Holiday Collapse

I’m on holiday. It’s bliss. I’m in a logwood cabin in the middle of nowhere with a friend and our combined four dogs, no humans in sight or sound (although the deer are another matter), and a mountain right in front of us. It is peaceful and quiet. We are in a paddock surrounded on all four sides by native bush, and the driveway into this place curves around a bend so we don’t see the working farm we’re on.

I’ve had my full day of rest, and now I have anxiety bubbling up in my chest, causing my shoulders to hunch and my feet to twitch.

This always happens when I’m on holiday. I have a couple of days where I’m blissed out, and then I get smacked in the face with all the generalised anxiety I’ve been living with and/or ignoring and/or dissociating from since my last holiday, and I spend a couple of days just spinning. It’s a necessary, if annoying, part of my Holiday Collapse. At least I usually manage to avoid getting horrendously sick when I’m on holiday, like I know a lot of other people get.

It’s important, when this happens, to let yourself feel. I’m terrible at this. I don’t like feeling negative things, and I actively avoid them. So when something like this happens I have to concentrate really hard on unclenching my chest and stomach and allowing myself to experience the anxiety, instead of trying to fight it off. It’s not unlike lancing an abscess – you gotta let it all out, and you can’t do that by clamming up!

Despite the fact that this happens every single time I go on holiday, I’m always taken by surprise. It’s silly, really, but there you have it.

And now I’m going to return to my distraction and relaxation attempts. Hopefully this is just for today, I don’t have long this holiday!

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.

The Importance Of The Outside

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I moved house three months ago.  Well, I should say, we moved house three months ago.  We moved from a small, 70s built house with a very small lawn (2x3m, with a 1.5x10m run down the side) into a large, 60s built house with retrofitted double glazing, a catio (a patio that’s fully enclosed to allow cats outside time without them being free-roaming), three lawns, multiple edged and established (but overrun and very confused) gardens, a rose bush taller than the house, and two raised garden beds fenced off down the back.  We have apples and pears, an olive tree (I still don’t get this one), so many magnolias of different colours, roses popping up out of trees, and a loquot.  We also have a fig tree stump with a lone fig stubbornly growing on it.  Oh, and a grape vine!

This garden is a mishmash of things and it is very overgrown with ivy and jasmine and weeds and I have never gardened before in my life.  The closest thing I had to a garden before now is my small collection of succulents who, despite all neglect from me, have continued to survive.

Now I have an established and overrun garden to manage.  And I never knew how much I needed it until I had it.

I grew up in a large, old, draughty villa with a 1/4 acre section and a veggie patch.  There were trees I would scale all the way up until I was too “cool” to do so (around aged 15-16, I was a slow bloomer), a cinderblock I would use to contain any fires I lit just because I could, and an overgrown section down the back end of the garden that I could hack at with my trusty home made wooden samurai sword (whittled out of a branch courtesy of one of my friends).

My holidays were spent at the beach.  We had a small, lockwood holiday home within 5 minutes walk of a quiet beach.  There was no TV, no dialup internet or world wide web (in fact, some of this took place before those days!), and mobile phones were still a pipe dream.  We had to make our own fun.

What I’m trying to express here is that I grew up in and around nature in every part of my life.  I was a hippy child, a wild child – give me some rocks and I’d scramble up them faster than you could say “that’s a big rock”, and I would try to climb every tree.  Most of the time I was even successful.

As I got older I withdrew from the outside more and more, finding solace for my teenage angst on the internet and the people there.  I had an Angelfire Page – actually I probably had about five.  I was onboard when MySpace first came out, and Live Journal.  I was on Yahoo Groups and DeviantArt.

I stopped going to the beach for the holidays.  I stopped going outside.

I moved into a tiny little cupboard of a room in an awful little apartment with only concrete and horrifically overgrown “gardens” to speak of.  Then into a house with a single tree and a lawn you couldn’t even swing a cat in.  Next up was a house with a bush back section and a small raised lawn, then apartments.  I became “modernised”.

That little wild child who lit fires in the garden and ran on the beach and screamed into the wind because it was fun just … withered.  And died.

Looking back knowing what I know now, I suspect a lot of that was to do with my fibromyalgia, the incredible stress of working full time in a highly demanding job, and the stress and anxiety of being with a narcissist.

Regardless, I neglected an important part of me, that little hippy girl, and it took moving to this house to realise it.

She’s slowly coming back, that dirt grubber, with every step I take on soil without shoes and every weed I pull out without gloves.  With every time I sit in front of the open doors to the catio and breathe in the fresh country air and admire the green that creeps everywhere.

She is slowly coming back, and with her, I become more grounded.  More robust and at peace with my life.

The importance of the outside is, to me, immeasurable.