t think I could survive feeling that way again. Between everything, I’m just feeling worn and vulnerable and small. It’s seems like I’m always on the run from something, and that as soon as one chase finishes, there’s another one about to start, whether it’s running from the past, or running from God, or running from the shadows of depression, desperately trying to keep on the right side of the track, but always having a sense that something is gaining on me and that sooner or later, will overcome me.

I went on a long walk today to one of my favourite areas of the city. It’s a nature reserve, hilly and wooded, and once you’re deep inside, there’s no noise of traffic, nothing to indicate that the bustling city is just outside. It’s tranquil. It’s one of the places I’d picked as potential places to die when my depression was at its worst and my grip on things was weakest. Being back today, with the trees in the green of summer, the brook flowing and not frozen over, the sun fighting through the branches, was strange. The seasons have turned and I have changed, like the scenery I have come alive again, and yet, they would have done that even if I wasn’t here. There was a period when I honestly thought that I was seeing everything, and everyone, for the last time; being back there under the trees, was strange, disorientating. I’ve come a long way since every waking thought was about dying but I know I’m not out of the woods fully yet, and may never be, I may spend the rest of my life fighting to keep depression at bay, fearful that it may return.

The major difference is that now, I can feel God there, whereas before, all there was around me was empty space, a painful void that could not be filled. Now I’m better, I feel connected again, part of the circuit again. I feel God in the trees and the brooks, in the space between two breaths two mornings. I feel Him there again, brushing against me, pushing me onwards, leading me, behind and before. It’s a good feeling. All it took was a change of time.

I’ve been rubbish at replying to comments recently – and am sorry about that, I really do appreciate them, and it’s at the top of my to-do list for tomorrow. Thank you for your continuing support, xxchar48

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Two Chairs

I’ve had a pensieve few days – my counselling session on Monday pushed a lot of buttons and has made me think a lot about my family’s ups and downs over the last ten years or so, and then earlier, I made the mistake (or at least, that’s how it seems at the moment) or re-reading some of my journals from the period between November and February.  Although it’s so clear that I have improved a lot from how scarily depressed I was then, it has also unsettled me, as those dark thoughts aren’t completely gone yet; I still have a long way to go. I so desperately don’t want to slide back to that. It’s shaken me quite a bit. A lot of the time, I feel like I don’t have much control over my depression. I hate feeling driven by something I can’t even see.

I wrote this on Monday afternoon after seeing L and learning that we have more in common that I would have guessed. It’s called, ‘Two Chairs”

It’s a quiet room, warmed by the afternoon sun, lined with the usual comfortable chairs, pot-plants, boxes of tissues, inoffensive paintings on the walls that are customary to these sorts of places.

In one corner, you sit there, you sit there, deliberately turned to a slight, supposedly reassuring angle, body open, honest, face encouraging. You are quiet, still, calm in manner, at peace. Your eyes refuse to leave mine, they sink in deep, asking, always asking, always waiting for answers. And there, across a table, hunched over, tensed and shaking, am I. I am broken down and crowded out, trying to avoid looking you in the eye, unable to speak freely, afraid. Two chairs face each other in a silent room.

We are alike in some ways, you and I.

We are both twenty-somethings, Christian (or trying, at least), Western, educated young women, living in the same city. We wear jeans and t-shirts with coloured cardigans, simple jewellery. Our long hair is tied back, practical, our make-up is sparse, we write notes to ourselves on the backs of our hands. We both dig into communities, pitch in, volunteer, and according to our friends, have kind eyes. We share a family story, we have carried similar weights and grown up in similar circumstances. But here, here the similarities end.

I look across at you, who, in a word, survived. You came out, taller, stronger, older, wiser. You got through. And I, I am still left behind you see, still floundering. I am still lost at sea, you see, still drowning. I am still reeling from those years but you made it through, you won your battle, the battle I feel I am quietly losing.

