What I Want Now Vs. What’s Best For Me

It’s been a long and busy week, full of stress and pressure. Not all of it external, some of it was self-inflicted. But here’s the thing. Most of it was at a healthy and reasonable level. When I think back to the stress, anxiety, and the pressure I felt to perform at all of my previous jobs, I notice the difference to how I’m experiencing these feelings now. I’m doing work I enjoy, and I’m my own boss. This makes such a huge difference.

I’ve also learned a surprising thing this week. I’m much more passionate about web and graphic design than I am about photography. I’m also so much more confident in myself in this field. There have been a couple of times where I surprised myself this week in doing something in record time, pulling off “the impossible”, or having just figured something out on my own. When that happened, I felt a gentle sense of pride in myself, and gave myself a pat on the back. With my photography I hardly ever felt proud of myself, just like a failure.

There were a couple of moments while working on my design projects where I felt so overwhelmed and just wanted to scream and bury my head under some pillows. But, instead of panicking, I got up, stepped away from what I was doing, took some deep breaths, and started speaking out loud to myself. Telling myself that I’m in control. The work doesn’t control me. The clients (or my dad) don’t control me. I am in control, and I don’t have to give my power away. These conversations with myself really helped a lot. I feel good about what I accomplished this week. Sure, I wish I didn’t get tired and overwhelmed so easily, but I do, and I need to accept that and be kind to myself. I need to know and respect my limits. Know when I need to push myself just a little bit more, and when to step back and take a break. I’m trying to learn how to balance things.

Since waking up this morning I’ve felt low on energy and depressed. There were a few things I wanted to get done on one of the websites I’m building, and starting feeling some pressure to do it. So I decided that I’m not going to work on anything today. I’m taking a break. I’m photographing a newborn tomorrow, and those sessions can last up to three hours, so I want to give myself some time off. I’ve worked hard and long hours this week, and I deserve a break.

All I want to do right now is stay in my room. I don’t want to do anything. Usually when I’m feeling low on energy I enjoy just reading, writing, and maybe watching a movie or episodes of a series I like. But with this depression, I don’t even feel like doing that.

Elizabeth and I have plans tonight. We’re meeting up with one of her friends who’s visiting South Africa from Europe, and one of his other friends. I’m not in the mood. Like I said, I just want to stay home. I know I can tell Elizabeth that I’m not coming, and stay at home instead, but I also know that would not be the best thing for me. If it were just tiredness, and I wanted some time to myself to “re-set” or refresh, I might have cancelled. But I know myself. If I stay here, the depression will just grow, I’ll get bored, and go down a very slippery slope. I just have to look at past experiences to see how good it had been for me to go out when I had felt this way, versus how I had felt when I had stayed at home in this current state I find myself in.

What I want right now, isn’t what’s best for me. Staying here won’t serve any good purpose. Sometimes we have to do what we don’t feel like doing, if we know it’s the best thing for us in the medium to long-term, and for our well-being. So I’m going out.

It might be just what I need.

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On Making Decisions

I had a great therapy session on Thursday, and we uncovered one of the main causes of my low mood and overwhelmed state.

We’re currently working through another topic in therapy, but I’m glad we didn’t continue with that one this time, as Thursday’s one was more urgent. It started with my therapist asking me how I’m really doing, telling me that she had read my blog posts, and to tell her about them.

I had taken that Thursday off from work, and dedicated that day to self-care. There were moments of guilt, where I felt I should be working. But I managed to challenge that guilt, and replace it with validation that I deserve this time to myself.

I’ve been overwhelmed and moody lately, as a result of stretching myself too thin. I have so many balls up in the air, and I’d be kidding myself if I thought I could keep it up.

Sometime during the session I was hit with a realization. It was something my therapist said, and the questions she was asking that brought this up. It turns out that my wedding photography business isn’t something I want to continue in. It’s the cause of most of my stress and overwhelm. Yes, I’ve been busy with so many things, but those things aren’t having as big an impact on my state of mind as this business has.

