Switching on the laptop this morning was not a smooth process, it has issues. These issues are meaning it resembles the way I was a mere two months ago; the laptop it would seem is beginning to close down and attempting to give up.
However, in order to help repair this old duffer, and I’m referring to the laptop :-) , I can go back to a system restore. Find a point at which the system was working the way it should be and try to see what went wrong following that date- easy huh?
It got me thinking; “shouldn’t I just find my ‘system restore’ point”? Return to the last time I was working properly, and life appeared to be running smoothly. Surely then I could simply reboot myself, and I’d be back!”
‘Being back’, like some kind of robotic Swartzenegger-esque type character is really not the type of return to health I need nor desire. Something happened along the way to cause my system breakdown, and I haven’t the full knowledge to work out how returning to a previous restore point will help me understand what all of those factors were.
Being away, and somewhere which albeit familiar to be, but entirely different to life in the UK, was a beginning. I could begin to identify some of the bumps and potholes I’d encountered during the months preceding my smashing headlong into the wall and sliding down into the depression hole. Some were ‘normal’ life stuff, family things, financial concerns – the matters which everyone of us has to manage on a day-to-day basis, and which do get us down. Others however were much more complex. I’d been driven for three years, but my mode of transport wasn’t luxurious, it was a vehicle whose history I couldn’t check out in advance, and choosing to ride in it meant I was often unsure whether it would get me to where I needed or wanted to be. My long journey was one of desperate need and desire.
The purpose of my journey was on the surface quite simple – I wanted to tackle the stigma of mental illness and I wanted to attack the discrimination encountered by people who had a diagnosis. There were powerful vehicles I could borrow from time to time which would help me be part of making these societal changes; there was the Time To Change project for example.
“Why then”, I have had to ask myself, “did I, who became a reasonably successful campaigner, and RETHINK’s Activist Of The Year, feel so empty, so lost and ready throw in the towel, with a flouncing ‘ hasta la vista, life – I won’t be back’.”
My convalescence time gave me some pointers, little road signs I’d missed. I was running red lights, foot to floor, burning gas, to prove something, but alas the people I was trying to prove it to were either blind to the cause I was flying the flag for, or simply couldn’t care less. The stuff I’d been doing, the reasons I was doing it were not all about my own health, my own recovery, they were about showing the people in my past who had hurt or harmed me, that I was a ‘worthy’ person, a ‘good’ person, someone who can and will succeed. It seems all so obvious now that finding myself running on empty, and feeling my tank could never be filled again was inevitable. It is pointless to jump up and down and demand to be ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ by those who have no compassion in their eyes, nor empathy to hear.
Along the way I allowed people to be hurtful, deliberately hurtful. I excused them their terrible behaviour, their cruel comments. I turned a blind eye and avoided confronting issues which I felt may leave me vulnerable to some of the feelings I encountered in a previous workplace. I still felt the employee shame of being accused of being weak due to mental illness. So I went against my natural instinct to tackle unkindness and unfairness directly, and this lead to my feeling weak and cowardly.
The potholes; the disappointments, which were as raw as newly scraped knees to me, were contributing to my health decline, and I simply stuck a band aid on and kept going……going until he scraped knees were becoming deep painful cuts, and I could no longer move; physically or mentally.
Blaming, whether it be people; situations or myself for my health decline is not useful now. I have choice and I choose to remove ‘toxic’ relationships and ‘fake’ friendships. Accepting that the types of individuals who are capable of working in the ‘caring profession’ but still be susceptible to narcissism and bad practice is something I now understand. My feelings around these people and situations has changed upon reflection and I feel nothing when I imagine them, except maybe a sense of sadness that some relationships will remain broken.
I haven’t then, gone back to system restore point where my sense of justice, fairness and my desire to increase awareness around the inequalities encountered by people with a diagnosis of mental ill health has been diluted. Instead I’m repairing and rebooting my system from a ‘now’ point. A place where I understand some of my own motivations and weaknesses and can only surely move on in a more sturdy vehicle……..
