Physician – heal thyself

daily living, health, Life, lifemeaning

historicdesignin00john_0049 copy 2I am not sure how to start – why I should even want to – connecting is not the straightforward process I would like. I am in a fug. I cannot straighten my own perspective on the world I experience – and having just removed myself from the benefits of prescribed medication for the first time in a couple of decades, I am trying to be gentle on myself, but now I am needed.  My husband has retirement challenges – the common experience of finding how to re purpose one’s life.  I know I can only enable – not do anything, but it’s not easy seeing the person you live with struggle with the existential loneliness that is being human. We all struggle with it to a greater or lesser degree – a universal challenge then – but he, like me, is not a great fantasist. He cannot imagine something that is not apparent. And I am beginning to consider that the art of delusion should be on the National Curriculum in order that we maximise the potential of mental wellbeing. So how can I help? Probably cannot. I choose to try and stay kind – not leaping to judge, remembering its the tiny things that make a person feel loved. But part of me is 6 year s old and screaming ‘What about me?’

And so it is. And it will go on being like this – worrying for him, about him, wanting more for myself, feeling anxious that my sons and their loved ones are going to have to feel the pains of being human.  The only real answer is non-being and I don’t think that will do down well with the family.

So tell me how you manage those feelings of hopelessness, lack of worth, lack of meaning.  Tell me how a walk in the woods nurtures you, listening to Bach, stroking the dog. What am I missing?  My rational self understands all these strategies, even believes in them, but there is still a deep well of loneliness that refuses to be filled . It’s not completely dry, but it could do with some refreshment. This once voracious reader cannot connect with the writer’s I love, something has broken and I don’t think it’s them.

Good days, bad days

daily living, Life, wellbeing

 

yeats

From W.B.Yeats poem

 

It’s always been like this. And hard to accept that the challenge is to get up every day and face what is ahead. Easier for some than others, and that in itself is a difficult consideration to process – that my life has always had the comfort and ease of being born in this century in a first world country – there is guilt in feeling any dismay when there are problems of hunger and terrorism affecting millions every  day.  First world guilt paralyses me. I end up chasing my own tail and trying to find some meaning in life through my relationships with the family I love and through the creative endeavour I call work but which is really play.

I cannot stop weeping – the tears are inside, I could cry that river if I ever dare to open that floodgate.  Recently I made a small decision which affects everyone around me, and has brought me to realisations of my own. For the past couple of decades (almost) I have taken prescribed medication to control the symptoms of a neurological disorder – the meds help to control disrupted pain signals, but they are in the anti depressant family.

It’s complicated – of course – what’s me, what’s my stage of life (menopause), what’s the condition, what’s the meds?  So I am simplifying things a little, now I have less familial duties to fulfil. The meds are gone – first a euphoria, a feeling of connection with the world that has been dulled somewhat – but accompanying that lightness of being are emotions that rattle around like a toy railway train out of control – is this me?

Who knows? This is a territory I haven’t explored for some time and I think there’s some rocky roads ahead, but walking boots on – I mean to try.

 

When love is not enough

blogging, depression, Derek Walcott, health, Life, Thoughts, wellbeing

..

d walcott

but it helps.

I received a message from someone in my family today which has shaken me.  As a lovely young woman , she has been dealing with the challenges of depression and anxiety , and recently has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  And I don’t know how to help.  So I will tell her my story.

You see, when I was her age I was exhibiting symptoms of depression too, working in a pressured environment and wanting to perform like Adele on a good day ( albeit in the print packaging arena ). I set my standards high and I worked to reach them.  A few years of having my foot hard on the pedal resulted in what my G.P.  diagnosed as a ‘breakdown’. The world was different then and because my boss didn’t want me stigmatised at work by that diagnosis, he could only give me a week off.  I needed more, but I needed the job too. I saw a counsellor weekly and worked on my thought processes.  Eventually I caved in to the work pressure and resigned. I was lucky as I was newly married and ready to throw myself into raising a young family.  It nearly broke me.

