Operate with caution

October was a challenging month. My depression flared up, I felt sad most of the time. My emotions were out of control. My sleep was filled with nightmares and vivid dreams.

It extended until November, which is also synonymous with my birthday. Every year, I welcome this day with bittersweet emotions. The priviledge of aging, of being surrounded and loved. But also noticing the lost ones, the changes, unfulfilled expectations. The dreadful feeling of time passing and standing still. Time going so fast, you can’t catch a breath.

Last week, my doctor increased my sleeping medications both at night and, a first, in the morning. Unsurprisingly, I have been fighting constant drowsyness for a week now. While I sleep better, I can’t help but feeling bad for my unproductivity, my brain fog, my lack of focus. I feel bad about myself and fear of dumping this incredibly heavy emotional labour on others. I can’t practice the compassion I preach to others on myself.

I am surrounded with brilliant writers, piling words like it’s nobody business and I can’t hardly focus to write a blog post. I sit in front of the screen and my mind usually spilling decides to go blank. The words feels wrong, the story doesn’t make sense. What do I have new to bring to this world?

I hate myself. I hate myself for feeling so much. I hate the brain fog ever so present. I hate the lack of focus. I hate pressuring myself so much I fell into inertia.

I hate that I can’t be my own best friend. Something that comes so easily with others. To care for others, to love them, to listen to their mind chaos.

I have no mercy toward my own chaos. Mercenary. Expecting productivity. Control. I have no patience for this shit. I want have everything. I am to do it all. Now. No compromise.

But at the end of the day, I am sad, restless and drowsy. I never expected this adult life to look like this. Years passes, and I have yet to find my way. Perhaps, there is none. Perhaps, this is the way.

Chronic pains of the mind

Drowning in my thoughts,
Slipping into this mind chaos.

The silence is so loud,
My mind is splitting up.

You may be trapped in your body,
But this mind is my prison,
Everlasting executioner.

Alone in this darkness,
I spin, restless.

I slap, I cut, I scream,
Physical marks of a ghost,
Of a madness that can’t be named.

However deep are the wounds,
It can’t rival the agony of the mind,
the feasting of the ghoul.

I cry in the day,
Scream in my sleep,
For no rest I am granted.

Shadows always by my side,
Ever present, I can hardly breathe,
I have nowhere to hide.

Unaware of it all,
You don’t know the depth of it,
Safe behind your self-righteous walls.

But I tired of this mask,
Exhausted from this charade,
If you could only ask,
Maybe I wouldn’t be so afraid.

I wished you cared enough to hear my voice
I wish I could bare you my soul,
By cracking this skull open for you to see,
How all the shadows have taken control of me.

Black hole

My mind is a black hole

Ferociously devouring the life

Away from me

I have never felt whole

But this mess is causing a strife

And nowhere seems safe in me

I look in my reflection

I see nothing but an empty heart

And A mind full of dreams

Of you, of us, of something

That will never be

Of a life that will never exist

Of children that will never breathe

Of you, of me

This beautiful mess we could have been

Because nothing is left

But these hopeless dreams

And a mind full of could-haves and darkness

I keep waiting for you to shed a light as I have lost the matches

At the end, I am left alone to sulk

At the end, I hide behind the mask

 

Hemingway Soliloquy

He calls me his little Hemingway. I like to remind him that he shot himself and had several wives. He also struggled with mental illness. Sometimes he talks about Virginia Woolf, and well, we all know how that ended.

I wouldn’t say this constitute a healthy role models.

However, as I become more familiar with the twittosphere, I am starting to see this writer hierarchy.

I will never be one of these Balzac type of mass production writing. I can barely go back to a project, let alone finish one.

I rarely see myself as a writer. I whisper it to others, almost embarassed.

Most days, I don’t write. I trip over all the obstacles my brain puts in the way of my writing.

Focusing is a very hard thing to do for me. I am easily distracted by others. Trying to get their approval, seeking the love I can’t give myself.

Feeling sad for myself.

Then I overthink everything.

Why would my writing be worth reading?

What do I have new to bring to this world?

What if it’s not good? What if it is?

I fear everything, including myself. The roadblocks are overwhelming most days. I see a lot of people talking openly about their struggles with anxiety and depression while being very productive. I am not one of these people. I feel too much. I feel too intensely. I obsess over things that are missing from my life, while having everything. I forgot happiness. I am my most unforgiving critic.