We explored this in more detail. How do I feel when I think of continuing with this business? Overwhelm. Panic. How do I feel when I think of pulling out? Relief. But there’s also some fear involved. The biggest one being talking to my business partner about this. Telling her how I feel. That I don’t think this business is working out, at least not for me. That I don’t want to invest myself in it anymore. My therapist then asked me another question when I mentioned being too afraid to have this discussion with my partner. It was the same question she had asked me last year when I wanted to get out of my long-term relationship, but was too afraid to. It’s a powerful one. It goes something like this: Would you rather deal with the consequences that happen as a result of the decision to leave now, and move on from it, or stay in it for another 30-40 years and continue being miserable? The answer seems pretty straightforward right? Well, that’s because it is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy.

It’s going to be hard to let go of this business. I invested so much time and energy (and money) into it already. And like I’ve mentioned before, it feels as though I’m responsible for the majority of the work. I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t want to. It’s not just this though. I don’t want to work with brides and everyone else who will be involved. I don’t want to have to deal with all the paperwork involved. I don’t want to deal with products that are included (or purchased separately) from the wedding packages. I love photography, but not weddings. It’s a lot of work. I don’t think many people realize just how much work goes into photographing weddings, and getting the images and products ready for the clients. I’ve shot two weddings already. After the first one, I told myself “never again”, but what did I do? I did another one, and once again said “never again”. So what the hell was I thinking opening a wedding photography business? I don’t even like weddings. Even when attending as a guest.

The thing about decisions is that just when you think you’ve made the best decision, other things come up that you hadn’t even thought about when making your original decision. And then the questioning starts: “Have I really thought this through enough?” “But what if…?” New fears may emerge as well, as they did in my case: “What if we close the business down just when we were about to make a breakthrough?”. I asked myself this question, and a big part of me feels like the money won’t be worth all the stress. But then another part of me questions that: “Are you sure it won’t be?” I went from absolute certainty that this is the right thing to do, to doubting my decision.

Writing all this, I’ve decided that I’m still going to stick to my decision about giving it up. Why? Because of that initial feeling. That first moment where I realized that I don’t want to do it anymore. The feeling of absolute relief. The kind of relief that brings tears to your eyes. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

And those moments when the fear is silent, I feel FREE.

Moving Forward

Things feel different lately. I seem to have settled into myself and life as it currently is. Of course, that doesn’t mean that life is perfect and that I’m where I want to be. I’ve just made peace with where I currently find myself.

There’s a difference between accepting where we are, with no intention of improving ourselves (and life), and continuing to grow and make the changes we’d like.

For so long, I’ve been fighting to just survive. That was my daily goal. To make it through the day. But that’s changed. I’m no longer solely focused on survival. I’m no longer stuck with my default External Locus of Control.

While I’m happier than I’ve ever been, I also feel a little unsettled by this sometimes. Why? Quite simply, I’m not used to this level of acceptance and mood stability.

I could quite easily credit this stability to my new medication, but I’m not going to. A few weeks before stopping my previous mood stabilizer (I was on it for about 11 months), I had been in a really good place emotionally, like where I find myself now again. I went through a bit of a mental health breakdown while transitioning off those meds, and I’ve realized that maybe I’m not meant (or just not ready) to be without medication. And that’s okay.

I’ve been working extremely hard on myself these past 19 months, and it’s paying off. I believe that even if I wasn’t on medication, I’d still have made progress. The meds just makes it that much easier to work on my healing and self development.

I’m proud of myself for how far I’ve come. And I’m going to continue this forward momentum. Sometimes it might only be a forward leaning, other times the smallest baby step, and still others, giant leaps. Even if I take a step back sometimes, I’ll find it that much easier to take yet another step forward afterward.

I’m a work in progress. As are we all.

Withdrawal

I’m not doing as well as I had been over the past few weeks.

