Lately I have this deep-seated feeling that I’ve forgotten something, that I should be searching for something, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. The last couple of months have been such a period upheaval, the kind of time where you re-evaluate where you are in life and what you truly want and value.
Change can be painful. It currently aches like a healing wound deep under my sternum, at times winding around my lungs and constricting my breathing. But it’s a healing pain. The pain of progress.
I remember being young and awake in my bed for hours, wanting to read under the covers – not because the book was so fascinating (though it usually was, from an early age I had the ability to get so lost in a book that my mama could be calling my name right in front of my face and I wouldn’t hear a word) – but generally at night it was boredom.
This is my way of explaining I well and truly fail the living mindfully test. I absolutely cannot do one thing at a time, if my brain is focussing on something my hands need to be doing something else. I multitask like no ones business (call that an event planner thing), and I do not do well at all when left alone with my own brain. I get frustrated, and my thoughts tend to go down the dark and twisty place. So I’d rather stay awake I until couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, and it’s a habit I still can’t break.
I love yoga and guided meditation, but lord give me patience I cannot get my head around self-led meditation where I just sit there and try not to think!
You know how when you have a really good friend and you can often be having several different conversations with them across Snapchat, txt, Messenger, Instagram, pigeon mail, all about different topics. That’s what the inside of my brain feels like when I’m in the midst of a week with bad insomnia. Internal messages popping up left right and centre.
This week I should have expected it. I know how to track my BPII cycle pretty well right now, and all signs pointed north. I had a period of extreme low, under a lot of pressure and with anxiety attacks returning, thanks to a pretty traumatic weekend. That was followed by a high (not a happy one, just an energy-related one) when I ended up in A&E then had to spend the next two weeks surviving on morphine, adrenaline and mild mania. Then I finally had surgery, the results were pretty good, and the episode wore off and I had about 3 days straight of sleeping.
That’s where the trouble starts.
Resetting my brain after a cycle like this takes work, and it usually takes a couple of weeks of feeling not quite grounded, floating through life but never quite grasping anything solid. It doesn’t help that I’m still in a reasonable amount of pain and on some heavy painkillers – if you’re looking to get grounded taking sevredol and gabapentin is no way to go about it.
So before my surgery I planned something different. I’m sitting in a beautiful retreat in Queenstown for four days of yoga, reading, bushwalks, seminars, live music and holistic eating. Plus a wee wander through the Festival of Lights. Exactly what my soul needs.
I chose to do this on my own off the back of words someone said to me a few weeks back that have been drifting around my head and resurfacing in moments of quiet
You think you need other people, but you don’t, you’ve proven that every time. The only person you need is yourself.
So myself and I are getting some space. Living hurts sometimes, no matter who you are. The past month has been healing mentally, as I stayed well clear from my triggers (men, alcohol, news media, small town life, excessive working hours and travel – otherwise known as just generally burning the candle at both ends) and focussed purely on my health. It might have taken a kick in the ass from some bleeding ovarian cysts to do it, but I always believe in the silver lining. I have guilt at times around not doing certain things, like reading the news, but sometimes you need to take a break from the world’s sadness to heal your own. Put your own oxygen mask on first before you try to help someone else.
My best friend told me a couple of years ago – I’m not saying that you can’t save the world, just that maybe it’s not your job to do it all.
It was a reminder to go easy on myself. I can’t save the world by using only cruelty free products, or eating vegan, or using recycled shopping bags, donating to charity, taking in every animal I see, fighting rape culture so that women have better outcomes than the ones I and the people I love had. It breaks my heart when I can’t fix it. It’s a concept called schadenfreude – or world sadness. The world is a hard place. There is terrible sadness. It can be extremely overwhelming. But as long as you are living with kindness, and in an attempt to do good wherever possible, that’s the best we can do. Sometimes we need to take a break from the world’s pain so that we have the strength to get back up and keep going. Don’t let the darkness send you into a spiral.
Some words of advice my therapist gave me last year in the midst of a pretty severe mental health crisis –
When your thoughts are getting out of control, and you’re starting to panic and spiral, the most important thing is to notice that it’s happening. When you notice it you can take a breath, step back, and intercept the internal dialogue.
It’s important not to judge, or assess, or try to unpack the thoughts in this moment. Just notice that it is happening, then step away. Change the dialogue. Distract yourself. Repeat a mantra. Just remove yourself from that space in your head.
My favourite mantra is actually a Buddhist invocation, and so I’ll leave it here as I take a step back from the mental and physical place I’ve been in, and clear my head for a few days
Om shanti shanti shanti
Peace, let it be, peace, peace
Peace in mind, voice and body
Namaste darlings, that which is divine in me, and is currently being relit, acknowledges that which is divine in you, ever burning, even when you forget.