Taking A Break From Reality

2020 has been a shitter of a year, and I don’t think anyone has come out of it unscathed. I know I certainly haven’t.

Earlier in the year I damaged my wrist to such an extent that I need surgery to fix it. Unfortunately for me, the first surgeon I went to is faffing about and, as far as I know, still hasn’t even seen the MRI I provided him with. So I’m off to see a second surgeon in the new year, hopefully with a view to getting this thing fixed some time in the next 6 odd months. The result of this is that I haven’t been able to use my dominant wrist – and therefore dominant hand and arm – properly since the start of June. I can’t type much, I can’t hand write, I can’t hold things heavier than my cellphone … in fact, I can’t even hold my cellphone when my wrist is turned at certain angles. I can’t even chop vegetables!

What this means is I basically have a dud dominant hand, and in my line of study, you can’t have a dud dominant hand. And since the surgeon has been faffing about humming and hawing over whether or not to do the surgery (for the record, it does need surgery to reconstruct the ruptured ligaments and tendon sheaths), I’m not able to continue my course of study. At least not until my wrist is fixed.

So I’m taking the year off. And I may not work at all.

I cannot recall a time where I have not had something looming over me, whether that be university obligations or work obligations. There has always been something on the near horizon, or something I should be doing instead of relaxing. It’s a hazard of life, unfortunately. We are only valuable when we are productive, and for many, work is a matter of survival. I’m in the entirely privileged situation where I can afford to not work for a year, to not earn for a year. I mean I’d love to keep that money for other things (like vet bills, or, if I’m really lucky, maybe even part of a house deposit), but I will survive if I don’t.

So I’m going to. I’m going to take this year off, and I’m going to enjoy myself without the need to find a job and work. I’ll keep my eyes and ears out for a part time one that I might enjoy, because it would be nice to work for pleasure instead of need, but it’s not going to be my goal. No, my goal this year is to relax and unwind, sort my life and my health out, and maybe even reconnect with that creative part of me that loves to write.

But most of all, I am going to appreciate this opportunity to do nothing. I’m going to enjoy getting bored. I’m going to relish the feeling of having no obligations to work or to university. I’m going to live.

I’m Not Okay

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

I’m not okay today.

I did too much. Way too much, and now I’m paying for it with full body aches.

When I’m this fatigued – and it is a bone deep dragging fatigue that pulls every bit of energy from your muscles and leaves you in agony – my good mood inevitably slides away to a numbness I associate with my depression.

I will shortly haul myself off the couch and put on my fluffy cosy socks. Then I’ll turn the heatpump on and cuddle up on the couch and read terrible fanfiction until the claws of fatigue retract from my muscles. It is important to coddle yourself on bad days.

I’m not okay, but I know that I will be.

My Head Is Not A Safe Place Right Now – And That’s Okay

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I went on holiday last week to the most beautiful place on earth, the one place that has stayed with me throughout my life.  The one place that I truly feel at peace.

I had this grand idea that I would spend my days relaxing, spinning, and otherwise existing in a zen-like state.  In my head I was going to become one with myself and reach … while not quite a higher state of being, certainly a more peaceful state of being.

It, um, did not go well.

The first two days I was just so relieved to exist in my little slice of heaven that it filled me with a false sense of security and achievement, because I was almost zen-like.  I was decompressing, and I was able to spend a good 30-40 minutes just staring at the ocean in a state of quiet.  I think it was more that I was shell-shocked at the sudden change in stresses that my brain just blanked out on me, leading me to a false quiet.

Then my brain came back, and with it my anxiety, and oh boy it was not a nice place to be!  I hadn’t brought any reading material with me, so I vainly scrambled for some fanfiction escapism, but even that fell flat.  I had a burning need to be doing anything but what I am currently doing in my chest, and my brain bounced around the walls of the cabin maniacally.

But I continued to push for that zen aesthetic, that peaceful state of being.  I was firm in this belief that this is the state I should be in, it was the correct state, and I was wrong for not being able to achieve it.  It took me two days of struggling to correct my thinking.  My head is not a safe place to be in alone, and that’s okay.  With that admission, with the acceptance of this fact, I was able to relax once more and implement my distraction regime.

Distraction helps.  Depending on how bad my brain is depends on what kind of distraction I use – I have ‘high value’ distractions and ‘low value’ distractions.  I chose to hit it with all I’ve got.  I’m on holiday, after all, I want to be enjoying myself!

So I cracked out my gaming laptop and put on Two Point Hospital (the spiritual successor of Theme Hospital, my favourite game ever) and listened to podcasts.  With their powers combined I was not left alone in my head and all the bad thoughts ricocheting around quietened down.

Sure, I felt guilty about spending my time inside playing computer games instead of sitting peacefully and admiring the beautiful view, but I realised that my mental health needs were more important than my belief that I must make the most of my location.