I’ve started the process of tapering down my mood stabilizer, Lamotrigine. The side effects started to outweigh the benefits (one of the side effects was especially worrying)… Which I’m not happy about, because it worked so well as a mood stabilizer. I was on 150mg, which was the therapeutic dose for me. When I went down to 100mg, I was still okay. I stayed on that dosage for about 3 weeks, and then went down to 50mg early last week. That’s when things started going downhill. I started getting headaches. My mood started crashing and suicidal ideation made a few small appearances. I felt drained, and still do, and have been struggling with a lack of focus and concentration. My co-ordination had also been a bit off for two days… I’m naturally a clumsy person, but this was off the charts. This symptom is gone now thankfully. The headaches are also getting a bit less.

I’m hoping that the next move, coming off it completely, will be like going from the 150 to 100mg… No withdrawal symptoms. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be this drug, so I secretly hoped that the side effects wouldn’t go away. But they have, in a large part, with only a few mild one’s still existing, but in a lesser capacity. So it definitely was the Lamotrigine. I can’t imagine how much worse I would have felt if I had gone cold turkey. It was only on Saturday evening that I made the connection to how I have been feeling, and the possibility of it being withdrawal from my meds. When the thought entered my mind, I did some reading from multiple sources, and saw that everything I’ve been experiencing could be related to withdrawal. Since I had no symptoms when I first started tapering my dosage, I didn’t think I would get any as I continued down. I can’t wait for this to just be over.

Just because I’m feeling this way now, doesn’t mean I’m going to go back to how I was before I started a mood stabilizer. I have more skills and tools now, and a better support system. So I’ll give it a few months, making sure that this medication is out of my system for a while, so I can more accurately judge what I think might need to be done. Whether I’m okay without a MS, or whether to try another one. I hope I don’t… Don’t want to go through all that trial and error bullshit. And I could also do with the money I’ll save. My finances are also having a big effect on how I’m feeling.

Elizabeth stayed over on Sunday, and went back home yesterday (Monday’s are her Sunday’s). I had to go into work yesterday morning, so she stayed at my place and did some studying. We’re both drained. She had a very stressful and busy week, so she also didn’t have much energy. So our “over excited” mental state whenever we’re together wasn’t completely present. But we loved this state of being together as well. It doesn’t always have to be this intense “alive” thing every time. It won’t be. So it’s good to see this side of one another as well. The quiet, tired, and low side. We had a movie night, which is our first time watching a movie together. I love having a TV in my room (which I hardly ever use anyway as I mostly watch Netflix on my computer when I want to watch something).

It was soothing having her around when I wasn’t feeling emotionally strong. I didn’t need anything from her. She didn’t need to do anything. Just being in her presence was enough.

Elizabeth had invited me for drinks with a couple of her friends last night, but completely understood that I’m not up for it. When she first invited me, I was already feeling a little low, so I told her that I’ll think about it and see how I feel. I didn’t end up going, so she went alone. I don’t think alcohol is a good idea for me for a while. I also haven’t met these two friends of hers yet, and I didn’t want to have to fake anything, especially since first impressions are so powerful. I just wasn’t up for it. And that’s okay. I just needed to be alone last night and deal with this storm going on in my head.

I feel a little bit better today, even though I’m still super stressed about my finances and my business that doesn’t seem to be taking off. Adulting is hard.

Grateful

I’m sitting on the balcony of my lovely lady’s place, surveying the beauty around me. In front of me I see the landmark mountain in all it’s glory.

Elizabeth is still asleep. I’m tired, as we haven’t had much sleep over the past three days. But for some reason I had this desire to make myself a cup of coffee and come sit outside for a while. Will climb back into bed with her when I’m done with this post. The strangest thing for me is that I usually struggle to sleep with someone so close to me. But with her I sleep deeply, even when she’s holding me or I’m holding her. It’s just so comfortable and perfect. We just fit in so many ways.

I’m going back to my place later today. We went to an event on Thursday, which ended really late, and went to her best friend’s birthday party on Friday evening, which is why we decided it would be better if I stayed over. I took the day off work on Friday. My work was done by Thursday late morning anyway.

She met one of my friends on Thursday, who came with us. My friend was only going to stay for an hour, as she had to work the next day, but she ended up staying with us the entire time. She loved Elizabeth, and vice versa. We all had a blast. We “collected” people as we walked from art gallery to art gallery, and went bar hopping (we didn’t over-do the drinking). We were walking through the city with plastic glasses of wine (the one evening that it’s legal to walk around in public with alcohol) and it was raining. Elizabeth had an umbrella, but the wind here makes the umbrella irrelevant. So we spent most of the time with wet hair and clothes.

