Life is exhausting, each and every day

Life is exhausting! Getting up each day and living is very tiring. Having depression and fibromyalgia makes my body ache and feel so very heavy. Weighted down by feelings of numbness and sadness.

Sleeping through my seven alarms, I scramble out of bed. I take my pills and brush my teeth. Brushing my hair seems like a marathon of effort, mile after mile of strokes until it is up and out-of-the-way. Dragging any clothes I can find, onto my limbs. Choosing what is comfortable, closest and clean.

I feed the bunnies and the puppy, as the kettle boils to make tea. A travel mug and breakfast bar in hand, I head out to the car. The door slams and I feel my world get small, Volkswagen Polo sized. With the radio on I navigate the traffic, focused on everyone’s moves as the world swirls around me.

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I park at school and get through the day. I travel back in time as I teach, jumping from Norman England, to Nazi Germany, to Tudor Britain and to many more. Grounded with my feet in what I know, the past. The day ticks on and my mind pushes everything else away. In some moments I even feel echoes of my passion for teaching. That feeling which seems to escape me most of the time, it feels like a reminder of a long-lost friend.

The students leave and I feel as empty as my classroom. My mind fills with clutter, memories of laughter float around. I am back in the car and fighting rush hour traffic wanting to be at home. Encapsulated in my car I listen to soothing music as I breathe my way home, in…out…right…left…home.

Greeted by an excited puppy, I can’t help but smile. He races upstairs, with energy I wish I could steal. Behind him, I drag my feet up each mountainous step. Stripping off my hard protective shell of the day I can climb into my safe pyjamas. The kettle goes on to feed the tiredness that is growing.

The sofa envelopes me as the tv noise fills the space in my head. The sounds push any negative thoughts aside, for now. My puppy curls up on my lap, giving me all the warmth and love he can. I wish for the simplicity of his life, the peaceful day of  sleep with food and drinks provided.

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I look at the kitchen as if it might spontaneously produce a dinner. Preparing my meal for one feels like making a banquet for a King. I need the energy to breathe but I know I need to eat. A sandwich, toast, ready meals or maybe I will just order in. Someone else can make the effort while I use up my reserves just making it up the stairs.

I climb into bed as early as possible, beneath the duvet I feel warm and safe. Camomile tea and an interesting novel to calm my mind. Meditation, mindfulness or just music to sleep by. I hope tonight sleep will be easy to find. I hope it will replenish the fatigue and exhaustion of my life in this mental world.

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How do you let go of guilt and anxiety?

I saw the GP today. They have increased my anti-depressants and signed me off work for two weeks. The result is Guilt and Anxiety. The tortoise and hare are off the starting line.

The Hare (anxiety with a guilt backpack) starts to tell me I am not enough. I am letting down the students, the other teachers in my department and my bosses. It tells me I should be able to deal with all this while going to work each day. I worry about being judged by others. The panic causes me to breathe faster and my heart jumps about in my chest. My mind hurts as thoughts race around my brain, making me feel dizzy.

Many people will be judging me. Thinking I should be at school as I am not physically sick. I am not glued to the toilet, in hospital or unable to move. That doesn’t mean I do not have some physical symptoms: I am exhausted, having headaches, feel dizzy, nauseous and my whole body feels heavy. Yet I don’t feel it is enough for people to justify me being off. I feel they will judge me. Worse than that, I am judging me.

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My tortoise (logical brain) tries to reason with the hare. It explains that mental illnesses are equivalent of physical. That I am justified in my feelings and just like I could not cure my own physical illnesses, I need help and support to get better. My desperate despair will take time to get over and it is exhausting to do it. But they feel like clichés, slogans and advice I give others.

Am I letting anyone down? It is hard at school to find cover and make it meaningful. Will students miss out on having me as they will have a cover teacher instead. But sometimes our own health has to come first and I will help them as soon as I am back. How much use would I be in this state of mind? I am finding it hard to concentrate and it would be impossible to pretend to be ok for 5 hours a day in front of the children.

So, I need to show myself some compassion and let it go. I need to look after me and let the guilt go. But it is so much easier to say it. How do you let it all go? Reminding myself over and over. Will my mind just finally click into understanding?

I have learnt to be more compassionate to myself in the last couple of years. I now allow myself time to rest and recoup. I give myself time to look after my mind through meditating and reading. I adopted my lovely puppy, Toby, and I go for forest bathing walks. I have stepped away from toxic family members and that was not easy. So maybe this compassion about being off work will come too.

