Sometimes it seems to me I can never put my finger on what is troubling me until it is behind me - the shape and form it takes is never very clear until I have some hindsight. Telling you all last week that I was going through a midlife crisis was a good example of that. I have been going through something for months and strangely, it was not until I actually wrote it down that it seemed to both take on a distinct form and be something I could move beyond. I have thought about writing about it elsewhere on a different blog - I'm not sure who lurks here - but I think that this blog has been about a lot more than running for such a long time and you are my friends, not just my running friends, so I'm going to put things out here, in a succinct form and preserving the privacy of those involved. So for all of you looking for just running stats (like my blog was ever the place for that) move onto the next item in your googlereader now.
In the course of the past year, there have a number of changes in my life. Two in particular, concerning my daughter's education and moving house, were decisions I have had a hard time coming to terms with. I have never, in the past, had a problem with accepting a compromise once it had been agreed, but in this case I kept going through the decision process in my head, repeating all the steps, ending up at the same place and yet not finding any peace with that. On top of this, I was feeling a general sense of unease at the fact that I was nearing 40 (next year) and that I had not achieved much (I know that is debatable, but bear with me - this is what I felt). I was worried and concerned about how I was going to fill in that part of my life that was mine in a useful and productive and enjoyable way. I also started to feel very guilty about the fact that I lead a comfortable life and the good fortune I have - I felt I had done nothing to deserve, or earn, these things. Then, at the end of last year, I found myself very suddenly and unexpectedly on the receiving end of a great deal of very unexpected, harsh and unpleasant criticism from someone whom I loved and trusted. Coming on top of the issues I was struggling with outlined above, this felt like an assault. And, looking back, that's how I reacted. It just unmoored me. I did not feel safe, mentally, anywhere. An attack, after all, could come when I least expected it. I felt I could no longer trust my instincts. I found myself looking back over my life, amazed at the certainty with which I, in the past, have made decisions. How did I always know what I wanted? I would find myself incapable of making the simplest, most mundane of decisions.
Running did keep me going. Having a schedule to follow, gave me something to do. At a time when I really did not know where to turn or what to aim for, reading the day's instructions gave me something to do and to aim for. But you can also imagine that with my frame of mind at the time, training was just not a mental priority and perhaps this is why I went off the boil a bit. I enjoyed some runs, I enjoyed some races, but overall I was just getting through it.
During all of this I was never alone. My husband is, and has always been, a complete rock and incredibly, unbelievably supportive. I'd find myself casting out idea after idea, trying to get some focus back in my life - yoga retreats in India, neuro-linguistic programming - and he engaged with all of it and supported me. (Incidentally, I went for none of these things). My friends were amazing. Supportive, kind, willing to listen to me again and again as I questioned everything, every decision I had made. My parents too - it's amazing how I got to nearly 40 to realise what wise and wonderful people they are. A lot of the things they have said have stuck in my head and have been instrumental in working my way out of my situation.
Because I have. A week or two ago, I went to a lunch party, full of self-doubt and criticism (here I am, a living cliche, woman without a job going out to a charity lunch) and I met a very sparkly, friendly, engaging person who reminded me of how much fun it is to be around creative and sparkly people. And that there is a creative and sparkly person inside me as well. And somehow, my mind clicked into a better place. Nothing medical, nothing magical. The engine just started up again.
Now let's get things straight here. First off - I know a little about depression, and I know I was not depressed. I was just, somehow, stuck. I tried my old coping strategies - fake it till you make it, and doing the opposite of me, but somehow I was very aware of faking it and not making it and of consciously doing the opposite of me. It didn't work. I knew that I just had to get through this time as well as I could, with as much personal integrity and honesty as I could bring to my situation and the people around me. And that, somehow, I had to take - yes, learn! - something.
And I have learned some things. I have learned that, despite being “gobby” at times and pretty extraverted, I find it hard to be assertive about my thoughts and feelings when I know people are not going to be happy to hear them. I know what I want but I’d rather not have a fight to get it – I’d rather win people round with reason and charm. It’s a strategy that’s worked for me often, but this time it did not work and I have had to face up to the fact that sometimes I need to be braver. And be able to handle the fallout. So, once more unto the breach, dear friends. I'm back in the game.
I don't yet know "what I'm going to do with my life". I'm carrying on with things - my lovely family who give me plenty to do and engage with and my running. And I'm exploring new things. Fear of failure has held me back in the past, but I'm determined that is not going to be the story of my future. I've thrown out a number of lines and will let you know when I can feel a bite..
As always, but more than usual this time - thank you for reading.