It is not always a bad thing to be pinned down. Rather like a tent, I need underpinnings in order to be who I want to be, to feel like me. I can’t erect the life I want unless some fundamentals are pinned down.
I don’t feel like me at the minute because most of them aren’t in place. Obviously my relationship with Tom is absolutely critical, but I’m talking about the social things, the things I do in the world outside the home, the things with a regular rhythm. They are things that improve my self-worth, find me friends and keep me mentally, physically or even spiritually fit.
There are, for me, four key pins, all missing.
I can’t go to yoga. I just can’t. I have enough money to go maybe once a week, but I daren’t. I’ve become scared of getting there, scared that I’ll bottle it last minute and have to pay the cancellation fee, scared of… I don’t even known what. There is nothing to be scared of. I used to go to the studio 4 or even 5 or 6 times a week. I have developed a kind of mental block about it now which has now spread to home practice.
Part of it is that I am so bloody tired. From being very sedating in combination with the quetiapine the aripiprazole is now messing with my sleep badly, even though I take it first thing in the morning. But it’s not just that, I have this block to doing even a tiny practice, even ten minute, even five minutes. I can’t/don’t/won’t. I can’t make myself get to the studio so home practice is the obvious thing, but even with online courses or DVDs it just isn’t the same as the studio. I don’t enjoy it as much, there’s no social aspect, and it doesn’t – obviously – get me out of the house. It just doesn’t cut it.
So there’s that. Another pin that has traditionally helped me manage is singing, but it must be over a year now since I sang with my choral society. The problem is this: I have a good voice, but my musicianship, and therefore my sight reading, are crap. If I miss the first three rehearsals of term, and this has happened a lot as I have lurched from crisis to crisis, I am doomed because I am just not competent enough to jump on in to whatever we are rehearsing. Every term I live in hope; there won’t be another chance now until September, although I guess that’s not so very far away.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’m a Quaker and really I have tried but there’s no easy way to explain what that means, let alone in a quick blog-friendly version, so if you’re interested do give it a Google. But basically I meet with other Quakers for an hour on Sunday and mostly sit silently together. Yes, I know that’s strange. Anyway, this has been something I have done almost every Sunday for around five years – but I believe I have been just once this year.
Everyone knows about my condition. Everyone is welcoming, friendly, concerned, supportive. So it’s not that. The silence bit is more problematic. Silence is scary and possibly dangerous when you have suicidal thoughts, and an echo chamber for your own brilliant ideas when you are hypomanic, which is not conducive to sitting quietly. Whatever the cause, my feelings about Quaker Meeting have been a bit like yoga: I just can’t. Luckily I have friends who are helping me with suggestions as to easing myself back in because I can’t remain an outsider.
Then there’s work. In a sense I “just can’t” do that either, but it’s a different kind of can’t. There’s no mental block – I’m keen to get back to it – but I don’t have the capacity. Writing this is like pulling teeth. Writing for publication, to a deadline, to a word count is just impossible. I am preparing for a conference (unpaid) but doing the slides was tortuous. My concentration span is gnat-like so I had to do it in dribs and drabs. I can’t read books, and again this jars with my sense of who I thought I was.
Some of this is of course down to the slow healing from the dreadful mental state I’ve been in, but then there’s been sedation and brain fog and horrendous anxiety and agitation, and now insomnia and plain old exhaustion, all from the medication change. At times I have wondered if the treatment is worse than the malady, but actually my mood seems pretty stable so overall I think not.
With all this going on I have been signed off for another month which, although necessary, is depressing. I want to be back in harness. I miss meetings. I miss running training and workshops. I miss interviewing people for research studies. I miss my various colleagues from my various projects and I loathe feeling out of the loop.
I also loathe being on benefits, not because I think there’s anything wrong with that at all, but because I was just beginning to earn a little bit of money and that was very good indeed for my self-esteem. I’ve never, of course, got anywhere near the level of financial contribution I used to make in my long period of remission. But I liked being able to say, “Oh, I’ll take care of that [bill]” even if it wasn’t that often.
Much as I have qualms about talk of “self-esteem” in mental health – especially around work, where it can get quite politicised and dangerous for disabled people – this is my problem right now. Not having my tent pegs hammered in reduces my self-esteem, and reduced self-esteem makes me more prone to apathy and anxiety.
Maybe some apathy and anxiety are understandable while I try and weather this med change. Maybe I’ve become my own worst enemy. I don’t know. I’m very confused about it all, about how to access the things I need and get past the blocks I seem to have created for myself out of my own anxiety.
I think I need little goals. Sit in Quaker Meeting for ten minutes of silence instead of 60, just once or twice during June. Go to one work meeting this month (if I can get the DWP to agree that this is “permitted work” and I won’t be penalised for it – they seem confused by this and have to pass it on to a “decision-maker”. I don’t know why, but this keeps reminding me of “gamemakers” from The Hunger Games. The Decision Games). Speak at one workshop. Go to two yoga classes by the beginning of July. Practice for ten minutes twice a week.
It’s hard not to judge myself harshly. My tiny goals are a far cry from even the two days’ work a week I was managing, let alone the mammoth number of yoga classes and the regular sitting in silence.
I’m judging myself harshly now, comparing my writing to my usual posts as I fear I am rambling on and on and my ability to proof read is minimal, but that’s how I feel, rambly, flapping about in the wind.