Autumn is definitely here. I’ve resisted for as long as I could but now there’s no denying it. It’s here. And I’m trying to see the beauty in it. All the leaves are changing colours. Turning yellow and red and all the colours in between. But all I can see is summer dying and darkness, death and depression taking over. Sure the fir and spruce are still green but they take on some darker hue and just look like they need to be dusted off or something. Once the leaves are all gone and the leafy trees have dropped all their lovely greenery they just look dead. For now they’re all color and glow but all I can see is what’s coming after that.
I know it’s beautiful. Cognitively. But emotionally it’s just horrible.
So depression and stuff is coming. I try my hardest to practise self-care. I cuddle the dog. I take long walks when the sun is out. I plan fun things to look forward too.
I’ve booked my escape-Christmas-and-go-see-the-sun-trip.
Me and the man I married don’t share the same view on the horrors of Christmas so we don’t celebrate together. I know, we’re weird like that.
He hates travelling and I hate celebrating Christmas in the dark. So he celebrates with his parents and I leave the country and go get some sun and don’t celebrate at all. It’s the best arrangement ever!
I’m fat. Or actually, according to the WHO scale of BMI I’m overweight. Now BMI measures kilos per square meter. I’m not two dimensional, and neither are you, so it’s an indicator rather than an exact measurement.
Now, I could of course do something about it, in theory. The first thing being to stop eating my weight in chocolate every time I get sad or bored. Since I suffer from depression it is harder to do something about it since it is harder to do something, anything, about anything when I’m depressed. I always get worse when the darkness comes creeping in and apparently it starts in August this year.
In order to feel better and be less depressed I should exercise. It is good for you to exercise on so many levels. We all know this. But knowing and doing are two very separate things. Like, with a moat and everything between them!
I’m going on a business trip next month, to a conference. The venue is about an eight hour drive away. The other options are: take the train, over night, while changing trains four times or fly from my very own home town early Sunday morning, change planes once and take a train the last one and a half hours and be there by early Sunday afternoon. I’ll need an extra hotel night and will get a few hours to myself on Monday because the programme doesn’t start until the afternoon. Flying is not an environmentally friendly thing to do.
My boss said You should drive Monday morning! I said I can’t. I’m not a good driver at 5 a.m., when I’d have to start, and I don’t have the stamina to drive that far all on my own. I would have to eat my bodyweight in candy to stay awake. And we’re back at the overweight thing. Because I don’t just eat to comfort myself when I’m sad, I also eat when I’m bored, when I’m celebrating and I eat to stay awake. For some reason keeping my hands busy by shoveling candy into my mouth keeps me awake. Of course it is a combination of the shoveling and the chewing and the constantly high blood sugar levels. Maybe I could stay awake just by keeping my hands busy but I can’t very well knit while driving…
So I’ll fly. And probably eat.
I talked to my psychiatrist about the eating and the yearning for candy and baked goods. She said it’s one of the side effects of one of my many, many antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Yay! I have something to blame! I don’t need to take any kind of responsibility for my own actions!
I’ll just have to live with the ever increasing waistline and the constant need for larger clothes.
I have just recently gone above the largest size on my favourite clothes store. They stock a 46 in most anything but the big-girl-department starts at 48 and they just don’t have that department. So my options are to get myself together and actually lose enough weight to be able to get back into the size 46 pants or to start only wearing dresses and pants with elastic waistbands. How I’ll find those pants is anyone’s guess.
I just don’t know how to gather enough motivation and mental strength to stop gaining weight, let alone losing any.
All this leads me to a Swedish word that lacks a good English translation: sugen. When you’re candy-sugen you feel like you need and want some candy. It’s like a yearning for candy. One online translation tool says peckish is the translation but when they list sentences with the Swedish word sugen in them none of the corresponding English sentences has peckish in them. It’s interesting that the English language has like three times as many words in it as the Swedish language but there are still Swedish words that lack an English translation.
And on that note, I think I’ll stay put on the couch and avoid going to the chocolate in the kitchen.
I like to expand my horizons a bit. Learn new stuff. Do new things. So when the man I married and his friend suggested we go sailing for a week I said yes.
Well, I had a few questions first but I did say yes.
Relevant to the subject is that I had never, ever gone sailing before.
Not even set my foot on a sailboat in my life.
Also, water is not my element.
Get me flying and I’ll be happy as a clam (are clams happy?). Let me be on the ground I’ll be quite content but put me in water and I’ll be uncomfortable. Put me under the surface and I’ll be scared. Sure, I know how to swim but my confidence in my ability to survive falling in involuntarily is nil.
