Can you spare 9mins of your time? If so – get yourself comfortable and step into my world.

A throbbing ache pulses around the front of my body. It’s presence an uncomfortable cocoon. I struggle to breath deeply. I am sad. I get annoyed that I’m sad. This makes me more sad. I hear a song – it makes me smile. The music fades, making way for more sadness. My nose loudly exhales – sad heavy sighs. I feel tearful. I don’t want to write. I want to numb. I reach for the music again…..

For the two weeks prior to this one I’ve been in a slump feeling low. I scratched out slump but chose to keep it visible so I can see how I had sugar coated my feelings. Perhaps to save me from standing on the weakness platform or having well meaning automatic words of sympathy given to me, which feels like added weights – sinking me lower. 

I was low but not so low that it was noticeable. It wasn’t etched on my face or recognised in my speech. I was still able to function. I said the well known proverb ‘This too shall pass’. It always has done for me – so why was I still angry with myself?

I had not long been back from Africa. A trip, I exclaimed was ‘life changing‘. Yet here I was mere weeks later, unable to write, to dream, to focus, to believe. Feeling shit about my life. Which in turn made me feel even worse because I am more fortunate than so many and of course it was a polar opposite to my recent declaration!

I had to keep telling myself that it’s okay to feel down and low and shit and fucking sad despite what else is going on in the world. Life is not a comparison and just because someone may have it worse – there is still space for you to be with your feelings.

I have cried copious amounts of tears at the loss of so many loved ones. That doesn’t mean that I can’t cry when I miss the bus, I don’t get a text back from someone I like or I’m having a shitty day – just because! The tears are mine, the strength and severity may be different but they all deserve to be observed and wiped away with understanding.

At the back end of last week I had started to feel lighter. The heaviness that left me feeling suffocated had started to release it’s grip. I knew that when I opened my laptop today that I would have to write about this. My next instalment about Kenya would have to wait – as anxious as that also made me feel.

I am a keen story teller. Which is great when I choose to use it when I’m writing – which isn’t as much as I hope to. I tell stories to try and make sense and validate what is happening – it’s a wrong turn that at the time I believe makes me feel better.

Although I have no evidence of this, I’m feeling sad because:

  • I’ve got the holiday blues
  • work – I can’t. I just can’t
  • Mercury is in retrograde
  • Brexit
  • I’m hormonal
  • I don’t know what to do with my life
  • racism appears to be rising

and on and on. The list of stories multiply, circulating faster in my mind – jostling for space, growing in strength, basking in their negative corruption of me. I give merit to them which in turn gives power to my sadness.

All of the above (perhaps not Mercury in retrograde – I need to look into that one more) hold some truth but these situations have been present when true joy is taking ownership of my life – my face, my body, my actions. Which means these stories can’t be the sole reason why I felt so low.

“Why do we have to always look for an excuse? Something or someone to blame?” 

As I’m sitting writing my blog, I realise that ‘this too shall pass’ wasn’t the case for me this time – I helped it on. Yeah I’m going to give myself some praise for that. Let me paint you a timeline of when I started to feel better:

  • Thurs 14th March – started a 6 day Facebook challenge. Find out it’s about mindfulness. I groan but go ahead with it anyway. I love a challenge and find that 9 times out of 10 I will stick with it. 
  • Friday 15th March – attended a free talk, put on by meditation and personal development centre ‘Inner Space‘, called ‘Grow Your Mind‘. The 90min talk had me engrossed throughout. It felt like although I was the one doing the listening that I had actually been the one who was been listened to. Continued on with the mindfulness challenge.
  • Saturday 16th March (morning) – attended a breathworks class at Re:Mind meditation studio in Victoria. Breathwork is something that I had heard so many positive things about but had never tried for myself. It was as weird as it was exhilarating. It was as powerful as it was beautiful. My body felt so many new sensations and although I knew at times I didn’t fully let go and trust my body – it felt like I floated back home. Once again I continued on with the mindfulness challenge.
  • Saturday 16th March (night) – I picked up a book, ‘Love me don’t leave me’ which I had previously started but soon discarded due to the length of the exercises. This time I based my entire evening on the book and truly focused on the exercises, which also included mindfulness. 
  • Sunday 17th March – after the mindfulness challenge and doing some more exercises from the book, I took myself to Pilates and fully embraced it. I noticed how instead of worrying that I would get realigned by the teacher or comparing myself to the other students I focused on myself and my breath. I told a friend later that day that I had been in a slump but had just started to feel better.
  • Monday 18th March – a mindful walk to the tube station (due to the Facebook challenge) had me feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude at my surroundings. I wrote to the group: 
    • “I walked to the tube with my phone in my pocket, audio off. It was beautiful – hearing the birds chirping, I saw a Robin (yay – welcome back Spring), saw the grass swaying side to side, heard the breath of the joggers and the clicking of the cycles that passed me. Ducks, builders, planes, pigeons, cars and trains all fought for my attention and I was aware of them all. A great start to the morning” 
  • Tuesday 19th March – I finished the 6 day mindfulness challenge. I had noted that in such a short space of time that not only had I become more present in what I was doing, I was actually enjoying it. That evening I went to a yoga class, I tend to prefer Pilates but I bloody loved it.
  • Today (Wednesday 20th March) – I had some annual leave to take so took the day off – which was a treat in itself as I never take the day off – just because! I lounged in bed before starting to write this blog post. I then took myself back to Re:Mind for a ‘crystal bowls’ meditation session and then treated myself to lunch at a café. I also attended an evening yoga class at 8pm – finally starting to appreciate yoga. 

Reading back over the activities I’ve done over the past week it looks really intense but it has felt completely the opposite. Rather than running away from my problems or trying to numb how I feel about them – all the above exercises were about slowing down. Allowing my mind to stop and to become open minded to different ways. I had given myself the time and space to feel the emotions without judgement or attaching it to a story. 

I know I will continue to create stories, I’m human and that’s one of the many destructive things we humans do. In Brené Brown’s recent book ‘Dare to Lead’ – which I highly recommend (I’ve just finished the audio book and am going to buy the physical book – it is that good) she says:

“If you own this story, you get to write the ending”

So instead of throwing the blame of how I am feeling to something or somebody else – which I can’t control I need to own it myself. I don’t always need to know the reason why – sometimes searching for why keeps me stuck in the past. I’ve not got time for that.

I feel 100% ‘myself’ again with an added bonus layer. I’m listening to music not to drown out the pain but because I want to dance and singalong. When I laugh it isn’t followed by a sinking feeling. When I breath I don’t worry its going to spark a panic attack. I’m feeling hopeful and playful once more.

Thank you for reading (and to any of my close friends reading this – please do not feel bad that I didn’t speak to you or that you hadn’t noticed. I meant for it to be that way. I still bloody love you so much). 

Love Emma x

p.s. I understand that sometimes and for some people it doesn’t pass. I know this because some of those tears I mentioned, were for friends that it unfortunately didn’t pass for.  I’m not here to say that any of the activities I undertook over the past week would have helped them move away from where they felt no other way out.

What I will say is if you’re reading this and don’t feel like you can open up to someone close to you, do look at some alternatives (books, counselling, mindfulness, your GP). I am personally one of those that don’t like to speak to people I know (see above). I much prefer to find my own way – although one of the muscles I want to strengthen is that of asking for help.