In earlier posts, and in my presentation of myself, I have said a few words about depression and exhaustion. I have been meaning to expand on this, and write a longer post on “stress related fatigue syndrome with depression” – which was my diagnose. I have thought that when I am well, I will write retrospectively and wisely about being ill. Fat chance.
I’ve found it too difficult to sort out my thoughts about being (mentally) ill, and what I want to go “public” with. I do want to write about it because so many I know are affected, and I think we need to talk about it in public. Not that it is never done. It is an affliction which is getting more and more attention in the media and in society. But still: How ought I write? It is difficult to write about and talk about as there is so much shame and embarrassment connected to mental illness. And I don’t want to be too private. But how not be private, if we are to talk about it in society?
Also, I haven’t lately had much time or energy to reflect, let alone write about it. All my effort has gone into managing work and family. What little time has been left I have gardened, sown and prepared for the growing season – and spent time at the summer house in order to gather some of the precious energy spent otherwise.
Finally, and the main reason for why I haven’t managed to write about it, is that I am not through it yet. And I don’t think I will be for some time. I will have to write in medias res. From the middle of muddle. So. The short story of the last year is this:
In March last year, I “crashed”. Escalating stress and depression which had built up over years floored me, and I couldn’t cope. All physical and mental capacities just closed down. I slept. And slept. And cried. And hid from the world. Apart from these “activities”, all I could do the first months was to watch the sitcom “Modern Family” and read old favourite books for the millionth time. Terry Pratchett, Susan Howatch, James Herriot… I couldn’t take in a whole film or a new story. Watching or reading the news was unthinkable. The world was too big for me.
I couldn’t plan a meal. After a month or so I had a close friend to visit, and decided we would have herring and potatoes for lunch. That would be easy, I thought. I forgot the potatoes. I’d always forget the main things I needed when I went shopping, even if I had a shopping list of five items. I’d forget to look at the list. I went out without my purse one day, and had to go back home three times to get it – but kept forgetting it because I went to the loo, or couldn’t remember why I’d come back. I thought I might have alzheimers. It was horrible. I couldn’t get my daughter to cello lessons in time, and missed the few appointments I had.
With April and May last year, spring came and I started to read gardening books and watch old gardening programmes on You Tube. They were easy. I could just open a book anywhere and dip in. No “whole” to cope with. Just a chapter on asparagus here or a film on permaculture there. The weather was good, and I’d be able to do work in the garden. I didn’t have to do anything, so whatever I did was a bonus and gave me a sense of meaning. And the garden was full of symbols. The image of “Krikon” represents all the hope, power and beauty of life that I started to sense again. Spring. New life from dead material. The garden saved me from sinking too far, dragged down by “Kraken”. I got foothold on land, and slowly managed to climb up.
In August last year I came back to work half time, which was tough. But I managed, more or less. I didn’t do a good job, but every now and again things went all right and I thought that I might have a future at the university after all. Only on the first of March this year I came back to full time work after a year of sick leave. Now, in my second month back at work, I cope most of the time. But not all the time.
For I do have days when the Kraken dominates. It drags me down and I have to fight the monster. It is exhausting. Yesterday and today are such days. My mind and body gang up on me and decide to “play dead”. I am constantly tired. Tired in a sense that I never quite understand. Deeply tired. And quite sad.
So why now? I really do not have time for a visit from the Kraken now. But it seems to know when to attack. Last week was intense with lots of classes and administration. It was stimulating and fun, but it took a lot of energy meeting so many students and people, and having to organise all that needed to be organised. This week is full of grading and administration, which is also intense, but in a different way. I can work from home. I should be able to cope.
But no. The Kraken is hovering. I’m behind with my work, and students are waiting for their results and my comments. I just want to sleep and sleep – and have in fact slept away hours. I’ve tried to find some extra energy by repotting plants, which did help a little. Writing this post is a little bit of procrastination, I admit that, but it is mostly a very serious attempt to face what is going on in me and to realise that I am not quite well yet, and must respect that.
In order to fight the Kraken and cope with my work load, I need to tell myself that it is not that I am lazy or a fool or incompetent. It’s just that my mind is not yet restored. Reading and commenting text after text does not compute well in a burnt out mind. And this applies however well the students write, for I am very pleased with most of what they have done. It’s not them, it’s me. And I wish I could give them more than I can. But in order to do the job I need to accept that I’m slow, which is hard. I want to be perfect, which I’m not. I need to fight the perfectionism, as it is part of why I became ill. Why is it so difficult?
So, for whoever has bothered to read, this was a small excursion to one of my Kraken days.