Hard Times

Whenever I have a few days in a row of feeling I good, I think this is it, I’ve cracked it! I’m going to hold on to this feeling and NOTHING is going to stop me. Then I feel bad again, and I can almost believe I brought it on myself. Shouldn’t have had a nice thought, should I, I was obviously asking to feel bad. I started to wonder if I’m stuck in some neverending cycle… well I’m stuck in a cycle alright, but I’ve likely got a good decade yet before I’m able to be free of it.

Having periods suck. I’ve always struggled around that time, and thought it was just normal and that I was weak for feeling dreadful at least two weeks out of every four. But then as things like this get talked about more on social media, it seems that what I’ve been going through since puberty is not a universal experience. Every single GP I’ve ever seen has shrugged it off, but it’s not normal.

I get by though. Well, usually. As time goes on it gets harder and harder to cope with it, and it’s all mixed up with other issues I have. Basically right now I don’t know my arse from my elbow, and I am not ok with that. I feel like I’m drowning. One thing I know is that things are usually quite bad for me, but once a month, it’s infinitely worse. I also know something has to change because I cannot go on like this.

There’s also past things to deal with. I’ve always been someone who struggled with regulating emotions, then after a bad five-year relationship I hardened a lot (read: turned into a cold-hearted bitch). I opened up later, got hurt more than ever, hardened again, then just recently I started to really feel things again. All well and good until something bad came along and I couldn’t deal with it. Feeling things means feeling all the things. I forgot about that part.

This started off with someone being a bit mean to me at work, which resulted in me absolutely spiraling… like, crying in the toilets and completely unable to stop myself. I just had to wait for it to pass. Absolutely absurd. The person in particular was mean because I was basically doing my job too much, which would normally have me telling said person where to go, but it turned into a paranoid week of ‘absolutely everyone I’ve ever known and loved secretly hates me’.

Then little Newty got sick. He’s OK now but there were a few days there where we really weren’t sure if he was going to make it. At that point I just… shut down.

I was worried sick about that doggo, who thankfully is recovering nicely and well on his way to being his old self, but it was just one thing too much and I couldn’t handle it. After we knew he was going to be ok, I thought I’d go back to ‘normal’ myself, but since then things have been… weird.

I have even less energy than usual, concentrating on anything has been virtually impossible, I’m clumsy (I even fell over the other day) and if I’m trying to think (as in, I’m trying to concentrate on not totally losing my mind) I need COMPLETE AND UTTER SILENCE otherwise I feel an almost uncontrollable rage. It’s like I need to use all of my energy on staying in existence. On top of that, things don’t exactly feel real right now, or maybe I don’t feel like I’m real, not sure which, which may well be dissociation.

Not that a medical professional could enlighten me, because when I finally got an appointment with a ‘mental health practitioner’ she asked me if I’d tried PrActicING MindFuLNesS. Yes, sure, after thirty years of mental illness, I’m calling you because I’m at breaking point, I’ve just spent 40 minutes on the phone to you telling you about all of my issues and that’s what you suggest. I asked to be signed off work while I’m feeling spaced out because it’s really not safe to drive a forklift truck when you aren’t sure if you’re a person or not, and her response? Well, you really should have asked for a note a week ago, you’ve left it a bit late.

Except… I DID ASK FOR ONE A WEEK AGO AND THEY TOLD ME I HAD TO HAVE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOU FIRST. THAT IS ONE OF THE REASONS WE ARE SPEAKING NOW.

Response? ‘Oh’.

This is why I never try asking for help. This is the ‘help’ you get.

But I’m at the stage where I can’t not ask for help, and I know it’s going to take a fight to get it. I’m so tired though, I don’t want to fight!

Aaaanyway. I have booked a face-to-face doctor’s appointment, and I only have to wait a month for that. During that time, on my good days, I’m going to be researching to get all the information on the things that are most likely wrong with me, and when I see the doctor I am not going to let him dismiss my symptoms. Because the first doctor did that nearly twenty-five years ago when he told me it was normal for sixteen-year-old me to have a beard, and do you know what? I’ve had enough of not being listened to. Carrying on day-to-day means having some kind of belief that things might actually improve somewhere down the line, and they haven’t been improving with me trying to do it alone. I’m taking a deep breath and seeing where this goes.

In the meantime, even though it’s the very last thing I want to do, I’m going to make a concerted effort to get outside. I know it will help, and I know I need to do it every day. It feels… naughty, being off work and going for a walk in the woods, but what else can I do at this point?

I’ve also found a new craft which is absolutely perfect for turning my brain off, because I don’t have to concentrate too much, but also if I zone out completely I have to go back and start again. I’m using it to practice not zoning out before I go to work, and also to stop unwanted thoughts. It’s nice to have a little break from my racing mind from time-to-time. I would tell you what it is now, but I’m making a gift for my sister and if I tell you what it is she might guess what I’m making. It was supposed to be a gift for her birthday in December, but in reality there’s no way on earth I can wait that long to give it to her. I can’t wait to show you guys either.

