I’m really tired. What I think is happening now is that my body is doing a decent job of recovering and continuing to find strength and get on with life but my mind is over-worked. It’s worrying and thinking and turning over situations, questioning everything, trying to find answers and work out what happened and what happens now.
A new friend I’ve met this year through my daughter, diagnosed me as ‘having stopped dreaming’ over a coffee. A simple chat about the past and my job led her to suggest gently that it seemed pretty likely that given the experience of the last (nearly) three years now, it wouldn’t be unreasonable if I had stopped hoping for anything other than recovery. Whilst putting one foot in front of the other and getting through each day, sounds powerful, it’s actually a completely exhausting experience that at many times I found left me with no energy to congratulate myself. And because I never really knew exactly what the next day would bring, I often didn’t congratulate myself, in case I’d done something to scupper the following day’s energy.
I read this quote from Andrew Solomon (a great thinker if you can manage the words) about depression probably last year…
“You don’t think in depression that you’ve put on a gray veil and are seeing the world through the haze of a bad mood. You think that the veil has been taken away, the veil of happiness, and that now you’re seeing truly.”
And for the first time I have really understood what it means to have an altered perspective of life. To see very little to look forward to and to not find much evidence that suggests ‘things can only get better’. I haven’t succumbed fully to these feelings but often, especially this year, as recovery dragged on at a slower pace than I was happy with, I found myself waking up with the thought ‘ugh, I’m awake again…what now?’. The only thing to do is to carry on. Keep doing mostly what you said you’d do and find ways to take your mind off things. You never really know what is going to do that either.
Last week, I volunteered at my daughter’s school canteen. They don’t serve anything but small .50c ice-blocks for 20 minutes and then it’s closed. And I love them for that, because there is nothing healthy in these ice-blocks but they do it 3 times a week in the summer months when our days can get as hot as 35-40 degrees. Three of us opened the shutter at 1pm and a crowd of small children leapt to their feet and charged the canteen. 20 minutes of trying to understand shy mumbled orders, changing minds at the last-minute, calling out to remind the little ones to get their change and it was such a laugh. I ended up with hands covered in sticky sweet syrup from snipping open multiple plastic covers and all the kids were happy and so was I. I enjoyed it. But the feeling didn’t stay. The malaise descended back again afterwards but it’s sort of ok. I mean, I think it’s common and normal and there isn’t much to be done about it but get through it. I have learnt at least over this time, that the single worst thing you can do when you have a lot on your mind, is to berate yourself for having a lot on your mind. It’s really self-defeating. Some times in life will seem harder than others, it’s just the way it is.
I’m a lot healthier than I used to be and I’m on that road to recovery, or should I say, the road I’m on is recovery and I’m fairly sure what I’m doing now is mourning the time lost. Many years of lost friendships, inability to do everything my daughter wanted from the age of 2-5, some of the most active years. And a little fear hangs around the edges. What if this doesn’t go away? What if it comes back?
I realise one of my coping mechanisms across my life has been to ‘keep busy’, and while this means you are productive it can really mean you don’t cope with what you need to. I don’t know if I learned this from my family, possibly my Dad who made a good show of ignoring anything he didn’t want to confront by being productive also. Also having hypothyroidism really strikes at the heart of being ‘busy’ or ‘productive’ as brain fog takes away your ability to concentrate and the fatigue makes everything feel really hard. I’ve had to learn to lower my standards and expectations of myself, sometimes congratulating myself on having rested, instead of having completed a task. Old habits die hard and recovering energy has suddenly made me feel like I need to make up for lost time, so there’s 2 voices arguing in my head (only 2?!) one urging me to get cracking, the other counselling for more rest and a change forever. I’m not free of the burdens, I still have constant pain in my right hip that spreads across my back some days and I still find myself wearied easier than I ever used to. I’m not out of the woods yet.
Reading Scott Pape’s Barefoot Investor recently, he describes people who have an alpaca like attitude to their money. Maybe you should read it to get his analogy best, but imagine an alpaca fiercely defending their territory and you have an idea. I think I need to get some of this attitude towards my health. Over time it’s been too hard to be all or nothing but I’m getting to the stage where I know that if I can put in place rules, like a bedtime rule, then I should hopefully be able to free myself from second guessing. The destructive feeling where I wonder if I’m feeling crap because of my mind, or my body or because I went to bed too late – stuff like that. It’d be nice and would take a load off the extra stuff that’s on my mind right now. Like having the shakes for lunch, it’s one less thing to think or worry about. I’ll give it a try.