Now, in this quiet room with its two chairs, you put a hand out to me, and beckon me towards stable ground and I as always, as sure as stone, hang back untrusting. I cannot find the words I need. I cannot shake this engulfing sense of futility in trying to find a way to mend something so very broken, so far beyond repair. Wasted labour, wasted time, surely? Sometimes, we should just let those sleeping dogs lie a little longer. Seeing you here, calm and confident and stably anchored, hurts all the more – the expanse between us seems to widen. I fell at a hurdle and never got up again; you kept on running and made it over the finish line, you got to the cheering crowds, and I am still here in the dust, alone.

I am not jealous of you, just reminded once again of my own weakness and failure to recover. It proves that people do get through this, but reminds me that a decade on, I am still struggling, still trying to find the right glue that will finally hold me together. I am not jealous. Sometimes, this broken-ness feels like such a familiar part of me, it’s like an extra hand that I have learned to use day by day, it’s become intermingled with what I was before so that I cannot untangle it and learn to heal. It’s been alongside me so long, whispering all the way, that at some point I turned and started to disbelieve that recovery would ever happen. It’s grown with me, through adolescence, through leaving home, through young adulthood, an old and strangely comforting ghost. I thought that those past years would define me forever. Yet now, God puts you in my way, and makes me question whether I should ask for more. It hurts, sometimes, a little. A slight discomfort.

I find this hard, sitting in here, opening these boxes of memories previously hidden, stored so safely. They seem so much bigger than the space we’re in. I worked so hard to tune out and forget that I don’t even know what memories remain that are mine, when all is said and done and I have unpacked them from layers of tissue paper. I silenced myself for so long, and now, you encourage me to speak and I find myself once again, struck dumb. Have I learnt a new language since the last time I spoke honestly, so that now, I stumble over words? Or am I just as ever, awkward? You are patient, almost annoyingly so. You give me space to breathe, and, like a child exhausted after a tantrum, I can feel myself starting to put down my weapons, and am afraid of what disarmament will bring.

What do I remember of those years at home, anyway? I remember that no matter how hard we tried, every glass in the cupboards always smelled of gin, drank straight. I remember laughing with my younger brother as we topped the bottles up with water, a game we were sure would work one day. Some game. I remember holding towels to his arms as he bled buckets from the smallest scratches, once his liver started to fail. I remember long nights in waiting rooms outside hospital wards, too young to be allowed to see him as he sobered up, sitting alone on plastic seats, ignored by the staff. I remember raised voices, raised fists, high tempers and higher expectations. I remember like a blow to the head, the cloud of foreboding hanging over the front door each time I returned home. I remember the silence, when he had drank himself to sleep, and as night fell, I sat and watched the stars through my window and counted them to stop myself crying in the dark.

In that second chair, you sit there, knowing, listening. You sit there, telling me with your kind, wide eyes, of a new promise of spring, a new promise of flying, if I am only brave enough to take it. I, in my crowded-out chair, just don’t know if I can trust you with this part of me. I don’t know whether I can give you that glimpse of the things that make me feel like I’m bleeding out, without breaking down and never getting back up. I don’t know. I am lost.

Two chairs face each other.

 

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Monday comes again

After a few more ‘thoughtful’ posts, I guess it’s time to get back into the events of every day life. Last week was hard in some ways – one of my flatmates was home for a week, and I missed her a lot; she’s the one I probably talk to most, although I love both of my flatmates dearly. My sleep isn’t great at the moment either, and I find myself waking through the night constantly, having strange and scary dreams, and of course, the dreaded early morning wakening that is such a plague to people with depression. I’m feeling tired and still so far from my goal of completing the year successfully, and have been disheartened in the last few weeks as despite their best intentions (or perhaps not even their best, in all honesty), I’ve not been given much support at all from the medical school. Sometimes, all you need is a quick email to ask how you are, and remind you that you’re on someone’s radar. It’s been hard. Going uphill gets exhausting, after a while.

This afternoon was a prime example of being a bit of a glutton for punishment. After exchanging a few emails, I arranged to meet the med school student support woman, whom I shall call THE DRAGON because she’s quite a scary lady to come up against, and fully deserves those capital letters. She is the sort of woman who, at just over five feet, can reduce the star of the medic’s male rugby team to a quibbling mess. She is not someone you talk back to, walk away from, or dare to disagree with. Not surprising perhaps, then that every time I have to walk through the DOOR OF DOOM, step into her ABODE OF TERROR and sit in the CHAIR OF DISMAY, I end up crying. And in case any of you were thinking that I’m one of those girls who looks beautiful when they cry, all soulful and radiant, I am so not like that. It’s not pretty. It’s just fairly miserable, and very messy, usually with a good dose of mascara in my eyes.

