Thursday, May 12, 2016

Reinventing Cally

So much, too much. My mind keeps churning and I just can't seem to still it for long enough to grasp hold of the thoughts sufficiently to make sense of them. I read or see or hear something, sometimes big, sometimes small, and just as I think my ideas are quietly seated, the music starts up, the ideas leap up and run wildly around the room, haphazardly chasing each other, pushing in, wandering off, then the music stops and there's not enough chairs for them all, but those without a place to sit don't give up. They just cast themselves on the floor in the centre of the circle and throw tantrums.

My first memory of depression is the serious bout, complete with suicidal thoughts, that I landed in just before I turned 17. It followed a year of questioning beliefs I had grown up with, and the realisation that the god I had been taught about was as much a fairy tale or cautionary tale as Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and the characters in Struwwelpeter. Despite the obvious lesson to be learned - thinking too much makes you miserable - I continued to examine and question things, both about the world and about myself.

As a child of parents of their time, and a mother with (looking back) some serious issues, I was brought up being told I should have tried harder, could have done better, never told I'd done well. I was told I was wrong about my feelings, sent outside for being too happy, sent to my room till I cheered up when sad, and smacked and sent to my room when angry. Even into adulthood, my mother criticised my clothes, my choice of university degree, my choice of husband, my parenting choices - even the way I folded my son's nappies. My parents both died in 1988 when my children were young, before my last son was even born, but my mother's voice has always stayed in my head, criticising, constantly asking, 'what will people think?' And that same voice has battled with my other voice, that angry little girl voice that has never quite been silenced, that voice that says, 'I am hot! I do want to take my jersey off!' and 'I want to wear what's comfortable and fun for me! I don't care what people will think!' The trouble is, that mother voice has won most of the battles. Only when I was fighting for what I thought was best for my children did I stick to my guns - I breastfed my babies even though, 'You won't be able to do that - I couldn't,' and 'homeschooling is a terrible idea, you'll never cope and you don't know enough.'

And now I've reached an age where I can put in my application for NZ Superannuation next month, and there are so many things I haven't done, that I wanted to because 'what would people think?'

A friend said not long ago that she never felt she fit in, but now she has a home in a different country, she feels better about it because she isn't expected to fit in.  I loved our recent holiday in Golden Bay, and felt very tempted to just throw in my life here and go live in Collingwood or Takaka, where no one knows me, and therefore no one has expectations of me. But I do have family and friends up here and I don't want to be in a place where I wouldn't get to see them more than once every few years - at my age, 'a few years' could mean 'never again.'

The diagnosis of diabetes has shocked me through and through. In all the years of depression when I thought of suicide, I never once thought of suicide by diabetes - the possibility of a slow, debilitating condition which increases my risk of strokes with consequent physical and mental disabilities, might blind me or turn my extremities gangrenous, gradually losing fingers, toes, limbs, this possibility just didn't occur as a suicide method of choice! So I've been thinking, yet again.

I don't need to flee to Ireland or Golden Bay - I can re-invent myself right here. It probably won't be very noticeable to most people, other than I hope that as I lose more weight (in an attempt to stave off the effects of diabetes) I will replace my too-big clothes with ones that are not only smaller, but also more expressive of my inner self. I'm going to let go of a few people who are not supportive. There's a couple who never ask about me, just talk of their own problems, joys, interests - they can go. There's another who always comments on my appearance, managing to make even a compliment insulting by sounding very surprised, and one who discourages me with alternative suggestions, implying I'm not up to whatever I have planned. Enough.

Diabetes means I need to reinvent myself in terms of food and exercise and alcohol. It's hard. Two of those I love, one I hate - and they are around the wrong way! Eating is now hard work, just to make it palatable - a diabetic, wheat-free vegetarian is severely restricted, especially when eating away from home. But when I'm tempted, I close my eyes and imagine life blind. When I need to get out walking, especially on a day like today when rain means walking is on the treadmill, I imagine life in a wheelchair post amputation. Re-inventing myself isn't as simple as just new clothes and different friends, it's learning to find ways of eating and exercising that are enjoyable, and learning to live without the numbing effects and highs of whisky.

Re-inventing myself is also learning to do art like a toddler, as before that time when my desire to do it, and to dance and sing and make music was crushed by a mother who couldn't admit to poverty so told me I was too clumsy and tone deaf, so lessons were a waste of time and money. On top of those childhood messages, I built another layer of excuses - that if my writing isn't good enough to get published, my art / craft isn't good enough to sell and so on, then I shouldn't waste time doing them at all. Re-inventing myself is going to be about doing things I love anyway - and if it really isn't good enough for me, try again.

Finally, re-inventing myself means recognising that I have as much right to my time and energy as anyone else. Not only am I going to say 'no' more often, and to more people, I am also going to work really, really hard to stop feeling guilty for doing so, and for not doing more for other people.

I have been thinking about this, writing this, editing, re-writing, churning for weeks now. Enough. I have become uncomfortably aware that my life is finite, and that I am closer to the end of it than I am to the beginning. Enough. It's time to get on with my life, the life that I gave over to 'what other people think' so long ago, I can't remember a time when it wasn't the standard to judge my life by. Enough. I'm claiming my life for myself, and I'm not going to apologise for doing so.


Rebecca Clack said...

As you started to share your changes, I was thinking it was an "reinvention" - and then I saw this Post! Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Reminds us all that struggling is part of the journey, but the entire thing. I like your visualization exercises as kind reminders of what you have and not what you don't have.
Keep us the battle.
Stay strong.
Get stronger.

Cally said...

Thank you, Rebecca. xx

Jackie said...

Hugs! Re-inventing is also an opportunity - a new page - a chance to be a new you. I constantly re-invent and re-imagine who and what I am. Taking a year sabbatical from my studies, I'm re-visiting an old me and at the same time I'm trying to re-invent a new me. I'm at a cross roads, and both the crafty me (the old re-invented me) and the travel blogger (the new me) allow me to explore other options for a while. Who knows maybe I will go back to study-me and geology-me. But by assessing me and who I am and shaping my identity, is what works for me to keep my depression more or less at bay. I mould and fit myself to something else than a depressed me. Take care and stay strong! And whoever is the new you, will be a great you!

Cally said...

Thank you for your wise and empathetic words - it's damn hard work, this re-inventing, Isn't it? But it has to be better than staying with old ways that no longer work - if they ever did. xx