“The star, called ‘suffering’, that was shining in your eye, is your city”

This summer has passed quickly. I’ve not been writing anything down. I don’t know where to start or what to say. I started anti-depressants and it has been strange adjusting to them. I started on a low dose and as my serotonin levels adjusted – or whatever happens – I was left feeling numb and detached. Robotic, my doctor described it and I mostly agreed. I did not feel as anxious or as sad but nor could I feel happiness or excitement. Bad and good emotions were gone. Fast forward and I’m on a higher dose and not quite so robotic, but still not quite where I wish I could be. And I’m tired. No matter how much or little I sleep I’m always exhausted and I cannot concentrate. This state I’m in…its no state for blogging. I’m actually not having a bad summer and plenty has happened but I couldn’t find it in me to write any of it down. The first time I was struggling with my mental health I needed to write it down. I’d blog, and I also kept a private written diary for my counselling- I’d write the bad thoughts down, and then I’d process them. In another notebook I’d scribble down what I was feeling, ranting, so emotional that the pen dug in deep, almost cutting the paper, then I’d scribble it out, turn the page black or blue. This time I’m internalising it, I’m thinking a lot, always thinking, but I struggle to express myself. I’ve become very withdrawn.

Nonetheless, this summer hasn’t been bad. I’ve been in a bit of a limbo with things- spending too much time asleep, or wasting time, all my grand plans for university work lying at the roadside. Fairly typical.

I’ve been home a few times. My sister came back from a big holiday so I went home to look at her photos, and I went walking with my dad the following day. Looking at my sister’s photos should have been boring, but I spent most of it curled up resting on my fathers shoulder, and I felt so safe and comfortable and relaxed that it became one of those perfect moments I’ll remember for a long time. I’d only just started antidepressants then, and I did not feel good. Feeling safe and relaxed felt foreign but wonderful. In that moment I also felt loved. Sometimes I feel so alone, I forget that I am precious to my family at least. With both my parents- its easy to tell how amazed and proud they are in regards to the daughters they raised. It must be a strange feeling to see the babies you once had and can still remember so clearly, now grown up into adult woman. Even I look at my sister, who has matured so much, who is so grown up that I struggle- she’s my sister, but she also has her separate life and as she grows older the ratio changes and her separate life grows. I know I need to respect that, but I still remember how it used to be and its hard to let go. Family relations get so strange as you get older. I feel so clingy and burdensome sometimes, I wonder if I should be more independent. I don’t really know how to act around them anymore, where the boundaries have now shifted. It’s just strange.

It was my birthday in July – 22 now. My sister took me to a food festival and we had a grand time stuffing our faces with overpriced food and watching the demonstrations from cooks and bakers. It was good to have my sister to myself for a time. See: above paragraph. That evening we went out to dinner- my parents, my sister and her boyfriend who I invited because it was the polite thing to do, because I thought that was one of the changes to make now we are older. My sister was so happy to hear that I wanted him there that I knew I had been right. But… I was the only single person there, and the only child. I felt so out of place. I couldn’t enjoy myself. Yes, I turned 22. It doesn’t feel much different than 21, although my embarrassment at how childish I am only deepens as I age. I don’t feel like I act as an adult should. I feel naive and inexperienced.

Walking with my dad was as always delightful and improved my mood, at least.

Later, in August, I went home as my cousin had come to visit and spend time with our family – which was awkward, but not too bad. I stuck close to my dad mostly, which made me feel like a bad person, but my cousin is too unfamiliar, and too gregarious for me to feel comfortable. Looking at him, my mother and my sister they looked more like a family than if I were there. Especially my sister and my cousin- they are so similar in looks and personalities it hurt to look at them.

I’m going home again soon. Going to try spend more time with my mother and sister. It seems whenever I go home I mostly hang with my dad. It’s most comfortable, but its not right.

Apart from that, I’ve settled into work quite nicely. I spend my Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings there now. I’ve taken on the role of health and safety officer – so I test the fire alarms every week and do visual inspections monthly. I’ve been allowed to help with the cashing up. Mostly I shelve and cull books, and occasionally go on the till. Its monotonous work mostly, but I like it – there is something oddly calming about sorting and shelving books. It does make me anxious dealing with the public though- I never seem to have the answers to anyone’s questions, and I mostly fail at small talk. When I’m on the till I can’t meet anyone’s eyes and I have a little script I made for myself. Sometimes, perhaps I’m imagining it, probably am, when I look up from staring at the counter, just briefly, I think I catch bemused glances from the people I serve and it only makes me feel more ashamed. I can’t go on the till too long otherwise I start feeling sick and shaky, my chest tightening, my words starting to run together, even if I’ve taken my anxiety meds. The fact that I can do this though- that I can deal with strangers for 8 hours a week makes me feel good. And I like that it adds a bit of routine to my week- I would probably lose track of the days otherwise.

