Over the years, this blog has been a mix of commentary on things I've found on the web, that I've read about elsewhere, or come across on the radio or on TV. Very occasionally I write about me, and what I'm up to - or not, as the case may be. Sometimes I think about putting together more introspective entries, and once in a while I'll write something along those lines. The results might even end up being published in the blog, but more often I decide not to post what I've written; the blog isn't intended to be directly about me. So I've been thinking hard about whether to post this blog entry - which definitely is about me - for several days. I wrote some elements of it last month and more this month, then held off uploading it. But in the end I've decided to post it, because I need to sort myself out and for the first time in twenty years I feel like I might actually be making progress in doing so.
Last month I mentioned that I'd unearthed some strong emotions as a result of taking part in Twitter's monthly #LossLit event. With typical British reserve, I referred to this episode as a "wobble" but it was much more serious than that. While Mel was staying here after the FAWM Over Party last week we talked about it, because she could see I was still upset. So we sat on the sofa, here in the living room, and talked. And talked. And because Mel, being American, is someone who plainly wasn't going to let me evade the issue, I finally managed to open up to somebody. It wasn't easy. In fact I felt like Spock does when the computer asks him, "how do you feel?" I was shocked to realise that I was so shut down emotionally that I didn't really know. I hadn't examined that question properly for a very, very long time. "I'm okay" is the default answer I usually give, and that's just accepted as a reply and we move on to more interesting subjects of conversation - but this time around I had to give a proper, truthful, honest answer. And I wasn't okay. I was very far away from being okay. So we talked some more and all the grief and guilt and anguish began to well up.
It's all to do with a relationship - my marriage - that ended over twenty years ago, one that I thought I'd moved on from, but once Mel got me talking about it, it became very clear that I haven't. I've not had any contact with Heather in twenty years but when I was asked how I felt about it, I had to answer: I'm still in love with her. When I married her, I knew she was "the one" - I never expected her to be "the one that got away." When she left I had what I now realise was a nervous breakdown. Even after two decades apart, there isn't a day goes by when I don't think about her and wonder how she's doing. I still look for her face in every crowd. I hope she's okay, wherever she is. I wish I could let her know how much I still care about her, how much I miss her, what she still means to me. More than anything I wish I could let her know that I still love her. And yes, I know that's not going to happen - that, after all, is why I'm so spectacularly messed up. The insight Mel provided is that I hate confrontation. I won't even confront my own feelings. I failed to confront situations - with Heather, and with others since then - where I needed to provide support or authority or reassurance. I should have been assertive. Instead I withdrew and shut myself off. That's where all the guilt comes from. I failed to be the person that others desperately needed me to be. Since then I've become so used to keeping all the pain and loss and despair pent up inside that I hadn't realised what sort of terrible state I had let myself get in to and just how deeply, ludicrously screwed up I am. When Mel made me look at myself this week, I realised what those repressed feelings have done to every subsequent relationship I've been in. Once that hit home, I was appalled at myself. And as Mel said to me at that point, I damn well should be appalled. I've let each of the people I love down, and I've let them down badly. There's not a lot I can do to make amends, but I owe the people who have been closest to me my humblest and most profound apologies. When Mel got me to this point I was shaking. I felt awful. I still do.
I owe Mel my thanks. I needed to get to this point. I have to sort myself out rather than letting my life grind on in misery. More accurately, I have to get proper, professional help, because if I haven't managed to get back on an even keel after twenty years of trying on my own, I'm not going to manage it now, am I? "You have major trust issues," Mel told me. And I do. I know I have friends and family who care what happens to me, but I've never let them in. I never reached out to them and said "I need help." I know that I should have done; reading this is likely to come as a big surprise to most of the people who know me. In hindsight, I've been monumentally stupid. I've become supremely good at burying my feelings over the last twenty years and hiding them from other people. It doesn't mean they're not there, though. Talking this through with someone was incredibly painful, and it's left me very shaken. Right now, I'm a wreck. But I know it helped me, and it helped a lot. I'm hoping that writing this down will help too. I hope that explaining things here might also help the people I know to understand why I'm not exactly firing on all cylinders at the moment when they bump into me in real life.
I've been to the doctor's this week to start the process of getting proper, professional help, but I have to be honest: things are bad right now. I've not been this low for a long, long time. The diagnostics I took this week indicated severe depression, severe enough to trigger a set of questions to see whether I was at risk (as always, I don't do things by halves). I don't think I am, and neither did the person asking the questions, which was a relief.
Relief. That's a good word. That's probably what sums things up right now. Once the tears started to come it was difficult to stop, and many times this week I've found myself crying, whether I've been behind the wheel of the car, sitting reading a book, at my desk using the computer, or just lying in bed and trying to get to sleep. I've been having anxiety attacks. I shake like a leaf. But at the same time the release of letting all this out feels like I've finally made progress. That's why I wrote this down. I want to come back to this blog entry in years to come and see this as the point where I started to heal. I'm hanging in there, just about. I'd like to think that things will get better, but right now I'll just settle for them not hurting so much.
For the moment I don't expect to be doing much blogging. I'll be back when I can.