Well, it’s been a while…
Seven whole months in fact! I never expected to be away from this blog for so long and despite not writing for it, it’s never been too far from my mind. So why did I take a break then?
Why indeed? It’s certainly not that I’ve been suffering from ‘writer’s block’ – if such a thing really does exist – as I have barely scratched the surface of all I want to write about. Moreover it’s been an onslaught of combining circumstances that have caused me to have to make some decisions regarding what I did with my time. Some were hard thought out choices, others were simply a result of what life threw at me.
The first reason lead directly on from my last post. While I was confident that I was at the bottom of wheel of my cyclothymic depression, that damn wheel took an excruciatingly long time to turn. As inevitable as rain in July, it did and I stumbled my way back out of the bleak foggy wasteland that my brain periodically wanders in to. It took at least a month before I felt comfortable to ‘begin again’. During that foggy time (my memories of these times can be elusive) I had to pare back to the minimum of what was required of me. I existed via routine and frankly, if I managed to get me and A out of bed, dressed, fed and clean enough to attend her weekly groups then that was a successful day. I had to reduce me household chores; I wrestled with the most basic decisions and I wished so often I could say “fuck it” and spend the whole day (week, month, year) in bed.
But I love my daughter and so I battled on for her. She isn’t old enough to take care of herself, so I have to. End of. Which also means that, by necessity, I have to take care of myself enough to take care of her. And I love my husband: I want to be able to provide a nice environment for us all to live in and create meals for us al with love. I realise this is a very ‘un-feminist’ way of living, but with me unable to work a standard job because of my mental health and with currently being a full time mum, we default into the roles of a 1950s family. But I don’t actually mind. As long as it works for us and we are happy and solvent with this arrangement, and as long as I free to manage my mind as I see fit at the time, I will perform my 50s housewifely duties whilst being thoroughly grateful to my husband for taking on the burden of sole breadwinner for our family.
I am well aware that for many people this option wouldn’t be feasible. There are those who are forced out of work by their mental health who have no familial safety net, who face a lifetime in and out of work, or on welfare, dependent on the ‘generosity of the state’, who face homelessness as a real threat or as a crushing current predicament. Even when I am most lost, I am well aware of my own fortunate circumstances. The irony of this is that it just adds to my sense of worthlessness at the time. I get so frustrated at myself for being depressed when my life is so blessed. If ever there was a case for depression being [genetic – but that’s another story] caused purely by faulty brain chemistry, I would be it.
Anyway, by Easter I finally felt back to my normal self and wanted to return to my established routine for writing. “Ha ha!!!” Life interjected, “Not so fast there” and I lost my comfortable thinking/writing space. I was joyfully anticipating a return to my blogging. I pulled out my ideas list and notebook, loaded my daughter into the car and together we set off to our local Small Soft Play for Small People, only to arrive there and find out that over the 2 week Easter holidays, the place had been sold and turned into a nursery. RIP Cheeky Monkeys! It had been my prime writing spot, curled up at a corner table with a large latte, the layout and size affording me the luxury of having to keep just half an eye on the small person whilst musing and jotting down my notes. I took A to a different soft play instead, that day (God help me if I had promised some and not delivered), but it was a much bigger and noisier place and not an environment that was conducive to writing. My pattern was broken and I lost momentum until I could find another spot. However, I did get to go down a large slide. Lots.
Then my mood began to cycle upwards towards the slightly anxious, feverish state at the top end of my circles. I was frantically shopping (for things I didn’t need), slavishly reading to try and reduce my book towers (whilst still buying more books) and whizzing around trying to catch up on everything I had neglected over the spring. All the time this was happening I had the curious sensation inside my head that my mind was slowly emptying. I still felt somehow lost. I had a frequent internal vision of myself running through an old manor house – my mind – where the rooms were either devoid of furniture or covered in white storage sheets. My footsteps would echo on the bare dusty floorboards as I ran, searching for something that wasn’t quite tangible. Not a hallucination as such, I was perfectly aware of my surroundings, but a reoccurring feeling that came with pictures.
So I used my excess energy to dive back into my family history research, filling up these empty rooms with ancestors, dates and context research until my head was spinning and so saturated that I stopped sleeping properly because I had the next link to follow, the next clue, the one that might just be the one that unlocks another generation and maybe if I just stayed up another half an hour…. so I had to stop doing that too.
Then, whilst still (probably) hypomanic I had a strange dream. I have always had vivid dreams – it’s one of the welcome side effects of sertraline that these night time movies are now in HD. However, this particular dream felt different. I woke up from it and instantly tried to hold onto the details; this dream would make a great story! [I know, I know, how many of us have thought this, right?] So my new project, my new obsession became writing a novella. I planned it out, sketched characters, locations, a complete plot timeline and I began to write. I found a new writing snug and set aside specific hours in which to work, and I wrote and wrote and re-wrote. I actually completed three whole chapters before the school summer holidays arrived and I stopped writing again.
Now I had to fill my days with entertainment and stimulation for my daughter. We had playdates, family trips, Fairy-door trails, a Brutalist Playground Art Installation and woodland walks. I painted magic water pictures, created sticker collages, built hanging diorama decorations and replanted half my garden. We finished the summer with a short family holiday abroad in Belgium.
Therefore I was exhausted, but not bored, when September rolled around and my husband returned to work and my daughter began her new routine of 3 complete days at pre-school. What a revelation! I now have time to do my household chores properly, time to reconnect with what I like to do and rediscover things I loved but had given up as a lost cause (like ballet, thanks to Kathryn Morgan on youtube) and lastly, to pick up my pen again.
Which brings me back to the here and now. You may read this as a list of excuses only – ” sorry I’m late, but…” – however that would do me an injustice. This year I have been learning to go with the flow. I have learnt to accept my limitations and work with them and not against them. I’ve learnt to prioritise my immediate needs and that some things really aren’t important to one’s survival. I’ve realised that if you really want to do something enough, you will get to do it. It doesn’t have to be instantaneous either, but when you do get to do it, it will be when it is most expedient. I am back again now, because it is the right time for me to be here.
PS pause for thought:
Have you given up anything that you regret losing? What is stopping you from doing or having it again?
Are you trying to take on too much for yourself? What can you trim away; what are your most pressing priorities?