Dawni 24 Jan 2011
Before my previous post managed to get lost in translation on it’s journey through Egyptian WiFi technologies, I was sharing some thoughts about how this experience has affected me.
I know my anxiety levels have decreased massively, and that In itself is something I am pleased to be reprieved of.
As this aircraft soared over the Valley Of The Kings it’s ascent can I say in all honesty that I have left depression behind me? I’m not sure how to answer. I can share what I have gained from this experience, and those gains in themselves are monumental.
Prior to my arrival I had began to close down and I was despondent. I was hardly leaving the house. I was giving up, feeling weary and worn out by this illness which has reared it’s mighty head since my teens and, I was beginning to think that enough is enough, time to check out-concede defeat to this mighty monster.
Now? My feelings are much different. In doing what came so very unnaturally to me I infact found the strength to tackle my feelings head on. I have come away from this experience unscathed, and enriched. I feel I have regained my independence, claimed myself back from the clutches of the all encompassing gloom which was my world. The black has faded to grey and I feel strong enough to work on making my colours even brighter.
In retrospect I am glad that I had little time to ‘think’ about what I was doing, it was a huge thing; to leave my security and head off, albeit to somewhere I usually feel rested.
Was it worth it? definitely
What I have I gained? I’ve ‘ regained ‘ my self worth.
Doing what comes unnaturally doesn’t have to be as dramatic as what I have done, but it can be the change which alters a path. I’ve plotted a new course and it’ll soon be time to set sail.
17 Jan 2011 somewhere in the skies (literally).
Seems my ‘leaving depression’ post got broken in
translation, and only half has found it’s way online… Shall
repair it later
I’d planned to write this on the aircraft later today however it seemed to feel more appropriate to at least begin this final blog from Egypt, in the spot from where I have written most of my postings.
It’s not a wonderfully exciting of locations, I could fib and tell you I was sat overlooking Nile river, the sun gently warming my shoulders, the birds singing, but it would be an out and out lie – except for the bird bit, since I can indeed hear the birds, from this desk.
I’ve asked The Divine Sisterhood; “Do I look different from when I arrived”. They said that they thought I seemed “lighter”. Obviously I’d like to think they meant three stones in weight lighter, but they said I seemed more peaceful.
Fran said that my eyes seem brighter, and I seem more relaxed.
On this desk and directly in front of me I could, should I choose to accept such an alarming mission, gaze at my reflection in the mirror. That I way could try to gauge for myself, but I know enough to know my face doesn’t always reflect my wellbeing, and staring at my own reflection for too long makes me except the voices of long dead relations reminding me that such vain practice is a ‘sin’.
There are differences in how I feel, and my question to myself is: “Am I leaving depression behind?”
My anxiety, that heart pounding kind, which I describe to people who don’t get it, as the banging in your chest you get when you watch a horror movie and the monster leaps out unexpectedly, but which doesn’t go away for me when I am anxious, not for hour and hours sometimes. That has decreased, it is now only the occasional ‘horror movie’ kind of heart pounding, and it goes quickly.
(This post was broken during upload, and continues under the title ‘Final Words’)
Sitting here in my room with less than three days before I am back in the land of hurry, hurry, spend and worry, makes me feel wistful.
I can’t romanticise this country, it’s too complex for such a throw away description. It’s a country of extremes. When I was a little girl I wanted to become a writer, I read and wrote continually thinking one day I’d be famous. However it’s been quite been a challenge to my rusty ‘typemanship’ this past couple of weeks to briefly encapsulate my experiences of depression, convalescence and Egypt.
Taking today as an example is perfect. Luxor and The Mighty Nile River are hosting a rowing competition, and the ‘Corniche’ (the road alongside the Nile on the East) was filled with teams from many countries displaying their flags and oars proudly. There was music and the air was filled with excitement, and the street with Policemen. I was walking to catch the local ferry, which is the service the locals use to get from either side of the Nile. It’s costs a ‘foreigner’ 1LE, which is probably about 12p to use, and it is always an interesting experience. Friday is a holiday here, and the streets were filled with the locals, all in their finery, enjoying the sunshine and the rowing, and generally just enjoying each other’s company.
