Swallow

Drag your mind from the gutter will you.  I confess after I’ve drank enough rum to fell a small elephant I’ve been known to flick through the channels and linger voyeuristically over Naked Attraction for longer than I’d care to admit (it’s actually quite liberating as a woman seeing all those Fu-Fus and realising you’re lady purse isn’t all that bad) but I didn’t sneak upstairs with the laptop to talk about ejaculant!  Although when it comes to cum, I follow Al Pacino’s advice from The Devil’s Advocate:

Look but don’t touch

Touch but don’t taste

Taste…but don’t swallow

And god only knows 2020 has been a bitter pill to swallow, particularly as its parting gift has been 2020 +1: The Deluxe Edition.

And on top of the never-ending lockdowns and the make-up stained face masks which I can only wear with contacts as they fog up my glasses more effectively than opening the oven door (honestly I look like I’m stepping onto a heavily smoked 80s rock video) Mr Grey decided to pay me a visit when no one else could.

I say Mr Grey, what I mean is depression – but the former is easier to reference in public and less likely to attract scorn – much in the same way as I refer to my break down as my ‘gap year’; minus the crippling student debt.

Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t a complete surprise, after countless counselling sessions I understand myself enough to recognise certain behaviours which act as a warning flag.  Impulse buying is definitely a giveaway, forget toilet roll the only thing I started panic buying was books…lots of books and rum!  But then it took a turn for the random, with me ordering furniture we didn’t need and that I hadn’t even measured for. 

I started hacking at my hair.  You’d think I would have learned something from my abysmal attempt at the hubby’s thatch when he when he was left looking more Travis Barker than Tommy Shelby, but alas eagerly I chopped away at my barnet with the kitchen scissors until all my ill-perceived dead ends were gone, along with half the length.  I looked like Lloyd Christmas.  The timing could have been better – I had a Teams call the following day and all I could think as I stuck my head under the bathroom tap to flatten it was Phoebe addressing Ross after Monica’s disastrous do in Friends: “I’ve put a clip on one side to stop the curling”. 

My skin became a buffet!  Not the all you can eat open sandwich affair type, but when my anxiety hits overdrive I start to pick at my skin.  Well, less pick, more gouge, and like a tube of BBQ pringles, once I start, it’s hard to stop.  Already I’m trying to conjure ways I can disguise all the purple scars on my calves when it’s gets to summer without looking like the Tango man! 

There were many other signs too.  The worst for me are the constant intrusive thoughts that gnaw away.

What sucks balls is the shame that comes with every reemergence of it.  The failure I still associate with asking for help, so it took a while to seek it and I buried myself in work in a fever of denial until it became too great a burden to bear.  I remember my then boss saying: “I need that strong confident woman I saw at interview” and all I thought was me too, but all I’m getting is her voicemail and out of office.

What really did my box in was the fact that I was being a good girl and taking my antidepressants.  I was practicing my self-care and mindfulness and I so desperately wanted to make my new role in IT work so why did it have to rear up now.  But the truth is there is no magic prescription, there is no medicine for the mind – there are only balms and parlor tricks that temporarily grant us reprieve.

Before my ‘gap year’, when my head was a pressure cooker and my only coping strategy was self-harm

I worked for a managing partner of a large national law firm and would prepare bundles and pleadings while secretly cutting in the toilets after making a shank out of whatever I could forage in the stationery cupboard (I’d be amazing in Prison Break) and even though it’s been years since the last time, whenever that dark cloud manifests, those little whispers start.

After a few months my hair started to rapidly thin and my dermatitis flared up and I just hit the wall (not the show hosted by Danny Dyer) and my wonderful better half scooped me up and helped me find a way back.

Because there is always a way back, it may not be obvious, it might not shimmer like the yellow brick road glistening tantalizingly in front of you, it might be a hidden treacherous winding route, but you will find your path. 

My GP put me in touch with their mental health practitioner and my tablets got changed a few times, and while I surfed the chemical highway looking for the glass slipper of antidepressants, I discovered a few things whilst signed off. 

Firstly, I had consumed enough Lindt chocolate that my arse had gone up a knicker size and could now work the washing machine all on its own, it felt like a superpower until the mortifying moment in Tesco’s car park when a woman in a sporty Mazda looked at me in horror after my backside nearly took out her driver’s side wing mirror causing her to swiftly retract them (the flash git).

Also, whilst I can’t commit to reading (always a giveaway something’s a foot) re-reading a well-loved book is a soothing tonic; you can start anywhere in the wrappedinawarmhug comfort of knowing the outcome thus removing any anxiety over the welfare of the characters (what can I say, when I emotionally invest in something I’m all in).

Finally, I can’t stress the enough the importance of a support network, it doesn’t have to be a bustling entourage to rival Stormzy, just a handful of confidantes will suffice, so long as they can be counted on to answer your call as opposed to screening it.

Just remember while you’re swimming through the Upside Down and life seems a foreign landscape,  nothing lasts forever, even the pain you feel right now, at some point the clocks will stop, the wound will heel and the pieces will fit again.  I can tell you with the certainty of experience and because Friends Don’t Lie.

However you cling on, be assured that it is worth it, and there will be a moment where the dark clouds will recede and the sky will clear and you’ll be able to step outside (for an hour’s exercise) and greet the world again, albeit at a 2 metre distance.

Take care, nurse every inch.

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