I’ve just realised, as I’ve been typing this out, that I have a big Fear Of Missing Out.  It has been drilled into me that I must make the most of every opportunity I have been given.  If I am in a new place, I must always be out exploring it.  If I am in a beautiful place, I must always be out admiring it.  If I am invited out to dinner with friends (which never happens because all of my friends are students, so we’re either too broke or too busy), I feel like I must go to not miss out.

It’s all a lie.  Because while I may be constantly out exploring a new place, I am also missing out on wellbeing and ensuring my physical needs are balanced.  While I may be constantly admiring a beautiful place, I am also missing out on ensuring my mental health needs are met.  While I may be going out to dinner with friends, I am missing out on storing energy to deal with things the next day.

So I guess what I’m saying is – it’s okay to not be okay.  Do what you need to do, regardless of where you are.  If you can’t do the zen thing, don’t force it!  Work with what you have, rather than what you think you should have.

And anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

Never There

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I had a recovered memory the other day.

My relationship with my mother has been on my mind a lot in the last few months.  She admitted to me over the phone one evening that she had been very depressed when she had me and we had just … never bonded.  She didn’t know what to do with me.

I distinctly remember, at the ripe old age of 8, trying to do anything I could to make it easier for her.  My younger brother would throw a fit if his rice bubbles weren’t completely covered with yoghurt, and he wouldn’t allow the yoghurt to be watered down in any way.  Whenever it wasn’t fully covered, I would immediately say “I’ll have that one!  He can have mine / you can make him a new one” to stop the inevitable melt down from my younger brother.  To make it easier for my mother.

I was eight, and I knew without words that she was deeply unhappy, and I wanted to do everything I could to make her less unhappy.  I was eight.

My recovered memory wasn’t that.  My recovered memory was squeezing my excruciating legs to my body and curling into the fetal position, clenching my teeth to stop myself from screaming, and crying silently in my bed because they hurt so fucking much, knowing that if I got out of bed and complained about them, she would say “they’re just growing pains”.  These were my first symptoms of fibromyalgia.  I wanted to scream in pain, but at thirteen I already knew that complaining about pain got me nowhere.

I spent many nights like that, curled in on myself and clenching my body tight to stop myself from making any noise, especially when the pains hit me well into the night.  I couldn’t disturb mother.

They were only growing pains.

It’s no surprise, then, that at 32 I don’t express pain.  I was speaking to a woman the other day about my trigeminal neuralgia, and how disappointed I was that the MRI came back clean, because it means that my hoped for treatment, microvascular decompression, wouldn’t do anything.  She asked me if I really wanted surgery, and I assured her I did.  She asked me why and I said because I am in pain daily.  When she still looked sceptical (because I was carrying on a conversation normally and not looking like I was in pain) I told her I wanted to stab my face it hurt so much, because that would provide some sense of relief from the constant burns and aches I feel.  She looked shocked.

I won’t, of course, because it won’t do anything other than cause more problems, and it is an illogical act to do (hooray for being autistic), but some days I lie there and fantasise.

I have fibromyalgia and trigeminal neuralgia and you couldn’t tell just by looking at me.  I still throw hay bales around, talk till the cows come home, and do all the things normal people do when other people are around.  Because I learned very early on that showing pain gets me snapped at.  I still don’t show my pain much with my amazing human.  I say it matter of factly, but I don’t show it.  I don’t think I know how.

I have many more issues stemming from an unavailable and depressed mother, and I’m only just beginning to learn about them.  I’m definitely going to need therapy to help me untangle this mess!

Nightmares – A Small Setback

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I’ve been having dreams, nightmares, whatever you want to call it, I’ve been having it.  It invariably involves one or the other of my past abusers.

My usual nightmare involves It, the narcissist I was with for the longest, the one who caused the most damage, and my PTSD.  It typically involves him returning, and just assuming that the relationship is back on, and I fake it.  I fake it to hide my relationship with my amazing human being – which is basically what I’m doing now, minus the being in a relationship with him part, and more with him being on the other side of the world (THANK FUCK).

My first abuser was in my dream last night.  Then, later on in the dream, I did what I have always dreaded doing.  I said Its name instead of my amazing human being’s name.

Sometimes, in the awake world, It’s name will be on the tip of my tongue instead of my amazing human’s name.  I don’t speak when that happens.  I have almost been away from him for the same length of time as I was with him, but some scars take longer to heal than others.

All of this has … done something to me.  I feel flat and anxious at the same time.  I don’t want to do anything.  I want to bundle up in a blanket and drink tea and watch Forensic Files.

And unfortunately I can’t today.  Or at least not all day.  I have adulting I must do before I can be an amorphous blob.