Boarding the ferry and finding my seat I was happy to watch as the ferry filled with women who had been shopping, families, people off to work and the occasional ‘foreigner’ playing the ‘London Tube Game’ (that strange and exhausting British game of avoiding eye contact at all costs). Egyptian’s don’t play that game at all, indeed there is no game, it’s a full on stare for all, and when you encounter it the first time it is somewhat unnerving. Thankfully it isn’t my first time, and I’m beyond unnerved, but my British reserve doesn’t allow me to return ‘stare’ … I merely glance and smile.
A local lady sat in front of me today. After a few minutes she opened what tuned out to be her lunch bag, and she offered to share her sandwiches with me. Being on my way to lunch I had to refuse. She spoke no English, and my Arabic is limited to a few sentences which usually include: “I’ve no money”; “sorry, not today”; and other brush off phrases. How then was I to tell this Lady I was grateful for her offer, such a lovely gesture? Fumbling in my handbag I found a pen and paper and drew a picture of the sun, smiling (like we did in Primary School) and gave to her. She handed it to a man in front, and he asked what it meant, and I said to tell the Lady I thought she was as kind as the warm sun for offering to share food with me. He spoke to her, and as the ferry docked she gave me a gift of incense from her shopping bags.
I did have to smile as I walked to meet my friends. I imagined my many train journeys in the UK, and wondered what would happen if I was to offer to share my banana with the passenger in front of me, the person usually trying desperately to avoid looking at anyone else…….
Today I have been to the ‘Mansion Of A Million Of Years'; the palace of Ramesses lll, which is now known as Medinet Habu. (You can google for info, and I have pictures I will add at a later date.) This quiet, often overlooked temple, was so peaceful. The backdrop, the mighty Valley Of The Kings and Queens, means you are constantly reminded of the passage of time. I think whilst walking around, knowing my days here are drawing to a close I became aware of the lesson of this country. Cliches aside, life is so fleeting, can be so cruel, and can be filled with such joy. I leave nothing at Medinet Habu, except a faint set footprints which will be erased as soon as the sands shift. I am walking where millions before me, and after will walk, knowing nothing of who has gone before them. I wonder when these Pharaohs built these colourful buildings filled with their glory whether they truly believed in real extent of there immortality.
After a magical afternoon, which included a leisurely lunch with Fran, Barry and Jennie, at The Carter House, again overlooking those magical mountains. I returned on the busy ferry to the East Bank of the river.
I jumped into a ‘tax’ (taxi) which was involved in a minor accident just as we pulled off. The driver, who was the ‘injured party’ merely pulled up alongside the ‘offending’ vehicle, and yelled a few sentences, which included some arm flailing, and drove off, delivered me to my hotel, and said with a beaming smile “It’s OK, only small damage”!
I love this country, but I miss my family.
Adel! What is it?
What do you see?
Your eyes filled with the sadness
Of my mystery.
How did you find her?
The child you say is me.
The girl peering fearfully
From behind a dark tree.
Who would have thought I would be following in the somewhat large footprints of Martin Clunes? Certainly not me! But apparently so since I was visiting where he had been a mere few days before. ACE (Animal Care in Egypt) is a UK charity I have been are of as long as I have been visiting Luxor. However, since we normally arrive in August, time of only ‘mad dogs and Englishpeople’ the prospect of visiting an animal hospital in fifty degrees of celsius is much less appealing. Today I got my opportunity since Barry and Fran (my adopted Aunt and Uncle) were going to be there.
It was not without misgivings that I went along. I am a person who is not comfortable with human or animal suffering, and for whom emotions are running slightly out of sync at the moment, and I did question whether I really wanted to spend the night lying in bed sobbing, after all I was the child who cried when horses killed by arrows in cowboy films, and then there was the movie where an entire tribe of Indians and their stallions were lured to their death from a cliff fall, and then there’s Lassie….I’m sure you are getting the picture. It could have been a hurdles or high jump moment – that decision to go!