I wanted to be happy, and knew I had everything I could have asked for – a home, a loving family, two beautiful sons – and yet I could not function at a level I felt comfortable about. I was tired , not just mildly sleep deprived, but absolutely buggered. Every day was a huge effort to continue the daily requirements . Shopping and cooking were chores that felt like Sisyphus carrying the rock up the mountain.

I was prescribed Prozac for depression – I felt depressed but not worthy of having depression because what could I possibly be depressed about?  Prozac didn’t suit me, or rather it suited me too well, but everyone else thought I had disappeared. Which I had, I felt like a lumbering cow, just grazing on life. Nothing touched me. I came off it.

A further visit to a new doctor and a new prescription – this time Venlafaxine. This suited me better, the symptoms of depression were alleviated, but this led to me discovering a deep well of unfulfilled need within my life.  I ended up making a huge life change – leaving my then husband and making a new life with a new partner.  ( It happened like a thunderbolt and shocked the family, but ultimately it was a necessary change – and everyone worked hard at making the family unit stay strong. I continued to co parent with their dad, and managed not to disrupt their schooling, staying half the week with their dad, and the other with me. My mum and my brother were brilliant at being there too. The boys flourished and are now 24 and 21 and I couldn’t be prouder)

A diagnosis of fibromyalgia by my G.P.  helped me to understand that my coping strategies needed tweaking. I had for years battled a diagnosis of depression – now I understood I had a reactive depression to a condition which had been masked by the very medication I was taking. When I came off the drugs, my symptoms flared, and it was during a flare that the correct diagnosis was made. So knowing I had something which I could investigate, acknowledge and understand was part of me helped me to put into place the conditions by which I could most easily manage the condition.

It is becoming more accepted now in the same way that depression is less stigmatised, but unless it is experienced, or someone close to you has it the full impact is not easily acknowledged by others. My experience of having it was dealing with the knowledge of diagnosis itself – it sent me to investigate books written on it, blogs, forums – anywhere where I felt vindicated. I wanted to make sure everyone knew I was not imagining it – it was real. That didn’t happen really. People don’t want a relationship with a bag of symptoms, they just want to relate to you.  And I had to learn that some people got it , whilst others didn’t. Close people don’t always get it. I tried to shield my bad days from my sons – I wanted them to see me strong, and capable. In the end, as they got older I had to share with them that sometimes I couldn’t do what I wanted to for them, or with them.  They were brilliant and loved me anyway.  They didn’t understand, they just accepted me for who I was, and didn’t make me feel useless. Although I was pretty useless. They still say I am weird but that’s a different story. I found things to occupy myself with, that I could cope with, or put down and come back to. I managed to set my standards lower in certain aspects – housework suffered, decorating was off the menu, the garden became a self supporting area of interest.

One of the hardest aspects is still there – committing to social activities is difficult, because when it comes around, it may be impossible. Now I have managed to find a balance of not turning everything down, and knowing it will take me a couple of days to recover. I have limited my social life probably more than I have needed to, but part of that comes from having had a life spread over two counties for the past decade or so.

The reality is I cannot help my family member – I can’t take away her symptoms as much as I would want to. I only want her to know that it isn’t the thing that defines her. I came away from looking at the internet about Fibro, avoided the forums, refused the group sessions offered at the doctors, because I didn’t want my focus to be on my condition. I wanted to understand what it meant for me and then re focus my energies on the activities that meant something to me and to my family.  I have learnt those things over years, and it is hard learnt sometimes. I have suffered in silence more times than I can remember, and sometimes not so silently!  I constantly have to remind myself not to resent others for not being more considerate sometimes. I have to remember to tell them how I feel in the moment , that no matter how much I may want to so something, it is sadly unachievable for me. And sometimes I have to remember to challenge myself and test my limits. I have surprised myself on occasion.

I still feel a fraud. That is my problem. I feel a fraud at life. I challenge that thought because when I look at the reality, it isn’t true. I still have to have that conversation though. On a regular basis.

 

Pint size and growing.

