My last post was hard enough to share. The words below are so far out of my comfort zone. I have battled with every word, memory, fear. I have questioned if sharing it is the right move. I come back to the same conclusion. If I truly want to continue down this path, I have to be all in or not at all. Be warned, I have included photos at the end because they may be confronting to some. This is me and my past has shaped who I am today.
Why now? I received an email shortly after my Trending Tributes interview from FJ (initials only). This is a part of that email:
“I’m 31 and I’m so sad. I have suffered from depression for a long time but it’s got worse as I get older. The thing is that I often don’t want to be here anymore because… actually, I don’t even know. What you said, how you wrote it, it touched me. I read so many things about people’s feelings but your words stuck. Maybe because you were straight to the point and how you described your panic attack was me. Does writing help you? Are you scared of what people will say? I wish I could just be honest to myself that it’s not my fault. I can’t cope with my thoughts sometimes and how do you cope? Are there things you do? What do your friends say? I don’t even think about having kids or if I will be able to. Sorry for all the questions but if you can answer I’d like that. I would love to do what you’ve done and maybe start to get better but what if I don’t? What if I’m always like this? What if my life doesn’t get any better. I watch others lives go as they should and mines just here. Boring. Painful. Scary. Wasteful. Sometimes though I just want to stay where I am. Why when I hate it so much.”
To FJ. I may have made an impact on you but you sure made an impact on me. You’re life may be painful and scary, but it is not wasteful. It led you to this point. Let me introduce you to the old Naomi in the photograph at the bottom of this post (circa 2007). The very, very old Naomi. The Naomi who is lucky to be alive. The Naomi whose brain was so muddled it led to this. It led to my Granddad (aka G-Dog!) flying all the way from the UK to sit by my bed. In hindsight, was it because my family thought I may not be here much longer? Not only was I wasting away, my life was wasting away with it. When I look at this photo, I don’t see myself. Apart from the Peter Alexander PJ’s I still possess (from the children’s section no less!) and will never fit into again. They simply serve as a stark reminder of my former self.
Which leads to the photo from 2008 in Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens and the only refuge I had during a very long hospital stay with Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS). GBS is a neurological condition whereby the immune system attacks the nerves. I was in ICU and on a ventilator, with total paralysis. My definition of a living nightmare. Nothing was within my control. From not being able to eat or drink, get comfortable, wash my hair, brush my teeth, turn on the TV, turn the pages of a book, scratch an itch, squeeze Mum and Dad’s hand to let them know I was still Mimi, hug…. the list is endless. What I could do, was cry but even that was annoying because I couldn’t wipe away my tears and trust me when I say, a) it was really hard to blow my nose, and b) having someone else trying to help me blow my nose was futile #alwaysblowyourownnose. Once again, I was blessed with visitors, including my Aunt from the UK and the only person to whom I can sit and talk Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte outfits, quotes and shenanigans for hours on end.
2009. With a lot of rehabilitation and hard work, I was walking and back to normal. On a Naomi scale anyway. Being the person I am, I decided I was perfectly capable of transferring from my wheelchair to the toilet even though I had been told I wasn’t quite ready. Bugger that. I was ready! I fell between the wheelchair and the toilet, ending up with a broken wrist. This was a pretty amazing moment for me because I felt my strength coming back. I was helped up by some pretty furious nurses and my Physiotherapist worked me harder.
The GBS is pretty much a distant memory except I can’t jump. In the scheme of things, I think I’ll take it.
April 2009. I attended the Rugby 7’s competition at the Adelaide Oval. Also known as a mammoth, three day drinking session. Apart from Mum who was sadly in the UK, I was in the company of all my favourite people having a wonderful time when I bumped into a Priest. Or a Bishop. Can’t quite remember, What I do remember (in addition to breaking my ankle falling over the dog when we staggered in during the early hours of Sunday morning – see what I mean?!?) is falling in love with this man and within a few months, moving Perth, was engaged in September of the same year and married a year on. Happier times.
To FJ. Wherever you are right now is not where your life will stay. I am living proof that you don’t hit rock bottom once but it can be many times. You can, and you will, get back up and recover. The road is long, the road is hard but it’s your road and you can decide which path to take. I remember endless conversations with Mum, being so distressed about not having a boyfriend, buying a house, being engaged or thinking about children. “It’s not a race, just focus on getting better and what happens then will be worth the wait”. These words pissed me off so much that one day in rehab I actually found the strength to throw my walking frame at her. The moment I think we both knew that I was nearly ready to come home.
In response to your brave and honest email, I offer these words.
What if I’m always like this?
Depression has a habit of making you think that you’re never getting out of its clutches, because it’s messing up the way your brain processes certain signals. This can then influence the way you perform (in work, school, or socially). It’s easy to start feeling bad. You produce less ‘happy hormones’ (serotonin, endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin). A deficit of these hormones makes the recovery towards how you want to live your life very hard. You will feel as though your are unable to remove yourself from what feels like an endless, downward spiral.
Sometimes I want to stay where I am.
Your natural state has been one of unease and despair – it’s what you’ve known for so long, and we stay in places we find familiar. Another reason you may wish to stay where you are might be the fear of relapsing after getting better; falling back into a dark hole once you’re in the sun is definitely scary and frustrating, so wouldn’t it be better to avoid the disappointment? Similarly, you may believe that you’ll never be happy, no matter what you do, so why even attempt to get better? Through it all you have to try to remember the rain will pass. The sun will shine. Letting go of your sadness will allow happiness to emerge – if you let it.
You have to accept nothing is permanent. Relapses are normal. The last few weeks has seen me riddled with panic attacks and crying at the drop of a hat, plus the one night I really couldn’t see a way through my emotions. I’d call this a relapse which I am still working through but it’s going to take some time.
Are there things you do to cope?
Yes. I have discovered the positive effects of colour coordinating Smarties (Skittles, M&M’s etc.) This is OCD in it’s prettiest and most colourful form but it really does allow me to escape and concentrate on something else.
Does writing help you? Are you scared of what people will say?
Hell yes, writing helps! It’s taken me many years to get to this point but it truly is my refuge. I’m always apprehensive before I publish a new blog, even more so with this one because of the photographs. I’m not scared of what people will say, I am more scared of being labelled by others. I receive messages of support and it all becomes meaningful. I have to remind myself I have people in my life who love and support me unconditionally. They may not agree on every word I write but I value their opinions, criticisms and compliments.
What if my life doesn’t get any better?
What if it does?
I’m proof of that. It’s taken me a very long time to even be able to look at some of these photos let alone share them. I hope it does offer some solace, not just to FJ but to others. However hard, hold on to the belief that one day, you will feel stronger. In the meantime, try to add a little kindness to your day. It may be just what you need to steer your life in a new direction.
Love N xo