For the last couple of months, I have felt lost. A sense of trying to find something amongst the chaos of uncertainty. My mind has been buffeted by possibilities yet I end up chasing threads that lead nowhere. Paralysis by analysis. I have struggled to write. Creativity has been pushed aside by anxiety. There are many factors in my life at the moment that are out of my control. Situations that I want to conclude but seem to continue to torment. Today, amongst this chaos I felt a fleeting moment of peace. For the first time in those chaotic months, I felt at rest.
It is a mixture of factors that led to this feeling. For the past few months, I have been using the skills I have learned to keep me going; meditation, exercise, communication and introspection. But eventually, the toolbox was empty. I had to return to the doctor and ask for help. I was reticent to take medication again after working so hard to get myself off them but I felt I had no choice. The physical symptoms were greater this time than last. Muscle aches, shaking, upset stomach and headaches were all present. I felt like I was doing things despite myself. Exercising took twice the energy it had done previously. I knew the direction I was heading if I didn’t do something. A return to fluoxetine was what was recommended. It helped last time. Hopefully, it would work this time. The first couple of weeks were pretty rough. An increase in suicide adulation but no desire to commit the act. An upset stomach. Stomach pain. It wasn’t unbearable but was enough to make me question whether it was worth it. But after two weeks, the side effects began to lessen. The intrusive thinking became less frequent. There were fleeting feelings of peace. It was a nice feeling.
The clarity it gave allowed me to take some time to reflect. To genuinely introspect without the unwelcome presence of intrusive thoughts. This morning, I took a slow walk along the seafront. The calm was like a vacuum. The silence was almost deafening after months of being barraged with thoughts. It took some adjusting.
I ordered a coffee and found a bench. I sat and looked out to sea. Embracing the quiet I began to wonder where it had gone wrong. Were had the anxiety crept back in? How had it consumed my thinking again? I was reminded of the power of now. I remembered that future outcomes are not yet decided. That there is only the moment I am in. That from the lessons of my past I can deal with eventualities as, and when, they arise. Ruminating on them solves nothing. It just causes pain. Remembering to bring back to the moment can get lost in the chaos of rumination. The nonstop possibilities crush hope and consume the freedom of thought. The fluoxetine has given me the space to put the tools back into operation. I sipped my coffee and let warm spring sun combined with the chilly spring wind, bring me back to the present. This moment is all there is. Enjoy it. Embrace it. The smiling faces of the people passing reminded me that there is hope. That amongst the chaos there are the simple things that bring joy. Those simple things exist in the here and now.
The feeling of being lost was a reflection of the chaotic thinking. I was trying to solve overthinking by thinking. The nonstop questioning is debilitating. I had to remember to bring it back to the moment. To pull my attention from the future and place it directly in front of me. It was the first time a genuine smile had crossed my face for a while. Amongst the anxiety there is peace. It has taken medication to give me the space to implement the practices I’ve learned but by doing so I have managed to fashion out a slither of contentment.
I stood up and walked back along the seafront. The spring sun felt warmer. The colours looked vibrant. There was a sense of optimism amongst the uncertainty. It was a feeling that no matter what happens there are options. That the pressure I feel is more perception than reality. The seafront felt calm even bristling with families. It’s surprising how much difference a short walk and a couple of minutes of introspection can make. Just a change of scenery and a moment of peace can draw me from the rumination. I can quite easily get drawn into laying in bed, watching endless TV shows, all the while wondering why I feel down. The rumination leads to guilt which only serves to fuel the self-loathing. A short walk breaks that cycle. It is a great reminder of how little I need to feel better. A half-hour walk on a sunny spring morning can do wonders for my well being. I’m lucky to be in a place that offers relative peace. It’s not so easy to find whilst in the city. A queue of aeroplanes and the hum of traffic discombobulate my senses. Magnified by the peace available in the lockdown the slow return to “normality” reminds me that the chaos is no longer welcome. The chaos of the city, once appealing, now only serves to amplify my anxiety. I once used the chaos to escape, now I want to escape the chaos.
There were fleeting moments, during the lockdown, last year where I felt a genuine connection to the world around me. The quiet reminded me that behind the bustle there is reality. Nature offered the peace I had long been seeking and had often found whilst travelling quieter places. That connection I felt is consumed by the sounds of life. The first time I noticed it was after walking the Inca trail. A few days of being free from technology and in the moment meant that I returned to London in a state of bliss. The feeling slowly slipped away. The peace evaporated into the screeching of tube train wheels on tracks. I sought to return to that feeling but have realised that I am looking in the wrong place. The question that rears its head is which is more important? The city life or my mental health? It’s an easy answer. Peace is preferable.
Passing the bustling beer gardens would once upon a time brought a pang of envy for a life I no longer lived. The years of sobriety have changed my perception of the “fun” of drinking; one isn’t enough but neither is enough. But when consumed in patterns of thinking that are destructive, I can imagine everyone is having a great time and I am the only one wallowing in self pity. In those moments, sobriety can seem like a punishment. When really it was the thing that enabled a life of exploration both inner and outer.
As I return home after my short walk, I realise that for the first time in a few months I feel at peace. No matter how fleeting this feeling is, it is a reminder that by doing the things that keep me well and reaching out when needed, it is possible to get some clarity.
Image – A Chaotic Mind by ReginaldJean