Monday, 21 May 2012

Painful Honesty

I've argued with myself for over a week about writing this. It's always been a very lighthearted and "arty" type blog with a touch of real life in it, but how far do you go with the latter?

I've been involved in forum discussions with other artists and designers enough to know that my problem touches many people, so I feel it's appropriate to talk about it here.

As regular readers know, I had to stop my full time artwork lifestyle last year and go back to work. I managed to keep up my painting on my days off and enjoyed the delving back into it once or twice a week. I'd been somewhat reclusive as a painter, which was a lifestyle I loved very much. I also enjoyed some aspects of being out at work, meeting and befriending a lot of really wonderful people and forming many great relationships on the outside, so to speak.

Almost a year on, I found myself another job, this time in a more creative role. I'm not sure if this was a catalyst, but the move coincided with a pretty horrendous lapse into symptoms I last suffered over ten years ago (though I have had the occasional minor blip here and there).

I've described it to my doctor as a sense of feeling so tightly wound for the past year and suddenly snapping under the strain. A lot of you probably know the scenario - you have a family, financial and work committments, a need to soldier on and make life right in as many ways as you physically can. Your needs come way down in the list of priorities, so you get on with it. This is me in a nutshell.

My husband is a truly remarkable man. Of course, he's known all along that I've been gritting my teeth and bearing up, etc. It's been partly for him that I've tried to carry on as normal, because he really doesn't deserve the upset that comes with me throwing a total wobbly.

Forcing oneself to be a certain way takes its toll. When you're being stoic and focussing on what is required of you, well it wears off the edges of your personality in a way. My husband has told me so many times that he wants his "wifey" back and I've called him a silly head, assuring him that I'm fine and he's imagining things. He wasn't though, he was facing up to what's been happening and I wasn't/couldn't.

So I guess it's obvious where I'm going with this.

Something silly happened; as simple as me laughing with abandon one evening the other week (for the first time in ages) and the next thing I knew I was having a full on crash into a thing I can't even describe. I imagine that allowing myself that emotional high of laughter facilitated the opposite immediately afterwards. That was me done.

There's so much I could write here to illustrate what happened next, but I won't. You've probably heard it all before. Most importantly, I have sought medical help, which I should have done a goodly time ago. I've known I needed this, but I have an immense fear of medication. Not for the reasons most fear it, but rather because I suffer quite serious side effects for the first month or so, and they scare the bejesus out of me. 

Imagine being aware that in order to help yourself, you're going to have to endure the most dreadful attacks of anxiety, physical shakes and tremors, memory loss, dizziness and general stupid, mind-numbing oafishness. Your life will be on hold for that time. How will you go to work, cook a meal, answer the door or go to the shops? Life doesn't fit round this crap at all.

I'm writing this early in the morning before the major effects of today's pills are with me. I'll feel I've achieved something if I can just get my thoughts out there. Each day I've tried to do something worthwhile. Sometimes it's been making a cup of tea, other days I've managed to write an email. Over the space of a few days last week I worked very slowly on a painting that I'd started ages ago and already done the fiddly bits of. Yesterday I went with my husband and did the food shop, which was my biggest achievement so far. It pretty much knocked me out for the rest of the day, but I did it.

This isn't meant to sound melodramatic, though I fear it may. I'm not yet in a place to look back on it and assess my behaviour; I'm very much fighting the battle and doing what I can each day. I don't look ill, just a bit dishevelled and not quite myself, and I find it impossible to tell people what's going on. Writing it down is a lot easier, even than having to explain to my doctor what's going on in my stupid head.

Here's the bit where I tell you the good and the amazing.

My husband. He is a star. Even in my confuddled state I am aware of the things he's doing on the quiet; probably not everything he's up to, but some of it.

He has worked on a spreadsheet (that's his thing) and done a twelve month budget. 

He's taken full control of all the finances, including the food and other bills, which have always been my responsibility. 

