How to save a life

I’ve written here repeatedly about my ongoing issues with depression as I grapple with it, trying to survive, to overcome it, maybe even to heal. I don’t talk much about how bad it can get, because I’m afraid of sounding melodramatic, or worse yet, making someone else feel a bit uncomfortable. Wanting to die is a re-occurring issue for me. That’s different from wanting to kill myself – less violent, more like a yearning for a simple off switch. On my saner, calmer days, the issue of how not to get into such a dark place that I want to die, is something I pay attention to.

I know exhaustion is a trigger. The more worn down, burned out, threadbare I get, the more likely that I start to feel that only the end of my existence will put me out of my misery. Prolonged bouts of pain have the same effect, and both of which can be tackled without having to top myself, and mostly I do manage to remember this even though I can feel really, really awful.

Perhaps my biggest trigger – or at least the biggest one I’ve identified – is fakery. The more energy I pour into being a tidy, acceptable sort of person, the more likely I am to feel hollow, threadbare and suicidal. The harder it is for me to be myself, the less will to live I can muster.

The trouble is that I’m a bloody awful person to be around. I know a lot of people like my blogs, books, social media stuff, but I’m like this all the time. Always thinking this intensely, always as deeply emotionally engaged, always this intense. I feel everything keenly, I worry a lot, I think, and think more. In person, the emotional intensity may be more of an issue. Add to this that I’m obsessive (this is where blogs come from) and thin skinned. I care about everything I run into and have an awkward habit of loving passionately the people who are in my life. I try and tone it down, but it’s hard and requires a lot of attention.

That might sound ok as a paragraph in a blog, but in real life, it isn’t. There have only ever been 2 people who have encountered me in a sustained way as I really am, and not run away or asked me to tone down. It can be lonely sometimes, and every friendship is a waiting game. How long can I last? How long can I fake it for before I slip up and am too real? And all the while, the faking it is taking me apart and digging me a deep, dark hole.

For anyone who wants a quiet, gentle, peaceful, easy going sort of life, I am, quite simply, too much. Too intense. Too serious. Too passionate. Too giving. I’ve heard them all and more along the way, repeatedly. So I’ve bent and battered myself trying for more acceptable, harmless shapes. This morning I realised that this is, metaphorically speaking, killing me, and if I keep it up sooner or later it might quite literally kill me.

I’m choosing life.

This means I am not going to be a tidy fake for anyone again. I have a number of strategies for how I’m going to handle this. Absence and silence are at the top of the list. Not being in places where there are people. Moving away if I feel something. Holding distance. I’m an ok person to have as a casual acquaintance, but that may be the limit, and for everyone’s sake, I need to hold those lines better.

My bet is that most people won’t see much difference anyway. It’s possible there are one or two people who would choose to have me in the raw (ever the optimist, me) but I’m going to be looking for much clearer feedback in the future. People are going to have to opt in, really clearly, using the kind of small words I can’t possibly mistake for anything else. You would have to love me a lot to do that, and you would have to be ok with the idea of being loved in return.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

25 responses to “How to save a life

  • Viviane

    Hm, I don’t know you. I really don’t, so you can take it or leave this. 😉 All I have are your words, thoughts and moments shared. And so, no, you are not an aweful person to be around as I can see it. You just need to be around the right people. For me, I saved an image this week from Dita von Teese to remind me: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there is still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
    I have started being more honest, more ‘me’ with my friends and I was terrified I’d lose them. Especially since I feel I have lost ‘me’ since I injured my Achilles tendon and have become housebound end of Feb this year. They are here and giving me support and love. So maybe, one day I get the chance to meet you. Then I will give you my honest opinion and you can give me one right back. So go on and live yourself out loud and I hope I get to find out who you are one day, properly because I’d like to. You can always ask Cat if I should be avoided at all costs in advance and run really fast, I am the speed of a snail right now so you’d be safe. 😉

    • Natty Mancini

      I busted both Achilles and posterior tibial tendons a few years ago in a hiking accident, I lost ‘me’ for a long while too, so I hear you. You ever want to someone to talk to about it then I’m usually floating around in the digital.

      • Nimue Brown

        thank you for the offer.

      • Viviane

        It helps to know that it happens to others too and you get through it, even though I am sorry to hear you went through that Natty and to that level. ’tis rubbish. Hope you are fit and well again? I worry about it not healing sometimes but just gotta do my best and give myself time. It changes you though, it really does.

        Nimue, I do some floating around the net as well, so anytime.