I had a great time at her best friend’s party as well. Her friend’s are just as crazy as mine. The same kind of people who allow their inner children to come out and play, and just be silly. I love it!

I feel so at home at her place. More so than my own. It’s comfortable.

On Friday and Saturday when Elizabeth was working (she works from home), I caught up on some reading and writing. I also took the opportunity to take walks through the city, getting lost plenty of times and having to use Google Maps and ask strangers for directions. I love that! Just being free without having a fixed destination. I found a lovely little coffee shop that I’ll go to every time I go for a walk when I’m here. They have the most amazing cappuccino’s and croissant’s. I haven’t walked this much in years! I feel so good!

I’m going home later today, and will probably only see Elizabeth for a few hours on Wednesday.

I’m so grateful for my life, and never thought I’d ever feel as happy as I have been feeling. I’m living in one of the most amazing places in the world, and I have the most beautiful, amazing girlfriend. I feel so content.

Start Of A New (Business) Journey

This has been an incredibly long week. I feel like it should be the Friday two weeks from today. Wednesday was a public holiday here, and while I love these days, it also messes with my head. Yesterday felt like a Monday. Long week, holiday… Confusion. I haven’t been sleeping well at all, so that just adds to the length of my days.

Group started up again on Tuesday, which I’m so happy about. The weeks without it just aren’t the same. As one of the other ladies said, the group is like a safety blanket. I couldn’t agree more. Before the start of this weeks group I had a final session with the OT I’ve been seeing. Even though it ended well, and the time was right to end our regular sessions, I still feel a little lost.

Since then, I’ve been in that clingy, young place again with regards to my therapist. I just want her all the time. I only get to see her on Thursday again. It’s so long. There’s only one other person who I’ll feel comfortable being close to (and connect to), while in this head space. She doesn’t know though, and I don’t plan on telling her. Sometimes it’s better to just keep quiet, and avoid shooting yourself in the foot.

As those of you who regularly read my posts know, I’ve started a wedding photography business with another photographer. We received our business cards on Monday, and I finally completed the website on Tuesday morning. We couldn’t afford to get someone to design the cards and website, so I did it myself, even though that meant it took me a lot longer than if a professional had done it. But now it’s done and we’re officially “open for business”.

I enjoy our business meetings. We get together once a week. We spend more time laughing and messing around than actually getting things done. We always manage to do everything we had planned for that day’s meeting though. But instead of it taking us an hour, it takes us over two, and sometimes even three hours. But it’s worth it. I was disappointed that she didn’t wear her flashing shoes at our meeting yesterday. Apparently they were on charge.

The one part I don’t enjoy is the marketing. But at least I’m not doing it alone, which makes it seem more manageable. There’s a reason people study this stuff. Oh well, we’ll get there. It might take time, but the day we get our first wedding booking we’re going to go crazy!

And then I might just buy myself a pair of those flashing shoes.

Safe Travels – Part Two

You can read part one here.

The Sunday of that week, I was due to leave my mom’s place and drive almost two hours away, to the small town that I lived in with my ex-girlfriend (or fiance if you want to get technical) for almost 4 years. This place holds a lot of meaning for me. It was where I met my therapist. Little did I know that this therapist would help me find the courage to leave that toxic relationship that I should have ended three years earlier. But it would also mean that I’d have to leave her too. When she offered Skype sessions, I wanted to jump up and hug her (I was already attached by then). It was a really good call on her part. Thank you, therapist.

