If it's a struggle to get out of bed, to go to the grocery store, to accomplish seemingly simple tasks, it is infinitely more difficult to search your soul, pry into your innermost thoughts and feelings, write them out, and then share them with everyone. It hurts to admit that you are weak, that you are miserable, that you need help - and that's exactly what you have to do in order to get over that hurdle and be able to write again.
Even if I can't bring myself to write about personal topics or current situations, you'd think that I'd be able to write about events, like our day in London or memories back home, but that's just not the case. There has been a dense fog that has been sitting right in front of my eyes for quite some time, and I couldn't see through it in order to be able to even enjoy writing about those lovely times. And when I look back at these posts years from now, I don't want those joyous events to be bogged down in gloom just because I was gloomy when I wrote them, you know?
We've been in Birmingham for three and a half months, but it seems like so much longer than that, truly. Just thinking about all that we have gone through, all the emotions and difficulties and various struggles that I've had to overcome on a personal level, makes me cringe and want to shrink away, to tuck those months deep into the dark recesses of my memory. I'm sitting in a coffee shop as I type this, and I truly have to hold back tears as I think about it all. It's still a bit overwhelming to reminisce about, even on a good day. There have been far too many dark days over here, and I don't just mean that literally (because it IS dark, for real... hello, winter in England).
Some people know this about me, some don't: I struggle with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder (although I'm *technically* undiagnosed and self-treated). These things can be absolutely crippling, even in instances when their manifestations are less severe. The really bad episodes are beyond description. In addition, due to my personality type (INFJ, anyone?), I'm an intense feeler - any of my feelings, whether they be positive or negative, are felt on a deep, deep level. It's absolutely exhausting.
It's kind of scary to put all that out there in writing, especially for those people who don't know me on an intimate level. That being said, it isn't something I'm ashamed of in the least - it's just something that plagues my everyday life.
Looking back over the last few months of this crazy transition phase, I've been able to see the ebb and flow of how I've been able to handle moving abroad. I'll be honest with you: it hasn't been pretty... at all. My poor husband.
Oh, September. What a torturous, tumultuous whirlwind you were. Much of this month was so dark in a very harsh, painful way, like walking on broken glass. If I just stood still and looked around, I was still hurting but able to focus on my short-term goals which took my mind off the pain; as soon as I had to take a new step, though, those broken pieces sliced me open in new places and the pain was excruciating. So many goodbyes, so many new and overwhelming experiences, so few things of comfort or familiarity. So much hurt, confusion, and frustration. I can't tell you how seriously I thought about buying myself a plane ticket and jumping ship, about leaving my husband in England to pursue his degree and going home where I wanted to be. It wasn't a good time, to say the least.
This second month was so much better on the whole. We finally had a place to live. Little things and places began to become more familiar. We started settling in and figuring things out. Shipments of some of our things from back home began arriving, bringing both joyful anticipation and pleasure at their arrival. Small bits of love from friends started trickling in, too - packages filled with tokens of love, cards filled with sweet words that I will cherish forever. I started reading again. Patrick and I took getaway trips out of the city every weekend, exploring something new and beautiful and enchanting. The sun was shining most days, the air was crisp, the leaves were turning. Joy and beauty started filling my days. The previous month was rough, but things were looking up in October. Things were on the upswing. Hallelujah.
All I can do is take a deep breath and sigh when I think about this month, truly. While it feels like we have been here for ages, I cannot imagine where the time went in November - I hardly remember a thing from the first two-thirds of the month. It was bad. This was the month when everything got dark - in more ways than one. The days started getting dark so very early, the sun rose later, then it hardly came out. It's amazing how much sunshine, even just a little bit, can affect one's disposition for the better. My anxiety and depression started creeping in and settling in on top of me, bit by awful bit. I was stuck in the middle of an intensely isolating fog that I could not find my way out of. The first week or so of November, I started sliding downhill. Day after day, I woke up, made my breakfast, and somehow wasted my day away without really doing anything of consequence.
