It’s the middle of the day, I’m sat in our den, curled up on the sofa, cat by my feet and a cup of hot Earl Grey warming my fingers. The sun is streaming through the windows, I can feel it’s warmth seeping into me, even though I feel cold, I’ve been cold for so long. There is the sound of birdsong outside, and Joni Mitchell playing softly in the background. The rest of the house is quiet, as it’s just me here today.
I’ve been working all morning, making use of the empty house to be productive, to tick off a few boxes on my ‘work to-do list’… some writing, some creating, some photography. Now I’m taking a little breather before I spend a few hours this afternoon writing. There was a time I hated having the house to myself. The thought would be enough to trigger panic attacks, the silence of an empty house would make me feel sick and anxious. I’d plan to be out of the house for as much of the time as I could manage – even though at that point I hated leaving the house.
I’d spend the time avoiding having to be by myself, avoiding being left alone with my thoughts and my feelings. Afraid to sit with myself. Too many years of pretending that I was OK, I’d finally lost the ability to pretend to myself any longer – I could just about keep up the charade if I was busy and not alone. When I was faced with just me, I’d fall apart, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move for the paralysing pain and fear that would grip me.
Yet now I’m sitting here, alone, breathing slowly, not really doing anything other than just being. It feels funny, but in a good way, to be sat alone. To not be afraid, to not have the urge to run, or to numb. Sure, a few hours are as much as I like, by the time mid-afternoon rolls around, I’ll be glad to have a house filled with chatter, laughter, and company again. Right now though, I can see the glimmer of light darting through the chinks in my armor. The iron clad walls I’d built around me, years and years ago, I’m slowly allowing to crumble. Brick by brick I am taking them down, removing the protection that I thought they offered when in reality all they did was keep the pain and fear in.
A few months ago I could see no hope, I could feel no way out of the place I was in. Deep inside, somewhere, there was the reminder that I’d been here before and had pulled myself up and out of it then. Yet this time was different. This time I’d allowed myself to fall entirely apart. In truth, I don’t think there was any way I could have stopped it. I had to fall apart to be able to separate myself. To take off the old, broken ways and move on. To rebuild myself, to put the pieces of my soul back together – but in a different way.
A lifetime of being insular, of putting on a brave face and pretending I was fine were gone. This time as I fell apart I reached out and found there were people who were willing to sit in the darkness with me. To remind me to pick myself up, time and time again. No matter how many times I fell, they were still there. Being my hope when I had none inside.
I put my faith in them, and at first, I was only trying to recover for them. Because they told me I had to. Because, people-pleaser that I am, I didn’t want them to hate me as much as I hated myself. Doing it for someone else meant I stumbled, over and over. But in the stumbling, I found an acceptance, that this was where I was. That even by trying I was proving I was stronger than I believed. That maybe, just maybe, I could use my stubbornness for good. Slowly, oh so slowly, I could see the tiniest rays of light sneaking in. Sometimes it would be dark for days or weeks on end before another appeared. Those rays became my goals… what could I do to let another in?
Somewhere along the way, I started trying to get better for ME and not for them. For them too partly, for without their support I wouldn’t be here, and my recovery was a thank you of sorts. Yet I had to do it for myself, otherwise, I’d never truly recover, never truly be able to put the past behind me.
As I finish my tea and plan out my afternoon, I smile as I look around, at the calmness that surrounds me, at how far I’ve come. The road ahead isn’t clear, yet with every step forward I take, it unfurls a little more. New possibilities line the horizon, the rays of light are frequent and all around me, there is a new sense of ease and peace growing inside. Hope has returned. The road may be long, there may be stumbles and falls along the way, but I’m learning to listen to my heart, to change the patterns of a lifetime, to question my own thoughts, and to be true to myself.
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” – Hafiz