The happy moments are lasting longer. They still feel temporal, but they’re no longer momentary. They can last for weeks at a time, and I can even begin to feel the bubbling of new aspirations, of new creation, of ideas that might go somewhere. But still, it’s difficult to trust this positivity. If I jump too forcefully from this fleeting joy I know I’ll crash down harder.
I have, in my head, the image of a trampoline. The springs are coming away from the frame and as I stand in the centre, the equipment creaks. It holds me, but barely. Above me, just out of reach, hang all the things I want to do; all the projects and ideas. But if I jump, the trampoline will break and when I come down it will be with broken bones and I won’t be able to get up to those ideas again. So I kneel down and I fix it. But it takes me a long time, and I have to stay close to the ground where it’s wet, and dank, and my knees start to ache. I can feel my energy draining away as I deal with the monotony of this dreary task, and it feels like such a waste of time – so futile! – when what I really want to do is jump.
When you feel broken, you can’t do anything except fix yourself. You can’t jump on fractured bones; you have to mend your limbs first. I’ve spent eleven months fixing myself now. It has been a necessity, but it has also been terribly unhealthy. It has been little more than survival. Like taking antibiotics. They wear you out, and they contain so many chemicals that are bad for your body, but you have to take them because they fix the one thing you can’t fix yourself. But afterwards you’re exhausted, wrung out, and you don’t have the energy to do the things that make you healthy, like going for walks, or being outside in the sun, or running around with your family.
For me, of course, this is all on an emotional and psychological level. I am extremely grateful to be able to say that physically I’m well (especially as this is far from the case with many of the people around me). I am lucky in that I can go for walks, and I do get the sunshine, and I spend time playing with my younger siblings. I am fortunate.
But the above is still true; after two extremely difficult years, and an abusive relationship I felt wrung out and exhausted, and more than anything, I was – for a long time – unable to initiate my own feelings of happiness. Any joy a felt originated from external sources: a friend would make me laugh, or I would listen to a really good song, or someone would whisper something sweet to me; but when I was alone, my default emotion was sadness. I felt like my endorphin system had been completely used up keeping me functioning when I was going through the worst of it. As I say, this is getting better: the happy moments are lasting longer, and as they go on – the trampoline almost fixed, as it were – I am able to jump a little. I can start new projects, and make decisions, and be creative and thoughtful. Well, at least, I can in theory.
The problem is, after eleven months of feeling extremely delicate; eleven months of kneeling on the ground, fixing that fucking trampoline it’s very hard to remember when and how I ever trusted it to support my weight. And for me, this may in fact be the biggest hurdle. Cutting an abusive lover out of my life was nothing when compared with the tremendous amount of energy and courage it takes to believe that I won’t crash again.
This is where my antibiotics analogy comes in: I am surviving, but I’m not completely healthy yet. Not in the way that I – as a creative person – need to be. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to properly reach for those things that not only allow my ideas to come to fruition, but actually nourish me. Eating well, and cutting down on smoking, and getting exercise, they are wonderful, and they help me to survive and to build my energy; but none of them even come close to the happiness and pure nourishment I feel when I’ve written something beautiful, or when I am in the middle of a fierce and passionate debate.
But even then, it’s not that simple. Because no matter how delicate I may feel, no matter how much time I need to sort myself out, the world is not going to pause and be delicate with me while I do it. I can’t ask everyone around me to be quiet while I scream. Whilst in the process of fixing me, I am still surrounded by the people in my life, and they are still overcoming and sharing their demons. Of course, there will never be a time when that’s not true, because that is the price you pay for sharing your life with others.
And so, it is the hardest thing, to climb out of the rut. Because being in the rut saps my energy and prohibits me from climbing out; it is not a place from which I am able to do the things that give me strength; the things that nourish me. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to come back. And it’s frustrating because it feels like a waste of time; I’ve had to relearn the importance of looking after myself because previously I was so sorted; I didn’t have to worry about me because I was fine, and thus able to do the things that reached further than my own arm’s length.
So I’m writing a manifesto of sorts: when I have secured the springs of my trampoline, and my life has a base that is nailed to the ground – for the foreseeable future at least – and I can finally stop thinking about and tiptoeing around my-poor-little-self, I will not squander my time or my energy. I have things to learn, projects to work on, and I am sick of being my own barrier to productivity.
I refuse to spend the next sixty years of my life introverted and fixing me. There are more important things to be done. And I can’t deal with the guilt I feel at using the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ so many times in one post. Christ.