Getting out in the Sunshine.

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A friend texted me the other day, and insisted on seeing me. “When are you free today?” he had written. I felt a pain in my chest, knowing I would be flitting from one activity to another, and then another. Then, a smattering of light hit the quagmire, and I replied, “I have an hour whilst L is at a class.” We sat down and conversed, he with green tea, and me with a strong coffee. It was my fifth of the day. He could see I was overwhelmed and questioned all that I forced myself to fit into a day. He was concerned. It was enough for me to be taken aback and review what I was doing. Home schooling my daughter, I was trying to be all things to her. Teacher, mum, social planner, and many more aside. I was trying to please all the people in my world, keep my commitments, and generally be functional. I had around thirty texts a day and around a thousand emails to answer. I was exhausted.

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There was no time to eat lunch, no time to change hormone patches, no time to see a doctor or exercise… Hell, there was barely enough time to down more caffeine! I had been feeling as though I were heading for a nervous collapse. Deadlines for articles and deadlines I put on myself. Put in a noisy neighbour who compromised my sleep… I would wake up and have to down two coffees. I would sit on the couch shaking with anxiety, filled with dread at all I had to do. I had to keep everyone happy. Sometimes I would hyperventilate and my stomach would churn. When you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start… My friend was right, and I acknowledged the wisdom of his observation. “I use business as an avoidance tool,” I replied. If I am busy, I can’t feel lonely. If I am busy, my physical pain is ignored. If I am busy, I don’t have time to feel the sorrow, depression and anger.

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If I am busy, I can avoid my social anxiety. I don’t quite know where I fit in, and if people actually want to see me. I don’t call friends out of fear of rejection. I am unsure of my place in friend’s lives. I am scared. Thus, I drink coffee of a day, run around like a mad thing, and drink wine at night to come down off my adrenaline rush. The wine brings me down, way down. I go to bed, sleep for a few hours, wake up with a dry mouth and start again. It has to stop. My friend held up a mirror, and I saw the truth. I had no spaces in my life. None. I have to let go of control.

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The school holidays began, and I vowed to not over-commit. A new playground opened around the corner, and I set off with my daughter. It felt wrong, and I had a panic attack. I felt guilt that I wasn’t doing things at home. That was a big indicator that I needed to do this, immediately. When depression hits, it hits in a big and scary way, like a tsunami of churned-up emotions. It tells me to stay home and hide. I have to do the opposite. We went to the park, and a friend joined us. We watched the girls play, and we walked in the sun. A few hours later, when we returned home, I felt refreshed. I didn’t drink wine last night. I went to bed early, and had a good sleep. The noisy neighbour was at it early this morning. I had one coffee, made lunch, and we set off for the park again. It was glorious. So many friendly faces, hugs and smiles. A friend even brought her little pony for the kids to pat. I am changing everything at this point. If I continue on this trajectory, I will inevitably collapse. More early nights, and less commitments are required. I have to. It will mean saying “no” to things that are stretching my limits. It will mean more time in the sunshine and for spontaneous gatherings.

Two years ago, I did a free e-course for people with anxiety. I completed a questionnaire which was designed to advise how far I had come.

‘Dear Raphaela,

Thank you again for your ongoing support of this important research – we really appreciate your time and benefit from your support.

We are pleased to say that the questionnaires you completed indicate that your symptoms have reduced since you first completed the questionnaires more than 24 months ago. Specifically, your symptoms of both panic and low mood have reduced by more than 70% and are now in the low to non-clinical ranges. We appreciate that the questionnaires do not always reflect people’s experiences, but these are good improvements to have made and maintained – we hope they are reflected in improvements in your wellbeing.’

I am never going back to how I felt as a young person; to how I felt two years ago. I wont. I do have work to do, and life does get busy, but I am going to cease pushing myself to the brink. It leaves no time for joy and happen-chance. I am going to walk in the sun, and we are going to play most days. I will find time. If emails go unanswered, if my phone gets switched off, so be it. I will snatch back time.

