It’s been a beautiful month, all sunshine and blue skies carried over from March. But, in my head, it’s felt more like endless, drizzly April showers. As of today, I’m 13 weeks into recovery. I’m sure there’s no typical pattern with this kind of thing, but I’ve started noticing distinct phases in my own recovery journey, and April has very much been one of resentment and frustration.
While March’s sunshine had me feeling optimistic and hopeful, in April it’s simply made me despise anyone who’s enjoying life more than me. And, particularly on social media, it’s hard not to feel like that’s everyone. I even weighed up whether to bother writing about this month. Imagine starting a 12-month blog challenge, your entire year falling apart within the first 30 days, but still being stubborn enough to feel like you have to keep it up!
And honestly, despite being my most physically well month since the accident, it’s also been my least balanced month of 2017. I haven’t finished a single book in April. I’ve had terrifying panic attacks in the middle of the street, and on public transport. I’ve had duvet days of wrapping myself up in self-pity and sleeping for 15 hours at a time. I’ve cancelled so many plans. (Sorry.) I’ve had sudden outbursts of frustration and rage, but mostly I’ve felt nothing much. Work has plodded steadily on, but writing at the moment feels like I’m just about keeping my head above water, not relishing it in the way I did when my cast first came off.
What people who’ve never had depression don’t realise is that, at really bleak times, it can feel like less than ‘sadness’. You spend a long time feeling overwhelmed by all the emotions, only to reach a point of total emotional paralysis. It’s nothing. It’s numbness and apathy, a big, dark empty pit inside yourself, where nothing matters and you’re not worthy of feeling anything at all. Not even sad. Not angry, or frustrated, or lonely, or anxious.
The moments when you do feel those things – when the hospital cancels your much-anticipated appointment, and your body actually allows you to burst into tears – come as a relief. The tightness of panic in your chest, however hideous and nauseating, feels like a pleasant reminder that you’re still alive enough to care about your own preservation. That an irrational fear of suffocating to death on the tube, surrounded by strangers, with 15 panicked messages to your husband forever remaining unsent, is better than weeks on end of simply not caring if you live or die.
April has been a month of not caring, punctuated by moments of caring deeply and overwhelmingly. Recently I’ve started working on content for next month’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has a theme of “surviving or thriving?” For me, simply surviving each day is enough right now. Thriving still feels such a long way off. We’re now a third of the way through the year, and I’ve not even come close to completing my goals – personal or professional – for Q1. My goals for Q2 have all been replaced by “make it through to June”.
Even self-care becomes a struggle when you can’t shake the feeling that every attempt to do something nice for yourself (like a retreat, for example) backfires spectacularly. I ordered myself a dozen beautiful pastel roses to mark the 12 week anniversary of the accident. When the courier (no prizes for guessing) forgot to collect them from the depot, so they didn’t show up until 24 hours later, I felt distraught.
Of course, there are always glimmers of light, and I’d be remiss not to mention them. The day my roses didn’t arrive, my husband came home with ten cheap and crappy red ones from the local shop, which brightened my day immeasurably.
Over the Easter weekend, I removed my email account from my iPhone for four whole days – so good for the soul – and spent my days walking, eating, and enjoying the sunshine in east London, Cambridge, and Welwyn Garden City, with some of the people I love most in the world.
On Sunday 23rd, my not-so-little brother ran the London Marathon in aid of Toybox, and I’ve rarely felt so proud as I did watching him reach that finish line. Speaking of which, this month has also seen me weep my way through the BBC’s Mind Over Marathon, which is a must-watch. I can’t wait to get my running shoes back on once the spinal nurse okays it.
And finally, we’re spending the upcoming bank holiday weekend in one of our favourite cities, Bristol, visiting the world’s greatest little boy (our godson) and his mum. There’s no better excuse to run away from reality.
Work-wise I’ve written more than has actually been published this month, but below is the small selection I have to show for it so far. Perhaps this month’s biggest work news though is that I’ve taken on a freelance ghostwriting contract with LifeBook UK, working on a project that I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into over the coming months…
The Motivation for Moderation – for Less-Stress London
Shahroo Izadi is a modern behaviour change specialist, supporting clients to change their habits around food, drugs, or alcohol. Having previously worked in addiction support services for the NHS and Turning Point, her work combines the well-established techniques of motivational interviewing (MI) and mind mapping.
Commonly used in drug and alcohol services, these techniques are very effective in stopping ‘all or nothing’ thinking and allowing clients to take back control of their lives. “Motivational interviewing is like dancing with your client,” Shahroo explains. “You know where you want the dance to end, but you allow them to lead, you don’t push, and you get there in their own time.”
This works, she adds, by reflecting back what the client has said, gently guiding them to reach their own conclusions, before reflecting those outcomes visually in a mind map, which the client can refer back to. “There’s no judgement, you’re not putting words in people’s mouths, so it makes them less defensive,” she explains.
6 of London’s Best Modern-day Gin Palaces – for Hotel Indigo
For gin lovers, there’s simply no better city on earth than London. From the Gin Craze of the 18th century, to the grand Victorian gin palaces, London’s love affair with “Mother’s Ruin” is well established, and still going strong today. The city’s first gin palaces began popping up in the East End, around Holborn and Old Street, during the 1830s, before spreading to more central locations. From the Hotel Indigo London – Tower Hill, you’ll find yourself ideally placed to explore the London’s gin-loving heritage. From traditional offerings in nearby Holborn to trendier variations in Shoreditch, here are a few modern-day gin palaces to try: