Darkness that’s Flooded in Light

I’m here to talk about what people don’t talk about.

Suicide Ideation. 

Firstly the “trigger”, it happens. Something crashes down on your life so hard you don’t even have a chance to look round before your sent into a pit of depression. All those “What if” scenarios, well they have happened. For me, people aren’t a logic that I can follow. They aren’t an x + y statement that should always go together. It leads my brain to chew on it for months, and the only part of the equation that I have power over is me. I pick at myself until there was nothing left. Without an answer I felt alone, I felt no meaning.

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Without any answers I felt there was no “purpose”. I felt like I was going through the motion of the 9-5 days. Working, going to the gym, making small talk and going home. I still am “withdrawn” from the “real world”. The small talk, the socialising. For that I feel bad.

Back then I didn’t feel bad. I felt numb. When someone said “See you Monday”. Part of me thought, “You probably won’t”. In a way it was liberating. It allowed me to not care about the petty arguments of work, as I had bigger things to worry about at home.

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Feeling numb was my brains final security blanket. These days don’t feel like mine, they are owned by this fog in my head. I would sit on the bathroom floor for hours with my mind going round and round in circles. I just wanted to feel something again, something real. “To reset” I told the woman from the Samaritans. I thought taking a lot of pills would ironically make me feel more alive again.

I had reasoned myself into “reckless” thought but I couldn’t see it right away.

Thankfully, with an amazing GP and therapist I made it through. As there are days I sit staring lost in my own thought and someone asks (as they always do), “Are you ok?” and I actually mean my answer of: “I’m fine, I’m just fine”.

I am grateful that I am here, and I can feel my cat crawl on my back in the morning. I can sit in my garden at the end of a day and feel the grass between my fingers. It’s the little things that make me feel alive.

 

If you are worried about someone watch out for the signs below, and check out your life counts

“IS PATH WARM”

I  – Ideation (suicidal thoughts)

S – Substance Abuse

P – Purposelessness

A – Anxiety

T – Trapped

H – Hopelessness/Helplessness

W – Withdrawal

A – Anger

R – Recklessness

M – Mood changes

Also give this great blog about the Signs of Suicide a read by The Bipolar Writer

 

No Room for Doubt

As I come back from my holiday I got thinking about baggage. We all carry it around with us, some in neatly packed cases, and some dragging behind waiting to be measured out for our social norm limit. We argue with the airline, “you don’t understand what I need to get through these next couple weeks”. They respond: “Sorry, it’s just standard”. I’m sorry but, standard or “normal” is just fucking boring in my book. Tell me something true, something that makes your cases bust open with experience.

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We watch these people desperately scramble trying to throw out their baggage that they don’t need. (Knowing it’s just going to mount up again.) I can see the 3 brothers of stigma in their cases:

  1. “Shame
  2. Guilt
  3. Embarrassment”

“We are ashamed of our naked bodies and naked emotions. We spend all of our time thinking about this shame. However, we don’t spend proportionally the same amount of time being ashamed of environmental or social impacts we have on each other.”

Stephen Fry – Happy Place Podcast

I don’t know much about the new people I meet, but I like people who show their emotion. Who are “true blue”. People that are fearless to break social norms, and carry around their baggage like its a badge of honor.

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At the end of the day we all have crap to deal with, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we shared each others baggage once in a while? I’m not exactly a light packer, but I’d like to think I can lighten someones load once in a while.

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Toothpaste Kisses

“We need to become aware of how many messages we internalise” – Krista Tippett

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How many times do we think to ourselves:

  • Play it cool
  • It’s just a play for control
  • Don’t let him know that you like him
  • Don’t text back straight away

It’s exhausting to internalise this monologue, and appear totally perfect on the outside. It feels like some sort of magic trick. I’m astonished at those that manage to make it through unscathed. Some fail to pull a rabbit out of a hat, with everyone watching. Pity and self deprecation looks on. “If only I ….” follows.