Sunday morning the four of us (me, my mom, her boyfriend, and my youngest sister) had planned to go for a quick morning outing before I left. When we got outside, my mom’s boyfriend’s car was gone! Stolen. My heart broke for him. He loved that car. He has such a good, kind heart, and goes above and beyond for people, and then shit like this happens. I was so pissed off! The car was ancient and falling apart, but he loved that car. I took him to the police station to give a statement, and when we got back, I thought of maybe just staying there again that evening, even though my B&B in my previous home town had already been booked and paid for. But my mom told me that there’s nothing I can do, so I should rather keep to my schedule. I knew she was right, but I was still hesitant to leave. The good news? A few hours after I got back to my mom’s place the next Tuesday, my uncle bought my mom’s boyfriend a new second-hand car! And this one was in great shape. He’s now made a plan to park this car in a safe and monitored place. It’s going to cost him every month, but it’s a small price to pay for security and piece of mind.

The drive to the town I was going to stay in for the next two nights went by so quickly. It’s usually such a boring drive of almost two hours, and seems to go on forever. But not this time. Even driving back to my mom’s place seemed to be over insanely quick, even though I was driving extra carefully (what with it being a rental car and all). Weird. Driving into the town felt like a kind of “coming home”. It was so nice seeing all those familiar places. The reason I went back there was to go pick up a box of my things that I had forgotten to take when my ex and I broke up. I also wanted to see my therapist in person again. A week before, I had asked my ex whether we could meet at a coffee shop and she could just bring the stuff, but she asked me to come to the house instead. I can’t remember the reason. I went straight to her house. I didn’t want to, because I knew I’d have to see the dogs. I didn’t want to see them ever again because I thought it would only break my heart. I didn’t know how I would feel seeing her again though.

When I got there, the dogs went crazy. They were barking and crying and jumping all over me. For the remainder of my stay, the baby sat on my lap, and the older one lay down against my leg on the couch. My ex hugged me when I got there, but I felt numb… The way I felt the whole time I was there. It was strange being there again. Everything looked different, yet the same. I don’t even know how that makes sense. The wall and frames that housed all our photo’s was still there. But all my pictures had been replaced. I was dissociating, but it’s exactly what I needed.

My ex made me coffee and we spoke a bit about life. A little while into the conversation, she asked whether I would be open to meeting her new girlfriend. I didn’t know how to answer that at first. But then she told me that she’s in the bedroom (I had no idea someone was even there), and wanted to meet me. So I agreed. The three of us spoke for a while. The two of them were very affectionate with one another during our conversation. I just remember thinking, “this is weird”. But I still wasn’t feeling any emotion. It’s as if all the feelings I logically knew were there, were lost in a deep, dark void. I told them that I need to check in at the B&B, so I’d better get going. They both hugged me goodbye, and my ex said “I thought this would be awkward, but it was actually pretty good”. Good to know.

The B&B was lovely. It was so peaceful there. My favourite part was the fountain, which was so soothing and relaxing. I can’t remember much from Sunday evening. All those feelings that I had shut down? They erupted the very next morning. The jealousy, the anger, the sadness. It just hurt. I was emotional the whole of Monday. I think the lack of sleep had also finally caught up to me. I had a session with my therapist later that afternoon, which was the highlight of my entire trip. But I’ll write more about that next time, as it deserves a post of its own, and ties in nicely with a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now.

On Monday evening I was in a very dark space. I didn’t want to be alive. But I wasn’t suicidal either. I think this place of being is worse than when I’m in the idealization or even the active “planning and preparing” suicidal state. Having a plan and preparing to act on it, brings a sense of peace, even with the intense pain, because you know it will all be over soon. But this weird in-between place is extremely frustrating. The kind of frustration that makes you want to peel your skin off, and scream. But as most of you know, I can’t scream out loud. That in itself is frustrating. I had been feeling suicidal that morning, and even during some of therapy, but it went away after that.

On Tuesday I overslept. So it was a mad rush to get ready and pack up in order to check out in time. That didn’t happen. I only managed to check out about 30 minutes after. Thankfully, the owner was very nice about it. I got myself a cup of coffee for the long drive ahead, and drove back to my mom’s place. I spent the night there, and this time my youngest sister wasn’t with us, so I slept a little better. I had to get up early in order to not miss my morning flight. The next morning, my mom’s boyfriend and I went to go get my car, which was parked a few streets away (the secure place). Since he didn’t have that new car yet at that point, we had to walk. Walking in that city at 06:30 in the morning is not wise. He wanted to go alone, but I didn’t want him to drive the rental car, so I went with him. We took our “weapons” with, and left all valuables at home. It was freezing, but I was warm by the time we got there. That was a fun little walk. I actually really enjoyed it. I felt so sad saying goodbye to my mom. I wish I could have taken her with me.

