Filed under “I wish I’d done this years ago” is having a moment of clarity about life.
I spend quite some time, arguably *too* much time, thinking about life (mine) and the myriad ways I find to screw it up. I have become quite the expert over time, but I forgive myself by saying that each experience (no matter how repetitive) is to be learned from.
I told myself this even though I always got the same result. My genius never let me on to the fact that this was clearly in contrast to actual outcomes.
Still, yuh learn, eh?
Well, thankfully I hope I finally have. Let me explain…
I have discovered over that past few years that I am not, actually, a slave to my foibles. I quit smoking five years ago last August, cold turkey. I was able to do this as I had a way to help me when the ‘cravings’ attacked me. If you have ever had a major coughing jag where you actually wonder if you’ll be able to breathe in again or if your number is up, then you too will know what I mean. Coupled with awful shoots of chest pains when this happened, it was simple to use this memory as a way to forget wanting to have a smoke.
A side benefit, and something I need to apologise to so many people about, is the whole “smoke-free” clothes.
When I smoked, I was under the delusion that if I was at a friends house who was non-smoking, I would demonstrate my magnanimity by going outside to smoke in the misguided belief that there was no impact inside the house when you returned. This is not the case. Now being a confirmed non-smoker, if anyone ever comes to the office who smokes, I can barely stay in the same room. To all of you who put up with that from me, I really am so sorry.
Amazingly, at the same time that I quit smoking, I also stopped biting my nails. A small victory but one I am quite pleased with. I enjoy not sticking my fingers in or near my mouth by stopping these two things. It feels much more hygienic apart from anything else.
So, after a few upbeat years, last year was the culmination of a few downbeat ones. As expected, I had managed to fall into mental patterns that had slowly suffocated me. In doing that, I alienated people who I had been overjoyed to have in my life. (And the very idea of being overjoyed was not something that came naturally…) Yet, I managed to screw that up.
As ever, these things never arrive singly and two years ago, I lost a good friend to sudden illness. My friendship with Rick was something really special. I will always miss him I think, cantankerous old git that he was… This was at a time where I was losing touch with someone very special to me and, again, I saw that as my doing (subconsciously).
I’m sure most of us have odd thoughts that always stay with us. One of mine was being morbidly stuck on the age of my Mum when she died. She was 55. Probably from when it happened I began to obsess over that age and my approach to it. I kept imagining it was a clock ticking down for me. (See my bit about this blog where I explain that it’s *my* logic, not *actual* logic…) Anyway, last December I turned 56. (Technically, I passed the age my Mum had been in March last year but that isn’t neat and tidy for me so my CDO (that’s OCD in the CORRECT order, dammit!) kicked in and ruled that December was the transition.) Which brings me to the third strand of abstention and possibly the most important.
I think I may have SAD. Every winter is incredibly difficult for me and the period over Xmas is the worst of all. I withdraw from everything except work and places where I have to be physically. It is (for me) the worst feeling in the world. For pretty much every Xmas period for the last 25 years has seen me doing damage to myself mentally and, through ‘self-medicating’, physically. I have always been able to drink. I can put prodigious amounts away if I choose. I don’t actually like it. The reason I had done this was to simply shut my head down. If I am unconscious I cannot think, therefore I can’t be depressed. (My logic, remember.) Of course, one usually inevitable consequence of going unconscious is that, more often than not, you’ll wake up.
Going through that incredibly dull and monotonous process of remonstrating with myself for taking that option again was exhausting. I mean bone-wearyingly exhausting. Yet it was the only process I knew. I had an ability to convince myself that I was totally in charge of this whole process. I don’t know what impact this had ‘in public’, you know, work etc. because nobody said anything to me.
To give some insight into self-worth, if people *did* know and I worked with them or socialised with them, I wonder why nothing got said… (I know it wouldn’t have been easy, of course, but if you care for someone enough, you do the hard things, no? Maybe not. This bit is an aside, btw, this is something I own.)
So, approaching last December, a lot of points are coming together. My obsession with a number, my mental health going through that season of hell again, and yet another period of punishing myself. Everything went exactly as expected until Xmas Eve.
On Xmas eve, I had been on Xmas break for a couple of days. I was at a *very* low ebb. About 12 years ago, a good friend had talked me out of suicide. I had always had the notion that if I ever got to that point again, I would not call anyone, I would just do it. It seemed completely chickenshit to me that every time you felt you might carry that out, you’d call someone instead of sticking to your plan. As a form of criticism, it’s pretty emphatic.
However. I have no idea why (other than some nagging idea that I do actually exist for a reason that may be important) but somehow, at that low ebb, rather than taking the drastic step, I asked myself why that was the only option. Why was this process always played out this way?
So I decided to make a new option, just for me. I decided to see if I could take the same approach to the process that I did with smoking and nail biting. I found a feeling that I could focus on when I thought I wanted to drink, and a feeling to focus on when I was feeling low… and it works.
I haven’t even wanted a drink since Xmas Eve, my mental equilibrium is staying pretty level (certainly compared to the roller-coaster of previous seasons), and I certainly feel healthier which has a circular benefit. And I’m glad I have the self-control to do this.
My greatest hope is that I’ll be someone who can be related to. It may be pure coincidence but that person I was losing just got back in touch…
I wonder if I have been able to do this as I have passed that number? It may be so, but I’ll take that if it is.
The most important thing is that I’m doing this for me. I’m stronger than I knew.
Feel free to join in.