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The space in between

I read an article this week about doing nothing.  How our natural instinct in most situations is to DO SOMETHING, but, sometimes, doing nothing can be the better choice. How, in the space in between each chapter in our life stories, a pause can bring clarity.  Good decisions about the important things take time.

I found this really rather profound.  And realised something.  My last post talked about how I had come to appreciate alone time.  But it’s more than that.  My whole life has been about being busy; taking action, decision-making, high octane.  Ask anyone who knew me five years ago and they would have said I was made that way, that I would go mad without a list of things to do. Part of me went along with that narrative, but it never felt completely right.  I would relish the quiet moments; the daily commute to work (who admits to even vaguely enjoying commuting!), early mornings before anyone else was up.  Looking back, I realise now I would find ways to boost my quota of those moments; taking sick days, going to bed early at social events.

I’ve also realised that much of my previous busyness was counterproductive.  I would create work which wasn’t necessary, spend money on things I neither needed or wanted.  In 2008, when I was made redundant following the financial crash, I received a generous payout, a space between chapters if ever there was one, and a chance to create something new.  I immediately went into overdrive, setting up two businesses, paying for expensive retraining, and generally running around like a headless chicken, all in an attempt to show how capable I was.  In the end the money ran out, and instead of the hoped for change of lifestyle, I was forced to look for another job, back to square one in the City, as unhappy as I’d been before.

I forgive myself; there were circumstances and responsibilities which made it hard for me to be more measured.  But I’m learning from it.

I find myself in a space in between again, and this time around I’ve promised myself I will do things differently.  I live more cheaply with less stress and less to do, which gives me more flexibility. And doing less is proving way easier than I, or anyone else, would have predicted.  I find I can wake up and just lie in bed for an hour or two, or simply sit looking out of the window.  Guess what? I’m a daydreamer after all.  The peace I feel from doing absolutely nothing is way better than the fleeting sense of achievement I got from doing stuff for the sake of it.

I know I will get to a place where my next chapter becomes clear, but for now I’m happy taking my time, putting my feet up and learning to breathe again.

Love K

P.S. This post also allowed me to include a gratuitous photo of my fab new boots 🙂

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Three free thoughts

Coming out of the grey into a brighter light has left me in a place of uncertainty. Wishing it had happened sooner, grateful it has finally happened and scared it could all disappear.

But the good I am finally feeling has allowed me to put many things right.  To open up, begin show the real me to friends and family. To make peace with myself and others. To think about me, and what I want.  This is where my thinking has lead me to…

# 1 – Alone is not lonely

One of the most unexpected things I have discovered is the joy of being alone. As a previously self-diagnosed neurotic extrovert I surrounded myself with noise, people, stimulation. Uncomfortable in my own skin and plagued with negative, obsessive over-thinking, the idea of spending time alone terrified me. But now, gradually, I have learnt that the quiet of downtime is what I need. Doing things just for me is an unexpected pleasure. Revelling in simple things without having the pressure of accommodating others; sitting in a restaurant with a glass of wine and nice food and watching the world go by, bingeing on box sets, indulging in self-care, shopping – well nobody’s perfect (😊). And that’s my second thought.

# 2 Being perfect isn’t the end game

A life led trying to be perfect is both exhausting and futile. Good enough is good enough. I’m done with living up to other’s expectations, and, more importantly, I’m done with imposing unrealistic expectations on myself.  I know I can be infuriating sometimes, I know I make mistakes, I know my thoughts aren’t always kind, they can be dark and cruel. My actions might hurt – the important thing is to understand that, and deal with it in a grown-up and self-accepting way. Having the perfect house, the perfect career, being the perfect friend; it’s all just too much for one person. So, finally…

# 3 Take the plunge – be me

This one needs very little explanation. We are all the same and we are all different; quirky, annoying, amazing, full of insecurities and shaped by our experiences good and bad. So, I’m just going to get on with being me.

Free/three (North London accent rools) thoughts.

Love K

Future imperfect

It’s been many months since my last post – life has taken many turns and I’ve not felt like putting fingers to keyboard until things have become more settled.

