Also in this series
I wake from a fitful sleep in the darkness of the morning; before birdsong; before the light skips across the glistening gum leaves creating a living ticker tape parade welcoming the birth of another day.
It feels calm and safe in the stillness… for all of about three seconds.
The dread descends from nowhere and crawls over me, swallowing me whole like a dense fog.
My leg begins to shake – marking time to the irrational thoughts on repeat play in my head like lyrics of a mournful melody that plays all. day. long.
I lay curled on my side; my eyes shift back and forth from staring out the window to the clock above the window. I tell myself, “Just ten more minutes then I’ll get up and have a shower”. Ten minutes comes and goes and so I tell myself the same thing again… every damn ten minutes.
As I lay there shaking, window gazing and clock watching I try to drown out the thoughts circling in my mind by reciting-
I matter, not mistakes.
I am safe.
I am loved.
I matter, not mistakes.
I am safe.
I am loved.
I matter, not mistakes.
I am safe.
I am loved.
The unreasonable lyrics of mourn only spin faster and louder.
This anguish goes on for hours… until the beckoning light of day fills the room… until my patient husband says “Come on Sweetie, I think we better get up”. That’s when the fear of leaving the bed and having to do the day really kicks in and the uncontrollable sobbing begins.
That’s how the early mornings unfolded… for a number of weeks. If I moved from the bed I probably didn’t make it far past the couch. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t eat. I dropped 12 kilos. I was 42 kilos of blubbering mush. I really thought I was going crazy and the men in white coats would need to come and take me away. I even sat on the side of the bed begging my husband not to let them take me if the doctors ever suggested they should.
Simple tasks took a great deal of thought and were incredibly exhausting to execute.
I cried all over my mother daily and I waltzed in the arms of if’s, but’s and maybe’s.
Friends and family drove me to doctor appointments; counselling sessions; did my shopping; cooked meals; checked on my husband; checked on my mother; held me; cried with me; listened to the same lamenting stories from me; felt my pain; loved me… all this without an ounce of judgement and with hearts heavy with care and concern.
Slowly, after many weeks, the shaking stopped. The power of the fear of uncertainty calmed but shame and guilt remained like a stain on my soul. The cloud of depression thickened.
Around three months into my torment, a few things happened. I found I was able to concentrate on reading again and able to listen to podcasts for small periods of time during my day. These were welcome distractions.
I was listening to a Let it Be podcast on Not Coping presented by Kelly Exeter from a Life Less Frantic blog and Brooke McAlary from Slow Your Home blog. It was quite a profound moment for me because I realised the intensity of my internal dialogue was not taking up all the space in my brain anymore and there were spaces forming for me to welcome in different thought – logical thought.
I found myself compelled to put into words the spark that Kelly and Brooke’s sharing had ignited in me – I felt like writing again. Kelly designed my little home here on the internet and we have shared a few thoughts over emails so I knew she would not think it strange to receive a rambling brain dump from me.
You don’t need to listen to the podcast to get the point of my email but by all means jump on over and have a listen after the post here. It is time well spent.
Kelly, when you spoke of comparison and shame it’s a wonder you couldn’t hear the resonating bouncing off every fibre of my being from across the other side of the country! I’m surfacing from yet another emotional breakdown (however that’s defined?) from the depths of a non-functioning shell. Comparison shame and guilt from falling into the pit again, and watching the uncontrollable ripple effect that had/has on everyone around me, became a cyclic hammer beating me and keeping me further down and down the torturous pit of despair. “It’s not what happens to us, it’s what we think it means” – a quote that kept popping into my mind while listening to both of you speak.
Breakdowns smother you in comparison traps; shame; guilt; and the crippling thought of what you perceive others judgements and thoughts are of you… what you think it means to them… and what sort of person you now tell yourself you are.