Ask me to save a grownup in water and I don’t think I would even try. I’d do it for a child though. But I’d always try sending in the man I married first. You see, he is a water animal.
It is his element. He dives. He has taken multiple rescue diver classes and I am completely confident that he would manage to save me if anything should happen. I have been very clear with him though that if he needs saving in water he is on his own. He doesn’t need saving, so we’re all good.
So, sailing! Off we went. To Croatia. I brought a friend and the deal was she and I would try not to be in the way as the man I married and his friend, who by the way is a certified skipper, did all the pulling of strings and putting the keep-away-pillows over the side of our boat and the general running of the ship.
I did manage to rename all the ropes and whatnots to String and the Fenders to Keep-away-pillows. Even the certified skipper started calling them that! I think that was my main contribution to the entire affair.
This friend of the man I married doesn’t do anything half-assed. He goes full on into anything. So we didn’t rent some small boat where you cound’t stand up straight and it would be crowded to be two people. We rented a yacht. With four bedrooms, three bathrooms, one shower room, living room and kitchen. There could be ten people sleeping in that boat if you really wanted to. We were four. Quite spacious! And very, very luxurious!
The first boat ride, from the marina where we rented the yacht, I got nauseous. Not full on sea sick but quite nauseous. I went to bed when we reached our destination and the others went out to eat dinner. Of course my worrisome husband asked my friend if she would be okay keeping me company at some hotel on that island while the guys went sailing for a week. The idea that I could cope with some nausea and that maybe I would feel better the next day probably didn’t even cross his mind. But I could and I did and didn’t get seasick for the rest of the trip.
And it was awesome!
The nature in Croatia is beautiful. There is so much history in every little village and the food is good. If you like fish, that is. You get fed a lot of fish. But I had some good meat as well. We had a lovely time and even talked about what boat we’re going to rent next year.
I’ve learned not to be a workaholic. It’s vitally important to me to separate work from my time off. I will not function in the long run if I keep bringing work home with me. But I’m definitely an engagement-aholic. Whenever someone says “Can someone do this, please?” I tend to put my hand up, I can always help. Maybe because I connect my self-worth so strongly to how much use I am to others. Or, not maybe. That’s why. Trying to believe that I’m enough even when I’m not productive, not being of use to someone is a struggle.
I’ve both been there and done that with the whole burn out thing. So not worth it! My biggest problem when I smacked straight into the wall the first time was to accept it. Accept that I had no energy left, that my ambitions went far, far over my ability. Trying to accept that right then I couldn’t and I shouldn’t work or produce or help. That there was a brick wall in my way, stopping me from doing what I wanted.
I had to work hard on letting things go, not taking responsibility for everything and everyone and not helping others when it would cost me instead of help me. For me letting go also meant to stop following the news. I over-empathize and get overly emotional about all the horrible, horrible things going on in the world. I get so angry with injustice and stupidity that it drains me of my energy.
I think one of the best pieces of advice I have for someone struggling with burn-out symptoms is to only do things that gives you something and just skip the rest. If that means not showering for a week or only eating toast or actually choosing to stay away from friends or family that might drain your energy reserves, then so be it!
Or whatever it might be that takes energy out of you.
I’ve also seen multiple therapists. One at a time, of course, but over time they’ve added up to a bunch. I tried Cognitive behavioral therapy and it helped some but after a while I felt like it didn’t make a difference so I stopped. I almost gave up that there would be anything else that could help but then a friend told me she she had gotten great help from seeing a communicologist. I wouldn’t have gone if she’d have told me what it was but I’m glad she didn’t specify, I’m glad I went and I’m incredibly grateful that it helped me so, so much. It’s a more hands-on therapy where you don’t just talk. This therapy is not all that common, not subsidized by the otherwise almost free healthcare in my country and there wasn’t anyone in my city that worked as a communicologist specialized in individuals. So I had to drive for two hours to get to one. Well worth the trip and the money!
And on a side note I highly recommend reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, and/or following The Bloggess on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and her blog thebloggess.com. She’s way more unstable than I am and she writes about it in both serious and funny ways.
The man I’m married to is a big nostalgic. He has shelf after shelf full of stuff that he just can’t get rid of because they mean so much to him. Me, I have a shoebox of nostalgic stuff that I can’t bring myself to throw out. Yes I have an entire desk drawer of photos that I never look at and will never put into a photo album but that is only there because I haven’t gotten around to throw it out and don’t need the space for anything else at the moment.