Most times, I think of myself as a disabled person, yet it doesn’t feel right to say it. Who am I to appropriate myself with this label? What does it means to be disabled? Would it really change something? That, I doubt.

So at the end of the day, I am lonely, riddled with anxiety and fears, exhausted from this brain chaos while looking at the obscene numbers of words written by fellow writers on my twitter timeline. I feel guilty and inadequate. It feels fraudulous to even pretend.

When I was a young adult, I imagined myself as a playwright, smoking a cigarette while drinking scotch because it looked so cool. I wish smoking was still cool, alas I fear much more. During my second depression, I convinced myself being a professional writer wasn’t a viable option and mental illness won. 8 years later, I obviously see a thriving community, yet can’t help but wonder how many of them may be full of shit. I judge harshly the self promotions and wouldn’t read most book going around. Maybe people have settled for mediocrity. Or maybe, you need bad writers so the good ones can rise above. They don’t seem to overthink everything and seem fairly happy with their second-class literature.

Maybe that is the way to peace. I won’t pretend to know the answers. I don’t know much.

So I may be a little Hemingway, but that would be pretentious to say. I am just the darker side of life. I am just drowning in my mind chaos and feeling sorry for myself. I am not looking for reassurance or pity, just needed to write something, so I could at least pretend for a few moments, that I can write.

I doubt this will be read. The plebs prefer positive psychology, they like to pretend that you can choose to be happy instead. The fools.

How to care for your (suffering) friends?

It is of human nature to suffer, either physically, psychologically or both. This past year has been high in political changes, natural disasters and every thing in between from heartbreak to scrapped knees causing, or being exposed to, profund pain.

It is also of human nature to surround oneself with caring people, as humans are social animals.

So, how do we take care of those friends? How not to feel powerless in face of their pain?

What to do when you can’t take their pain away?


Listen

In our society, overwhelmed by social medias and advanced communication devices, we have lost the subtil art of listening.

Listening is being attuned to the other.

You are not listening if you are thinking about your answer.

You are not listening if you are thinking or responding with a personal exemple.

You are not listening if you are « comparing » yourself.

This isn’t about you. This is not a suffering competition.
Listening is receiving with empathy what your friend is sharing you.

Some people do not want solutions, they need to be heard. To feel supported.

Sometimes, the best way to help a friend is letting them know that « you hear them ».

It is mirroring what they say so you can really understand. Don’t make assumption.

It is not projecting your own feelings or prejudices. Your friend might not feel the same way.

Make sure you understand what they are telling you.

Don’t be overly optimistic. Don’t minimize what they are saying.

Just listen. 

Ask them what THEY need? They are the experts of their own lives .

 

Give them space 

Suffering takes a toll on one’s health and mind. It can be very tiresome. It can also be very lonely.

Some people feel the need to isolate themselves. Respect their decisions.

Let them know you are there for them. Try to check regularly on them. Remind them gently of your presence.

Make sure they are safe. Be patient. Be mindful.

Don’t resent if you have to be the one who makes « most efforts » at this time. At some other, your friend might do the same for you.

This is not about you. You can be sad your friend is going through a rough patch. Don’t make them feel guilty for needing space
Be compassionate and empathic

Living with pain, either mental and physical is draining. Your friend might be exhausted.

Your friend might also feel guilty because of its limitations.

Your friend might feel inadequate.

Your friend might feel like a bad friend, for cancelling your date again or not seeing you enough.

Be understanding. Be compassionate. Let them know you are okay with it.

Suggest to accomodate them or reschedule.

Don’t infantilize your friend. Respect their wishes. Don’t minimize their feelings.

Don’t take it personal. It is not about you.

Practice self-care

Being confronted with pain or suffering of others can be emotionally exhausting.

You might know a lot of suffering people.

You might feel like walking on eggshells at times.

When surrounded with intense emotions, it can feel overwhelming.

It might means you need some space. To distant yourself from the suffering.

It might means you need to reevaluate your approach.

You can’t « save your friend ».  You can’t take their pain away.

You can only be you. Only be there to support them, to hear them.

To take care of others, you have to take care of yourself first.

Seek support if needed.
Friendships can be complicated. Life is.

Being friend with someone who suffers can be challenging.

It can also be extremely rewarding.  But it has to be filled mutual respect and love.

 

I obviously don’t have all the answers. I might even be wrong. But you can ask yourself; what is the best way for you to take care of your friend?

Ask your friend; how do they want you to take care of them?

Humbly yours,

Your suffering host, Catherine