At primary school I was cast as a mouse in the school play: all I had to do was say “squeak, squeak”.
The career advice I was given at secondary school was to become a librarian.
I didn’t want to become a librarian (or be a mouse) – I wanted to be able to speak.
There have been times in my life when I felt, finally, that some degree of fluency was coming through. But I’ve never quite reached the point of feeling that I could say what I wanted or needed to say, in any given situation. I think that’s why I’ve turned to writing poetry, because however much the spoken word evades me, and for whatever reason, I can express myself in poetry, one way or another. It doesn’t mean I don’t end up feeling ‘dumb’ and stupid in conversation when my brain can’t tune in to what is being said. However, in more positive moments I can also reflect on the many facets of communication, and the importance of being heard, in one way or another.
Grey island you spin and swirl around me (or is it the sea?) as I sit and wait for my thick-headed brain to clear which it does almost, but elusively and all too briefly teasingly still tense tension immense
Four seagulls soar one sits probably shits (or is that on the wing?)
Thrift, rock, heather purple, black, yellow, mauve green, grey, white weather wild mild quite
Walking, talking, inwardly I sit (still) and wait for my thick-headed brain to clear and allow me to feel the joy of the sea and the splendour of the trees and everything around me
So, I sit (on a rock) and wait for my thick-headed brain to clear and know that someday soon it will be free hopefully
A quarter of a century after I started my self-directed journey of recovery from a complete personal breakdown, it would be easy to think at this stage that I never will get that sense of mental clarity that I have been seeking.
I hoped by now that I could have been sailing instead of struggling to find the energy to get through each day in a remotely positive way.
There are significant differences though, between then – when I started out – and now – when I’ve arrived at a particularly low down point, wondering how on earth I’m going to summon up the motivation and momentum to start going ‘up’ or ‘forward’ again.
The most significant difference for me is that now I’m in a loving relationship. My partner and I care for and about each other in ways that make us both feel good. He suffers from depression too, so we often alternate in terms of who most needs support from the other at any one time. We’ve both had almost catastrophic life experiences to contend with in the past, both just come through by the skin of our teeth, both had to learn to trust again – often the most difficult thing of all, including trusting ourselves as well as each other. And we’re both now thankful that we’ve found each other. ‘Together Forever’ is our motto. We want to make the most of the time that we have – both now in our 60s – and that, in itself, is a motivator. At the same time, I’m still feeling profoundly exhausted and know that I need to do some more work on myself to pull out of this and finally put the traumas of the past behind me.
I know that it’s important to sometimes push myself and at other times do nothing. Doing nothing is hard as it brings with it the fear that it will become a permanent state and that I will vegetate from doing nothing to being nothing. At my age, fear of dementia also comes in to the mix. But in the depths of depression, doing anything at all feels like just too much, so where do I start?
I keep coming back to affirmations. Affirmations, some gentle regular exercise, healthy eating, not too much alcohol. All sensible things.
The affirmations I’ve identified for myself at this time are for depression and hearing problems. While I don’t really have hearing problems as such – other than age-related deterioration – I do have problems with ‘itchy ears’ and I have also had problems in the past with being heard.
I set about learning and practising active listening skills when I trained as a volunteer bereavement counsellor – it must have been about 20 years ago now. I’ve found those skills invaluable in different jobs and roles that I’ve held, although more latterly I’ve found it increasingly hard to concentrate. Active listening, by definition, means giving another person full attention. I think my body and brain have been telling me to give myself full attention for a change; had I ‘listened’ to what they were telling me earlier, I might not have arrived at the state I’m at now, although by the nature of cycles, they do have to go full turn.
Anyway, the affirmations that I’ve found, to say to myself when I can and when I need to, are:
“I move beyond other people’s fear and limitations. I create my own life.”
When I say each of these, at the very low ebb that I’m at now, I get a sense of uplift in my spirit, even if my body and brain are running well behind. I hold on to the belief that they will catch up though. Eventually.
Oh, and of course writing – something, anything – can be therapeutic as well. I’m going to keep writing, and affirming. And washing up, and doing a bit of gardening …