      • Natty Mancini

        Hy Viviane, I’ve recovered about 60% mobility back so pretty damn fine considering they thought I was going to be in a wheelchair at one point, but then I got other problems that mean I don’t really heal up like other people so I’ve taken my sweet time learning to re-walk. It changed me on levels I still don’t even get yet. Did you rupture or what?

      • Viviane

        Hope it will get better still though well done for 60% considering how much pain that must have been!
        Not quite rupture, I was lucky. I damaged it and it hurt at every step but the GP thought a weekend was enough to rest so I went to work and ended up crying for half an hour for the pain when I got in and new something had gone badly wrong with it then… I had pushed myself to go to work due to my idiotic high expectations of myself and until I set a foot on the train I thought I’d get through it, after all the GP said…Lesson learned.
        The price has been being homebound since end of Feb and very very slow progress, then regression and so on. Now hoping an injection which has brought me back to near zero mobility from last week will make things better soon as they told me to just wait it out otherwise… Heyho, I must believe it keeps getting better and it will! But my relationship with myself and also with work has changed a lot. Now just to figure out who I am and want to be going forward…

      • Natty Mancini

        Cortisone?

        Sudden disability is a complete game-changer, and I know that feeling of being room-bound so well. I cycled through a good few incarnations of myself over that time!

      • Viviane

        Saline solution and Steroids.

        Yes, it is the cycles that can make it feel so much harder. Just when it looks up it goes down. Ah well. We shall get through it. There will be sunnier days and they will be longer. It is the same with anxiety and worries. A little microcosm, being caught in a world of our own, caught by the house and left wondering. That is probably why I have started writing again. 🙂 I shall have a look at your blog. And I do hope to see you around and maybe chat some more. Thank you for sharing a little piece here with me. It helps a lot.

      • Natty Mancini

        Do you blog yourself? Would be interested in reading your thoughts!

  • Natty Mancini

    “Perhaps my biggest trigger – or at least the biggest one I’ve identified – is fakery. The more energy I pour into being a tidy, acceptable sort of person, the more likely I am to feel hollow, threadbare and suicidal.”

    I definitely relate to this as one of my biggest triggers as well.

  • Jenny Colley

    Those first four paragraphs actually made me gasp because they are me, every single word and the fifth one made me want to cry because that has also been my experience. We haven’t met yet, though I sincerely hope we do one day, but I applaud both your courage and your self respect in making this decision. I know with people like us, self respect is sometimes hard to find let alone feel, which is why I applaud and respect this decision you’ve made even more and as ever, thank you for your insights and honesty, you’re one brave lady, in all the ways it matters most.

    • Nimue Brown

      there is something to be said for knowing it is not a lone freak thing, and there are others. It helps me to know. I hope it also helps you.

      • Jenny Colley

        More than I can say. I always feel like I’m failing just by being myself and I think it’s a lot of the reason for my illness now. You’re not a freak, you’re just you and I am just me and we’re not alone.

      • Nimue Brown

        I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that feel like failure, and how to change that, hope there’s something helpful for you in the next post.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    It is hard to find happiness trying to be what you are not. That was why of the Greek advice of ” Know thyself.” Happiness comes from learning how to use who you are in the best way. Perfection is either possible, or required. As for the people that you choose to be around, stay with people that accept you as you are, and who do not try to change you.

  • Terra

    I have a few thoughts in response to this:

    1) “I’m a bloody awful person to be around. I know a lot of people like my blogs, books, social media stuff” — I’ve had the experience of feeling that the people who think they like me don’t know the real me. For example, my parents are proud of me for being responsible and gentle, but if I express any angst, they explain to me why I shouldn’t feel that way. Although I know you only through your books, blog, and Facebook, I feel that it’s not only that I admire you as an author. I feel that something of your inner self comes through, and that I like what I see of who you are. My friends in real life tend to depressed, anxious people. Perhaps I find people who are always carefree to be a bit dull.

    2) I see many positive responses to what you’ve written, both here and on Facebook, and it strikes me that this world is full of hurting people. I feel like we should all come together and support each other. When I see people whose replies to you I like, I’m going to look to see if they have blogs, and if I can give them supportive comments on their blogs.

    3) Occasionally I see replies to you that would bother me. I don’t mean specifically the above comments to this post, but comments that are made at times either on your blog or on Facebook. What I’m sensitive to is being told what to do or how to feel. It seems to be human nature to respond to a person whose life is not perfect by explaining to them why they should be happy, and/or explaining to them what they should do to fix things. Apparently not everyone is bothered by the things that bother me. When I see such comments to you, I’m hoping that they don’t hurt you, I’m hoping that any comments you don’t like can just slide off you, and that instead, the comments that you feel most deeply will be those that surround you with warm support.