After a very moany load of paragraphs (I felt like I just really needed to get that out) I will leave with something positive. So here is a beautiful dahlia, ‘cafe au lait’, which has somehow survived heatwaves, slugs, snails and neglect to turn into an absoute stunner. What can I say, she’s more resilient than me!

Hayley x

Suddenly I See

Sometimes I’m such an idiot. I mean really. I looked back on a post I made this time last year and, yep, my theory is correct. I don’t think I am depressed as such, I think I just CANNOT HANDLE THE WINTER. The sun has been back for a total of five whole minutes and I swear I am a different person. It begs the question – going forward, how on earth am I going to make future winters less hellish? I don’t know, but that’s a problem I’ll come back to in December. For now I will be making the most of the good times. Let’s make hay while the sun shines, right?

Right!

Ok I haven’t actually been making hay, but I have been sowing alllllll the seeds. Last year I was too busy beating myself up for not gardening enough to garden enough (is my brain its own worst enemy or what?) but this year as soon as those extremely unhelpful thoughts started up I gave them a firm ‘NO’ and carried on with my business. Sometimes I even say it out loud, and it’s working out really well!

I still haven’t got around to having that blood test because I have to go and pick up a form for the doctors, and I keep forgetting. I will get around to it, because it’s worth getting everything checked out. I just need to remember at a time when the doctors is actually open…

I do have another theory though, one that I wasn’t going to share on here because it felt a little… dramatic? Anyway, as I would be so quick to tell others, better out than in, so here we go. I’m fairly sure I have some form of ADHD. It was like slap in the face when almost everything I saw about ADHD on social media turned out to be a) not what I thought ADHD was and b) EXTREMELY relatable. I’ve been talking to a colleague at work whose partner is trying to get a diagnosis through the NHS, but after being told she’s looking at a minimum seven-year wait they are saving up so she can go private. I’m reluctant to do that (because think of all the plants and paint I could buy with that money) but in the meantime I have been treating myself as if I do officially have ADHD and what can I say? Life is better! Whether I do have it or not, some of the strategies seem to be working so what does it really matter?

Just finding out it’s not just me who feels this way has been such a big deal. It’s not been the same as finding out others feel the same way about depression and stuff like that, because this feels so specific. I’m reading about other people’s experiences and it’s really hitting home like nothing ever has before. Sometimes social media is a turd but at times like this, well, I’m glad it’s there.

A big part of this has been my constant overthinking, and when my brain gets seriously damn loud instead of thinking ‘whyyyyyy is this happening?’ I’ve given myself permission to say ‘Nope, we aren’t doing this. SHUT UP’. And what a huge difference that little thing has made. We’ll see how it all pans out though. I’m going forward with an open mind and finding out what works for me and what doesn’t, without judgement. What have I got to lose?

My art has taken a bit of a back seat over the last couple of weeks, purely because I’ve had so much to do in the garden (which I’ve just run with because I’ve been enjoying it so much). I also have no room for the art I particularly want to make right now, because my art space is currently home to about 200 baby plants. It has been a struggle trying to cater for every seed’s special needs so they can germinate, but next year I am choosing easy grow varieties that can be started off outside. The idea is to grow lots of maybe five or six different varieties and go for huge, colourful, impact. Maximum effect, minimum effort. Yes please and thank you very much.

Once I can be reasonably sure there won’t be another frost (probably in the next week or two) everything can go into the garden where it bloody belongs and I can get going with some artistic plans. Of which I have many. The gardening helps with this, it helps spark ideas. Ugh, why can’t it be spring all year round?

Since an eternal spring is not on the cards, I’ve been outside recording the events of this spring so that the images can see me through when I need them most.

I have SO MANY tulips that are almost ready to go, it’s so exciting. And this is just the beginning, there is so much more to come.

Here is a bonus Newty picture to say thank you for reading. Until next time!

Hayley x

Mixed Feelings

In theory, I love Christmas. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year. As much as I want to enjoy it though, there’s something in me that makes the whole season really hard to handle. I genuinely have no idea why. One minute I’m excited, the next minute I’m struggling to find the willpower to brush my teeth.

In the last few years I’ve become much more self-aware, and knowing that this is a thing that happens to me means that this year I was better at going easy on myself through the roughest patch. I did have the usual grand plans of lots of homemade gifts and surprises for everyone, but when it came down to it I didn’t have the energy. Rather than berate myself for being weak, I ended up spending as much time resting as I needed to. Which turned out to be a lot. As such by the time Christmas Day arrived I felt well enough to enjoy it.

I feel very much that there is ‘something wrong with me’. I seem to have a very limited capacity for doing things, and wonder if this is actually a mental or physical problem. Maybe it’s both? I think there’s very little point in speaking to a doctor about this, especially at the moment, because the NHS is at absolute breaking point. Even in the best of times getting a diagnosis for certain things takes years. Or never, in some cases. I just don’t have the energy to go through that.

My plan for the coming year is to not try to pour from an empty cup. Let’s see how I get on with that.

