Tending the mental garden

I had a horrible dream last night, where I was trapped in the most debilitating state of depression I’ve ever experienced. I could barely communicate, engage, move, or focus. I was like a zombie, wrapped in a terrible fog. It was one of those dreams when you wake up and think you’re still in it. My whole body and in particular my head, felt so heavy. It took me a really long time to wake up properly from it.

I’ve seen quite a few mental health posts on my IG feed over the last few days and reading through them all may have triggered this dream, along with my own recent low mood. It’s not always easy to open up about the things that make us feel insecure, worthless and anxious. So when I see these posts, my heart goes out to the people that wrote them. It takes guts to lay yourself bare to the world.

An example being when people talk about hating the way they look. Comparison can rob us of our self worth. But we don’t do it to attention seek, we do it because at some point in our lives, maybe way back when we were so small, that we can’t even remember it, something happened, was said or unsaid, and a seed of self doubt was planted in our heads that has grown over time. It’s like a weed. We don’t want it, we’d like to pull it out of our heads and eradicate it, but I takes a hold, multiplies and can sometimes look like an attractive flower. We find ourselves strangely comforted by its persistence. It’s familiar and constant. Weeds are hard to kill. They’re aggressive and stubborn and it can take all our energy and every tool we have in our mental garden shed to fight them back. Every little shoot pulled out of the ground is a small victory. But unless we pull it out by the roots, and treat the area, it will always come back.

This is what life for me feels like, living with a mental illness. There are times when the garden looks beautiful. I can look at myself and feel confident and happy, sometimes even pretty. But the weeds will always fight their way through. I’ve tried so many things- counselling, hypnosis, cbt, medication, but it always persists. I thought the older I got, the less I would care, and to a degree that’s true, but the fear of being left behind, of not being good enough is always there, waiting to pop up through the ground and torment me again.

The majority of the time I feel happy. It doesn’t stop me doing the things I love, engaging with people and having fun, but every now and then a trigger will be pulled and I’m back in that garden alone, searching through the flower beds, trying to find that beautifully disguised piece of poison that so desperately wants to take over and destroy all my hard work.

I don’t know if the dream I had was a warning to make a change, seek some more help, or just a state of deep subconscious. But it’s armed me to go into battle yet again.

Strangely enough, we dug up our flower bed in the garden over the weekend, as we are rubbish at looking after it. Maybe planting in pots is the way forward – make of that what you will!!

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Maybe the drugs do work

I’m going to let you into a little secret. Two weeks ago I started taking 25mg of sertraline (that’s an anti depressant). I started taking it because everything that had been building up over a period of time, suddenly hit its peak. It kind of came out of nowhere. I toppled over and came crashing down.

A couple of things had tipped the balance. One was a surprising emotional confession during my triads at college (I’m studying to become a counsellor), and the other was basically a rejection, that I new was coming but I failed to deal with. It sent me into a paranoid spin and left me feeling worried that I would somehow get left behind.

I knew that if I carried on with so many feelings of low self worth and anxiety, I would stay in this pit hopelessly trying to claw my way back up. I was putting myself at risk of losing things I’d worked so hard to build.

I’d been prescribed the sertraline previously but the dose was 50mg and it made me feel wired and gittery so I shut them away in a drawer, only to reopen it 7 months later. This time I lowered the dose to 25mg and prepared for the brain buzz.

Thankfully it was minimal and after a couple of sleeplessness nights, and feeling a little disconnected from the world, I think they are actually starting to do their job.

I’ve spent the majority of this weekend at a local village event which happens every year, and which I always try and avoid. There are lots of local people and it makes me anxious, shaky and tearful. I get a sick feeling in my solar plexus and I start to distance myself. I think by doing that, I am protecting myself, but all it really does is isolate me even more.

I step away from the things that I think make me anxious, only to become more anxious that I am now missing out on those things.

It becomes a viscous circle of anxiety and loss.

So this year, 2 weeks after taking my first dose of sertraline, I attended the Friday evening Donkey Derby, and the Saturday carnival without a hint of anxiety. I got my vintage on, walked around the event with my family, happily chatting to neighbours, friends, family and acquaintances and actually enjoyed myself. It’s as if the sertraline has taken over the role of my protector. It’s shielding me from the people and situations that make me anxious, by absorbing the feelings that they generate. It felt kind of liberating and new.

Now I know that I have more ‘tests’ to come. I will have disappointments, fear, anger and sadness, to deal with in my life and I need to know that I can still ‘feel’ emotionally. I don’t want to be like a zombie. The chemicals in my brain may have been making me over emotionalise things throughout my life, but those feelings are still very much a part of who I am. They have helped me form friendships and relationships, raise my children, work within a caring profession and aspire to become a counsellor. They are part of who I am. I’m an empathetic person. I feel everything. But sometimes I need to feel it all a little less.

So my point in all this, and I could ramble on, is that for me, the drugs do (seem to) work…..so far.

It’s not about blocking things out and ignoring issues that need to be faced, but rather about giving my poor over emotionalised brain a chance to relax and recover so that it can help me deal with with life more rationally.