The thing is, I believe your memories are in your head, not in things. I don’t believe memories go away just because you throw stuff away. He seems to believe that. I’m not allowed to throw away his Blümchen CDs from the 1990-ties even though:
He never listens to them. He hasn’t in the entire decade we’ve been together.
We don’t even have a CD-player in the house.
We’ve never listened to a CD in the car, where we have a CD-player.
All the music he ownes is on Spotify.
We have a premium family account on Spotify.
However, we have negotiated a solution where I am allowed to put his CDs in a box in the basement. Out of sight.
It’s a lovely Australian tv series. I first happened upon it on regular tv, you know linear tv, when I was flipping through the channels. Is it called that? Or is it called channel surfing? In Swedish it’s called to zapp through the channels.
Anyway, I was zapping along and happened upon a really nasty old lady saying something like “If you insist on marrying that woman I will leave Ash Park to James!” in the snippiest tone of voice and with a British accent. There are few tv related things more irresistible to me than a bitchy old English lady! I’ll watch anything with Maggie Smith in it.
And boy does Elizabeth Bligh measure up to that standard! She is a horrible, horrible person with so many rules about how you should live your life and who you should and most of all shouldn’t love. She rules her family with “their best interest at heart”. I love it!
Speaking of Maggie Smith I saw “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” recently. Full of old English ladies and Maggie plays the bitchiest of them all. A really racist old hag who needs surgery but simply cannot stand the doctors she is given and is sent to India (oh, the horror!) for her surgery.
One lovely thing about that movie is the saying “It will all be alright in the end so if it’s not alright then it is not yet the end.”
As I’ve said before depression has been more or less a constant in my life. When something is constantly there it becomes normal. Which means I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to feel that way. I didn’t know that not everyone else felt that way. I couldn’t have known because nobody told me.
Winter has always been the worst. Where I grew up winter started in October and went on until March or April. Winter meant there was no light. It was dark in the morning when I went to school. It was light for a few hours while I was in school and then it was dark again when I went home.
It was horrible.
We didn’t talk about feelings when I grew up. Nobody asked how I was feeling and nobody asked me to describe my feelings in any way. Nobody taught me how to describe my feelings and they never talked about their own. So, I didn’t really know you could.
I guess I saw it happen on tv at some point but it didn’t register as something that was transferrable to my own life. This whole saying “I love you”-thing people did on tv didn’t happen in my life. What was on tv had nothing to do with me or my life.
I have spent a lot of time in my life thinking about suicide. Planning how. Planning what to write in my suicide note. And I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to. I thought everyone else planned their suicides too, if I ever thought about it.
At the age of 18 I fell apart. I started seeing a psychologist. I got help.
And it was AMAZING!
Someone asked me how I was. Someone listened! Someone helped me put how crappy I felt into words.
It turned out that I wasn’t supposed to feel like shit all the time. I wasn’t supposed to just survive all winter. I was supposed to actually live. I was supposed to be able to feel happy even when the days were short and dark.
The dark season has never been my friend. I can describe the way I feel during winter like this:
Imagine being out in this weather:
It’s all gray, like the sun hasn’t actually come up at all. The clouds are covering the entire sky and they are all the same dark gray. It’s raining. Not pouring down but raining. It’s windy. Head wind no matter what direction you’re facing and the wind is strong enough to make any umbrella useless. The kind of wind that is always in your face and it’s making the rain fall onto your face at an angle. Sort of whipping the rain against your skin making it feel like tiny needles. The wind is strong enough to make you have to lean against it in order to keep your balance. If you were to try to walk completely upright you would stumble. The temperature is close to freezing. Not close enough to turn the rain into snow but close enough to make it seriously cold, the wind and the wet weather exacerbating the effect and making you chilled to the bone. The kind of cold where it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear, it’ll creep through the warmest of jackets.
Now imagine you have no choice, you have to be outside. All you really want is to go inside and curl up somewhere warm and do nothing at all. But you have to be outside, you have to walk from here to there, wherever there might be.
That’s what depression feels like to me. Being outside in horrible weather and having no choice, nowhere to escape to. That’s what I feel like all the time during winter. It doesn’t matter if I’m at work, if I’m with friends or family or doing something I like. I keep having that feeling that I have to fight the headwind to keep moving forward.
I’ve learned to manage it though. I’m on a lot of medications. Anti-anxiety, antidepressants, mood stabilizers – the whole pharmacy. It works most of the time but every now and then I walk in the shitty weather.
If you feel like that too I hope you get some help. It’s not supposed to be like that, I promise!