The Shadows are Thinning

It’s funny, this week has found me once again huddled under my blanket in that familiar corner of the library; it’s been a reminder that there is still a dark cloud blowing over my brain. Yet it’s been possibly the sharpest reminder yet of just how far out of the dark I have come. Even as I curled in on myself, read and slept away my days, the glass surrounding the snow globe as impenetrable as ever, that wasn’t all I did. Lacking in energy as I have been these past few days, there have still been moments where I have got up, left the library – though still in my blanket – and got things done. I have been outside. I have applied for a job for September. I’ve been able to read my science magasines. I have even done some Biochemistry. Not so long ago a week like this would have meant doing nothing at all. Leaving the house would have been as good as it got.

It hasn’t been a good week. I’ve felt tired and heavy. There are a lot of things left undone. That is not the point. The point is that even though this weeks’ patchwork squares are more black and white than colour, the bar for ‘bare minimum effort’ has moved. It has moved enough that I can go back to university confident that even if I do have a bad day or even a bad week, I will still at the very least be able to go to lectures. I will still get something out of those days instead of just a sense of wasted time. I am learning – still learning – to give myself a break when I feel like this. To not feel like I’m having to play catch up for the time I’ve spent catching up on sleep. I do have good days now and when I have good days, I can do more than I thought. So when there are days when just looking at printed words makes my eyes blur, I can let it go because the words will still be there tomorrow and tomorrow might be a better day.

Without the dark, how can you appreciate the light?

A Study Desk and a Blanket

Recently I have found a new place in my snow globe cottage; there is a desk in one corner of the front room. It’s right beneath the window. It’s made of old oak, the top marked by mug stains, traces of spilled ink and faded scratches of long ago pens. Down one side are draws with brass knobs. The uppermost draw is full of pens, ink and paper, a calculator. On the wall on the opposite side is a small bookshelf, bending slightly under the weight of the tomes it supports. The chair tucked under the desk is high backed, dark wood and cushioned on the top half, the bottom half has wheels, it spins, of course.

The desk appeared when I started being able to study Chemistry. Not just glance at my notes from time to time, but sit down, look at them, not only understand what I was looking at but fall in love with the subject all over again. I had forgotten how beautiful Chemistry is. I’d forgotten just how much I love the rules and logic of it. When I’m sitting at the desk and the sun is shining in the window illuminating the various diagrams, I can focus on that and contain the jarring panic that comes up when I lift my eyes to the window and look out at everything yet to come. There is still that anxiety, when I study, that there is so much to learn and I know so little. Sometimes now though, the anxiety tiptoes over into something more like excitement. There is so much left to learn, how lucky am I to be able to choose which parts I want to delve into?

Slowly, the recovery patchwork I have been making has begun to change, there are more coloured squares interspersed amongst the grey, white and zebra striped ones. The white squares are getting further apart. The zebra squares – those days which aren’t exactly good, but where I have done my best – are beginning to outnumber the grey ones.

It won’t be finished for another few weeks, when it is, it will be 14×16 squares long. For my birthday I would like things to decorate it with – buttons, ribbons, sparkles, stencils, iron on patches, favourite quotes (I’ll write them on in fabric pen) – anything that can be added to fabric. Give me pretty things, things that make you happy, things that inspire you, things that give you hope. I’d appreciate it. Then, when it’s done, it’ll be a reminder of how far I have come, a reminder that I can survive, that there is always hope, that there is something to be learned from even the darkest of days and most of all a reminder that I am loved. It will be a blanket that I’ll be able to curl up underneath on my worst days and remember that it will get better. 

Pressing Forwards

Coming out of depression, awakening from the numbness, seems to be much like when your foot falls asleep. The difference is that instead of feeling sharp pins and needles every time I move my foot, I feel sharp stabs of anxiety every time I push myself. My world is expanding – I don’t just mean the trip to Italy, I mean in my mind as well. It hurts, the pangs of anxiety every time I engage hurt. But just as when you have pins and needles you keep forcing yourself to move your foot because that will speed up the blood flow so too do I want to engage my mind despite the anxiety. Perhaps that will speed up the return of feeling.

Much of my time in Italy did involve pushing at my limits. Much of the time I felt raw, less enclosed by the snow globe. Now that I have had a chance to settle in to being home again, the snow globe is still there, most of the time. But the cottage within has begun to open up. I am not trapped in the library, instead I am learning to have some control over where its labyrinthine twists take me. I have been able to read real fiction, I’m slowly making my way through A Song of Ice and Fire. I can’t speed read the way I used to be able to, but I can read, I can finish chapters and be aware of what happened within them. It’s been so long that I can feel delight at regaining even the smallest bits of concentration and brain power rather than mourn that I’m not in the same space as I was before I took a nosedive.

There is a sentence in A Song of Ice and Fire that is repeated over and over again by Daenerys Targaryen ‘if I look back I am lost.’ It resonated with me because in so many ways it rang true. I can’t go back. I have been struggling with depression – to this degree – for three years. Getting better does not mean going back to being eighteen, going back to who I was before, it means moving on. It means forging a new person and a new path with what I have learned and who I have become. Recovery is about going forwards not back, I think it’s taken me almost this long to realise that.