Details of the #52essays2017 Challenge can be found on Vanessa Mártir's blog but, in brief, it's to write one personal essay a week.
10 years ago, I ended a long-term relationship where I was too emotionally buttoned-up. I felt on a treadmill to be the perfect everything: partner, parent, child, employee - and I lost myself. I could organise anything and everyone. But I'd lost the joy. And so I took a leap into the great unknown. I took risks. I left my safe if unsupportive relationship, I left my home. I made new friends, I risked my heart to seek a new relationship, I lived on my own and despite the constant financial struggle, discovered I liked it. I was that stereotype - living life to the max.
Then two things happened. First, I got breast cancer. Sometimes I wonder if that was fate's way of keeping me real in case I got too carried away with my new, emotionally free life. Second, the relationship that I thought would be my final one ended - suddenly, inexplicably, painfully.
In trying to keep on keeping on, I accepted the help of anti-depressants. I've been taking them ever since. I didn't want to take them, but had to accept that I wasn't coping. At the time, I couldn't afford to pay a therapist and the waiting list for a free therapist was way too long. But that's what I really needed - lots of time to grieve, in a safe place, with someone who'd listen and be kind to me. Instead, I took the drugs and fell back on my legendary coping abilities so I could move on, and the sooner, the better.
And I did cope because the drugs numbed the sharpness of my emotions. But what they didn't do was remind me of my worth, to ensure that my self-esteem and boundaries were kept high. And so I made some bad decisions. One decision that turned out to be both good and bad was I started training to be a counsellor. Good, because I was finally fulfilling my destiny and bad, because I had not recovered from my vulnerable state. During my second year, the intensity was immense and to ensure I was tough enough to practice, I was broken down into so many pieces that my confidence ran away at the mere thought of a challenge.
Since then there have been many steps taken. Some forward, but also far too many in the opposite direction. Slowly, I've allowed the positive words and experiences to see the light - and to have time to grow and flourish. I have gained encouragement and taken heart from those I've sought to help (when I've dared to stick my head above the parapet).
Part of that process of taking steps has been to look into the dark places and learn more about myself. What I've learned is that I absolutely do not regret the last 10 years of change and upheaval. There's been simply too many wonderful experiences and too much pleasure. But I have relied too much on others - on both their good opinion and on their support. In doing so, I've left myself far too vulnerable when those relationships - be they platonic or romantic - have ended, or fizzled, or simply become less than they once were. And being independent means exactly that - being able to stand on my own two feet, not just financially, but emotionally too.
I've also learned that if I want to experience all the feels, I must develop the capacity to live with them, be they highs or lows. I've taken anti-depressants for seven long years now, and life hasn't given me a moment of peace to start the weaning off process. The pills have done their job well - their purpose being to damp down emotions so you don't get overwhelmed. But that means that you miss the peaks too and I've decided that one peak I will not miss out on is that of the joy when my much loved child gives birth to her own child, to my grandchild.
And so I continue on that road to independence, adding becoming independant of my medical crutch to those aspects involved in standing on my own two feet. I have till early April to remove the medical impediment to my feeling of joy. I finally have the best possible reason for facing potential demons - I'm preparing for the joy of grandparenthood.
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