I’ve had lots dreams about places which exist solely to care for hurt children and women. One was a large, beautiful building a bit like a hotel-hospital. Everyone had their own room with a cozy bed to snuggle in. There were enough nurses and carers that whenever you needed someone they were right there. They were all so kind and gentle and understanding, and they had time to listen to each person. They brought round beautiful meals, and everyone was given the specific care they needed. Nobody ever had to leave.
Every year or two I find I’ve got exhausted from the constant struggle to sort myself out and make life work. I want to hide in my bed and cry and be looked after. I can’t face cooking, or leaving the house, or even working out what clothes to put on in the morning. The thought of having to get through the day makes me panic. I find myself day-dreaming of living in an old-folks’ home and being wheeled out into the garden each afternoon.
It hasn’t happened for about two years now which feels good, but I’m wary – depression can be so horribly random. I went through old diaries to find the last time I went well and truly under:
May 2011: Exhausted for months now … I want to be alone … I want to sleep and sleep.
June 2011: There isn’t enough love to cover the hurt. It would be easier to be nothing.
July 2011: Feeling pressed, tired, hurried, hassled, blurred. Resentful that I can’t get my own time and space. Overtaken by anxiety. Life is overwhelming. I cannot make decisions about the smallest things. I can’t look after anyone; it is too much. Today Sarah suggested a women’s retreat, and I felt such relief at being taken care of that I cried and cried.
September 2011: I am in Bryant Retreat.
October 2011: Had to leave Bryant early because Aaron’s dad died. Am now back where I was pre-retreat: utterly exhausted, anxious, cancelling appointments, don’t want to go anywhere. I would rather be nothing.
December 2011: I would like to get on a train and go away for a week. Bad dreams about wars most nights. Feeling despair and utter loneliness. Bleak, want to be nothing so I don’t have to keep feeling this awfulness. I feel lost. I feel hateful and shaky and I feel like shit.
January 2012: Lost and brain-foggy. Sad. Got this blah-nothing feeling. Wish I could be alone.
April 2012: Feel like shit. Can’t bear the thought of having to keep living, day after day, for a whole life. I’ve had enough.
May 2012: At Bryant Retreat again. Had a nap…
At Bryant Retreat I had time to be, and my thoughts found their way back to me. The whirling stopped and I found I could put my head out and see where I was. I realised I needed space and time to heal before filling my life up with other things. I wrote a card for my wall: Protect and love the worthwhile girl. I spent some time trying out meditation and listening to my body and soul. I wrote a list of changes to make when I returned home – start yoga and dance, eat almonds, meditate, stop between jobs in order to tune in to myself.
I’d love to retreat every year – it’s like a bit of magic the way some things just melt away.
I’ve also set up sprinklings of mini-retreats – reprieves – which help keep my head above water. The last four years I’ve spent Monday nights at my friends’ house. They are a family of four, and being there shakes me loose from all the sad in my head. They remind me of life without the big struggle, of life that flows. Being with them helped me find my sense of fun again, and made me want to bring it back to my own family.
I like knowing some things can just be absorbed, rather than struggled for. If you’ve got anywhere you can go and just absorb good stuff, I reckon do it:-) Likewise if you can get to a retreat. Looking at those dates above I realise I was in a bad way for a long time before I got help – I guess because it’s so hard to think clearly when I’m already sinking.
As I write this I’m hoping that these days I might be able to spot the signs before I start slipping under. I’ve certainly made changes since then – I rest more, ask for help more, plan nurturing things into my days and weeks, and I’m better at listening to my inner voice – so I shouldn’t end up depleted to the same extent.
I’ll let you know…