To be continued…

The invisible presence

Got the writing bug yesterday and felt the need to share a little mental health post.

On Saturday night I went to bed with a pounding headache, and woke up with it again Sunday morning. It stopped me from exercising and left me feeling quite lethargic. I soon realised it was my social hangover greeting me after a full on day of socialising with my friend at a vintage event on Saturday. Tempting me to the dark side with overthinking and over analysing what had actually been a lovely day previously. (I’m quite proud of the fact that I didn’t succumb to those thoughts too much, but the mere fact that I am writing this blog, is a sign that I am).

I did get anxious on the drive over. As I got closer to the event my nerves kicked in. I was getting hot and my stomach was churning. And when I arrived my head was buzzing, there was a lot to take in and timings to remember. So I felt wired and slightly disconnected. Not really fully aware of everything around me as I desperately tried to calm down and take it all in. It was like stepping outside of my invisible comfort zone to make an effort, and be noticed, and it felt exciting and daunting all at the same time. We met a photographer who wanted to do a little photo shoot and I tried really hard to relax but I was so self conscious. In the end I actually enjoyed the session, it was fun and both my friend and the photographer were really patient with me. I felt a little more confident. People were watching and I only felt a little bit silly. I’d love to look good in photos. To feel proud of myself and comfortable with how I look. Rightly or wrongly, it would be a real confidence booster.

When you become good friends with someone who is comfortable and confident in themselves, who enjoys the attention and knows how to work it, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to watch. How do I fit into this? Do I just step back and play the comfortable less interesting sidekick, and continue feeling invisible? Or do I try and discover my more noticeable and outgoing self- (I know she’s in there somewhere).

She has fast become a very good friend & a teacher, and I have a lot to learn from her. There’s a definite art to being noticed and she naturally has it by the bucket load. Yes, it’s about being friendly and engaging – which I hope I already am, but it’s also about your ‘presence’. You can look great and wear all the right stuff but if you don’t have ‘presence’ then you’ll go unnoticed.

You could also be the most vacuous, un-genuine person to walk the earth ( I know one of them as well), but if you have presence, you can draw anyone to you. There’s good sides and bad sides to having this magic like quality.

So what’s the big deal about being noticed? Why care so much?

Well, you could also ask, why go to all the effort to attend an event if you just want to blend in with the crowd?

It’s not a competition (although I know some think it is), but for me it’s an opportunity to be a part of something. To feel like I belong, and rightly or wrongly, to feel accepted. I know I shouldn’t care so much. I know I should just do whatever the hell I want and not worry what anyone else thinks. But the thing I want, the thing I’ve always wanted, is to be accepted. To feel a sense of belonging. To be a part of the crowd. To be noticed.

I expect I will always be a little on the outside, because I can’t talk all day long, and be engaging, witty and stylish continuously. I need to step aside a little sometimes and observe and be quiet. I need to take ‘time out’ breaks to breathe and digest everything that’s going on around me. But it’s in those breaks, that I risk becoming invisible, and you can’t afford to let your guard down in a situation like that or you’ll be overlooked, and when it doesn’t come naturally it can be exhausting.

It’s a whole new world for me really. A complete learning curve. It’s exciting and lots of fun. Its not about changing who I am, but more about adapting to situations. ‘Putting on a show’.

Will I ever be noticed, will I ever feel like I really belong, and will I ever have ‘The presence’?

I hope that with each adventure and event I attend, I’ll learn a little more about myself and become more comfortable with who I am. Because essentially right now, I’m a little lost.

to be continued…

Cutting it…(exploring a vintage world)

Today on my IG Page, (@midcentury.muser) I posted pics of some 30’s style wardrobe combinations that are inspiring me for a forthcoming trip in the Spring.

I can’t wait for this trip to happen. I am beyond excited. Not only will I be going with my fabulous friend, but it will be a learning experience for me. Packed with a mix of historical sightseeing, cabarets, and hopefully a bit of vintage shopping. What’s not to get excited about?!

Well…there’s a rising panic I’m feeling, that despite my excitement, I am overwhelmingly worried about how I will look.

I’m dealing with the usual issues of weight loss etc, but one thing I’m very aware of in the ‘vintage world’ is the attention to detail, and getting that ‘look’, for whatever era, just right.

Unfortunately I’m not tiny enough to get into most true vintage items, but I don’t worry too much about that. There are some beautiful reproduction pieces out there that just look fabulous and I love to wear them. But I often feel like I just don’t quite come up to scratch, or that I try too hard and overstep the mark.

Nor does my hair lend itself to the staying power of vintage styling very well. And on the days when your vintage isn’t quite on it, or you can’t be too bothered, a good vintage hairstyle will always carry you through.

The hair, I’m discovering, is the secret (or not so secret) weapon.

But despite all my self doubts, I try to turn them around, and treat them as a challenge, because it’s exciting living in this vintage world. It keeps you on your toes. Gives you drive and excitement when you get things just the way you want them. It’s aspirational and inspiring. Creative and bold. And I love every anx ridden, self doubting moment of it, because however you choose to style yourself or your home, you will always have a look that’s individual.