Art, blogging, Life, Thoughts

 

childhood  Anne CorrI have been remembering  a feeling from my childhood,  one that created deep impressions on my psyche, at least that is how it appears to me now, looking back on what would have been a life not that long ago, but now is probably about half of one.  ( If you can work that out , you will know I have passed the fifty mark – just.)  What was it then, this echo of reminiscence? In a nutshell, and that is an appropriate metaphor, it is feeling small.  I am half the size of the adult in close proximity to me, and having to half walk, half run in order to keep up.  I am feeling a curious mixture of humiliation and challenge –  I can’t keep up, I know I can’ t keep up and I know I will meet with a disapproving remonstrance, and I don’t want to give in. This is a feeling that will cover me like an unwanted coat for the next thirty or so years.  Everything I ever attempt is just a little too much, somewhat out of reach.  I work in a fast paced environment that I simultaneously love and hate, I know I am good, I know I can’t keep up with the ever increasing demands.  I finish that after a decade and a bit of telling myself I won’t expire, and move on to raising a family, throwing myself into the domestic arena.  I am exhausted to my marrow.  I can’t keep up with the demands of two challenging boys and be the wife I expected to be.  Bodies fail when the essence of what you need is missing.  We are extraordinary animals, our thinking brains consider the answers lie within the rationale of the mind, but they don’t. Not all of them. Sometimes the spirit has to assert itself, and it may do this by sending messages through the gut, across the heart, inside the veins and arteries.  It may take a lifetime to understand this. I hope it doesn’t for you.

My tale?  My spirit came and invited me to make a bold change, one that would resonate through the family and friends and offer new challenges.

I did make that change and though my body never repaired fully,  my life expanded and life continues to throw out its hurdles.  The difference I can report is that I am less belittled by them. By meeting my spirit, and answering an opportunity I began to grow. I am still growing.  Sometimes that little girl that is not being seen or heard is still there.  I take her by the hand, and I show her she can keep up, or stop if she needs to.

 

Taking the hands of someone you love,
You see that are delicate cages…
Tiny birds are singing
In the secluded prairies
And in the deep valleys of the hand.

Robert Bly

 

The Sanctuary of Trees

Art, blogging, books, Life, philosophy, Thoughts

trees book Anne Corr Trees book by Anne

I have spent the morning trying to engage with the trees opposite in an attempt to lift the mood.  An encroaching blackness threatens, and a roam with the dogs listening to the birds seemed the most likely candidate to help.  Hesse speaks volumes to me,  and his reflections on trees perfectly encapsulate my feelings about them.  Wondrous entities offer solace, peace , mystery, who wouldn’t be moved by the serenity of trees?

Herman Hesse wrote too about the mind set that is my companion through life, a propensity for melancholia and self annihilation   He wrote best about it to my mind, in Steppenwolf, in which his protagonist reveals the reality about the  ‘suicides.’  These are people not necessarily prepared to commit the physical act, but those with a psychological bent of mind that sees no difference between the states of being and non-being, and therefore search for meaning while in a state of being.  The futility of life is a constant melody that plays throughout the mortal existence. I wrote a more thorough piece about Steppenwolf here,

https://amonikabyanyuvva.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/magic-theater-entrance-not-for-everybody/

This seems to be a post about depression, but it isn’t. It is about realism, about being able to accept the flow of mood, and to live within that flow . It’s about my learning how to handle that river of human beingness without being overwhelmed by my natural propensity to depression. It’s about living well, and not just surviving.

Trees have helped to show me how.

Have a weekend of good things, go find them, whatever they are for you.

Revisiting the masters

Art, illustration, Thoughts

based on painting by bernadino Luini  c 1520How real is this young woman?  I immediately liked her, as she communicated with me across centuries and space.  The original painting that I have based this portrait on was by Bernadino Luini in about 1520.  She has classic features and would not look out of place in a modern setting. I like her repose. I want to tell the world to have more reflection in their lives, less bustle, more breathe time.  Let her tell that story

 

Keeping it simple.

blogging, LOVE, Thoughts
St Augustine Quotation

St Augustine Quotation

We are so clever aren’t we?  So advanced, so capable of manufacture and scientific evaluation and discovery.  Well, some are and thank goodness.  We need everyone to contribute their strengths.  And to remember that some truths continue to remain important messages to our race.  The rational world of technology and enterprise is to be applauded for driving improvements to living standards.  The realm of the mystic is to be visited also,  the element that connects the living essence of everything.  The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and that is because of the vital elan that makes living things ‘be’ is inherent in all of us, connects us to all living things, tracks us backward into our pasts and our ancestors, and will project us into futures we will not be personally aware of, through our descendants.

