Ongoing

So I did it, I blogged everysingleday in August. I went away for the weekend and it was gogogo. Several art galleries and much bridesmaid dress shopping (my sister is getting married and I’m a bridesmaid) I came home and I painted every day that week. I started 7 paintings, went to a preview and dealt with the strangeness of people who aren’t me publicising my work. Workworkwork. I decided I could cope with that, and not only that but I loved it. The enthusiasm of going somewhere, starting something and seeing it through to the end. Exploring, producing, thinking and learning. I love making paintings!

But then I got sick and everything stopped.

The thing is it’s hard to say if it’s “sickness” or “depression”. I woke up on Monday morning with that terribly familiar ache in my chest and the realisation that everything was terrible. But then the aches started in my shins, the cough appeared, my limbs took on a lead-like quality and the violent sneezes threatened me. So am I ill or depressed? It’s hard to say. It seems like the ill-er I feel the more content I am. When my symptoms lessen the more I am inclined to start the self talk “Oh I have to work today and I have to exercise and it’s going to be so hard and I don’t want to I just want to go back to bed but then I wouldn’t have worked and I’ll get fat and unfit and I’m very very very lazy” It’s like I have a perfectly reasonable excuse to rest once I get past this certain point of illness but other than that I’m just a big lazy lump.

My path to self compassion is, as always, ongoing.

 

Tempting fate

I’m not superstitious (anymore) but I do find it strange that the day I consider how I would cope with intensive yoga teacher training if I were to catch a cold (quite likely because it’s scheduled for January) I catch a cold. A week later I’m still not better. This is my third sleepless night so far, I was up until half 4 coughing.

I was a sickly child who caught every virus going but since arriving in depressed adulthood I have only suffered from a handful of infections. So I had the label of “person who is always sick”, then “person who is never sick”… What do I call myself now?

Clawing my way back

There’s a lot of things I haven’t been doing for the past couple of weeks: posting here, going to yoga classes, painting, doing the Artist’s Way, keeping my diary up to date, running, walking, enjoying things…

I had a triple whammy. A friend from university (I say ‘a’ friend, but I really mean my only university friend) finally did what he’s been threatening to do for a while and visited with one of his friends. So that meant exhausting trips out, pub lunches, getting rained on, eating fatty food, drinking too much and then not getting enough sleep. I enjoyed it but it was a bit much for my delicate system. I was drained by the time they left but willing to take a few days off to rest and recover. My body had other plans.

I got a cold.

I mean I got an old-style badass cold with the shivers, cutting sore throat, muscle aches, terrible fatigue and weakness. I basically was bed ridden for 3 days and 9 days later I still haven’t got back to my usual vibrant self.

So there’s two things, the third? The sadness, it descended on Sunday and has yet to leave me. It’s not surprising considering I haven’t been able to do much for 2 weeks that I usually do to help myself recover from the depression. I mainly just played Animal Crossing on the Wii (I’d do a link but my touchpad isn’t working) and I defy anyone who says that is a waste of time. It’s fantastic escapism for someone who hasn’t seen the real outside for days. If only I could have animal neighbours in real life… That might be preferable to my real human neighbours who seem to only want to collect rusting huge American cars in their gardens.

Anyway the thing that gets me some of my joie de vivre back is usually my well thought out routine. The problem is I don’t have one right now. The exercising is out because of the cold and the working is out because of the depression. To treat the cold I just have to wait, to treat the depression I have to… what? Run? Do lots of yummy yoga? But I can’t because of the lingering tiredness!

So I wait. Patience and it’ll be back soon, and so will I.

Bad backs

Thanks to Adan for the idea for this post.

First of all this isn’t about me, my back is fine. I did have a scare once but that’s an aside maybe for another day. This is about my dad. I feel a bit weird posting about my dad on the internet without his knowledge but with my slight anonymity hopefully that makes it ok. My dad’s a bit of a big deal in the island, he even has his own wikipedia page. Not everyone revives a dead language after all. If this post disappears one day you’ll know why.

My dad has a terrible curved spine, as in hunchback of Notre Dame type hump. I can’t say if it’s scoliosis, or excessive kyphosis or some combination of the two or something else entirely because I’m completely ignorant of the label that would be attached to his spinal curvature. Worse, so is he. My dad was born just before the war, as in the Second World War (my parents were getting on a bit when they had me) during a time when checking children for spinal problems and treating them was not a priority. I don’t know when he first became aware of his spine being curved, sometimes he says he noticed when he was a child, sometimes he says it was caused by a garage door hitting him on the back when he was a young adult. He just doesn’t care, it doesn’t matter to him.

Now he’s an old man and the curve is getting worse month on month. He’s frequently gasping with pain although he says the pain is intermittent and not constant. Sometimes his breath comes choppy as though it’s hard to breathe but then he still does his radio programme and he has a fine singing voice. It’s all a bit of a mystery to me.

What’s more of a mystery is the way that up until the curve was so bad as to become debilitating he did nothing about it. No X-rays, no doctor’s visits, nothing. He barely even talked about it until it became too obvious to not talk about. Recently, under the combined nagging of both me and my mum he has been to a doctor, had an X-ray (and promptly forgot what it showed), been to an acupuncturist and had an occupational therapist come to look at his home office.

