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.