Live well today, and be part of the whole cosmos by bringing your love into whatever you do .

Bloody Valentine

blogging, culture, LOVE, Thoughts

st valentines day massacre

Are you building up an expectation around Valentine’s Day? It may be misplaced, historically speaking Valentines frequently referred to martyrs, rather than a lusty hopeful courtier. Nevertheless, taking the more prosaic view that Valentne’s Day will provoke in you either butterflies of eager anticipation, or the dismissal of the disinterested, there exists the cold brutal truth that Love will not actually help you. That isn’t to say it isn’t worth throwing your hat in the ring, but if you want to be happy or rich or satisfied, then love isn’t the equation you thought it was. Look around, trawl your memory bank and reflect on your own and your friends experiences. A more realistic contemplation about the nature of love may propel you into a possibility of a future with a loving partner. Firstly, when did Love really make you happy? Feeling the emotions around a partner that excites may lead you to feelings of anticipation, thrill, joy but just as likely, promotes anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, lack of control. Love, when it works , brings about the conditions that allow you to feel bolder, brighter, smarter. You end up being bolder, brighter , smarter, not because of love, but because loving a partner that supports your qualities enhances them. We all know about loving a partner that brings you down, it’s a spiral of descent into Hell. So know that when Love works, it doesn’t look ugly, or spiteful, jealous or violent.

Mmm, that ‘being in love’ that is mimicked across billboards, posters, films, songs, cartoons, what is that all about? Well, it exists. For a time. Give it say, eighteen months or so, and the chemical cocktail that has exploded in your brain will start to have less power. The torrent of emotion quells , and knowing that just may propel you both into preserving a loving alliance that relies on companionship and friendship as well as the heady passionate embrace. It’s the reason some people are addicted to serial monogamy, finding it difficult to move away from the thrill of the chase, the power of the early tumult. And it is also possibly the reason arranged marriage has been an alternative model for choosing life partners in some cultures. Therein lies an understanding of the long haul.

But the cocktail is an enticing one, perhaps the recipe for which will never be known. Of all the mysteries of life, Love is surely the greatest? Indefinable, incapable of being imitated, love is hand in hand with truth. If we kid ourselves we love, the truth invariably raises its head. Of course we kid ourselves mainly in ignorance, wanting to believe in the love object, desperate to be completed by the other. Yin to the Yang. To love well, we have to be as truthful with ourselves as it is possible to be. Often in the course of living and working , getting up and carrying on we veer away from ourselves, somehow alienating ourselves from the parts of ourselves that need to be cultivated and nurtured. That’s why it can feel as though you have come home when you meet the person who brings out the youness in you. Not very scientific I know, but to love healthily, cultivate the youness in you. Inhabit that space and love finds it. Bearing in mind that Love comes in lots of shapes and sizes, and not necessarily as a homo sapiens holding a ring or red roses. It might be piano shaped, or abstract , equations that hold the answers to the universe. Enjoy Valentines Day, without the hocus pocus thrown out by the restauranteurs and card manufacturers. And without the massacre (please).

Illustration from http://johnbroadley.blogspot.co.uk/2012_02_01_archive.html

 

Vintage advice

health, Life, Thoughts, United Kingdom

 

Today is a day that I need help.  So I shall be entering a fictitious world of Anne Enright’s  ‘Forgotten Waltz’  mainly in order to have read it before tomorrows book group. Or maybe I shall indulge in some heavy housework to stave off the onslaught of a gathering cloud of  melancholy.  Most likely I will fall back onto the rituals of the days requirements of me and move through it as through a thick smog, lacking clarity, lacking any sort of view.  It has been threatening for some time, but I am full of wily strategies to complicate and divert it.  Perhaps it is more persistent than I imagined, or hoped.  Anyway, I know it is temporal. like the clouds that I watch skittishly dancing across a beautiful blue sky.  Joy in small things.  I shall attempt the advice above and hold my head high, alert at all times.  Joy in small things.