Of course I’ve also started to learn to drive, which I don’t enjoy, but hopefully the doctor will say its OK to take my anxiety meds whilst driving and then it can improve. My instructor is lovely, but driving itself is still scary and foreign and overwhelming.

I’m trying my best though. To develop outside my degree. I said it before didn’t I. I put so much into university that other things got left behind. But I’m trying now. I’m working, I’m learning to drive, I’m trying very hard to get on with my family. I’m recovering, trying to keep going even though I’m exhausted and the future is uncertain and I’m scared and anxious. I’m trying to get better. I’m trying not to let the fear from stopping me from living.

Even though the fear that its too late never goes away.

“In search of something”

I had my first driving lesson today. This was my first time operating a car- ever – and it was fairly terrifying, although not as bad as I was expecting.

I admit, I have a lot of anxiety about driving. Accidents can happen so easily, and effect so many people besides the driver. I get distracted easily and have a lot of anxiety, which makes me feel vulnerable in such a position of responsibility over other peoples lives. I also don’t like the car dependency in this country. People seem to drive even for the smallest distances. Although you cannot always blame them. It’s a small country and so you’d think that trains, buses and walking would be adequate in a lot of situations- but unfortunately trains are expensive and train stations not always close to where you need to be, buses come whenever the hell they like, if they come at all, and the cost also adds up. Walking is fine, except when you find yourself lugging heavy shopping from a bus stop 20 minutes from your house, or there is snow or ice, as only roads get de-iced. Sometimes you just feel tired and don’t want to walk an hour through the rain (because this is the UK, and it is often terrible weather) to get your groceries. Which is just some of the annoying scenarios which make a person really wished they could have just driven from point A to point B. I like to walk and don’t mind public transport but I’ve started to seriously want the flexibility of having to drive, especially as I approach graduation and entering the work force- where offices can and are often outside the city or in remote areas. I am also trying to conquer my anxiety and what better way to do that than to force myself to do something I really don’t want to do. I’m already coping with working, so why not? I have been putting off getting my license for too long, for too stupid reasons, mostly sheer stubborness, to be honest. Yes, I can manage with public transport and walking, but my life would be easier and I’d have more flexibility with a driving license.

My dad was pleased to hear that I wanted to drive, after years of trying to persuade me and only meeting stubborn refusal, so pleased in fact that he promised to buy me a car after I’d passed, and pay for all my lessons. I had some money tucked away in order to help with the costs of lessons and test fees, but I can hardly complain if my father doesn’t want me to use it. I feel grateful to him, as apart from my long term savings I am really quite broke. I tried googling instructors but the results were too much, so I went to the yellow pages. Funny how that thing actually comes in useful sometimes. I talked with my dad and narrowed my options to three schools. I phoned up one driving school but they were booked up, couldn’t get hold of another so ended up with my third choice. Which as these things go, turned out to be the right choice.

My driving lesson today turned out just fine. My instructor is lovely and good at handling my nervousness. She thankfully did not start me outside my house- but drove to a quiet area where we could get started. We didn’t get through much- just the very basics, but even then there was a lot to take in. First understanding what everything in the car actually does and setting up the car – mirrors, positioning the seat, knowing where to find the blind spots. Then, actually driving. I had to get used to the pedals, and steering, and tried parking for the first time, and was utterly terrible at it. I felt a bit dazed, but at least I never had time to let my anxiety get to me – I was concentrating too hard. It was very strange and very unfamiliar and a lot to take in all at once. But it wasn’t as scary as I anticipated it would be to sit behind the wheel.

I have my theory test soon, and I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to take the practical test- I have a feeling this is going to take me a long time. But I’m feeling a bit more optimistic about it. Still very anxious, but I look forward to having my licence, and I think I’ll manage, perhaps even find some enjoyment in driving, though that’s probably being too optimistic.

*NB: In the UK in order to get a drivers license you have to take a theory test covering the Highway code/road regulations and hazard perception, before you can take a practical test in an actual car.