However, hot on the heels of ‘Hello’ magazine, Martin Clunes et al I found myself facing the animals at ACE, the charity whose motto is: ‘Give a man a fish, feed him for a day….Maintain his donkey, he can feed his family for years.” And there was indeed terrific sadness. There’s a horse in paddock who was burned to the bone by a stable fire, there are open sores, and bites, infections, and breaks. Indeed for many an animal ACE will be the place where it finally closes it’s eyes forever, and it’s working life will end. (Dawn’s eyes are playing MISTY right now)
However the dedicated individuals who work here daily and tirelessly have created a something remarkable. Not only is ACE a refuge for the sick and maimed, it is a centre of excellence in education. These fields and buildings are not the centre of death but the beginning of hope for the working animals of Egypt. Slowly and painstakingly they are teaching the owners of these animals that if they look after them, care for them and see them as living creatures, not only will they live longer, they will cost less in the long term. In a country where poverty is rife this is a pretty slick hook!
Mr Clunes is wise to become the patron of hope for this Chartity caring for domestic working animals and if you find yourself in Luxor I would encourage you to visit. You can check them out at http://www.ace-egypt-org.uk.
(and the badly burned horse? Healing nicely and grazing well thanks to the hard work and devotion of the staff – photo’s will follow).
Egypt it seems is a land where it is not ‘one day at a time’ more ‘one experience at a time’, and these past two days have been filled.
Yesterday Hazel took me to see Adel, who is the local herbalist and healer. Tomorrow I must bathe in a mysterious blend of leaves which have been kept overnight under the stars, and eat dates, which have been soaking in a bowl etched with passages from the Quran. (I’ll keep you posted.)
After ACE today I visited a French restaurant out past the Colossi of Menmon, called ‘The Three Jackalls, where I watched the sugar cane train hurtle by, and the orange sunset whilst drinking a cold glass of Stella (Egyptian Stella, not to be confused with the British Stella Act-A-T*at)!
After all of this I was then to become victim to one of Luxor’s oldest Tourist scams! Barry and Fran dropped me off to catch a motorboat to my hotel. Barry had negotiated a price, the same price I’d paid only days before. As soon as I was out of earshot of the jetty, the driver of this boat tried to double the price. Here again was a high jump moment, I could give in and be in my room within 10 minutes…. or…..
And it was ‘or’ which won, as I demanded to be returned to where I’d just left. Barry was waiting and said something which I am sure was unpleasant in Arabic to this driver.
I ended up catching a cheap ride to the other side of the river, meeting a friend who chatted to me, and walking the 1/2 or so back, by which time my ‘hacked off’ energy had moved on.
This is the second time I have written this, since the computer is playing at being an ‘a*se’ too….but I persevered. I hope to hang onto this attitude…..
Monday 9 Jan 2011
Coming in out of the cold for these precious days here, didn’t mean leaving those behind to freeze, which is how yesterday’s drama’s unfolded,when a frantic message about defunct central heating and who to contact was sent my way.
Seemingly I am the keeper of information, the storer of numbers, and sorter of house things. I hadn’t intended to be these things, but it would appear I have over years morphed into this gatherer and storer of normally quite useless information, of which sharing would have proved useful to others in order to counteract situation ‘malarky’.
And there was indeed a ‘situation’. A freezing family, and a travelling information bank-difficult to contact, and whom a family is reluctant to cause any further ‘anxiety’ to. Getting the message meant that I had to act swiftly to inform property agent, arrange plumbers and access to the house, from here, from serious ancient mobile phone I keep for travel, which seemingly has a mind of it’s own and tries to confuse me with predictive texting functions I’m certain I’ve not selected.
Having set things in motion I began to relax, not without a certain degree of guilt I took Paul O’Grady to the poolside to read, and enjoy the warmth of the sun. I took a long bath, and then wandered to enjoy a very chilly sunset with Hazel.
