By tabbykerwin, Oct 5 2019 07:23AM
It’s a while since I’ve written properly and I remembered today that I need it as my therapy and counsel and being honest about my experiences with mental health and grief is so important for me and maybe it can be someone else’s self-help manual.
So, I’m writing my way out of a slump.
Not an anxiety ridden, black hole of sadness type slump; I’m not in that place, because actually life is pretty productive and good right now.
It’s more of a temporary ‘whilst everything is good in some ways, I just feel nothing and lying on the sofa with the cat is way more appealing’ type slump.
… and that’s the thing; quite a lot of the time during September I’ve just felt ‘nothing’. No feelings, opinions or cares; I just function. I function pretty well to be fair and this feeling never lasts full days, just an odd few minutes or maybe an hour or two.
But I’ve decided it’s pretty OK to feel this way. After all, what’s the saying? ‘it’s OK to not be OK’ and that’s 100% true, but we have the choice to do something about that and how we feel and I do make that choice, every day. Because this is a daily choice and something you have to work on every single day.
So, after a Summer of fun, why has September left me feeling so ‘meh’?
I’ve got a great grasp on my mental health these days and I’m mentally very fit and strong, but I’ll be honest, 11 months since Simon died, grief is trying to hit me round the head with a flipping huge baseball bat every day right now and it’s leaving me battered and exhausted.
Why now you fucker? (Excuse the sweary language, but you know, this is life and reality and I’m not always that good in real life of leaving out the expletives and I’m trying to keep this real!)
I’ll tell you why, because grief is ALWAYS there, it never goes away, you just choose to embrace it or be overwhelmed by it and I choose to embrace it. But like an annoying child (not mine, he’s quite cool), some days it can be really demanding and distracting.
But the issue is not grief itself, but how other people deal with your grief. After 10 months of doing just fine and good, it’s seemingly not acceptable to then suddenly be struggling because other people don’t know how to respond. Their best responses being ‘oh, I thought you were doing OK’ or ‘it’s been nearly a year now, shouldn’t you be over it’ (don’t get me started… that’s a whole other blog for another day). In fact, I’ll be honest with you, the level of acceptance from many people expires come the funeral; once that’s over and everyone moves on with their lives, you’re expected to ‘crack on’ – but all you are is stuck or lost whilst the world moves along around you.
Over the last 11 months life has moved along quite well in all honesty; I’ve made it about experiences, living life and doing what makes me happy, putting myself first along the way.
However, what has been harder to muster enthusiasm for has been work and business; the business Simon and I set-up together. Our “baby” if you like. But I did. After a great chat with a friend I felt so inspired again to work and got back into it and instantly started achieving some great things after many months of coasting and doing the MEDs; minimum effective dose.
I had a reason to function every day workwise and a productive plan and getting my work game back on was brilliant, creative and fun. For the first time I felt like I could go it alone with the business, with the support of some rather epic people who are coming on board with their many talents.
But it was a double-edged sword…It’s great to feel fully functioning workwise again and it’s been one hell of a week of creating valuable content and achieving, but it made me feel so lonely and lost…cue the slump…
Why? well, let’s get something straight, I’m not lonely, far from it, I have great friends (thank goodness because family is not my thing and mostly they couldn’t care less about me) and I actually am genuinely quite OK with the single lifestyle (which is a great thing as that’s definitely not changing any year soon! No, it is not ‘time to move on’ as suggested by some… again, another blog for another day!).
It’s that feeling of being alone in what I do that’s hitting me hard. Not having the person there who gave me confidence to do things, who was my champion, my supporter in everything good and bad, the person who shared it all with me, who listened, who kissed and hugged me when I had a great idea, and kissed and hugged me when I had an equally shit one and advised it might not work out!
I’m alone without my ‘person’ – he is irreplaceable, and that is so hard and seems to be hitting harder the longer time goes on, but the longer it goes on, the more seemingly unacceptable it is to feel that way, so you just crack on with it all regardless. Put the smile on, leave the emotions packed away and feel…nothing.
That’s why I’ve decided it’s perfectly OK to feel that way when you’re at home alone and by allowing myself that ‘nothing’ time some days, OK most days when I’m home alone (which is, err, every day!), the slumps and sadness and episodes are much shorter lived by having ‘nothing’ time than if I try to fight them.