    4) For me, the biggest issue is fatigue. I don’t have pain. I don’t have a lot of depression and anxiety, but I do find that when I get too tired, it affects my emotions as well. I saw that you were at druid camp last week. That would be exhausting for me, and I would be miserable for days afterwards. That’s why I rarely go to big gatherings. I would enjoy them, but the price I pay is too high. The days of misery may be longer than the days of enjoyment. It seems unfair to have to miss out on stuff.

    And I saw on Facebook that you were rejected by a friend. That’s a devastating experience.

    I remember a time a number of years ago, actually before I had my fatigue issues, when I got sick at the same time that two friends decided they no longer wanted to be friends with me. I lay there sick and crying, saying, “I’m only good at two things in life: getting sick and getting rejected.”

    So, to me, it seems natural that you would be going through a miserable time now. I hope that in time you find healing and peace.

  • sepultura13

    For anyone who wants a quiet, gentle, peaceful, easy going sort of life, I am, quite simply, too much. Too intense. Too serious. Too passionate. Too giving. I’ve heard them all and more along the way, repeatedly.

    This is how people describe me, as well: “You’re a bit much…” “You need to tone down your intensity…” “You’re not subtle, at all…”

    I know exactly how you feel…very much so. I’m happiest when I can be myself, too – with no fakery required.
    🙂

  • lornasmithers

    Hello Nimue, ‘being a bloody awful person to be around’ and ‘too intense’ is exactly why I have to avoid extended social occasions. I can go for a drink with friends (and I use drink as a way to make myself socially acceptable) and I can just about make it through a day’s conference (and stay sober if I have to speak) but any longer and I just can’t cope. This is why I avoid camps etc. The only way I used to get through festivals in my ‘youth’ was getting completely trolleyed. I’m absolutely no good at ‘small talk’. I am very good at picking the world apart and making others depressed. I’m very lucky in that I have a few good friends who feel a similar way for mutual support. It’s not *just* depression. It’s the effect of living in an artificial shallow world. You’re not alone x

  • podgypixiejo

    I am so sorry to read that you feel this way. I know it’s easy to write these things, as a stranger on the ‘net! But still! There is nothing unacceptable about who you are, it says more about others that they cannot accept someone who is as enthusiastic as you are. Always remember the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind

    Take care of yourself xx

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I have a great many limits, and they increase with age. I have limits in my vision. I only have one ear that I can hear with and then only with a hearing aid. I can smell nothing at all, so I can taste very little.

    I no longer can drive safely, and my walking is limited by how far that I can go with my walker. So a guy who used to to walk up to thirty miles then became limited to three miles, then two miles, and not less than one mile.

    My physical energy levels, and strength have dropped alarmingly. I can not lift anything over 35 lbs. I can not do any physical work for longer than a hour and then I am wasted. At nearly age seventy I nap once to twice a day, sometimes for two hours at a time. So I have plenty of reasons to be miserable and complain if I choose to. However if I do that I will make it all far worse for myself and for others.

    So I make some changes in my life to adapt to the changes. First I pay solid attention to what I can do. When I do more than I usually can I celebrate it and pat myself on the back. Who else is going to be my cheering section and we all need our cheering section. I make jokes about my limitations, as laughing about the seems to be healthier than whining about them from y personal experience. This also makes it possible for new people, that I meet, to bring up their limits, and for us to treat limits as the normal things that they are at each stage of our life. It also shows it is possible to laugh about such things.

    With less energy, I make certain to do more things that I really want to do and can do, put less energy into what I don’t really want to do. Remember one of the advantages of being an old man, is that my age becomes the socially accepted excuse for most anything that I do, or don’t do. ” Hey he is a old geezer, what do your expect of him? That extra wiggle room comes in handy and I do make use of it.

    Lastly I make a conscious effort to search out what is funny, good, and beautiful in my day to day life. When possible I make it happen rather than just wait for it to show up. So that is the reason I put seventeen pounds of bird seed a day and keep the water dishes full out here in my desert for both birds, rodents, and why I have a cat that I give far too much attention to. The critters can make be giggle and our giggles become far more important as we get older. So I make sure to get plenty of them each day.