In order to make time and energy for the things I desperately want to do and are most important to me, I’m going to try to stay as organised as possible (and keep life as simple as I can) so that I don’t feel like I’m endlessly trying to catch up. That’s how I’ve felt for the entirety of this year – like if I could just get everything in order I’ll be fine. But I never make it to that point.

This does bring up enormous feelings of guilt that are almost overwhelming, because there are people who do so much more than me and manage to get through it. This has, however, been the case for most of my adult life and no amount of feeling guilty has changed the fact that I can only do so much. That just happens to be less than some others, so how about I try accepting the situation for what it is? Just a thought.

It’s very hard to shake off the feeling that 2021 has been a complete waste, just a year of treading water, but that’s not true. My love for art most definitely exploded and I found another pastime I really enjoy. It’s one that I can do from bed when I’m feeling my crappiest, which goes a long way to explain the impressive numbers of hours per week I’m dedicating to it.

Years and years ago I downloaded Duolingo, a language-learning app, but never stuck with it. A few months ago I started learning again, and this time I really caught the bug. I mean, I am ADDICTED. I started learning Dutch, primarily because I have a Dutch friend and thought it would be fun to learn more about her native language.

I’m pleased I did because although it’s an impossible language and I find it insanely complicated, I also absolutely love it! At the same time I’ve been learning Spanish, because a guy at work is doing the same thing and I thought it would be cool for us to speak Spanish together as we progress.

You might think that learning two languages at the same time would be counter-productive (I had misgivings myself) but in fact I’d say it’s been easier doing them both simultaneously. It’s like once I activated that part of my brain there was no stopping it.

I find it really interesting that I’ve managed to retain so many new words in my memory, especially since I’d say memory is not my strong point at the best of times. At the moment I’d say I can think of a sentence and probably be able to get my meaning across, but right now each sentence would be in a mixture of Spanish and Dutch. That might have a somewhat limited reach! I’ll keep learning though, because I’m thoroughly enjoying it. As of now I’m on a 61-day streak with no sign of letting up.

As it happens I just completed my most productive week of language learning to date, because I was locked in a bitter battle with another learner who wanted my top spot. Every week you are put in a league with 30 other random users. The top five are promoted to a higher league every week, whereas the bottom 5 are demoted. The top league is Diamond, and that’s where I found myself last week. You unlock a special achievement if you get to number one in the Diamond League, and I just couldn’t, couldn’t let it go.

I’m so sorry Alessandra, I know you wanted that gold medal, I just wanted it more! Sadly you can’t message each other through the app, because if you could I would have thanked this person for seriously motivating me this week. I spent over 30 hours learning!

I even practiced on Christmas Day, although I only spent the bare minimum on it in order to keep my lead and keep my streak. The rest of the day was spent with the family at my sister’s new house, which was an honour because a first Christmas in a new home is always special.

What’s even more special is that we even got to spend it together at all (I’m looking at you Covid) and I didn’t dare hope that it would go ahead until we’d done our lateral flow tests on Christmas morning. But happen it did, and I ate the most poshest Christmas dinner I’ve ever had in my life. My sister’s fiance cooked us a veggie meal, and the main was made of lentils which to be honest concerned me greatly. They are not a food I generally choose to eat.

It tasted incredible though. The highlight for me though was the leek. How does someone make a leek taste that delicious? The carrot almost got the top spot, but the leek just edged it for me. Seriously good grub.

I got so many thoughtful presents, I spent the day feeling very special and very loved. The presents I gifted also went down as well as I hoped they would. For me receiving the presents is secondary (no, really!) because I always forget I’m getting presents too. As an adult I think it’s much more special seeing the people you love open the gifts from you.

The most special gift of all of course was seeing Newton. The first glimpse I got of him was from the kitchen door where he was standing on his hind legs trying to get a look at us as we came up the garden path. It’s so lovely when someone is that excited to see you!

At that point my heart melted, because he was wearing the cutest snuggly jimjams I ever saw in my entire life, along with a Christmas hat. It’s lucky that boy likes my cuddles, otherwise there would have been trouble.

Here’s Newton and his mum with their matching headwear. It’s got to be my favourite picture of the day.

I could (should) end this post right now, but I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t mention how utterly crappy I’m feeling. I knew I wanted a picture of me and Newton, for the memories, but I’m finding it really hard to stand the sight of myself.

I did lose a bit of weight (in fact I’m still lighter than the last time I posted) but I don’t feel at all like me. I feel like me but with extra bits, like I’m me but swollen with bee stings and if the swelling would just go down my actual face would come back. It’s not just that. I feel so unhealthy and although it’s not all to do with weight I’m sure a good diet would go a long way to helping things.

So there’s no waiting for January the first, I am jumping on the wagon RIGHT NOW.

For 2022 I intend to get back to posting regularly. It’s definitely easier to post a lot than to sit down to a blank screen after a long break. After a year of feeling like I’m getting nowhere, with the state the world is in I’m lucky (and grateful) to make it through and I intend to make the most of things.

Starting from now.

Hayley x