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Honest to Blog: Dark December days

One of the things I struggle to balance in my life is allowing myself the quiet, self-care time, whilst not spending so much time alone that I get trapped in my own head.  Like many people, I struggle with losing myself in that cycle of guilt, shame, self-criticism and comparison - those toxic thoughts that leave you feeling empty and crushingly sad.  Unfortunately, even when I fill every evening with social activities, and drink inordinate amounts of Sleep Easy tea before bedtime (or take Nytol on those nights when something stronger is required) so I don’t lie awake tossing and turning, I still can’t completely eradicate those moments when the thoughts creep in. 

For a start, I spend a lot of time alone in my car commuting, on a journey that I do on auto-pilot that doesn’t require much thought.  This can often mean that I spend more time than I should getting sucked into those conversations with myself and going round and round in circles beating myself up.  I find myself driving to work mulling over whether I'm living my fullest life, whether I'm doing my best work, whether I'm doing as well as others I know, and wondering whether I'll look back on my life (or this period of it) and feel proud, fulfilled, happy and content.  My drive home however, is often populated with reflecting back on my day and wondering whether I said something stupid, annoyed someone, made someone dislike me, put my foot in it, and so on - a never-ending cycle of watching things back under the microscope of shame and anxiety.  The weather doesn’t help, either.  Peering through my windscreen into total darkness, through a long country road, punctuated often with torrential rain and wind buffeting the car does not assist in alleviating my mood (particularly at the moment when this describes both my journey to work, and my journey home).


I feel like recently I have a guilt and shame radar, that does an initial search as soon as I wake up (and then constantly throughout the day).  I feel it scanning the recesses of my brain to try and find things to feel bad about – phone calls I haven’t made, Christmas gifts I haven’t bought, time I haven’t spent with friends, emails I haven’t replied to, rooms I haven’t cleaned – until it settles on a few things and gets to work making me feel as terrible about them as possible.  It’s like that old saying goes – "it’s hard to feel happy when you have someone being horrible to you all the time".  And that is me; I just cannot stop this narrative that seems hellbent on making me as unhappy as possible.  I don’t have the amazing, creative job I thought I’d have by now, my house is a mess and I spend too much money on rubbish, I’m the worst at replying to emails and texts and so I constantly feel like a bad friend, I’m always tired, I get home late from work so I rarely cook dinner and often feel like this means the chores are unfairly divided between Tom and I, I’m putting on weight because I don’t have time for the gym or healthy eating – everything just feels out of balance, and I can’t seem to claw it back.   

Because I’m a chronic over-thinker, it’s very difficult to stop this cycle, and frankly it makes me feel exhausted and trapped.  I read a post on Reddit the other day about my Myers Briggs personality type (INTJ) being linked to depression, and someone said – “It’s like being trapped in a thought prison.  You KNOW you're doing this to yourself, but can't seem to find the switch to turn it off. It's like the source of the depression is in the middle of a knot of feels and I have a paw comprised of thumbs with which to untie it.”  I’m not in any way saying that I have depression, but I can relate to that statement.  I know that I alone am the source of my own unhappiness, but I can’t seem to stop it.  I’m just pushing myself further and further into it, and then I even get frustrated at myself for not being able to slow the toxic thought train down - it's a vicious cycle.

Someone said to me the other day that on paper I have the perfect life, but that somehow I never seem 100% content, which is odd.  I even said to Tom the other day that I don’t feel like I have anything to look forward to at the moment, and he was shocked and a little hurt I think, considering how good we have it.  He naturally said that Christmas is such an exciting time and we have lots to look forward to in terms of time off and time with family, and all those reasons why I usually feel like this my favourite time of year.  And immediately after Christmas we’ll probably be moving into our new flat – which is just amazing, and exactly what we were looking for, and really will make our lives so much better.  Somehow these things just don’t lift me out of my funk though (I'm aware of how ungrateful that makes me seem), and the small things that are winding me up on a day to day basis almost seem bigger than even the major milestones and the exciting life stuff.  It sometimes feels like when the black cloud rolls overhead it can eclipse almost anything.


I think some of it is definitely the time of year (the darkness and the constant rain), or the busy-ness meaning I’m not getting enough sleep, or the fact that I haven’t seen a vegetable in ages and keep eating Quality Street for breakfast (eating badly and drinking too much always makes me feel worse).  There are things that help – seeing friends, getting fresh air, exercising, talking about how I feel (though I’m not always the best at doing that – somehow writing on here feels so much easier!)  I hope I can use the break over Christmas to catch up on sleep and have lots of rest and relaxation, and really enjoy that time with family and friends.  I think it’s a funny old time at the moment and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  Somehow the sense of comparison and the need to be perfect - to buy the perfect presents, make the perfect jam, have the perfect festively decorated house (and so on) almost feels harder around Christmas, and every year I feel cross with myself for not doing everything I wanted to do prior to the big day.  I guess the bottom line is that we probably all need to give ourselves a bit more of a break, be kinder to ourselves, and tell ourselves constantly that whatever we do, is enough.  I know that that’s advice I certainly need to take myself, over Christmas and on into the New Year.


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