Which I’m pleased to say they are… or at least they’re on their way.

My mood is stable and has been for at least six months – a wonderful thing thanks to me asking for the help I needed and a proper diagnosis.  As a result I’ve been able to take stock and come to some decisions that I know are right for me.  That’s one of the biggest downsides of mood swings – you can’t trust yourself to do the right thing – by the next week, day, hour or minute you second guess yourself. So you get stuck, doing things you don’t like, being the person you don’t want to be; in fact not even sure who that person is.

So slowly I’m taking control of my life – making the changes I need to make.  It’s tough at times but I’ve learned that that’s just part of the process – to be happy I need to be brave enough to be truly me.

 

 

 

Let it go..

Let it go.  You’ll be pleased to hear I’m not about to burst into a rendition of every small girl’s favourite song.  My post today is, what I hope will be, another useful insight into how to calm the busy mind and bring a bit more order into the chaos.

Learning #2 – Just let it go.

This weekend I have been decluttering. My son and his girlfriend have been living with me since graduating last summer, but they have finally managed to afford to move to a place of their own. This has not only meant I now have a spare room, but has given me the opportunity to have a good clear out.  I have moved three times in the past three years, but somehow I still have too much stuff.

stuff

So I’ve been ruthless. My clothes now all fit into one wardrobe. I have thrown out some old tatty furniture as a result and now feel I have space to breathe and move. I still have more to do but it already feels good to have less in my life, to simplify, to focus on things that really matter rather than worrying about where to store things that I never use (let’s just ignore that fact I’ve managed to ‘lose’ all my bedding in a dyspraxic moment of brain dysfunction, I’m trying to move on from that! :)).

And it set me thinking. It’s not only possessions that I have been letting go of.  Too frequently, in the past, I have found myself stuck in old ways of thinking, old difficult memories, old conversations and old events. I have found myself wasting so much of my time, energy and mental capacity focusing on stuff that I don’t need; in a metaphorical sense, on stuff I don’t have room for.

So how to declutter the mind? My daughter reminded me one of the ways to get rid of physical things is to stop touching them, that way the sentimental and emotional connections are broken, and it’s easier to throw them out. I think memories are the same. Find ways to break the connections. In today’s world it’s too easy to be reminded of the bad stuff; our lives are recorded and posted, Facebook, Instagram, email, blogs (!). It’s all there to be read, reread, analysed; the neural pathways constantly being reinforced.

Having a bit of an addictive personality, it’s very easy for me to get caught up in the stuff that hurts, looking at it, constantly torturing myself. So now I use the delete button. Anything I think might harm me mentally is decluttered, sent to the virtual municipal dump in the sky, so my mental wardrobe has more room for the stuff I like, the things that make me happy.

Does it always work? Of course not. And I can’t get rid of places that remind me of things I don’t want to remember, I can’t always avoid hearing songs that upset me, of smelling aromas that take me back to a bad, sad memory. Those negative thoughts still come to me, like waves on the beach, sometimes gentle and manageable, sometimes crashing and deafening, sweeping me out to sea with their scary force. But hey, I can only control what I can control. Better to lessen the impact, rather than constantly scratching at scabs and reopening wounds.

It has worked, I’m definitely calmer and less bothered by intrusive thoughts – the constant nemesis of the anxious mind – than I was in the past. I’m also making a concerted effort not to dwell on those thoughts when they do come, which is something I will talk more about in a future post.

So yes, my lesson learnt today is let it go.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

Mood soup

No not my current state of mind 🙂 but a soup I just made myself to help keep my mood level elevated.

Put 500g of mixed courgette, kale and peas (fresh or frozen) in a pan with two stock cubes (chicken or vegetable) a few chilli flakes, a good sprinkle of celery salt, cumin and dried herbs, some coriander stalks, the green parts from a couple of spring onions, and salt and black pepper to taste.