I’m still very much trying to find my place when it comes to eras. Currently favouring the simple, elegance of the 30’s.

I do know though, that ‘vintage’ feels like home. And although I might not be completely on point or photogenic, I feel comfortable in that home. And when you get to my age, it’s all about the comfort!

‘Vintage’ word count: 10 🙄 (I love it, but I do get sick of saying it)

Taking stock …

So another year has come and gone, and what a year it’s been! Vintage adventures, a new career direction and college course. Targeted by a narcissist – (that was fun). And an almost finished kitchen 😅

Here’s a few snaps from my 2017. There have been a few dances with my depression and thanks to the lovely ‘N’ mentioned above, my overthinking skyrocketed as I questioned my value to those around me. But that’s all firmly behind me now and it did build the foundations of a fabulous new friendship which continues to develop and evolve with adventures planned for 2018.

Style wise, I’ve certainly seen some changes and I look to the new year to really find my place within the vintage scene. Accept my age, my size and shape and move into a hopefully more elegant,chic and stylish look with influences from the 30’s to the 50’s. Looking forward to what 2018 has to offer by trying to procrastinate less and enjoy life a little more.

Here’s to new adventures…..

The people pleaser

Friday…

So I had a big cry this morning. Wasn’t sure if it would stop. But it did eventually, and left me with a lovely headache. I wish I had it in me to confront the situations/people that trigger my anxiety. But I find it really hard to vent my anger. I don’t like confrontation, and on the rare occasion that I might vent it, I immediately back down and try to calm the waters, because I fear for the consequences. 

I feel like Chandler from ‘Friends’ who thought that every argument he ever had with a girlfriend, meant it was the end of the relationship, not realising that it’s ok to fall out. 

Real relationships/friendships are built to withstand fallouts and arguments. It’s the false ones that are not, and if that happens, it’s best to walk away. Lesson learnt. But in my pathetic need to keep everyone else happy, I end up crushing myself in paranoia and overthinking, worrying about being rejected instead of dealing with the situation head on and seeing it for what it really is. 

I’m no actress. What you see is what you get. There’s no hidden agenda, no competition. Just a woman with some self confidence issues trying to get through life and make some good honest, lasting friendships along the way. This is what I need to work on. I need to know that it’s ok to speak up when you feel hurt, angry or betrayed. Even if I may have blown things out of proportion in my own head, my feelings are real and they need to be acknowledged and released. Even if it does mean the end of something..if that’s the case, it was never built on solid foundations to begin with and has no place in my future. 

I can’t please all of the people all of the time. Nor can I expect everyone to like me. But I’m not being true to myself if I lay myself down with a sign on my back saying ‘walk all over me’. 

Happy Days & Social Hangovers

Soooo, it’s the morning after the day before…

 I had such a wonderful day yesterday. I went to Retrofestival with my beautiful vintage buddy, and bumped into family, friends and members of the inspirational vintage IG community. 

We decided to twin it up in our Rock n Romance hawaiian dresses and our Rocket Original shoes. Our hair was rolled, set and adorned with flowers, with red lippy masterfully applied (and reapplied throughout the day). 

It was so much fun. We watched the dancing and listened to the bands, drinking tea in the marquee (and later a couple of g&t’s 😉) The place was buzzing. So many people had made an effort. They’d ‘got their vintage on’ and the atmosphere (as always at these events) was happy and friendly and full of fun.

We strolled around the market place, spending money on gorgeous vintage pieces, getting stopped for ‘photo opportunities’ on several occasions. 

We had a ball, and I felt good. My newly acquired hair extensions meant my rolls were in good form – no dropping and falling flat, and the dress felt divine, with the most flattering silhouette for everyone. In fact it’s so beautiful, we bumped into several other ladies with the same idea, and every one of them looked fabulous! 
So, why, after such a great day, am I feeling exhausted? I didn’t sleep well and was awake early this morning. My head is buzzing like it’s been overloaded with information that it can’t download. I feel tired, have a headache and feel socially hungover. And now I’m looking at all the photographs of myself and picking holes in them – I look awkward, I look huge, I have a double chin, I’m squinting, and I can’t pose. People must have been looking at us and thinking I was the ugly awkward one…. 
Why do we find it so hard to love ourselves? 

Why is it so easy to lift others whilst putting ourselves down? 

Why are we always comparing ourselves to others? 

Why is it so hard to accept a genuine compliment? 

Why is it easier to wallow in self destruction than embrace the wonderfulness of ourselves? 

Why do we focus so much on our outward appearances and neglect our inner souls? 

I don’t really know the answer to any of these questions. They are all part of the healing path I’m following. Seeking answers and learning to love myself the way I love the family and friends that surround, inspire and love me for who I am. It’s madness that we waste so much energy on self destruction and put so much importance on validation from others. 

Yesterday I felt great. 

Yesterday I had a wonderful time

Yesterday I loved my look

I always want my today to be like yesterday from now on.