After all, it’s easy to get those first few kisses. The pinnacle moment is reaching those tooth paste kisses. Knowing something real, something true. Those interactions with people are what I live for. I’d unwittingly follow someone into the dark for.

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Until someone loves you to the point that you deserve. Then you should love yourself even more to make up for it. Go be that fucking awesome girl boss, go be that artist, blogger, runner, coach because that will fill you more than anyone who doesn’t treat you the way they should.

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Spring Cleaning

I used to think I should be this person that is smiley and happy 24/7 because; ‘I have overcome depression and anxiety”. The truth is every birthday, and every time it’s sunny it triggers my depression. Everyone else is wanting to be outside with other people, and I feel ashamed that I just want to be home alone.

I watch people live out their happy relationships through a window. I’ve been so alone for such a long period of time, I feel hollow, and void of connection. I sometimes feel stuck there, people watching, and thinking of all the parts inside of me that other people wouldn’t want to love. They steal my hope, my belief of true happiness.

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I know I’m meant to live outside the window with the happy people. Sometimes I’m there, I’m home. But then something triggers it, and then I trip and stumble and darkness drags me down. Then comes fear and doubt that I will never get back up. However, I have touched heaven. I have been in hell.

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I am now in darkness for only a few days here and there. I find a way to bring light into my life where I can:

  • The flowers I look at when I wake up remind me of the beauty in the world.
  • The circle of people I surround myself with remind me that I am loved.
  • I write in my journal to understand the facts of my emotions.
  • I ask myself cognitive questions e.g. “What is true now?”

The most important thing I’ve learnt is to not beat myself up when I’m feeling down. The quote below puts it across perfectly:

“When you do feel the dark coming, spend time to restore yourself. With love and not with frustration. Through time, the dark will come to us less often. Even when it does come, it shouldn’t be seen as a failure, but as a challenge to overcome and make us stronger. ” Sarah Blondin

 

Work Work Work

Some days don’t feel like mine at all. They are owned by the company that I work for. Days were stretched out doing the “impossible for the ungrateful” (Roman J Israel). I’m not the only one who knows the feeling to be constantly switched on. It makes you resent a job you once loved, and lets your mind wander at 3am.

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I wanted to share this story about super chickens from Margret Heffernan:

  1. One set of chickens were left to breed without scientific interruption.
  2. The second set were hand picked as being the “most productive” (produced the most eggs).

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The 2nd set ended up pecking each other to death. This isn’t only true for chickens but it is true in real life. We learn that only the top 10% earn the university place, or earn the bonus, or earn a promotion. So we fight against each other for this goal. Instead of working together.

People who work at organisations aren’t just at fault for this, but organisations are too. They create an environment in which people are forced to react in a “dog eat dog” manner. Financial target goals bring out the worst in people. Rather than goals that:

  • “Talk to something much deeper inside them”
  • “They feel they have been given the opportunity to give the best work they have done.” (Whether that’s provide them with the right resources, length of time, or your feedback etc)

Next time you feel yourself about to peck someone else at work to death, because lets face it, your mind set at that point in time is “they deserve it”. Maybe have a bash at the following:

  • Breathe
  • Go for a walk outside (free break!)
  • Write the email (but don’t send), come back to it and re-write
  • thought process: it’s just work, and this is a process I need to get through.

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Times are changing, and we should start thinking about what we can get out of work (in terms of experience and motivation), rather than what can work get out of us.

 

Sleeping Sickness

Sometimes I feel like there is too much going on inside my head. Like there is a barrage of thoughts echoing their way through to get my attention. There’s a ghost of Christmas past, present and future guiding me through each awful thought. The only muppet though is me! I just can’t wait for them all to quieten down, so I don’t have people asking me constantly “are you ok?” and I respond with the only way I know how: “sorry I was just thinking about something”.

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What I don’t think a lot of people realise is that everyone is pretending. Pretending to have the perfect relationship, perfect career, perfect home, or perfect family. We never take a picture and share what we want to forget.