England it would appear, had suddenly become more complicated that Egypt. The boiler wasn’t going to be mended instantly, it needs mysterious ‘parts’, which meant that I could not relax into the smug comfort of thinking I’d ensured all was well at home. I shared these feelings with Hazel, her response was very clear. “Think of it another way, could you have coped with the stress of it all if you were there?”
As a lay waiting for sleep last night I thought of her words. I knew that loved ones at home were not entirely comfortable, but had found ways to heat, and the shower is electric. I knew it wasn’t ideal, but they would manage. I found the place in my mind where the UK is hiding away, and I could see my thoughts and feelings swirling around. They’re humming their tune on the long wash, gently going around and around and around….but the cycle ain’t finished yet, and I’m not ready to open the door.
Dawni 8th Jan 2011
I was never any good at hurdles at school. Each summer they remerge from the hut and be lined up for my displeasure. Apparently there is a technique to hurdles. It involves some kind of forward action with one leg and doing something else with the other. By the time my number, and sequence blind brain had absorbed the instruction (which I felt was on a par to the ‘hop skip jump’ malarky of the long jump, which in my case was usually ‘hop, skip, flop’.) the first hurdle would be upon me, and I would simply freeze. By then, because it had taken me so long to go for it, I’d usually seen other racer’s more unfortunate encounters with the metal thing, which left them sprawled and tangled in the contraption. It all seemed remarkably dangerous and silly to me, hurdles were not my thing.
I was however pretty slick when it came to the high jump. A run up, jump and scissor like action with the legs and over, and onto the safe, soft, plush, sinking, huge blue mattress they placed on the other side. Yes, the high jump was most certainly a much more sensible sport.
These memories of school sports have retuned today as I have considered this time away. I’ve not travelled alone for this length of time, there have always been others, and these ‘others’ I now know do so much.
This afternoon I was deciding whether I should go for the hurdles or the high jump. I needed some shopping, and to get to Hazel’s house for dinner. Running the gauntlet of getting to your destination here can be quite an event. getting past the line of calesh men, boat men, and various calls of “tax?” (taxi) can jade even some of the most seasoned of traveller. As for shopping – that’s a whole different ball game! I knew too that for around 13p I could take the high jump, a taxi in this case. I’d be taken to the shops, he’d wait and deliver me and my bags safely to Hazel’s front door.
Whilst watching the sun set I pondered ‘hurdles or high jump, hurdles or high jump’? Eventually I set off and went shopping for my various items including:-
– Man In Shop: (smiles).Hello, how are you? How can I help you?
– Dawni: (makes motion of removing nail polish) Do you have remover?
– Man In Shop: Colour? Yes many Madame ( motions to cabinet behind him).
– Dawni: (thinks quickly) La, la colour (la=no), ‘erm, take off colour?
– Man In Shop: (beaming grin) Ahhh, anti colour!!
Within the hour I made my way to home cooked beef casserole with Hazel and Sayeed, complete with purchases, including my ‘anti-colour’, and with the realisation that ‘hurdles’ were not always the scary metal monsters of my past, and going for the high jump wasn’t always my best option.
Yesterday the sun kissed my face,
It reached down from the skies,
And lightly brushed my cheeks,
Fuelled them with it’s heavenly warmth,
And eased my furrowed brow,
Returning then to it’s rightful space
The curious case of Doctor Who is a hefty tale to tell, he lives far out on West Bank here, his view of the sweeping treasure filled mountains astounds everyone. He’s built himself a home of happiness where life breathes in mud painted mud walls. George calls himself ‘the crazy white Egyptian,’ and maybe he thinks that’s true. Having met this man before though I know there’s great depth, humanity and compassion hiding behind his flippancy and smile.
His tardis, in the land of traditional farm buildings, where his Neighbour keeps her pregnant buffalo in the ‘lounge’ at night, is quite an astounding feat. He boasts a cinema, a traditional clay pot pigeon loft, a well, and brightly painted loo! He has introduced ducks into the stream which runs along the street, which has caused quite a stir, not even ducks in Luxor know that water is their rightful home.
