The sound of a meditation bell, for Buddhists, is meant to bring you back to the present moment. When you focus on the noise, you remember that you are here, and you are now.
I’ve struggled a lot with being present for quite a few weeks. That’s why I haven’t blogged or tweeted much lately, I haven’t had it in me.
A combination of intense times at work (with traveling around the country and to the States), a lapse into mild depression, and both my partners also going through tough times have left me really running on empty.
I know there are things I need to do when I’m low to maintain my mental health- eat well, keep exercising, sleep, maintain a routine, reach out to friends- but somehow I let them all slide.
I spent a lot of time stuck in my head during March.
Worrying about whether I was making a good impression at my new job. Worrying about something I said to my boss that day. Worrying about an upcoming meeting I had. Stressing over whether I was remembering everything I had to do- family, friends, partners. Anxious about my primary partner and his feelings as he’s going through something tough. Waking up at 3am, thinking about something stupid I said or did years ago. Oh and just your general feelings of regret and anger about childhood that pop up out of nowhere, triggered by a message from my mum or a Facebook reminder photo.
Jack and I stopped having sex for a few weeks, understandably given everything, I couldn’t even bring myself to enact the tips I wrote for myself in stimulating sexual desire. With our simultaneous individual challenges, we went through some periods of feeling pretty disconnected and down. My other partner and my closest friends are also quite down, so it’s been a tough stint for us all.
(With a backdrop of constant pissing rain and unseasonable cold; plus the mind-numbing spectacle of our British politicians trying to depart the European Union with as much skill and finesse as Laurel and Hardy going through a doorway at the same time… it’s been… meh.)
I withdrew inside my head to get through it all.
I spent time anywhere but the present moment and ducked out of fun activities and the outside world. Instead, I did the bare minimum: work, grocery shopping, home, that’s it.
I have been wandering around with my body all hunched up, just flicking through my phone, with my mind elsewhere. (Except when it’s the middle of the night and I’m unable to sleep – then I’m right in the moment! ‘Hey, right now, I’m awake! And now tomorrow’s going to suck because I won’t have slept!!’ That’s a fun cycle, isn’t it?)
But this week I made a massive effort.
Realising that I couldn’t go on like this, and that I couldn’t rely on others to just barge through my bedroom doorway and lift me up out of this slump. I had to take some action myself.
Here’s how that effort went:
Reaching out for support
- I texted a couple of close friends to tell them I was low…just had a chat about how shit life was, sharing our experiences and worries. Somehow acknowledging being depressed immediately makes me feel better. I felt really loved and supported by them … plus they made me laugh, which I needed.
- I wrote a long pretend email to Ask A Manager about work. By the time I’d finished writing it, I already knew what I should do, and didn’t need to send the email; I could see a path forward. (Basically, I was worrying way too much about stuff not in my control and needed to chill out.)
- I bought myself some new clothes that make me feel fucking great. Plus a cool BRIGHT PINK raincoat that I’m going to use for a hiking holiday I’m looking forward to. That raincoat made me so happy!
- I booked myself a hair re-style and colour. Yes, it’s happening (see below tweet). I feel excited to have my hair more accurately reflect who I feel like inside: a slightly unconventional, but also feminine, strong woman (and, um, also a haircut which flags to queer women ‘I will go down on you’).
- I forced myself (and Jack) to go to an exercise class- a horrific, shouty woman forcing me to jump up at down on my hands and knees with my ass in the air and do weighted deadlifts and God knows what, it was all a blur. I ached like fuck, but somehow, it helped (though we couldn’t walk properly for a couple of days).
- I galvanised my climbing women for an indoor session. It was hard to make myself get out the door, I wanted to bail so badly. But once we’d all pushed and encouraged each other up some walls, for a couple of hours… standing there, panting, exhausted, we all looked at each other with massive smiles on our faces. That’s why climbing is my sport. It brings a real exhilarating sense of achievement; concentrating hard on not falling and dying, is somehow extremely uplifting for me. Plus I love watching my friends achieve their climbing goals (rather than just being focused on my own progress, like when I boulder by myself). It’s inspiring to share experiences of success and failure together.
- After whinging a lot about women not wanting to date me and feeling super sorry for myself, I spent an hour or two actually focusing on writing good messages to women on dating sites. Now I have some conversations going again with women I’m excited about! I have no idea if they’ll go anywhere but at least I took action and got myself out there. Poly dating can be a slog honestly, and when I’m down, I just don’t feel like it. It’s easy to feel like good connections are just slipping away from you when your back is turned, IE if you didn’t respond at length within a couple of days, the person moves on. It just takes time and effort and energy and sometimes I don’t have it in me, but when I put the effort in I remember why I do it- because people can be lovely and awesome.
Being accepting of myself and where I’m at
- Yesterday I went to a yoga class. Normally I practice yoga by myself but have been distracted by sad and depressing thoughts, and found it hard to focus, lately. I’d end up just sat on my mat staring into space. In this class, me and a few other women all focused silently on our bodies for an hour… and sometimes wobbled off balance and giggled together. It was lovely and calm. When the bell was struck at the end of class, I sat silently cross-legged, thinking: ‘Hey, I have been feeling like shit, but now I’m working to get out of it, and that’s something to be proud of.’
- I spent some quality time with Jack. We went for a nice pub lunch, and watched shit TV together. I stopped worrying about our sexual dry patch and just decided not to force it. I think that took the pressure off a bit, for both him and me. We just reconnected and laughed ourselves stupid for a few days, including our stint of childcare with his son, which was of course chaotic. And…last night, we had amazing sex, him fucking me steadily from behind while I gasped and groaned …bent double over the dinner table. Hell yes.
- I grew my armpit hair again after a stint being all clean shaven. Don’t know why, but it’s immensely satisfying. Fuck you, patriarchy that says I have to waste hours of my life shaving! I am me, I have hairy armpits, that is all.
Anyway, there’s no particularly coherent message in all this. I just wanted to write something to explain where I’ve been, and what’s been going on for me, taking stock, I guess. I will try and re-engage properly with Twitter and other blogs soon and write something good. For now…keep on going, you guys. xx