Cover with boiling water (just a little less than a litre) and put on the heat.  Bring to the boil then leave on a high heat (watch it doesn’t boil over) for about ten minutes.  Use a ladle to take out the courgettes, kale and about half of the peas and blitz to a liquid. Return to the pan and bring back to a rolling boil.

Ladle the soup into a bowl, drizzle over some cream (or creme fraiche/yoghurt), coriander leaves and the white parts of the spring onions, finely chopped.

Enjoy!

Karen

Tacking right

Going to go off on a different tack this morning.  I said I wanted this to be a blog about how to find our way through to happiness in this overwhelming world.  So I wanted to start to share some of the things I have learnt in my life.

learnt

Learning #1 – Hold back : Attending to my own needs is ok.  

In fact its more than ok – it’s essential. It’s very easy to listen to the demon on my shoulder whispering to me, telling me my needs are somehow less important than those of others. These messages began in childhood, the school bullies, the family members with their own issues, the jealous friends. The self-effacement becomes the easy option, people pleasing becomes a habit. Over time it was who I became, I was simply a reflection of other people’s needs.

My therapist described it as empathy gone mad.  So other people’s problems, their issues get absorbed in to my psyche.  And if I can’t make them better, well then I’m just a failure, I beat myself up.  Even worse, I take on their pain and make myself depressed and anxious. And you know what, for the people closest to me, it leads to co-dependency and stress instead of letting them find their own way. So it’s not actually that kind or empathic after all!

But the last couple of times I have felt it happening I have recognised it, reflected on it and gained insight as a result. I now feel stronger and more peaceful.

So my first learning is to hold back, be kind and supportive but not too kind, not too supportive. Look after myself first. Listen to me and what I need. Tell the demon on my shoulder, the whisper in my head, to just push off BECAUSE I’M BUSY!

More musings later.  Need to make myself a cuppa now 🙂

Love Karen

three is a magic number

So my post today will be the upbeat one I promised.  The crisis has passed and I’m feeling hopeful, dare I say happy.  I did all the things my brilliant therapist I was seeing last year recommended to me and it worked!  This is the first time I have faced the dark abyss since I stopped seeing her (and I’m off meds) so I feel really proud of how I’ve pulled through on my own.

Self care, reflection, mindfulness, rest, starting this blog, and a sudden moment of insight that I’m no use to me or to anyone else if I don’t put me first, and suddenly things have fallen into place.  I know I need to be vigilant and complacency is something I can’t afford, but I really do feel a sense of peace and calm that is both unusual and wonderful.

I am perfectly aware, and accepting of the fact that I will face challenges in the future, but   I really feel, for the first time in my life that I have the tools to control the demons. Not today, because for now I need to focus on me, but soon, I will start sharing my journey to where I am now, to help the many people I know face similar issues.

For now, much love to all

Karen xx

 

in two minds …

So here’s the thing.  I can’t work out if I’m ok or not. Never have been able to.  I wake up and think I can do this.  And yet …

Just half an hour ago I spent a while in the company of the black dog, contemplating my continuing existence. A few tears later and I’m back on an even keel.  Aye and there’s the rub.  My brain is broken, tossing and turning on a cruel sea of emotions and biochemical processes. It is tiring and depressing – my depression stems from my mood swings, not the other way around.

Right now I’m recovering from a meltdown last weekend, brought on by too many stressors (some good, some bad) all converging. So here I am safely ensconced in  bed, in my pjs but still managing to do a full day’s work.  I can cry and yet function, hide and yet write, always in two minds.

But I will not be beaten. I always pull myself out of the mire and this time is no different. It’s a full year since my last major fall, a record for me, and I take strength from that – I can and will go forward. I learn each day. Now I just need to work out how to be properly happy.

Background check: I have chronic PTSD brought on from traumas earlier in my life, combined with a learning ‘difference’ that makes basic tasks harder than they should be. I’m forgetful, clumsy, and struggle with stimuli such as noise and light, meaning I’m frequently overwhelmed. As long as I keep everything on the straight and narrow – people, work, diet, exercise, sleep, then I function well. But if things get out of kilter then the world starts turning upside down.