I had a few misadventures dropping the rental car off, and in the airport itself, but survived. Things that kept going wrong, and silly things I did (or didn’t do). I don’t know where my mind was that day. It up and left. The flight was really good again. Now I’m back home.

Up until Sunday morning, I had felt stuck in between two worlds. Like I wasn’t really here. But I wasn’t back there either. It’s a very confusing space to be in. It’s as if I needed to adapt to being back. But I don’t understand why that would be the case, because even when flying back from Sweden and Mauritius, I hadn’t had that experience. Maybe it has to do with having seen my ex again. Because since that Monday I’ve been dealing with a lot of feelings regarding her and the life we shared. Memories. Seeing her happy with someone else. Seeing how happy she is without me. I’m glad that she’s happy, I really am. But there’s also an element of pain inside.

It’s been so hard. And it still is. It feels like she’s haunting me. On Sunday afternoon I got a text from her, asking whether I was okay because it looked like I had lost a lot of weight since she last saw me (even my mom, aunt and sisters said the same thing- I hate it). I wanted to reply and say “so what, it’s not your concern anymore”, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to hurt her. She also apologized for “throwing *me* in with Girlfriend” and “but I know you still care, because you sucked it up. Thank you for being you”. I didn’t know what to say. She was being nice, and she apologized. So I forgave her for that little incident and thought it would be over now. So I just replied and told her that I’m glad she’s happy and has found love again. I wanted to close the book again with that final message. But then she just flung that door wide open. Telling me that she really believes this girl is “the one” (which she said about me as well), and that she hadn’t thought she could feel so much more for someone than she did for me. That “God” told her that this was the right girl. And for once in her life she felt sure about someone. My thoughts: “Well, did he also tell you not to throw things like that in your ex’s face?” There were smiley faces all over the messages. I had already been struggling after having seen her that Sunday, so these messages shattered me.

I’m feeling even worse than I did when I finally left the relationship early last year. I also keep seeing the last moment I saw her on that day. Our sad, last weekend together where we both knew what was coming, but tried to enjoy the remaining days together. She had broken up with me so many times in the last two years of our relationship, but the next day, she’d be all loving and sweet again, as if nothing had happened. It always confused me. Are we broken up? What’s happening? So I knew that if I didn’t end this relationship, we’d keep going around in circles.

I feel so abandoned by her. But I shouldn’t right? I’m the one who left her! But that’s the way I’m feeling, even if it doesn’t make logical sense. Maybe, without being consciously aware of it, I had held onto the sense of security that maybe I could go back if I wanted to. But seeing her again, so happy and content, ended that. She doesn’t need me anymore. All those times she was in pain and I held her. Those times where she was sick, and I looked after her. Now she has someone else to do that for her. To be there for her. That house that I’m so familiar with, now has someone else filling it with her presence. The dogs, one of them mine (but I didn’t want to split them up- and I couldn’t bring him with me anyway). “Someone else is sleeping in the bed that used to be mine. Doing everything that I used to do in my house”. Even though it was never mine. I had no idea I would feel this way. I go through so many different emotions. Back and forth.

I haven’t wanted to talk to anyone about this. About how I’m feeling. I feel this is something I need to deal with on my own. Like I always used to do. The difference this time is that I’m being gentle and compassionate with myself. A good blogger friend of mine recently wrote a beautiful post on empathy and validation. I really connected with it. Extending empathy and validation to ourselves. It’s easy to give that to others, but when it comes to myself, I treat myself really badly. So I’m trying to change that.

I keep reminding myself that it won’t hurt forever. That it’s going to fade again. But for now, I just need to deal with it as best I can, and be kind to myself.

My therapist asked me on Monday whether there was any unfinished business with my ex and I said no. But now? I don’t know what this is.