    So despite the limits, despite the health issues, and even despite aging, life is still interesting because I work at keeping it that way. Being miserable requires no effort, but being happy requires a bit of work, effort, and imagination about what you do each day.

    • Terra

      For a person whose illnesses include depression, being happy sometimes can’t be achieved, even with “a bit of work, effort, and imagination.” And people with depression who push themselves to be happy may feel even worse when those efforts fail.

      • Christopher Blackwell

        Having dealt with a great deal of depression I would disagree. No one is saying it is easy, but there are a number of things one can do.

        First determine if the depression is do to a real situation, or just due to being depressed. This is important because it tells if the situation is worthy of depression and deadly serious. Any depression due to a situation is justified and you should probably tackle the situation.

        If it is only depression obviously you will still be depressed but it is not something that you need to take immediate action on. I found that noting the difference between the two was an important first step. I started doing that before I got any treatment. There was no proper treatment available to me at the time as I had no medical insurance.

        What passed for service to the poor was a center with a psychiatrist with alleged councilors who had no real training in psychology. In fact I often found my alleged councilor telling me his personal problems. This was all that was available to me for the first twenty years here in the United State.
        I was not even diagnosed as to what problem that I had.

        One should explore the possibility of treatment. What triggered by my treatment was I hit mid life crisis and my depression became so bad that I was angry that others were not as miserable as I was. I was considering things that I could do to make the suffer. Had I not gone i for treatment I might have ended up on the 6 o’clock news as a mass killer. I was fortunate that a Veterans Administration Clinic opened only 60 miles away while I could still drive. That gave me a new option to try for treatment. When I told them of what I was thinking it was serious enough for them to not worry if my depressions was war related or not.

        Even when you have treatment you still have to be in charge as only you know what you consider feeling good is like in your ow head. You cannot afford to be passive with even the psychologist or the psychiatrist. This becomes very important if medication is involved, because each medication has different effects on each patient. There are medications that will not let you feel depressed, but also not let you feel anything what I refer to as the grey fog. You don’t want no emotions, even depression under the right circumstances is necessary in the right situation. All you want to accomplish is not to have any emotion run away with you.

        It takes at least three weeks before you can be certain if any medications is effective. But you have to check out how it makes you feel, and if it gives you control or not. You may eve have to disagree with what the psychiatrist feels works because you are the only person that will know what feels right for you. The control of your own emotions is far more important than whatever the trauma was that gave you the problem. After you have your emotions back running what you consider to be your idea of normal the you have a life time to study the reasons if you want to.

        It took twenty years to even get treatment and while under treatment I would enter into a period of major crisis health wise myself and the my partner. Had I not started treatment I would never have survived the major life or death crisis that came in the next seven years. It turned out I was bipolar. Taking my medication to handle that is just as important as taking my insulin for my diabetes. Stop either and I would not survive.

        Being bipolar runs in my family. My little brother never got treatment and during his mid life crisis committed suicide while being held on a suicide watch because they decided they were going to turn him loose and didn’t keep a proper watch on him at the end.

        My partner that I also suspect had a bipolar condition that he never had treated, under the strain of losing most of his lung capacity would have a complete emotional and mental break down near the end. He rode the emotional roller coaster for the final seventeen and a half years of his life.

        No one is saying just get over it. No one is saying act like you are happy when you are not, or even that you can do it by yourself. What I am saying is that if you leave things as they be, it is likely to get far worse. You have to work to take charge, using whatever help is available, because you can only handle so much emotional strain before you crash. It is that serious.

        I now have that control even though it took me over forty years to achieve it with help. I am grateful to be where I am and only wish that help had been available sooner, but it was not. It took that long for mankind to understand some of the ways that worked.

      • Nimue Brown

        Thank you for sharing this wealth of insight and experience. I really appreciate it.

      • Christopher Blackwell

        My partner’s knowledge was about ThunderEggs, but his belief was that information not gotten out was wasted. After he lost all but 23% of his lungs, he fought over the next 17.5 years to write down everything that he knew about it. This would include on scientific knowledge and practical rock hound information, including locations of 75 different deposits in six states, and four volumes of his mining adventures as an itinerant agate miner moving with the seasons between Oregon to New Mexico and back again.

        All of us learn something in life, and we never know when something that we learned might prove useful to another. We all can share whatever we learn, and be certain for someone it will prove useful. Teaching the lessons that we learned part of the giving back that all of us are capable of doing. Often we never realize the full value of what we have learned, or we mistakenly assume that others already know what we have learned. But until we share what we know, we never find out it’s value.

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