Herein lies the problem: he spends all day working at the computer, with his only breaks involving sitting in chairs watching TV, sitting in chairs reading the paper, sitting in chairs eating, sitting in chairs drinking tea and sitting in chairs moaning to my mum. The latter being his favourite pastime. He has a bad spine to begin with and he fully knows all this sitting with the constant flexion of his hip muscles, the pressure on the back combined with the rigidity that sitting for a lifetime does to your lower back is even worse for him. But he does nothing.

Enter me, the fit, young, healthy yoga enthusiast daughter. What do I do? I am very much a ‘live-and-let-live’ kinda girl. This is how my parents raised me, they never nagged when I spent hours and hours of my teens online and developed a hump myself. Mind you they don’t usually congratulate me on my healthy spine either but that’s besides the point. I know that his lifestyle and lack of movement is making the pain worse. I know that yoga would help him. Even the pranayama would help him. Yet I do nothing. Why is this? Because it’s easier for me? Because I’m scared that I’ll come across as a know-it-all? Because I want to respect my father’s autonomy? It’s a problem that every grown up child has to deal with I know.

I just can’t understand how it is that he doesn’t want to learn more about his spine and learn how to cope. He says there’s no point because there’s nothing anyone can do, he’s too old. But this isn’t true, he can lessen the symptoms by doing gentle movements. I tell him this and he seems to believe me but yet he still doesn’t do it! What am I to do? The most I’ve done so far is let him borrow my Tai Chi dvds and strongly hinted that they’re very good. Is this enough? I just don’t want this lack of action to be something I come to regret.

Sickness

I’m ill today. I’m a strange creature because to me this is a very reassuring state; I know why I’m ill, it’s not too bad and I know I’ll feel better soon. I also I know that all I need right now is rest. So I’m resting and I plan on enjoying it.

I put this down to my sickly childhood. I caught so many colds growing up and they were always real humdingers (love that word) I mean I caught the kind of colds people would refer to as flu and I caught them with such regularity and consistency that I was very familiar with the stages. I could recite them to you now, and they never varied.

I grew up with the knowledge that complaining and resisting would not help me recover faster so I would just wait and rest and try to enjoy myself. As a child who hated school and loved being on my own this wasn’t too much of a challenge. I innately understood the crucial lesson: we all get sick. I knew it wasn’t a failing in me, or a weakness. It was something that just happened, like getting rained on, and complaining about it would not change the situation one jot.

So I learned how to cope with being ill and with missing school. I became attached to these little breaks, a chance to withdraw from the world legitimately. Unfortunately I think I became too attached to them. Now, I’m a super-duper healthy adult who exercises, eats well and gets enough sleep. I stopped getting colds a few years ago. My cold-per-year rate dropped from well above average to well below. In fact in the past 2 years I have only had one cold.

But I still need breaks from the world, I still really need them but I never let myself have them. That’s the difference between a healthy accepting mind and a sick mind poisoned with the protestant work ethic prevalent in my society. When I’m healthy in body but depressed in mind I feel like I don’t deserve a break, I have to keep going going going going. As soon as I get ill, like today, my inner wise child comes back and tells me it’s ok to rest, because I’ll ill and I need to get better. It’s ok to look after myself.

So today my job is to listen to that wise child and to figure out how to make her stick around when I’m not ill.

A Painful Reminder

It’s bucketing down today and I feel a bit sad. To be honest it’s a bit of a relief, it’s been so bright recently I’ve been waking up at 6am in the bright sunshine. Also, while I’m being completely honest it’s a bit of a relief that I’m sad. Terrible as it is to say it I’m so used to this feeling that when days go by without me feeling that strange and daunting ache I miss it. It makes me panicky. I feel like I know how to deal with the sad feeling. Normal life, maybe not so much. I want to get better, I do but it doesn’t mean it’s easy and I’m used to the idea yet.

I truly believe that one of the main reasons I became depressed was because I let other people’s beliefs on what is ‘right’ for me cloud my own very good judgement. The depression served as a very painful reminder that I know what is best for me and I should not bow down to what society or any individual loud, overpowering voice says is the best thing for me.

Sometimes the decision is hard and I choose the wrong one. For example on Wednesday I spent a lot of time on my computer working on my site as well as an application and the painful depression-retrospective for this blog. That explains the truly terrible quality picture I posted on here of my cat. Need to learn how to use photoshop! Anyway after all that work I was very tired and had a headache. But I wanted to go to a yoga class. In the past I would have just written it off but since I’ve been recovering I’ve been able to do more and more. So to prove something to myself I went anyway.

Terrible idea. The room was so hot and it was a tough class. After it my headache grew to such a pitch I felt like I was going to be sick. I could barely move, it was the most horrific headache and put me out for most of yesterday as well. Another painful reminder: do what is right for you, not what you think you should do. You live and you learn right? Then you make a mistake and you repeat… and repeat… and repeat. Wait, how long do humans live again?

I have a project for this rainy day: prettify the blog. Now I am an artist but that doesn’t mean I’m good at illustration and decoration. I’m terrible, I’m messy and I can’t be bothered most of the time. But I want to get better! This blog is way too wordy and black and white. Plus that tree picture leaves much to be desired. It reminds me of that biblical story of the man who built his house on sand. Not the message I want!