His Guardian is earless Bear Cat, who greets you will a weirdly human “hello”, and. The local children shout to him they love him, and I’m quite certain they probably do. He is light and smiles and provider of treats for one and all.
His life is a breath of fresh air, a fridge of chilled wine, a desire to live today, and to his motto? Quite possibly “Que Sera”.
A busy day yesterday, the Tardis and Dr Who, Fran and Barry’s house (they early retired here too). I gently being looked after, invited here and there.
A day at a time, one day at a time.
I banish thee Oh Screaming dream,
Rearing Your ugly head,
Terrorising My slumber time,
And tearing me from my bed!
You will not sabotage
My need for rest,
Invading my peaceful sleep-
Tiresome cuckoo in my nest!
My heart may pound
When you arrive with your lament,
And yes, I may feel fearful
Yet my patience with you is spent.
Begone! There’s no place for you
It’s time for you to go,
My choice is to ignore you,
May you drown in your own woe.
And now onto that balloon! I watched this morning as a captain landed his mighty air balloon and his passengers disembarked. Then began the deflation of the balloon. It’s such a simple process, it lies on it’s side and dies, the life giving air, quickly expelled until all that remains can be folded neatly and put away for another day.
I’d watched that ballon alive and gliding only minutes before, it was buoyant and filled with energy.
It didn’t seem sad to see this great air creature devoid of the means to fly, but it did feel like a loss, the same sense of helplessness I’ve felt as my living energy has slowly left me over these past weeks, and my ability to soar has been stolen – for now.
The balloon has the promise of tomorrow’s new passengers, and I have the hope of renewal. We are not then, too dissimilar.
Yesterday I may not have got the omelette, but I did get to laugh, and unfettered laughter devoid of thought, and fully spontaneous. Hazel and I, (Hazel lives here, and owns a sailing boat), were awaiting the return of her ‘tourists’ who were enjoying their romantic sunset cruise, and we laughed, not at the romantic cruising tourists – that would be mean, but just the laughter of catching up, talking and hearing her stories of life here.
We also laughed at the duty free shop malarky. ‘Malarky’ is a favourite word of mine, and I love it’s ability to encompass so many situations, the duty free shop being one of those. You see, there’s allegedly a limit to the amount of items one can purchase from the duty free shop, a legal limit. With this in mind I’d asked Hazel whether she needed anything and off we went. “How much can I get?” I asked the manager and his 3 staff in the then empty shop. “How much do you want?” was his smiling response.
Suddenly, and from where I will never know, appeared lots of men, all purchasing 200 cigarettes, on my passport. Then the cab driver asked if he could buy some, and give me the money, “Sure I don’t smoke’, said I.
After this incredible ‘malarky’ the mysterious men disappeared into the ether, I left with my meagre purchase, Hazel with hers, and then cab driver gave his bounty to the Policeman on the roadside. A Policeman who laughed and laughed and thanked and thanked. Absolutely bizarre and very funny, especially since the manager of the shop said as I was leaving “You know you should come 48 hours after arrival?” And I said “Yes, I only got here yesterday?” To which he responded “No we did special favour for you.” Visa stamp reading is apparently not their strong point, or the understanding of ‘favours’ of which I’d apparently unwittingly granted many in that 1/2 hour.
5th January (Weds) 2011
‘Something Got Me Started’, that one line from a Simply Red
track was running through my mind most of the mostly sleepless
I suppose it’s apt; something indeed must have got me started on this lonely trip down the street of gloom, but trying to untangle triggers and reasons behind why depression chooses to land in that room in of my mind reserved for times gone is another thing I can’t quite work out, not just yet.
Lying in bed this morning knowing the sun was shining outside was a reason to pull myself out of bed and draw back the drapes, and such a simple act, something we do daily was a beginning. As I watched hot air balloons peacefully floating in the skies and boats meandering their way along the river, the thought of deciding to plot my own course to
recovery began to form a shape in my mind.