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What I find helps (taken from Tara Brach) is to take a moment and think of sitting next to the emotion you are feeling:

  • Fear – think of the people who would want to help you through this, and places you feel safe.
  • Anger – Understand the space that is happening in, and observe it whilst you stand next to it.

One metaphor I love is that this man drew a small V on a large piece of paper and he asked: what people could see? They answered “a bird”. After a while he said “it’s the sky with a bird flying through it”. This is remembering the big picture; to gain perspective. Whether that is playing some music, taking a walk, having a laugh, something that pulls you out of the fog that you are in.

It’s funny that all these busy loud voices can make you feel lonely. I think it’s so important to understand that, everyone has their awful times (we just see their picture perfect instagram lives) I mean look at 2007 Britney! You are allowed your bad times, and you are more than entitled to pick yourself up to reach for your good times. It’s ok to say you’re having a crap day because your mental health isn’t great that day. That makes you a hell of a lot braver than 99% of people in this world.

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UnTrust Us

We navigate through our lives, and let people into our inner circle of inside jokes, messenger group chats, relationships or “seeing” (the pre relationship… which is like watching an ice cream melt and not being allowed to lick it. Ladies don’t worry you got the flake right?!)

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Sometimes the criteria that we let people into our “weird little worlds” isn’t set at the highest bar (and that can be ok). It can be based on a gut feeling (as long as its not a gut feeling for ice cream). Occasionally people aren’t quite who you thought they were, or didn’t act exactly how you think they should. Which is ok because we all grew up in different environments, with different experiences so how can we expect the exact same out of each other?

Yes people do leave our inner circle, and we have no idea why. This can leave us with these internal movies playing during the witching hour. Questions pop up in our heads like: “Did he leave because I have in jokes with my cat?” or, “Because sassy Sandra wears low cut tops?”

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As the “what if” scenarios roll by, that inner Mark Corrigan monologue starts. It feels nearly impossible to stop.

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One great way to step out of this inner movie is to ask ourselves these questions:

  • “What is true now?
  • What is asking for attention?
  • What is asking for acceptance?” – Tara Brach

Tara Brach goes on to explain that these are all cognitive questions. They help us listen in a receptive way, and snap us out of our 3am story telling.

The next time you and your anger lye in bed recounting the stories, the conversations, the body language, between you and someone else. Ask yourself the above questions. Most of the time we are feeling pain at the cost of wanting to be accepted by someone other than ourselves… Fuck that.

 

 

Fevers and Mirrors

What keeps you awake at night?

To quote Bright Eyes its:

  1. Fever: – “It’s whatever ails you or oppresses you”. In my case it can be depression or my strive to be perfect.
  2. Mirrors: – “Self examination or reflection. This can be vanity or self loathing.”

I know I can write a tonne of preachy stuff about what we should be do, but the truth of the matter is we all know it, and we choose to ignore it. (Including me at times!)

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I used to think, (until Wednesday to be honest) that keeping busy was the best thing to do if you you have a big underlying worry. Let’s face it we have a lot to keep busy with at the moment. An endless scramble of property, promotion, marriage, children and happiness right?

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My thinking was your mind won’t have chance to deal with loneliness because its too busy worried about sales figures in work. Wrong. The medicine of busyness to cure feelings of loneliness, soon becomes your poison.

 In Chinese the symbol for busyness means “heart killing”. Tara Brach illustrates that when we are busy “we walk around with this tightness in our body”. This tightness makes us seem unapproachable, and inevitably puts a block on the softness of human interaction.

However, with a brief pause we can acknowledge the underlying feelings in our bodies. Whether thats fear, shame, loneliness etc. So often we are staying busy, to show the world what a great career woman/man we are, or what a perfect parent we are. Labelling our feelings, allows us to be present in the moment. For instance, I have battled with loneliness, but whenever I feel it I acknowledge it, and I look at who I have in my inner circle. I’m really thankful for that.