Maybe I just need to breathe, to give myself time and be patient with my life in this mental world.

accuracy afternoon alarm clock analogue
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Anxiety v. Logic, it is like a race between the Tortoise and the Hare

After sending my last blog post a 2am this morning I tried to sleep…but I still tossed and turned. My brain was on overdrive, unable to shut off my thoughts and let me sleep. With no IT helpdesk to call for advice, to tell me to switch it on and off again, I tried to understand why my usual journaling had not helped. Usually I can dump my brain onto a page and stop the whirlwind of thoughts.

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Then it occurred to me, I felt crazy! I felt that feeling of accusation, that someone was calling me crazy. And I mean that ‘crazy’ that somehow encompasses all the stereotypes and stigmas I try to fight. The ‘crazy’ when you see straight jackets, padded cells and Victorian Bedlam rolled into one. I felt this accusation like I had so many times before. I felt chained to a bed and locked in a room, unheard and surrounded by silence.

Where had this come from? My family, of course. In the past when I have expressed my version of my childhood of abuse and trauma, I have come up against opposition. My point of view has been invalidated and I was told my memories were plain wrong. Throughout my childhood and adult life I have been ‘gaslighted’ by my family. A term I learnt from reading My Courage to Tell by Laura Corbeth (lauracorbeth.com), an amazing 5* book Sydney and I reviewed for the podcast (The Mental Health Book Club Podcast).

Gaslight, verb – manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity (Google Dictionary).

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Image from the film Gaslight. Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in the final confrontation.

The film Gaslight (1944) is my favourite black and white movie and now I understand why. The husband makes his wife feel insane by denying her memories, experiences and manipulating situations. I feel this is what my family have done to me. As a child I was told my point of view was wrong, I had taken things the wrong way and misunderstood what was meant. It was all my fault and I needed to change. This continues to this day, especially by my sister.

When I started to discuss my childhood traumas with my family, they denied it and again blamed my perception. Questioning my perception of life, my memories and my own sanity. They made me feel crazy; like I was a hypochondriac, a liar, and mentally insane. Making up trauma and abuse, but why would anyone do that?

I now know it is actually their inability to accept what they did to me. Accepting any responsibility would be facing what they did and how unkind they can be. It does not fit with how they wish to see themselves and so it is easier to deny my memories and blame my interpretation. So when a family event approaches I fear these things will be discussed and I will have to fight for my version of events, for my sanity.

This time it is exasperated by the fact that I am suffering with depression, basically I already feel I am crazy. Plus, my sister has approached my sister-in-law and best friend asking if I am clinically depressed. Kirsty wrote my ‘escalating mental health issues’ and the ‘severity’ of what was described to her was concerning her. This all has caused my anxiety to increase as I now have to see them and act well.

It would be perfectly reasonable to ask, why can I not tell them the truth. I am suffering with depression and I am on antidepressants. But, if I do that I am admitting I am Cra-Cra-Crazy! It would be like saying they are right and none of my experiences happened. That my sanity is in question and so my memories are fallible and questionable. My past did not exist. it would mean I am not good enough or worthy as I have then made up this past of trauma and abuses. That I am a horrible person.

Maybe it is not as black and white as this, but this is what my anxiety does. It blows my thoughts up to ridiculous levels and I then have to talk it back down. My anxiety makes it all seem so logical, like a natural disaster it feels somehow inevitable. Through therapy I have learnt I can counter these feelings, my logical brain can take over and tell myself the truth:

  • Just because I have depression does not mean I am insane or crazy.
  • It also does not mean my past did not happen. My experiences and memories are my own.
  • Actually the reason I suffer with depression is linked to the childhood of trauma and abuse so it confirms my experiences.
  • If I was ‘crazy’ should my family not be supportive rather than ridicule me.
  • I am worthy of love and kindness and what I do is enough.
  • I am not a bad person and I would not make up these things. I am a generous and kind person.

I also need to learn to not let them make me feel this way. This is tough as my mind races to these places before my brain has a chance to catch up. It is like the story of the Hare and the Tortoise. The tortoise (logical brain) will always win in the end, but the Hare (my anxiety) will always bolt off the starting line and race off first. But my Tortoise will always teach the Hare a lesson by the end and this time it is to hold my own conviction of my past.

I need to own my memories and not let anyone deny my past. This is my life in this mental world.

closeup photo of galapagos tortoise
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