One thing I’ve become more aware of in counselling is that when it comes to authority figures, I don’t do well, and apparently this is quite characteristic of kids who grew up in families complicated by substance misuse. I’m scared of ‘important people’. I start shrinking into myself and feel like the ground is going to swallow me up. I give their opinions more weight than I often should, because I mistake competence in their field, for expertise in all fields. And well, my mental health isn’t exactly something I’m an expert in, let alone anyone else. I am scared of THE DRAGON. And yes, I’ve tried changing the metaphor and calling her the ‘CUDDLY MEDICAL SCHOOL BUNNY’ or the ‘HEDGEHOG OF PASTORAL CARE’ but that’s not who she is. She is THE DRAGON. I saw her today and after a long chat in which she kept going off topic and I kept trying to steer it back, I’ve managed to get her up to date and vaguely on side. She’s harsh -and in our first meetings when I was acutely, severely depressed, and talking a lot of nonsense (not that it seemed like that at the time) about jumping off bridges and walking into the path of buses, it was empathy and kindness that I needed, not someone shouting at me for getting myself into such a mess. Now I am that bit higher, her brash approach doesn’t completely knock me off kilter – but it did then, and I never quite know what will happen when I meet her. Unpredictable and bad-tempered, that’s THE DRAGON. Perhaps we are more similar than I would like to admit.

Immediately after seeing her, I had to dash across town for counselling. I feel a lot more at ease now that I’ve taken off the deadlines and expectations, and I think now that the pressure is off, I might be able to speak more freely. She (my counsellor) told me today that she actually grew up in a similar family to mine – and together with another mentor-friendship I formed through my church last year, this does make me think that God is so deliberately putting people who’ve been there before me, in my path to help me through. They light my way and give me that rarest glimmer of hope, that recovery might be a possibility. I asked God to signpost my way, and I think this girl I see once a week might just be that signpost, regardless of how painful it’s going to be. In addition to that, if it weren’t for the encouragement and inspiration from the young woman from my church last year, I doubt I would either be in counselling at all, and would probably have also given up on church. God puts these people in my way. It gives me that elusive glimmer of hope that sometimes seems so extraordinarily determined to hide.

I’ve said before that I don’t seem to get nudges of faith – I get bull-dozered and backed up over, flattened, and this feels like a prime example. I’m still learning to be grateful for this and to be thankful that God choses to teach me so thoroughly, but sometimes, just sometimes, a bit less of a sledgehammer approach would be nice. I’ve had so many years of feeling completely alone thanks to the secrecy that surrounds drinking in family systems, and, though it’s so strange, dizzying, sitting with someone who understands in a way so few do, I think this might be good for me. It’s strange, trying to stop defining myself as someone perpetually, predestined to be, alone. Life – too beautiful, too painful, to attempt alone. It feels so alien, so out-of-depth, as though the ground has been snatched from beneath my feet, like running on a treadmill and losing pace, and stumbling down. It feels so awful to speak honestly – like when you graze a knee, and the air feels so cold on it that it stings all the more, but here, and now, it’s my heart that I’ve scraped the protective layer from, that is sitting open to the world.  It hurts, this life. It hurts.

I know from how much I still want to run and hide and not-talk about the years my dad was drinking, and getting on and off the sobriety wagon, that these issues are things I’m going to have to address. I’m going to have to face up. I’m afraid, very afraid. I don’t know how to peel back all the layers covering up how I really feel about it. I don’t know how to scour it clean. I’ve pushed so much away for so long that I hardly recognise myself, when I look back. It’s going to take some bravery, and when it comes to courage, it’s a matter of how long you can hold on for. Can I be brave for another hour, another day, week or month? Can I hold on? Can I stop my courage disappearing? You can be a little bit, or a lot, afraid, but if you’re being as brave as you can, that’s all you can do. You just have to keep it going, keep it burning, stop yourself breaking. I’m going to need bravery for this. Ephesians 6:14-18 comes to mind.