There will always be self loathing, heart ache nipping at your feet. But take the time to acknowledge that they come and go like waves. To be present for a moment in this insane world of schedules and repetitiveness is so freeing.

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Dramamine

I feel that lately dating is diluted by the ice cube that is your phone. Whilst you’re staring at it, someone could be trying to make a connection through one hell of an opening line (answers on a postcard please! – I’m still struggling with that!). Or even trying to drum up the courage to ask you out on a date. In the “good old days”, romance was buying a girl flowers, or walking her home. Now, I think I would vomit on my shoes if a guy bought me flowers on my first date.

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Let’s just think about this for a second. We live in age where “ghosting”, “simmering” or if we want to be all scientific about it “stable ambiguity” (Terry Real defined this with keeping a person hanging with keeping meetings postponed with excuses). By doing this people avoid commitment and loneliness. However, I feel this leaves us with this horrible feeling of emptiness, and uncertainty in the age of Bumble/Tinder.

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I’m not going to go on and say that we should get rid of internet dating or throw our phones out of the window in a huge statement. I am suggesting presence in the moment with people. (Let’s face it, if I go on a date and the guy doesn’t get his phone out I am IMPRESSED).

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Esther Perel hits the nail on the head:

“As we navigate this world of digital connectedness, we’d do well to remember that behind the screens lie the same sensitive human hearts that have always longed for intimacy, empathy, meaning and adoration.”

Romance, these days can be found in taking one small step behind the cushion of your phone screen. Ask the guy/girl out on a date! (I know I’m the absolute worst) Just call instead of text (baby steps maybe?!). It’s these small steps that I think make up romance these days. It shows that you have gone outside your comfort zone to change the dynamics of dating, for the soul purpose of getting to know that person. I really think if you say what you think then you’ll get more from the other person (in the long term).

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The worst thing that can happen is you waste your time. Not that you fought for what you thought you wanted at that point in time.

Time is more precious than pride.

 

Method Acting

As I walk sober through the crowded bars (now I’m not going to lie)… For a hermit like myself, its not my favourite thing to do. Actually, I think attending a family event with ripped jeans would be more favourable than walking up to a guy sober.

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One thing I’ve learnt is in order to do this I can’t just be ok with myself. I have to truly love myself (I know, I know your vomiting all over this page). But its true! You have to take time to fight those demons, and not let yourself feel shame for any mistakes that you have made. Mistakes are something that you will learn from and you will grow.

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What I have taken from this is that; I am extremely awkward with people I don’t know. I genuinely think my life is a series of embarrassing events, strung together by telling my friends about these embarrassing events. (For example: I just answered the door and a salesman asked if my parents were in.) I used to be so socially anxious. I didn’t go out. Now I go out… but I make fun of myself (baby steps). I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t dwell on any awkward interaction.

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What I love the most about people is that they all have these demons that they are trying to fight, and we have no idea. When you glimpse of these demons, that to me is an essence of who they are. That to me is true beauty. I love it when I see it.

Now that I feel ready for the world of dating me and my friend made a list of attributes… From my research… Worst idea ever. For a bit of colour I’ll share this with you:

  • Beard
  • Long Hair
  • Funny
  • Sarcastic
  • Smart
  • Has a good job (and ambition)
  • Kind
  • (Looks like Dave Grohl)

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The list goes on but we would be here all night. What Esther Perel (psychotherapist in sexual and relational health) has pointed out that when we were young we weren’t afraid to see where relationships would take us, and what stories they would write.

Now as an adult we come with these expectations, and these check lists (which don’t even work even if the guy/girl checks all of the above). These lists are anti romantic, and do not allow for surprises or stories to unfold. After all stories are what we tell every day, stories are what makes up our lives.

It’s ok if some stories are short, and some are long. Love stories aren’t about lists, pro’s and cons, they are about surprises and gut feelings. Follow your feelings and your story will unfold.