There was one day that was so much worse than the others, though. It was a Wednesday - the 11th. I was supposed to walk myself to the nearest Tesco and do some grocery shopping - a task that I absolutely loathe most days - but I just couldn't do it. It took me hours to work myself up to going. I prepped myself for the wind and rain, grabbed our rolling cart, wheeled it and myself down the street to the ATM, just to be nearly blown away as soon as I emerged from behind the building. It was FREEZING and, oh, so windy, and I quickly realized that I was ill-prepared for the cold. I'd have to go back to the apartment, up the stairs and elevator, completely change my outfit, and try again - but that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I just couldn't do it. I barely got back to the apartment with the cash before the tears streaming down my face became sickeningly deep sobs. Almost immediately, I collapsed onto the bed and screamed, cried, wailed, for hours - literally, hours. Several times, I was at the brink of vomiting and/or passing out. And I was completely alone for all of it. I vaguely remember sending some terribly hurtful text messages to my husband and my mother after I started recovering from the anxiety attack - something that neither one of them deserved in any way. Anxiety attacks don't always happen. I can go months without having one. However, since moving here, my anxiety has gotten so much worse, and it was in full-force this month. Only days later did I realize the main reason for the sorrow that had settled upon my heart that week and exposed itself in all its glory that day: November 11th was the two-year anniversary of our second miscarriage... and I didn't even realize it - at least not on the surface, but my subconscience made sure I wouldn't let it go unacknowledged.
Then Thanksgiving was fast approaching, and here we were in a country so far away from home, family, and our traditions that we loved so much... and the days kept getting darker and more lonely. I spend most of my days alone, without seeing a single soul during daylight hours. I'm an extreme introvert, but there's a difference between wanting alone time and being completely lonely for days on end. There's a whole post in my head to explain it all, but that will have to come at a different time. Let it suffice to say that as each day passed, the loneliness began to settle in on top of the anxiety and depression. Talk about being miserable. Then I got sick with a terrible fever (nothing else) and was in bed for four days. Then I had another severe anxiety attack (about going to the store... again) two days before Thanksgiving. I had planned on going to purchase some specific ingredients in order to make our own celebration for the two of us. It almost didn't happen, but I somehow overcame it all and ventured out on Wednesday instead.
November was a dense fog that I barely saw myself out of. It made me completely senseless - I saw, heard, felt nothing for days and days. I was so intensely isolated and felt more alone than ever. And then December came.
It's amazing, really, the shift that has occurred in my disposition this month. Almost as soon as the calendar month changed, the fog began to lift. I had things to look forward to - anniversaries, Christmas festivities, putting together Christmas packages, and meeting up with friends from back home in Oxford on more than one occasion (Hey, Ryan!! Hey, Elise and Travis!! We love you!!). We've started actually making real friends here, too, for which I am ridiculously grateful. Being able to just hang out with people and have a few laughs is good for my soul, and it has helped to push back the fog even more. The highlight of our month, though, is going to be when Kathryn and Brandon arrive to spend Christmas with us. Lordy, I am STUPID excited for this visit. The chance to be with one of my very best friends after months of feeling so alone is going to be so, so good for me. Just the thought of sitting and talking with Kathryn brings me so much joy; it's such a gift to be able to just be with someone with whom you have no barriers. You don't have to explain yourself, you don't have to be wary about showing your true sense of humor, you don't have to second-guess the things that you want to say for fear of being misunderstood or offending someone. I'm sure that I'll be deliriously happy and laughy while they're here, and it will be absolutely wonderful.
Things are getting better, of that I am sure. There might be another downswing after my sweet friends leave, but I'm going to bet that it won't be nearly as low of a dip as November. Here's to emerging from the fog, to being able to see what's in front of me and look upon it with joy and thanksgiving in my heart - and, hopefully, a few more blog posts before the doors of 2015 close forever.