Life continues to be a challenge – both because of the events in it and the general ambivalence that still lingers around the idea of my survival. The crisis I experienced a couple of months ago has just about settled down and this week I was discharged by the crisis team. On paper it looks like a positive step, but in reality it means that I’ve returned to having absolutely no NHS support. I asked the crisis team leader and my psychiatrist how bad things had to get before I’d earned a care coordinator but received no reply. I think I know the answer.
Courtesy of my rather catastrophic relapse, work is still a bit of an issue. I can concentrate in short bursts but not enough to successfully cover all my outgoings – hence my house has to finally go. It would be a really stressful time for anyone, but not being in the best of health makes it pretty intolerable as I simply can’t seem to manage any degree of stress at all – and stress comes in bucket loads when you’re selling up and moving house. Every phone call from the solicitor, every day that goes by without a phone call to move things along, every box I need to pack and every box I haven’t yet got round to weigh on me like the weight of the world itself. I spent last night curled up in a ball, my muscles aching under the tension they were under, my jaw clenched and my teeth regularly grinding as I thought about everything I have to deal with.
And then something changed.
Those of you who know me will understand all too well how stubborn I can be (sorry about that). Well, I lay in bed this morning counting all the things that are going wrong in my life and then I remembered the ending of my favourite short story –
Listen: I am ideally happy. My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry proudly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness, dear, my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a street lamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds human loneliness.
A Letter That Never Reached Russia, Vladimir Nabokov
I suddenly saw my happiness as the biggest act of defiance I could possibly take – a massive two fingers directed at all the crap that’s going on for me. Right up there in its face, waving about before its eyes at the exclusion of all else. My challenge is to dig out the nuggets of happiness, compassion and joy that are hidden in amongst all the rubbish. The removals guy who last night did me an incredibly generous deal on moving me into my new place, the joyous sight of one of my dogs throwing and chasing a piece of bark she found in the garden, sitting on the sofa with both terriers wanting fuss and cuddles.
And friends. Where to start with friends?
One wonderful friend came with me to my crisis team/psychiatrist meeting. She not only advocated for me so well that I feel she might have another vocation, but also made it OK for me to be angry at the way I was treated – and bought donuts for the post-match debrief. Now that’s many reasons to be cheerful. One of my oldest friends wrote the most encouraging post on Facebook when I shared the disaster of the meeting with everyone – she might not live close by but I know she’s with me every step of the way. Another friend I know from uni days regularly texts to see how I’m doing and it makes me feel cared for – a weird feeling for me but one I might begin to like.
And then there’s my joyful friend. I’ve only known her a year but we’re incredibly close and despite her own struggles, she’s always there for me, consoling with me after each disaster and celebrating every small step of progress. I don’t know what I’d do without her – I don’t know what I’d do without any of them.
Just as in my favourite story, my happiness will be a challenge. All the odds are stacked against it happening – but I will try. I might be beginning to think that I deserve more than beating myself up for every single thing that goes wrong, for always seeing the self-blame in any situation. Maybe I’ve finally tired of continually punishing myself and want to try something different. I might as well give it a go, I feel so fragile and broken that I’ve got very little to lose. I’m pretty sure there’ll be days when I find it almost impossible to see the good in amongst what’s happening to me but I’m determined to get there – with the help of two small terriers and some very good friends.