It has been 6 months since my last post. I felt really quite bad, as you can see here. At that time I was determined that a course in counselling would be more beneficial this time around than taking anti-depressants again.
It’s time for an update.
My GP and counsellor, who are both lovely, encouraged me for some time to take anti-depressants, and after a couple of months I myself questioned whether I could pull myself through without them or whether indeed I needed the boost just to give me the energy to use any of the techniques being suggested in counselling.
One such suggestion was exercise, which we all know releases endorphins. I knew this was true and I wanted the “I did it!” post-exercise pride, but my brain is exceptionally clever at finding excuses, reminding me how I can’t afford exercise classes, how self-conscious I feel running in the park and how self-loathing I feel as the pain kicks in after approximately 49 seconds. Night after night I opted to lie on my bed instead, not even attempting 5 minutes of yoga.
I also stopped showering every day and washing my hair (sometimes even brushing my hair was too much faff), and devised the absolute shortest morning routine which would allow me maximum time lying in bed. I would only wash if I blatantly looked greasy, or before my boyfriend came over and saw me looking manky.
At work (by now another menial ‘personal photocopier’ position), I was struggling to be alert, and struggling even harder to show any pretence of enthusiasm or interest. No doubt they noticed my unkempt appearance as well. I continued to show up and continued to complete my work to a satisfactory level, but the flame in my eyes was most definitely dead.
Despite all this though I did make progress with counselling, I would say that every week one new revelation would present itself (the biggest of all I will discuss in my next post). At these moments I knew that I was making progress, albeit very slowly. My counsellor put me onto Mind Gym, a free online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course which is incredibly helpful. I have started to see just how negative and self-bashing many of my thoughts and habits are, and that I produce these thoughts and habits because it’s ‘familiar’.
What really made me feel better was a blessing in disguise – I got fired. (Again).
After I’d finished crying at my dismissal (whole other story), I realised that having a month on gardening leave was a godsend. It was like the other periods of unemployment I’ve had except that the constant fear of “will I make rent?” was kept at bay (although I still attempted to find work throughout the month).
So while I was trying to find work, I took the time to rest. This time, I did not let myself feel guilty for not working. I did not punish myself for not using the time ‘productively’: staying in instead of going out, watching daytime TV instead of writing my novel. The first two weeks I did nothing but snuggle under blankets, watch movies and read.
And then, in the third week, I realised that the gnawing, ever-present sense of self-loathing, the constant worrying and agitation of longing to be better, had lifted. I felt lighter. I felt … at peace. Emotionally balanced. I was feeling happier than I had in a long time. And my self-esteem was feeling higher than it had in a long time. Things that would’ve upset me before now rolled off me like water off a duck’s back.
I started to feel tiny sparks of motivation. Motivation! I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt motivated to do anything except prolong my mornings in bed! I started arranging to see friends for lunch. I went for walks. I finished the crochet elephant I started in June.
I started to remember passions I used to have, subjects of interest, quirks to my personality that had been pounded down. I began to channel it all into new ideas and goals. Goals! I had forgotten or given up on all my goals. As my counsellor had put it, I had been on shutdown.
I went for a walk in Little Venice and, sitting by the canal supping a hazlenut latte, I realised that the Universe had granted me “My Perfect Day”. That is, about a year ago I wrote a description of what my perfect day would be and kept it to meditate upon and pray for. And I had received it! I felt so thankful and so overwhelmingly full of love. I reached for my phone to text my boyfriend “I love you”, but then stopped – and told myself “I love you” instead. It felt wonderful.
Of course, not working is not a long-term solution. Gardening leave came to an end and very fortunately I was able to find a month’s work temping for an ex-employer. So far I have been able to cling onto my rejuvenated self but I do fear, when I find long-term work, whether my spirits will deplete once again or whether I am strong enough to keep my head above water.
But I have learnt some invaluable lessons:
- My instincts told me I could recover without anti-depressants this time. I went against medical advice and trusted myself. I was right to do so.
- When I am gentle to myself, when I stop thinking “I should do this”, “I must do that”, and give myself what I truly want, I feel really good.
- I am right to be fighting for a more fulfilling career.
- It is ok to be different.
Thank you for reading, and I will write again soon!