L cloud-busting
L cloud-busting

I have to retrain my nervous system and my brain. I have to learn how to breathe again. I have to understand that caffeine is lovely provided its one cup a day. I have to stop using alcohol to make me feel comfortable socially and to drown out the panic which overtakes me at night. They are only habits, and a habit can be changed.

 

 

 

Strength Renewed

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I have been exhausted. Being a one-woman show can do that. No sooner have you cleaned the house and garden, filed the papers, paid the bills, cooked the meals, shopped for food, done the work and answered messages then it is time to start over. Home schooling has been the jewel of the past term. Witnessing this little girl’s zeal for learning has been joyous beyond all expectation. I get up at dawn, and start work, then continue after my daughter’s schooling has ended. I haven’t caught up with the many friends I love. There simply hasn’t been time. I know trying to do it all at once is ridiculous, but what if there isn’t any other choice? For me, there isn’t any other choice. I have to devise strategies that help me become a balanced human. A week ago, I watched my daughter skate with some friends. She was  graceful, gliding in circles around the rink, full of the joy of living. I sat with some dear friends, and reconnected. I have missed them.

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I have to lay down by 8.30pm. My spine refuses to keep me upright any longer. The relief when I lay down is indescribable. Its a sensory treat for mind, body and soul. It doesn’t matter that I am still working. I am laying down, getting zapped by my Tens machine, so it’s a win. I shut my eyes around midnight, and catch a few hours of sleep. The relentlessness of life and daily requirements… That’s what  gets to us. That’s why I pack up my daughter and we regularly have a change of scene. We shake up our world.

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I am trying to map out a future, and take care of the present. I drop the ball regularly, and it tends to trip me up. As long as we have playdates and good friends, it wont matter. Somehow, you come back refreshed, to your home and yourself. I stopped what I was doing the other evening, and my girl and I bathed the guinea pigs in warm water and suds. There was nothing else that needed to be done other than listen to her giggles.

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No time to scratch.

I  learnt that a friend lined up for quite some time in her bank, and became exasperated. “Finally!” she thought, when she got to the teller. Only, it wasn’t her bank. I decided she and I must be separated at birth. That is something I would do (have done). I want to let you into my world. A world filled with flitting around like a disoriented moth, a world of silliness and walking into glass doors.

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A lady I know invited me over to her place a few months ago. She divulged that she was worried about her job security and was wondering what I thought of an idea she had. She was thinking of importing a certain type of 19 inch doll. Now, when she said 19 inch, she did so with her index fingers raised, as though she were captioning this important measurement. I thought to myself, ‘its not my cup of tea, but I will encourage her.’ I thought about a lady on my street who owns an online store, selling all kinds of racy things. When I went to her house and looked on her computer, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I suggested this woman get in touch with my entrepreneurial neighbour, and then went into a spiel about what she sold. The woman’s eyes widened in horror, and she exclaimed, “I was talking about a child’s toy, that you might find at Toys ‘R Us!” Awkward silence ensued. That’s me. I get carried away. Full of good intentions.

The past fortnight, I have been racing around, flitting from project to project, without time to scratch myself, literally. My beautiful friend Cherie is a beautician, and owns her own holistic salon, The Yewen Clinic. She is graceful and all things ladylike.

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She came to pick up my daughter and I for singing practice, and once we had parked, she looked intently at my blonde hair. “Bugs are attracted to you,” she smiled, as she grabbed a black item from my head. We went inside, and as the girls were singing, she grabbed another bug, then another. Intrigued, she checked my scalp. Yes, I had head lice. “Werent you itchy?” she asked. “I haven’t had time to scratch myself!” I replied mortified. It was true. I literally haven’t had time to scratch myself. I was so glad it was my beautiful friend who uncovered my nits. Being into all things metaphysical, she looked up why I might have contracted them. People getting under my skin, too many commitments. Spot on! $50 and a thorough wash of all linen and towels, the nits have left the building. I literally had to be sent a plague. These are but two examples of awkward encounters and happenings in my world. Wouldn’t have it any other way.