"Shadows of a Sunburnt Mind" by cogdogblog is licensed under CC0 1.0

Abruptly, the shadows appeared.

Yesterday, the ghost of a past relationship came to haunt me from an unexpected direction. It’s the only relationship I’ve had where I feel it ended badly – however unpleasant endings are, I’ve usually felt that either things were mutual or that everything possible was done on both sides before calling it quits. I’d certainly have no qualms about running into exes – they’re all lovely people. But this one instance…

It’s fascinating the way that past pain you thought you’d dealt with still has the power to side-swipe you. I think in this case, the association of something that has been so wonderfully and unequivocally positive with one of the most difficult experiences of my life was so dissonant that it knocked me for six. Sleep lost, floods of tears – those still haven’t stopped – wondering if I’ll even be able to continue with the positive thing – the whole woeparty shebang.

All those feelings of realising I clearly hadn’t been as important to someone I loved as I had thought came crashing back. All the pain that was repeatedly poked as they ghosted me but tried to carve a friendship with my partner, putting everyone in a difficult position. All the things I should have seen sooner, the questions I should have asked, the ways I was misled, the inability to talk things through with a ghost. I felt stupid for trusting where I should have questioned, for not seeing what was hidden from me, and I felt unchosen all over again.

I didn’t handle it perfectly, I know that they also were hurting terribly, and I do have regrets, but I did think that I had learned from the experience and that it didn’t still have power over me. I guess the pit that I’ve been in since the conversation that brought it all back (which, incidentally, was a model of transparency and very much appreciated by me – I’d always rather know the difficult stuff than not – just tough territory) says I have more lessons to learn and more shadows to face.

I suppose there is always more to learn about ourselves, and plants grow back stronger when they’re cut. Time to get my emotional game face on and figure out which bits of my psyche are about to grow new shoots.

No shortcuts.

It’s strange to know that you’re doing all the right things and still just aren’t _right_ yet. Whenever something goes wrong in your world, you want it to be a case of figuring out which bolt’s come loose, tightening it up a bit, and going on your merry way. But it doesn’t work that way. Fixes happen, but not immediately. Conversations take a while to work through, counselling referrals don’t rock up immediately, even meds take four to six weeks to begin to take effect, and I’m only on week three.

And so at the moment, my prevailing emotion – if you can call it that – is ‘meh’. I dip into sadness sometimes – today, the second of two days with little human contact after a Thursday/Friday/Saturday flurry with people I love, has been a hard one – and when I’m with people I care about I can reach happy, too. But mostly, it’s a shoulder-slumping, everything-takes-longer, visible-on-my-face meh. With some bonus guilt for making other people worry when they see that.

And it’s hard work pasting a cheery or even neutral public face on top of that. It’s hard work balancing the need to avoid totally isolating myself with the need to step back a little from environments in which I feel I need to be ‘on’. Heck, at the moment it’s hard work getting out of bed and it’s hard work eating a reasonable amount of food. Those are things that I talk myself into, not because I’m flailing around sadly but because I just… don’t have the impetus. I’m like a car whose engine turns over a few times before the ignition sparks into life.

But I’ve been mired here in Depressionville before, some years ago, and I’ve learned some lessons and some self-management strategies. I know that I need to be gentle with myself but not drift too far from my usual routines, I know what helps me to sleep, and I know that if my appetite and inclination aren’t prompting me and I can’t summon the energy to cook, I can still use the clock as a guide to eating regularly and fill my fridge with reasonably healthy easy options so that I don’t lose any more weight than has already inadvertently fallen off me.

I know that although they take time to work, the meds will help. I’ve taken the initial steps for counselling referral, and I’ve told my wonderfully supportive boss. I’ve looked up some classes that, when I feel a little stronger, will hopefully help me build on that strength both physically and emotionally. I know that this time around, I can be open with the people in my life.

I know that although there are no shortcuts, this will pass.