Brooke, thank you for saying “It’s okay not to be okay” – I say this all the time and I’ve found people to be uncomfortable with the truth of this statement because it challenges them to be true to themselves and also to sit with the uncomfortable feelings of fear and inadequacy when faced with the “not okay-ness” truth of others who have unveiled their vulnerability ironically (or not ironically) through the strength of their own authenticity. Thank you also for saying “It’s okay to JUST be okay” – oh how I love this. I’m not quite there yet but it’s a stepping stone I feel I may have one foot on. And yes, I believe that other people around me may well feel uncomfortable with this statement too and indeed me being in this space – but it is a space void of any self-expectation filled only with self-compassion – a space also impenetrable by the perceived expectations of myself and of others for me to be more than okay. JUST okay will be more than an okay place for me right now.
Copers struggle with the learning of not coping. This is me. There was no hiding my ‘not coping’ and as uncomfortable as that is for everyone around me they do not shy away. Friends and family have rallied around me pushing through their uncomfortable feelings of not knowing what to do or say… they have pushed through their own emotional despair and feelings of helplessness seeing me so shattered… they continue to support my slow progress and honour where I am at with each step conquered without forcing their own emotional need of expectations to see me smiling and shining again that I know and accept comes only from a place of their deep love for me. Challenging emotions for all involved on so many spectrums.
I feel so loved, so supported but most importantly I feel so accepted for just being who I am right now – that’s huge. All because I let my veils fall… I dared to speak the words I’m not coping – I’m not okay… I dared to trust in others that they would cope in their own challenging way with me not coping… then I fell weightless on to the couch with the hope that they would embrace and accept the weight I left hanging in their hands to nurture, nourish and heal for me and with me. I have not been disappointed; all because I dared to share the words.
After I hit send on this email I realised a couple of things.
Falling weightless onto the couch after speaking my truths to my cherished others is not something that only happened once. The weight would build again and again and I’d hand them that heaviness over and over until it became lighter and lighter. Such is the power of unconditional love.
I was also stone stepping; I was stone stepping my way towards being ‘Just Okay’. They were MY words coming from MY mushy brain! Hallelujah hand me a party whistle – I was actually taking small steps towards a different place; a self-caring place; not back to my old life; not to a better life; but to a place of being ‘Just okay’ and I actually smiled at that thought. I actually smiled. AND I was writing again.
Around about the same time I listened to the Not Coping podcast, this quote exploded across my path blinding me with a thousand light bulb moments.
You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside your story, hustling for your worthiness.
What have I been doing?
I had been living outside my story hustling for my own worthiness.
I had been so lost in the shame and grief of the past I so desperately wished I could change and so fearful of the uncertain future that it made the present moment a living hell. The present moment was all kinds of shit… foul stinking shit… and who wants to step into their own shit!
By going around and around and over and over things I wasn’t walking into my story! I wasn’t owning my own truth! I had been living outside my story man-handling and ripping apart every syllable looking for a way to change it… looking for a way that would alter the affect it had on what I predicted would be the future as a result of the past… looking for a way that would bring back solid ground to stand on… looking for a way that would make me feel worthy again… and all that looking and living on the outside got me nowhere but further from my own truth.
Those thousand light bulbs going off shone a light on one more thing.
I re-read my email to Kelly – there it was in black and white – at some point I had walked into my story. I was standing in my shit. I was picking up handfuls of my shit and handing it to my friends and family to help me sift through my shit!
I had been reaching out to them; I was talking things through; I was taking the pills; I was stone stepping my way to a different space; I was stepping further into my story and further towards living with purpose and meaning once again. I just needed to step further in… to keep going… to keep doing more of what was working.
So, as Winston Churchill said…
“If you are going through hell keep going”.
Dare to let the veils fall. Dare to speak the words ‘I’m not coping’. Dare to trust others with your vulnerability. Dare to step further into the stinking shit of your story. Dare to own your truth, pain and all; for it’s there where you will find your worthiness; worthiness being one vital essence of living life with meaning and purpose once again.
What more can I tell you about where I have been and what I have been doing?
Well… that’s a story for next week.
Feel free to share (because I suck at social media – just saying), leave me a comment or send me an email via the contact page. It’s always a privilege to hear from you.