I also know that whilst Simon was my person who gave me confidence and support and love, he actually left me with all the skills to do that for myself without him being physically there. I realised that when he was ill and I didn’t spiral into a deep anxiety ridden depression but got stronger and stronger. I can be my own champion and be proud of myself. I just have to remind myself of that every moment of every day, trust it, live it and have the confidence in myself and what I do and NOT let the opinions of others, be it personally or professionally, get to me. I know where that path leads to and I’m not in that place nor have any plans to be. It’s an ongoing maintenance plan though.
Grief is a funny thing. One moment you can be absolutely fine, 30 seconds later you can be in uncontrollable tears and 90 seconds after that you’re great and laughing again. This actually happened a few weeks ago when I was out walking. The feeling was overwhelming of breathlessness and tears, but literally 90 seconds later it was fine again. I just went with it and let it do its thing. It’s weird, it’s unexplainable, it’s unique to every individual and often it’s in public! There is no right or wrong or timescale to grief… it’s yours to own and embrace. But you have to make that choice to embrace it. I’m making that choice, irrespective of how hard it is. I can do hard, even by myself.
I am in no doubts that the next few weeks are going to be horrendously tough though, but I’m braced and ready. On the 19th October, it will be 12 months since the last time Simon and I spoke; the day he thought he was coming home after fighting another infection, but in fact he ended up in ICU, where he stayed for 3 weeks. I thought about handling this through a lot of drinking, mindless chat and 80s power ballads. I have since re-assessed this and decided a lot of drink is not the answer as the hangover is way worse than anything else I may feel and alcohol is rarely the answer (I say this after a recent drinking experience where I let loose and learned valuable lessons… there will be no repeats; I think that was the blow out I needed! Hanks to those who were a part of it and sorry to those that saw the rough looking aftermath… that was not grief you saw… it was tears of hangover!).
Then I have to tackle my birthday on the 22nd October. The last two have been utter shite… two years ago I celebrated my 40th with a great weekend with friends, but at that time I was faking it (albeit badly) and spiralling into a horrendous anxiety ridden black hole that lasted 5 months and left me feeling number and…nothing. Aside from the tears and sadness of having my cat put down the day after my birthday. Bizarrely, that slump started in September too.
Last year’s birthday sucked big style. Simon was in ICU in a coma, my heart was breaking and it was the day I told the world of Simon’s illness and the current state of play asking for all the positive vibes; it was hell as only a very few people knew until then. Birthday greetings were replaced with messages of upset, fear and helplessness.
This year I will be a 42-year-old widow (f*cking hate that word: again, another blog for another day) and single parent who also treats their cat like a human! She is, deal with it! I will definitely spend my birthday alone and doing what I need and want… which will most likely include that much needed ‘nothing’ time and a bloody great massage from Laura at Le Petit Spa who has magic hands.
Then, in a few weeks on 7th November, it will be the first anniversary of Simon’s death. How the hell did that come round so fast, yet feel so long ago that he was sat here with me joking? It’s hard to compute. But I’m determined to not be sad to the point it breaks me. I will be sad every day, but every day I will choose to do good too and be productive. I will turn sad days into positive ones. I will celebrate Simon’s life with friends and release a CD of his musical legacy to live on forever and raise funds for a fantastic cause of The Bexley Wing where Simon was treated.
What I do know is that I will have sadness every day for the rest of my life. However, the thing people forget about sadness and grief, is that they can very happily co-exist with possibility, productivity, performance and good if you let them, and I both let them and actively encourage them to co-exist with me every day.
Most of all, I’ll continue to be honest and open and kind to myself and with others. I know that my coping mechanisms of writing and starting awkward conversations can help others going through things and for those who don’t understand that and want to judge or criticise me for that, or for talking about Simon and keeping his memory alive (and no, this does not mean I’m un-hinged or struggling) then I’m genuinely pleased you’ve never had to go through something so traumatic that means you can’t empathise with me or my words, but when there comes a day that you can and you don’t judge me anymore, I really hope my words and honesty can resonate with and support you too.
In the meantime, you’ll find me living my life, striving for improvement, taking every experience that fills me with joy, talking and writing to help others and having quite a bit of ‘nothing’ time to keep my head in check.
PS: Just by writing this the slump has gone. Writing worked! Thanks for reading.