I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that there’s no pressure for me to go back to work until at least March 2013, unless I should feel I want to.  

Any money I bring in from my painting is a bonus, so he wants me to continue with that as much as possible, for therapy if nothing else. 

He’s doing all the house stuff, refusing to let me cook a meal or wash up. 

He’s spent countless hours writing letters, including the whole headache of form filling in order to claim back PPI monies for the past ten years. 

I know there’s more, but he’s doing it all out of my sight and without comment.

In short, this wonderful man is working his socks off in order to give me the time, space and emotional peace to get myself better. I didn’t ask him to do this, nor did I for one moment expect it. Bear in mind that he works a forty hour week on top of all this and you’ll have some idea of what kind of gift he is giving me here. He jokes that he’s always wanted to be a superhero, but he already is, isn’t he?

Maybe in writing this I will strike a chord with others who are suffering similar. I don't know. Maybe I'm letting too much out, making me look a total idiot. Either way, it's been my project for today and I'll finish with a photo of the painting that I've completed in the midst of my crazy.


  1. This was a really touching read, I hope you feel fully restored in as much time as you need :) Your hubby sounds like a star! LOVE that painting btw. Hx

  2. Very very well put. Thank you, it's not easy to share such feelings. I wish you gentle days. TC, xx

  3. I can sympathise. Have been in a similar place; maybe I also needed meds, but I struggled through and recovered in the end (well, to a point). I am also blessed with an amazing husband - whatever would we do without them?
    Re the side-effects - is your Dr actually fully aware of the impact of these side-effects on you/your life/your wellbeing (and that of your family)? And have you explored the possibility of gradually introducing these meds (a bit like the opposite of "withdrawal" at the other end of the story)? Just a thought... it might be possible and it might help?
    You haven't made yourself look silly by opening up and telling about this. I think it was brave of you to take the "risk", but it isn't silly. Neither are your feelings, needs or problems "silly" either. I know they are very real and I remember that sudden descent... It's scary and awful and terrible. You really have my sympathy and I so hope you begin to recover soon.
    You are not the only person that this has happened to. Not meaning this as a put-down, a "pullyourselftogetheryousillymoo" or anything like this. I mean, you are absolutely not alone, nor are you weird and un-human-like etc etc. You are a normal person, who has a normal problem. It's just that it's got a bit beyond your control just now.
    I am so glad you have your husband for support. Concentrate on doing whatever you need to do, to get well. And he is sensible to encourage you to paint. That painting is beautiful. I hope it helped you feel you had achieved something; of course if you sell some of your work, that'll add to the feeling of achievement, but I think making the art is the major thing - selling it is a bonus, that's all.
    Good luck Jules. Keep up with the Painting! Love those flowers! XX

  4. I love how you've found so much positive in this. You celebrate your husband and how he's supporting you, and you've produced a beautiful painting.

    I don't know exactly what you're going through, no one does, but your honesty in this post is both brave and touching. Carry on doing what you're doing, work through whatever issues you need to, appreciate the love and support you have, and don't stop painting.

    Hope things are easier for you very, very soon.

  5. Sending you a huge hug and hoping you find your way safely through this soon. Nothing about your post is silly, you are showing courage and honesty, and I find that amazing. Luckily, I've never been anywhere really bad but when I have hit low points, I always retreat inside and don't tell anyone, and I know how unhealthy that is, and I admire anyone that can share those feelings out in the open.

    Take your time to heal and keep painting, as the one above is truly wonderful!

    Take care.x

  6. I can't pretend to understand, I am one of those 'bullet proof' people, thrive on stress, but I do wish you well. I briefly took anti depressents in my early 20's and felt like a zombie so I sympathise about the meds. I am a real believer of a healthy diet and exercise having a major effect on emotional well being, so perhaps that is something you could explore alongside more traditional things. Your husband is one in a million, if this happened to me we would all starve amongst a sea of unwashed pants :-)

    Get well soon, love the painting!


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