Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final
Rainer Maria Rilke
I wish I could say I got this quote from reading Rilke but really I got it from watching the film Jojo Rabbit. Either way, it’s still true, still vital, still genius.
The truth is that I can’t remember a time before I felt awkward, anxious, different. What seemed easy and natural to other people never felt easy to me. Example: I was kicked out after one day of nursery school because I wouldn’t stop screaming and crying. They told my parents not to bring me back. I don’t remember this, but I do remember going to look around my school for the first time, a private Roman Catholic school with kind nuns and high brick walls and big black gates.
I remember my parents leaving me with a teacher while they took a tour of the school and I remember feeling like they were never going to come back. I remember crying, sitting on a teacher’s knee, no amount of reassurance could convince me I would ever see my family again. And this continued for years. Every day I arrived at school kicking and screaming and clinging to my bampi’s legs begging not to be left behind. I remember how all the other children seemed fine and I remember thinking there must be something wrong with them, not me.
By the end of each day I would be fine but every morning the pattern started again. Why didn’t I believe that I would go home at the end of the day, when so far each day had ended that way?
I was sick a lot. Ear infections. But this was preferable to the overwhelming anxiety I felt at having to go to school.
At the time, I would never have been able to articulate this and so it became something I kept to myself, my behaviour totally inexplicable to anyone else who saw it. To them, maybe it looked like tantrums, recalcitrance. To me, it was a force I had no control over, didn’t understand, and would have loved to break. Every September I braced myself, told myself it would be different, I would be able to handle it, but without knowing what it was that scared me so much I always fell back into the fear.
It was in primary school I started to have these weird moments where my brain would glitch. I would feel very suddenly detached from my surroundings, everything would take on a surreal edge. This would last about thirty seconds, maybe a minute. A thought would flash in my mind: I am not supposed to be here. Then I would quickly scroll through the places I usually felt most comfortable: my nan’s house, my home. I’m not meant to be there either, the thought would continue. I would feel lost, out of place, with nowhere to go. All this only in a brief moment of time. A physical reaction, my heart beating faster, feeling the world sway beneath me, and then, as soon as it came, it would be gone again. I would be back in the moment.
What was that? I’d wonder briefly. Each time it happened was like the first time it happened. These moments continued until sometime in my mid-twenties when all of a sudden they stopped.
I wonder if it had something to do with gaining some autonomy, over where I was and what I was doing and who I was with.
Not that there was anything wrong back then. I was lucky. I was well-loved and people were caring and understanding. No children made fun of me for still crying when I came to school every day.
Not even when I started at my first high school. When I vividly remember being forced to go to a class, physically unable to stop crying, some panic I didn’t understand had control and I didn’t know how to stop it. As I cried and people looked, the teacher gave me a sheet of A4 paper and told me if I sat on it then I would stop crying. Confused, I did sit on the piece of paper. It didn’t work. I don’t know if he was being cruel or clumsily kind. No one was mean to me about it. Sometimes this memory creeps up on me and I cringe, groan. It is agonisingly embarrassing. It’s just one of the hundreds of unwanted, intrusive memories which catch me by surprise several times a day.
What if I had had CBT then? Not last year, but when I was a child, a teenager. What if someone had talked to me about how to manage my feelings and how to harness logic instead of letting my emotions run wild?
Of course, all of this led to worse depression, worse coping mechanisms (drug problems, binge drinking, self-harm, ditching school all together) which only made me hate myself more, made it harder to climb out of the hole I was digging for myself.
I’ve decided to be honest about this because maybe it will make a difference. As often as I’ve wanted to give up, I’m still here. The thing is, from the outside, it might seem as if my life is great. Even if I look at it from the outside I can see how good I have it. So why don’t I feel good? What is feeling good? How can I get there?
I’ve found ways to manage my depression. Healthy ways. One of them is exercise. It’s not a cure – and I think this is why so many of us are resistant to it whenever a doctor suggests it when we ask for help – but it has shown me I have strength and motivation I never knew I had. I’m going to write more blogs over the course of January while I complete my exercise challenge.
I’m trying other things, too. Things I’ll describe in more detail over the month. What has worked and what hasn’t. I’m trying to get better, I’m trying to make tiny changes to earth. I hope you will join me on the way.
This song makes me happy: I Wanna Get Better
Donate to Mind via my Just Giving page here: RED January 2020 JustGiving Page