Dealing with the Darkest Days

I was living in a dingy room in a bedsit in a soulless housing block full of people I didn’t know, in a part of London I didn’t know, when I hit a low point of loneliness, hopelessness and darkness. I was about to be evicted for not paying rent having recently lost my job after not turning up for work twice in a row.  I suddenly realised I had no close friends anymore and I couldn’t ring my parents as we had had a major row and they would be so shocked and panicky they would be of no help and anyway the phone box had been cut off for days and I had no money.  I wrote in tiny scribbly writing on a bit of paper 

 I am all alone and if I died now, no one would know and no one would care.    

My bed was strewn with grubby clothes that had got tangled up, I had been living on cuppa soup and crisps, I’d shaved my head above my ears and from my neckline but it looked a mess and I wished I’d kept it long. I was spending all day in bed. I looked and felt rough and very ugly, when I did go out I was throwing on a massive coat over leggings and hiding under a scarf.  It was winter-time, dark, cold, windy, freezing.  The day felt like night and I just wanted to curl up and sleep.   I doodled on scraps of paper, writing silly little messages to my ex boyfriend and imaginary people, and dipped in and out of books.  I hated my ex-boyfriend for the lies he had told me, but hated myself more.  I would drink alcohol to help get to sleep.

That was one dark time, I remember it mostly because I wrote the notes and kept them. I don’t know how, or when but that time passed and things got better.

Now when I look back at that time, I see it like a black and white photo or a painting.  Was it even real? Well I know it was because I kept the scribbles.

It is hard to imagine that we didn’t have mobile phones or the internet then.  So the piece of paper I had written on contained a mind map. I had put ‘Me’ Why don’t people like me? Answer: Because I say things that they are not thinking and sound weird and not part of the conversation. ‘Try not to say what you are thinking’ my loyal school mate had told me at 16. But what else?Maybe because I am ugly? Answer: well that’s subjective, everyone is beautiful in their own way and I know tons of people who are ugly, mean, bitchy yet popular so it’s not that.   Because I have Hobbies that they don’t have?  I listed all my hobbies?  And all my non-hobbies.  Because they are extroverts and I am predominantly introvert? I listed the personality profile of an introvert and extrovert and ticked the ones that applied to me. Then I got carried away and wrote lists. My favourite bands, my favourite food, favourite clothes and worked out the perfect formulae for female friends and potential boyfriends. Seems so ridiculous now, but I imagined wouldn’t it be good if you could meet people by posting this all off to a database company, then getting them to send back a list of people looking for friends who have similar interests and are also looking for friends who live near by and then you could write them a message and put it through their letterbox, or even get their phone number. Sounds very sad but if you are desperate like I was you must resort to desperate measures.

If you are reading this and any of it resonates, but you have access to internet and a phone and the ability to text or message a stranger – Wow use it. You must use this amazing resource, this incredible source of shared consciousness and connectivity, as us humans however introverted we are, we all thrive by communication.  We are not really designed to live alone and sometimes we just need to see another person’s smile or a virtual hug. You are definitely not alone however low you might feel right now.

I am so lucky that I went another 20 years without a dark episode quite as scary as that; but sometimes times like that reappear or start to loom. Feeling stuck, at a low can come with too much boozing, being skint, death of a loved one, loss of a job, change of life, illness or relationship breakdown  BUT it can also drift in from nowhere and there doesn’t have to be a reason. I have learnt this by looking at the abstract picture of my 20 year old self and I know I can turn the picture round, cover it, but the best strategy is to look at that scruffy, rough shaven headed girl face on, give her a virtual hug and tell her it will pass.  

As I like lists, here is a list of all the words that describe those darkest days:

Imprisoned   HELP   Stuck in a rut  feel strangled like neck is being really grabbed     Feel panicky and struggling to breathe    NO HOPE   Scared   Helpless   Jumpy   Ugly    Head exploding     Dizzy and wobbly Cant really stand up    Tearful   Tears just streaming down face    Keep just bursting into tears   Feel so scarred    Everything hurts   Drowsy    NUMB  Confused   Blacked-out     Wish I wasn’t here    I’ve made such a mess of my life   Can’t see anything positive     Nothing to look forward to   No one cares No one will miss me  Cannot face the world  I wish I hadn’t been born.

I still get those days sometimes, and all I can say is that they come and then some how they pass. But if they are hanging over like a cloud and dragging on, here is another list.  In ‘normal’ times it is embarrassing, patronising and daft, but on those days it works. I realise it has become a healing ritual, and there is something about having rituals that reassure and give us hope.

So my basic day is to DO Nothing except feel pain and heal, as the pain is part of the healing:

  • Try to have shower as soon as waking up
  • Put on music rather than getting bogged down in the news
  • Put on comfortable clothes do not stay in pyjamas.
  • Meditation, deep breathing allow the pain to surface
  • Message one or two loved ones, without getting into a big conversation
  • Avoid all toxicity, whether stress at work, cold calls, facebook or the News etc.
  • Maybe write a diary entry or keep note of your mood
  • Go for a 30-60 min walk
  • If you need shopping go on foot and force yourself into the shop even if its just to buy crisps
  • If you are feeling guilty about doing nothing, Write up your to do list, even if you can’t face the tasks or chores today
  • If possible take vitamin supplements and nutrient rich food, but I am not always in the mood but when I do it helps.
  • Try to humour yourself if you can, even if its channel hopping to find a funny sitcom
  • Evening bath and relaxation music at bedtime.
  • Do not stay up to the early hours online however tempting it may seem

Sounds like a pretty boring day I guess, but lets face it – exactly the same Do-Nothing-Day is typical of the day we all crave when we have been travelling, working long hours, looking after family and friends etc.   So often in life the very things we need are the things we already have.