Blog, Mental Health

The Cave

Yesterday I woke up in The Cave.

Walls closing in on my mind, crushing, eternal and dark. The sickening lurch towards the bottomless pit – that pull that’s so easy to give in to, drifting towards the horizon edge. My breath was panicked, short, shuddering. In the first five minutes of the day I felt as though the last year of ‘recovery’ had never happened at all.

However, this time I have tools in my bag.

With my mind looping endless tricks, screaming silently, I found a tiny clear space deep in my brain, amongst the roaring chaos. I hid there and watched from inside. In that space, I knew this wasn’t reality. Surprisingly, I knew what I needed to do.

I sat in Mavis, my comfy chair. I nestled under a huge blanket and hugged a cushion tightly. I found a ‘sort-of-emergency’ mindfulness meditation on Insight Timer. Then I sat and listened, tears squeezing from closed eyes, one small person against a universe.

Ever so slowly, my breath began to tire itself out, slowing and calming a little more, a little more. Shakes became trembles became stillness, as I gripped tightly to that cushion as thought it was the only thing holding me back. Maybe it was.

Afterwards, I drank tea and felt new, brave and shiny. It was the first time I’ve ever been able to separate myself from The Cave. The first time I knew that the awful screaming thoughts weren’t telling the truth.

A new day today. Thoughts over porridge. Where did it come from? A violent, black storm of fear, panic, depression. It was there, waiting for me, as soon as my mind clicked into consciousness. What’s going on?

Maybe there’s no answer. There are good days and bad, okay days and unknown days. Maybe that’s all there is. Maybe that’s okay.

I know it’s the time I start to fight myself, to feel like I ‘should’ be better, I ‘should’ be getting back into the swing of things. I left my job to take time out to heal, something I’ve needed for a good few years. But I expect everything to be fixed in a few months. Being ‘off sick’ meant I still had a definition of myself, I suppose. I still had a job, and with that, some sort of identity and meaning. Now, it’s hard to keep those dark thoughts at bay when trying to create a new identity outside of a traditional job. Is it easier without depression? If I had stopped before I burned out, wouldn’t it be easier to create a new path? Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Hindsight, hindsight. I catch myself and stop and doodle in my notepad.

I worry about money. I worry about health, about being a burden, about losing my personality, about everything. Maybe the unexpected appearance of The Cave was a culmination. Maybe it was a lesson. A little warning – to look back and learn. To have that compassion for myself, a reminder that this time is different. I have tools, and time to heal.

So I let it go. Onwards.

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3 thoughts on “The Cave

  1. Sal, i want you to know that even though I don’t always comment, I have been reading your posts and today I felt compelled to write a comment. I too struggle with depression. And even though I was finally diagnosed with it several years ago, I still occasionally have those moments like you describe above. What you are doing is EXACTLY right. You recognize the moment or moments for what they are. You realize that they aren’t reality. That it’s your mind spiralling. And then you take control just like you did. You know that you need to get through it and you can come out the other side. And each time this happens, you get a bit stronger and know yourself even more. Eventually, these moments will become fewer and fewer and further in between.

    It’s all a process. I’m so glad for you that you took the time off from your work to heal.

    I do love your writing, btw. I feel like I’m sitting right next to you in that room. And by writing this, i am doing the closest thing I can do to giving you a hug and telling you, you are not alone. It may feel that way some days, but some of us are there with you in spirit. Thank you for sharing your words.

  2. Such a thought-provoking post. I remember, from the dim distant past of my twenties, when every day started like that. Back then, the help offered was drugs or the dreaded electric shock therapy. Which was even scarier than the dark place. I had two small children to look after, time to spend on righting myself was at a premium, but somehow I did it. I proved I have a stronger mind than I thought, and got myself off the drugs, out of the dark place. Now it’s panic attacks that break up the even tenor of my life, but not often.
    I have bookmarked your blog… I want to read more about you and your life, the good and the bad bits.
    Best wishes.

  3. Another brilliant and resonant blog entry – while not loving struggles that you are having, am loving the eloquence with which you write about them.
    Totally recognise the experience… have come to view it as some sort of malevolent tide that just rushes in under its own steam – no triggers, no causes, it just ‘is’. Need to stay clear of the ‘why did that happen’ narrative
    And glad that you have the tools to ride out this storm surge – they are just thoughts, and thoughts aren’t things. – just mental events slowly drifting past, like clouds…
    Glad you have found the tools to feel once again the master of your fate, captain of your soul – the tide will flow back in again at some point in the future and will need shunning again.
    Keep going & keep writing about it x

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