How do you keep yourself brave?

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Sunday nerves

Each Sunday is an obvious marker that yet another week has passed, sometimes with little changing. Now, in addition to my usual habit of thinking about what I’ve got to do over the coming week on the quiet walk home from church, I find my Sunday evenings are, rather than  the times of rest I have previously loved them for being, filled with anxiety about my counselling the next day. All I can focus on is, how will I fare? Will I find my words? How much is that hour going to hurt me, and am I ready for it? Am I braced and stood up straight, with my shoulders back and my chin obstinately out? Will I get through without crying? Will I get through, at all?

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Facing fears

In addition to a week full of lectures, this week has had some fairly major challenges. On Monday, I had my first counselling session at church.

I actually went for counselling three years ago, at the insistence of the medical school (to cut a long story short, my grandparents died, my parents fell apart, I needed an extension for a project as I had to go home for some time, they needed an explanation about the reason for the extension, and then decided that pressurising me into counselling was a good move). Looking back, I wasn’t that old at all – I was nineteen, used to not opening up to anyone, and basically a good girl who did what I was told. The woman I saw made me feel so broken, but it never occurred to me to speak up and ask to change, or to stop. I kept going (I try and give everything a fair trial; in this instance it was a bad idea!) and by the time I’d had six sessions, was in a complete state and had a new self image of  being extremely damaged, beyond repair, and beyond loving. It took quite a while to shake that.

So, as a result, I haven’t been all that keen on going back for more. I put it off, made excuses, and told myself that for once, I would let my fears stay where they were. I’d let them win. Eventually, I realised I’d have to try again, and after some emailing backwards and forwards, had a session booked, with someone I did not know, whose name I did not recognise.

On Monday, I showed up at my church building, where the counselling rooms were and waited. After a while, L found me – she hadn’t heard the buzzer. The normal room was busy and we ended up in the prayer room, which felt strange as that was where I became a Christian eighteen months ago, and it’s somewhere I’ve spent quite a bit of time alone, trying to sort myself out (or, let God sort me out). There are Bible quotes and drawings on the walls, comfy chairs, art supplies for kids. The counsellor, L was nice, kind-eyed and caring. I was trembling and tongue-tied, scared. Vibrating. It feels so alien, talking about the past, it feels a lot like a betrayal and a breaking of promises. It makes me feel labelled, this depression, like a cloud over my head that everyone can see. It swamps me. And most of all, I hate that all these people only know me at what I can only call my worst – I am not as bubbly, as involved, as lively as I usually love to be. They don’t know that I am determined, a hard worker, a good listener. All they see, or all I imagine they see, is a blanket of sadness covering me over and blanking everything out. All they see is my shadow.

On Tuesday, I had to meet the head of my medical year, to talk about an extension on a compulsory research project. I never understand why these people don’t realise how scary it can be, getting a red-rimmed letter through the post, and angry emails requesting your attendance at a meeting that will be scribed by yet another faceless person and go on your record. I never had a detention at school, and I’ve never been up in front of something like that before. When I get nervous, I literally vibrate, and they made me wait as well, which just made it worst. By the end of it, I was crying hard. I have my extension, but feel that they’re just waiting for me to fail and fall. I’m giving myself the best chance – I have the next four months mapped out, have done all the assignments in advance that I possibly can, have pages of tasks, timelines and outcomes, and yet it doesn’t seem to be enough. One thing that made me particularly angry was this year head, a haemotologist, commenting that I’ve been depressed for such a long time, since September – it’s not as if I chose to be, not as if I wanted my medication not to work time and time again, not as if I haven’t been putting in so much effort into keeping going and recovering, that I’m worn thinner by the week. I am trying, every hour of every day. If I’d have stopped trying, just for a minute I probably wouldn’t still be here fighting. It’s not as if any of us chose things like this. They happen, and we just have to swallow it the best we can. There is little choice in what illnesses you come down with.

This post probably needs editing – but I’ll put it up in the meantime as people have actually been reading this – thank you! Comments always welcome. Love, Char48

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