As I’m doing a bit better, and have started working again, I’ve arranged a meeting with my supervisor today. I was chatting to a friend who I will be sharing an office with, talking casually about university (which helps acclimatise me to going back in), and I mentioned I was going to email my supervisor to arrange a meeting for this week. Unfortunately she emailed me first. It’s only unfortunate because whenever I intend to do something but the other person beats me to it, it reinforces my own factually incorrect feelings of ineptitude and guilt.
I’ve mentioned that I haven’t been doing well, that I haven’t been into university for a while, but that I have learned to treat these downtimes as well-needed mental breaks. I didn’t mention that when I am hiding from the world, I have recurrent guilty thoughts about the people I haven’t spoken to. They feel frequent, but honestly I can’t tell you how often I have them. Time moves so slowly, yet the days pass without my noticing them.
The cycle of thought goes thus: I really ought to contact whatshername about suchandsuch. But it’s such a pressure, and I don’t even know what I’d say. I’ll do it later. Five days, a week, a fortnight (who knows?) pass: I still didn’t email or message whatsit. I can’t email now because I haven’t done anything since last time I spoke to them or was supposed to email. I’ll be really prolific in the next 48 hours, I won’t sleep and I’ll do loads, and then I’ll email whatsit and tell her what I’ve been up to and it’ll all be fine. Or: I didn’t send that message and my friend is going to think I’m awful because I haven’t done the things normal people do and there’s no good reason for it and they’ll hate me but maybe I’ll be well next week and we’ll do something fun.
I send a message to my friend and say ‘Hi, how are you, sorry I haven’t seen you, I’ve been really busy’. Or, I try and do loads for 48 hours – but in reality I write about six words, or maybe sentences, feel inadequate and try to persevere, sitting at the computer doing not a lot, and then it’s 7am the following day and really, I really just have to SLEEP. So I do, and I don’t email saying I’ve been prolific, because I haven’t been. So I take a different tack with myself. I email and say ‘Hi, I’m not great at the moment, but I’m trying.’ Which is true, but really the reason I do that instead of arranging to see whoeveritis is because I am terrified of the response: They will tell me I’m a failure of a friend/human/student/daughter. Even if they don’t tell me they will let me know in other ways. They won’t believe me, they’ll ask why I haven’t done whatever, they’ll ask what I’ve been busy with.
So, this goes on, until I am strong enough to think I can deal with whatshername’s disappointment, or whoeveritis’s questions. Except most of the time, my friends are wholly and completely understanding, because half of them have mental health problems, or live with people who do, or are just nice people, and they say, ‘Ok! I’m glad you’re feeling a bit better. You’re still brilliant!’ And that’s it.
Winnie-the-Pooh and his ever-supportive friends.
So, I am up to facing the world now. As such I had a chat with Oblong about how I’d go about making the days full, and how she could help me get up in the mornings (the perennial problem). Although she’s not paid to be my carer, and is in fact my partner, oftentimes she fulfils the caring role until I can get myself back together. We made a brilliant action plan for this morning, full of the things that would help me want to wake up without feeling like lashing out impulsively or going to sleep indefinitely were my best alternatives. The morning plan is as follows:
- Oblong uses a kind, normal voice that isn’t too stern, but doesn’t make me feel infantilised
- She makes me cup of coffee
- I keep pyjama bottoms near the bed, so I can get into them and to the bathroom without feeling like my legs might turn into icebergs
- Likewise, the dressing gown is near the bed so I can put it on right away if I want it, instead of needing to find it in the living room next door
- I sit myself up with just one extra pillow or cushion, instead of having to sit up completely while I’m sleepy, which for some reason, makes me angry
- I look at a few things on my iPad – play a game, read news or other articles, or look at pictures
- A cat. Alternatively, a picture of a cat.
- The radio will be on at a medium volume. Music is overwhelming for me in the morning, and my standard listening is Radio 4, so that’s what it is. Too quiet and I’m lulled back to sleep. Too loud and I feel like the politicians are shouting at me personally.
- Oblong potters about doing bits and pieces. The noise in the background of my dreams is stirring.
- More cats (definitely pictures of cats this time)
- Another cup of coffee
This morning, the Morning Plan worked so well, that I happily got up, chatted away friendlily, and have got ready without a complaint. Admittedly I’m a little worried about the meeting I have this afternoon with my supervisor but I feel slightly apprehensive about seeing almost everyone I haven’t seen for a while. (Yes, probably even you. I’m really sorry).
Anyone who sees me today is in for a treat. I have showered, and got dressed in ALL clean clothes. I haven’t even worn the cardigan a different day. I also washed my hair PROPERLY (even if clumps of it did some out in the shower), moussed it to encourage the curls, and put on make-up. Is someone getting married? Is it my birthday? Must be.