And so it started, with the simple act of breaking the fast. Going to breakfast however presented another issue – leaving the room, and eating alone. Many of you who know me will be thinking “what is she chatting? She is always in some hotel alone”, and it’s true, and I usually breakfast alone, but today was different, and scary, and I knew that if I
didn’t do it, not only would I possibly never do it, but I’d alsobe pretty darn hungry eventually. So began the preparation, the creation of Dawn. Face on, smile fixed. Remembering to breathe seemed to be something I’d suddenly realised I had to do too.
I found myself a nice quiet table at the back of the breakfast room where I could observe at a safe distance. I was hyper aware of being on my own, and desperately trying to look comfortable. I almost wished someone would wander over and place a plate of foodin front of me taking away the need to approach the looming breakfast buffet. There was a queue for the omelettes, I really fancied an omelette. It was the first time since Bryce’s soda bread
that I’d really had a urge to eat something because it was making my mouth water, rather than because I should eat. I wandered around the buffet, picked out some bread, found some hibiscus juice, some honey, and edged my way to the omelette queue. It was a very
ordinary and orderly queue, there was nothing untoward going on, noone was pushing in, or tutting and sighing about waiting for their eggs of choice, people were even talking to each other and smiling!
However for me the omelette queue suddenly seemed just a line too far, at least for this the first day at breakfast alone. Lost for a while I found myself thinking everyone knew I was intimidated by the omelette queue so I made a big thing of looking closely at the
melons, pomegranates and yogurts. Looking however, meant I located eggs, hard boiled hot eggs. “OK,” I thought to myself, “This egg was not the egg I planned to have today, but it is an egg, warm, fresh and mine.” Thus today I didn’t manage the omelette queue, but I got the egg, and I broke the fast, and began the challenges of moving forward…..
Dawni 4th Jan 2011
Weepy and worried on an aircraft is quite possibly quitter disturbing, not for me you understand, I’ve been weepy, worried and more for a couple of months now, albeit not on an airplane, but I imagine it could be unnerving for my fellow passengers nervously wondering whether my boots have been thoroughly inspected for dodgy substances. Their concern about their red eyed travel companion compounded by the fact the captain held the aircraft for 45 mins due to an “unidentified sound” coming from somewhere mysterious on the plane, which turned out to be a faulty fan in the loo!
‘Convalescing’ – I’ve been pondering this term since my family agreed that it was something which may help me recovery from what has been crushing depression and crippling anxiety. Yesterday I heard that a dear friend’s wife is suffering from pleurisy – a nasty illness from which she will need time to convalesce, and rightly so, but I felt aware, acutely aware, that there was a difference about the way I was viewing my own opportunity to go away somewhere to recover. Guilt has reared it’s mighty head, what sort of mother am I that I need to leave my loving and giving family and go away somewhere alone to get well? Why do I deserve this ‘special treatment? Why would they give me such a selfless gift? After all haven’t I quite possibly made their lives much more difficult over these past weeks? Surely my illness and it’s burden on all of them means I can’t be deserving of the luxury of ‘convalescence’?
I’m curious whether these thoughts are born of the illness itself, is it self-stigma, or is it from somewhere much deeper than that? Does this feeling of being part of the ‘great undeserving of compassion’ come from a societal view that people with mental illness, especially bouts of severe depression, should “damn well pull themselves together and get on with their lives?”. I can no sooner answer my own queries any more then I can show this depression the door just yet, but I think it’s certainly a set of questions I will look at again at the end of this extremely unusual and generously given gift of respite.
So, I end this first blog post on an aircraft, above the clouds, journeying into the warmth of friends, but also into the unknown because I’m doing what comes very unnaturally, I’m facing depression head on, and not just for my sake, ( although that is my primary selfish concern), but because I need to able to say, to the family who are sacrificing for this, that I really gave it my best shot because I want to return to being all that I usually am to them, and possibly more.
This will continue…….
