06 May Hope is hard won. part 5.
This is the fifth and final instalment in a series about my decision to begin taking anti-depressants again, you can read from the beginning of the series here.
I am four weeks in. And I won’t lie, it has not been straight forward. I wanted a magic pill, a tablet that would return me to the confident easy-going, keen to make plans, person I think I once was.
But I can’t go back, only forwards.
And really, I am glad of this. The unknown future is scary, but it is also full of possibilities.
Four weeks in, I have more peace. I no longer wake up with a body primed and ready for an attack, ready to run for my life. Or at least not every day. And there have been periods, stretches of hours or even days, when I haven’t thought about anxiety. I have found myself able to focus more, and be more present with the kids.
But the peace is tentative. There has been a ceasefire, but I am not confident it will last. I have lifted my head out of the trenches and taken a few steps into no-man’s land. The fog is clearing and I am hoping to see the white flags of surrender all around, but I am not sure this peace will hold. It feels uncertain.
Hope is hard won.
A whole weekend with no anxiety. And not because I have limited my activities and monitored myself at every moment to keep myself healthy and in control.
A weekend of parties and trips to the park and art exhibitions and church and gardening, and I was fine.
Better than that.
I was good.
I don’t ever want to forget that this calm and enjoyment is a gift. I mustn’t ever stop being grateful.
When you have been in the turmoil of anxiety and depression, calm sunny days feel impossible, and then suddenly they arrive, a switch has been flicked and you are suddenly standing in the light. It is so easy to forget what it is like being in the pit.
The short memory of the anxious person in recovery. Equal parts blessing and danger.
I want to forget and I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to put myself in a position of vulnerability by reliving the darkest of times but I also do not want to become blasé or nonchalant about how much I have had to fight for my mental health. I don’t want to become complacent about the skills and new rhythms I have learnt.
I want to live well in this new way. I don’t want to go back.
Hope is hard won.
I am well.
Say it again. I am well.
I say it to my husband as he leaves for work, isn’t it good, being well?
The novelty has not worn off.
There are so many things that are better.
I can concentrate.
The other day I found I had been sat at my laptop working, pretty much uninterrupted, for four hours. This felt miraculous. I knew my ability to focus had been depleted by my battle with anxiety, but I am not sure I realised how much until now.
I have more fun.
Like spending an impromptu afternoon in the garden with friends, going out for brunch and a weekend away. Simple things, but previously very hard things for me to cope with. Anxiety meant I had narrowed my world to the familiar and the safe. Recently this has become less imperative. I have been able to loosen my hold on all the details, relax my control of the circumstances. Fun is fun!
I make more plans.
Oh the joy of running forward into the day and not over-analysing every. single. thing.
I can make a coffee date, or arrange to meet someone for lunch or to go to the theatre and… it isn’t a big deal. I used to be afraid of my diary, nervous to make plans. What if I felt unwell? What if I couldn’t cope? What if I made a fool of myself and was humiliated? Recently this fear has abated. I am not foolish, I still try not to over fill my plate and schedule in time to rest and relax, downtime when my brain can idle.
But I also make plans.
Hope is hard won.
In A A Milne’s classic book The House at Pooh Corner, in chapter 8 Pooh and Piglet are having a conversation when Piglet says,
“‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t’ said Pooh after careful thought.'”
I have been Piglet. For so, so long. Worrying, worse-case-scenarioing, seeing catastrophe around every corner.
But things are changing and now I think I might, after taking some time for careful thought, sometimes, respond to the unpredictable and unknown as Pooh would.
Don’t get me wrong. Things are not perfect. There are wobbly moments, and mornings when I fear the old patterns are returning. There have been times I have felt scared and days I wanted to stay inside, hidden, alone.
But I am not as defeated by these momentary struggles, because I know health is possible. I have tasted it.
It is not just the pills of course, it is the myriad of other things I have done to change my life, that are helping me stay well. But the pills are also helping. It seems they are giving me a level of stability I have been looking for for a long time. And despite the pain and the turmoil and the shame that I have waded through these past few months, I am so glad I have got to this point of acceptance.
I’m very grateful.
Hope is hard won and present.