It’s finally time.
Burnout, breakdowns, a year of crying and therapy. Three fourths of my family is in therapy right now. My husband is in the process of (possibly) getting an autism diagnosis. My daughter is learning to cope with stress – and with mentally ill parents. And, last but not least, the person who holds this whole thing together: my humble self. I’m in the process of accepting myself as a valid human being (the jury’s still out on that).
That’s no small feat. I’m not going to go into the details now, but feeling like an alien has been my norm. I haven’t had a “normal” childhood or a “normal” youth (what is that, anyway?), I haven’t had “normal” relationships with friends and family (again, what’s normal in that case?), I haven’t had a “normal” career path, and I haven’t had a “normal” – or sane – relationship with myself.
One year minus two weeks ago, I started taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, an antidepressant whose purpose was (in my case) to treat chronic stress. It worked like a charm. I was able to go to therapy and solve the problems that had been plaguing me for twenty years – or a lifetime, depending on how you look at it. I was never at peace, after all. Nine-year-old me wasn’t at peace. Even four-year-old me was starting to feel something was off.
This year, thirty-nine-year-old me has a chance to be at peace. Therapy, drugs, the help of a loving family and wonderful friends and encouraging readers, and things are slowly getting where they should be. I can’t break free of the idea that I’ve just lost so much, but there’s nothing to it now but to make the best out of the second half of my life. At least I won’t have a mid-life crisis – one of the consequences of doing things “the wrong way round.”
This time, I’m taking things one at a time. Okay, I’m not an independent adult, and I’ve never been. I can’t solve that right now. I still have a phobia or two. I can’t solve that either. But I’ve solved so much, so I can focus on one thing at a time. And that thing is now: be off the meds without suffering from debilitating anxiety. This means I’m going to take some weeks “off” – i.e. I’m going to treat myself as well as I can while doing the basics to take care of my family. I’m going to do my best not to feel guilty that Urban is working and has to do laundry and other housework. I’m going to sit and colour with my favourite felt-tip markers because this is something that soothes me. I’m going to read fiction and non-fiction. I’m going to give myself all the time in the world. I’m going to do yoga and learn a language while training myself not to feel guilty when I’m not progressing with my hobbies as much as I’d like to. I’m going to write, maybe. I’m going to market my book, but only when I feel like it. I’m going to make stress dissolve but tackling that overwhelming guilt that has been accompanying whatever I do or not do for as far as I can remember.
Some months ago, I halved the SSRI dose. Then I halved that. When I took the last quarter-pill, last Sunday, I was only taking that every second day. A single subtle sign of anxiety has returned during the past week or so – the persistent tinnitus in my left ear – but this time I’m determined to be as calm as possible. Let’s hope I can make this work.
“If Jane Austen wrote erotica, this is how she would have written.”
John and Stella have lived, loved, and been hurt. But now they’ve found each other: a middle-aged couple who know what they want, they start exploring kink after decades of self-repression. But their relationship is tried by strong external forces – and by John’s tendency to always, always have his way.
And if I can’t, I have my doctors and my therapist, and science happily has given me a way to deal with all this.