Writing on Friday
What I should have been doing today was doing laundry and packing for a summer in Texas; printing the ESTA Visas and checking baggage allowance. I did some laundry but not all of it: I did check the baggage allowance – 23 kilos, I thought we could check two bags each, apparently it’s only one checked bag for free per person on American Airlines. I have not printed our visas or started packing.
I vaguely recall a snotty SwissAir stewardess at the check in desk at Dublin Airport last year (are they still called “stewardesses” while they’re working a ground shift?) ordering me to move a kilo and a half’s worth of shorts from one case to another. I just hoped my knickers wouldn’t fall out on the floor. She, in her cool, continental perfection, would have thrown her head back scornfully at my big boyshort cotton pants from Penney’s in comparison to her own, no doubt, expensively chic Simone Perele lingerie.
This morning was not much better than last night; in fact, the last few days have been shitastic. I posted on Facebook that I was crying a lot, feeling very… sad. Feeling sad is not an emotion I easily recognise. “But you’re depressed!”, I hear your disbelief, “Aren’t you ALWAYS sad?!”
Depression is not sadness. Sadness can, and often does, feature in a depressive episode but the two are by no means synonymous.
I’m going away on Monday: what is there to be sad about? My daughter has finished her Junior Cert exams and she has lived to the tell the tale of what was asked for in the German letter. She is tired but she is whole and largely unperturbed by her first dip into formal academic testing. She is done with school till the end of August (remember the good old days when we went back in September? La rentrée seems to come around earlier and earlier each year). I am proud of her and relieved for her. She is so much better than I ever was at coping with all that life and an outdated, regressive and constrictive education system throws at her.
This morning, Friday, I had a version of a panic attack. It wasn’t a full on puking and shaking and catching your own breath in your mouth and gagging on it type of panic attack. More of a steady increase of BlackPit mucus swirling in my gut and eventually weaving through my veins, paralysing my body in a trembling state of frozen dread. I was supposed to meet my lovely, creative, quirky, talented, ethereally beautiful friend, The Artist, for an early lunch. After I took Elsadaughter to school, I threatened to go for a run. I had dressed myself in my running gear and I even drove to the beach. But I drove past it, and then I drove home and sat on the edge of my bed sweating beads of anxiety until I knew I just couldn’t make it to Camden Street, which is barely a mile from my house, but that might as well have been Jupiter today for all the expeditionary will I had. Lunch was cancelled. She understood and was glad I felt I could be honest with her about why I flaked. I was able to meet her later on in the day because of her patience with me but also because I gave myself a break until I could get myself together.
I had to sleep. It was my only option.
Writing on Saturday
After my uncomfortable nap, I knew I had to do something, go somewhere. I showered and put on nice clothes. I got into the car without knowing where I was going. I had had a loose arrangement with my Human Resources Manager from work to meet at 3pm. It wasn’t confirmed: I could flake on it. I decided I’d go give blood as I hadn’t managed to get round to it on Thursday as I’d planned. That will make me feel better. I’ll have done something good today.
The blood donation clinic was closed.
I couldn’t go home. I got back in the car. I still didn’t know where I was going.
I’ll drive towards work’s head office, I’ll see how I feel when I get closer, I thought.
I decided to go, I wanted to deal with it before I went away.
It was an uncomfortable meeting. She’s a lovely person and they’re very understanding and patient but I’m letting them down and making things stressful for school. But I know I wouldn’t be ready to go back in September, as much as I want to be “back to normal”.
We agreed that it would be at least January when I’m near ready. I’m fully functioning as a mother and I’m getting somewhere with my bills and life admin but apart from that I’m still afraid of nearly everything and excessively fatigued. I’m still screwed up. But at least I can wash, feed, exercise myself.
My sessions at Dublin Rape Crisis Centre will begin in earnest the week I get back. I’ll also be straight back to my psychiatrist and GP that week to check in and re-evaluate after my summer away.
The plan is to switch off from everything that has happened here, at home, while we’re in America and in true cliché form, recharge the batteries. I will allow myself to breathe and be; to heal and love and be loved. My bones will absorb the sun and store it up for any dark, cold nights that may lie ahead.
This trip will be my therapy, my rehab, my recovery.
I’ve also decided to give up men and sex for the foreseeable future. I said I’d do it for a year yesterday when I originally thought of this plan, that might be a bit ambitious. I think it’s what I need. I need to reclaim my body for myself and start having some ownership, agency over it; some value on it.
I feel relieved at this decision. Whatever I’ve been trying to prove to myself over the last year hasn’t proved anything. No conclusion has been reached. I’ve just ended up feeling like a bit of a whore.
So my focus, from now, as I sit in the hair salon having my hair done even though I can’t really afford it, wearing a €12 skirt I shouldn’t have bought, I’m going to be nice to myself. I’m going to work on me and, more importantly, not feeling guilty about being me.
During a long tearful talk with my Gentlman Caller (whom I now hope to be able to count among my friends) yesterday, I had a bit of a light bulb moment. I want to be on my own. I don’t want a fling or a relationship with anyone. I absolutely have to work on my relationship with myself first before I’m ready to share my body or, god forbid, my love with any man. That smacks of completely Oprah bullshit but it’s true.
My Gentlman Caller has turned out to be exactly what I needed in a totally different way than I expected. Funny how things work out.
The attached picture was one I came across on another Mental Health Facebook page, it might have been BPD – Pieces of Me. I thought it was useful in naming feelings.
Much love, Dot 💋