Without any doubt the blackest periods have for me been times of deep obsession. My head would rage with overwhelming thoughts and feelings and a strong need to address whatever it was that brought me to that point.
I remember this happening to me several times in my life and will for the most part try to describe the feelings rather than the events that lead me down this extremely self-destructive path. I will however start by mentioning two of those times very briefly. This is to give a level of understanding of where the feelings took me and the terrible forces and sad consequences that they had the potential to unleash.
Firstly I will talk about sad consequences. As I describe this, I want the take home message to be that to a person capable of normal thought processes, my reaction would have been unbelievable and equally unpredictable. No one, not the least my parents in law could possibly have understood where I was.
During my daughter, L’s adolescence she was excluded from a sporting opportunity (ie. was not selected) in an area that she had previously excelled. Now in isolation and without the other things that were going on in her life, I undoubtedly would have given her a hug and reinforced her own self-worth by enveloping her in the love of her family, but on top of the other events, I became obsessed with the injustice of this situation and could think of nothing else. I was shut down and incapable of either reaching out or being reached.
Now at the same time, my parents-in-law came to stay. After several days, when I was out, they approached G and told him that they were going home because I had not made them feel welcome (I have never been told the contents of the conversation and have no need now to know.) This invoked a prolonged period of probably two years when we were estranged from them. I regret this deeply especially as it denied my children access to the only grandparents that they had at the time. My mother in law has since passed away, sadly without me ever really being able to connect with her in any deep way but I am very pleased to be able to say that my relationship with my father-in law has never been better and I am thankful every day for being given that opportunity. I have to say though, that until now, had I attempted to describe these feelings, I would not have been able to make sense of them.
Now the second example involves an awesome friend of mine, P. Without telling a story that is not mine to share it is difficult to explain how P and I got into a relationship (platonic, he is like a brother to me) where we discussed the deeper, darker side of life. Suffice to say we did. P was the first person I met who made me feel that he understood me.
I remember saying to G that he had to trust me and my relationship with P because asking me not to see P would be like asking me not to breathe. I thank every guardian angel every day for G. I have taken him on journeys that no husband should be asked to embark upon. These are not journeys of unfaithfulness; there never have been and never would be journeys in that direction. These are journeys into a void where he watched the person he loves draw away into a place he couldn’t reach. The biggest joy that I have got from writing is that G says that he now feels a level of understanding (of me) that he has never felt before.
Back to P. P and I explored the dark side of life on an intellectual level both verbally and in writing. When we were conversing in this way, I was totally consumed and wanted/needed to spend every waking moment in conversation with him. He was taking me to a level of clarity about myself that I did not believe possible. When I say clarity, the clarity was interspersed with times when my head would rage to a crippling extent. I remember feeling embarrassment, shame even about my feeling. Though there were no romantic feelings at all, my feelings of attachment were probably more threatening to my marriage than any physical relationship ever could be. Again, I re-iterate my overwhelming gratitude to G, not for letting me go there, because that was something that he certainly but probably we collectively had no control over, but more especially, for letting me come back.
One of the most powerful things I took from my discussions with P was the place that depression sat in my life. Prior to P, when I discussed depression in writing, it always had a capital D. P quite categorically stated that the capital D had to go, capitals gave it a level of control and importance that it did not deserve. There is no doubt now that I was giving depression permission to consume me.
I remember that during this time P went away (on a holiday) where he had only intermittent email connection. I would write to him and then obsessively check my emails for a reply many, many times a day. I remember being enraged when I realised he had posted on Facebook but not replied to my emails. I was in a place where I could only see me and my needs and could not fathom that any of his needs (to have a great holiday!) could possibly be as important as my emails. Now I am generally an unselfish person, well most of the time when I am not being a princess, and I am thankful that P chose to continue our friendship rather than walk away from me.
Now, P is a very wise person and when I told him about my feelings of shame, he just said, “Delete the emails, I’ll do the same.” That was probably one of the most healing things I have ever done! P and I continue to be firm friends and one day I will share this with him. He is currently doing something much more important than reading my blog (holidaying with his new wife and daughter) but one day I will share it.
I was more nervous about writing this than any other of my posts. At times of obsession I was obviously at my most vulnerable and least rational. Interestingly as I wrote that last sentence first, I wrote, “At times of obsession I AM at my most vulnerable and least rational.” I read it straight back and realised that it needed to be put in the past tense.
Obsession, the feelings it elicits and the consequences it can invoke have just been moved to number 1 on my reasons for staying healthy. So long as I keep balance and take strength from the positive aspects of life, I will never go back there again.
In trying to re-visit these feelings I went into a file on my computer where I have stored poetry that I wrote at the time. I am sharing one with you now as it appears to be the only one I did not delete. I combined two of my loves, photography and writing in an attempt to document my feelings. I have to say that this brings back memories that when I was depressed I always said that I would not be without it because of the perspectives and perception it brings. I fully appreciate now that depression may have brought me a very high level of empathy (in most circumstances) and certainly a heightened level of perceptiveness but to ever have believed that the perspectives I could see held value actually gave depression a power over me that it should never have been allowed to have. More on that another time. I have housework to do!