2 Jan 2011
My illness is invisible, You can’t see it,
But I spy it, lurking, and waiting,
It’s in dark corners, hidden in old memories,
And it watches, it is patient, it is rich,
Full of stolen bounty, fat from the treasures it seeks.
My illness is silent, You don’t hear it,
But it deafens me with it’s hollow laughter,
It taunts, it chides, reminds, and sniggers,
It knows not of rest but of chatter and noise,
Of jibes, of screams, and it hisses it’s warnings.
My illness is painful, but You’ll never feel it,
But I taste the blood it steals from me,
I’m powerless as it stabs, as it bites, and
Leaves me, wounded, broken, damaged,
And returns to it’s lair, silently awaiting.
My illness it’s real, but will you ever believe it?
It’s name is known, but quietly uttered,
In walls of shame, and hushed tones.
And it knows your fear, as it wanders through our worlds
Cutting through us one by one, mercilessly.
© Copyright 11/12/10
How Deafening must I be,
Before You can hear me?
How Colourful must I be,
Before You will see me?
How Dead must I be,
Before You will, Know Me?
Having returned from four weeks in الأقصر al-Uqṣur, or as we in the West would refer to it as Luxor in southern upper Egypt, a part of the world reknowned for it’s antiqities, tombs and ancient Egyptian history, I found myself curiously disorientated. This is the second time I have spent most of my summer there, and the fifth time I have visited and each time I go, I find it harder to return to the UK.
My curiosity regarding this state of disorientation has made me question why I would prefer to wander the streets of a town where poverty is barely disguised? Where children miss out on education because they have to work, where people work day and night hoping to make enough money from the tourists who fill the streets to buy bread and vegetables for their family each day.
How could I possibly prefer to walk through streets where people stopped to pass the time of day and where people toiling in temperatures of almost fifty degrees celsius managed to raise a smile, to wave or to offer tea?
Shouldn’t I be more than slightly irritated by the erratic water and electicity service? Why do I miss the constant calls of “How Many Camels?”, “Calesh”, “Taxi”, “Felucca”? How did I manage to survive without a smartphone, a regular internet connection, daily emails, TV, news, and general western chatter?
Did I miss the weight of living in the UK, with it’s ‘now, now, now’ and ‘want, want, want’ mentality? Did I mourn a country where top notch possessions are seemingly often more important than family and friendship? Did I panic at the loss of the sense of permanent expectation of becoming unwell, or life falling apart? I hardly noticed any of these thigs were missing until I returned.
Egypt is not utopia by any means, similarly to many countries in the Middle East and Africa, it’s infastructure is fragile, it’s people politically repressed, and it struggles to overcome poverty, high infant mortality, illness and a poor education system seemingly unending. However what I have observed about it’s people is a genuine sense of family values. Generations of the same family struggling, working and living together. I’ve recognised from my visits the difficulties these families face in merely having enough food each day, and have no time or inclination to desire the latest HD TV.
There is an age old debate on the subject of how the more developed world relies on so much complexity in order to attain balance and happiness, and I can’t possibly say whether the people in the West are indeed happier than those in the less developed world, but I can confidently assert that the sense of community and caring is indeed about simple contact with the people who live near by, and not reliant upon greatly organised events, and a vast amount of ‘stuff’.
This experience has made me more curious about the system for pschiatric care in Egypt and how Mental Illness is perceived culturally. This I know little about, but sense that things may be particularly distrurbing, even though psychiatric medication is avaible over the counter in pharmacies and relatively inexepensive.
Apparently in Ancient Egypt there are descriptions of ‘disordered states of the heart and mind’, similar to what would later be termed ‘melancholy’ and ‘hysteria’. Some of the treatments offered included hallucinogens in rituals, applying bodily fluids whilst reciting spells and even offering respite in religious temples.
Now as a try to wind myself back up into the reality of the UK in the 21st cenury, I will mourn the peace and respite which I was fortunate to experience in Egypt this year, and I hope that the life I lived, and the people I observed there have affected the way in which I carry out my daily life here.
However I sense I may well return in time, and I will be saying “Egypt إشتقت إليك كثيرا