I’ve been living in this fog for a while now, how long I’m not really sure. I open my eyes and still don’t feel as though I’m seeing. I walk around and still can’t feel my feet touching ground. People I love talk to me and I watch their lips move and their faces change and their words and affections bounce off me like I have my own invisible shield.
I go for long walks and take deep breaths, counting to three, holding my nose, sustaining release. I hold onto the man I love but my heart is still empty and aching, I cannot hold him close enough…I feel I could crush his bones into mine and still feel this distance.
I stare into the mirror and I laugh emptily at this face I don’t recognise. My voice rings like a song too far out of reach to make out words.
What is happening to me?
I go to social events and wait for something, anything. I drink heavily in the hope that something is going to jolt me back into my body and I am bitterly disappointed. Instead the poison I keep deep down inside of me rises up like it usually does when I drink and I spit it all out over anyone close to me, I push them away, I scream, I try and make them hurt because I can. It isn’t fair that these people can just go through life as though nothing is wrong; sit there laughing and joking and drinking as though the world is theirs to leisurely walk through without a care. I hate everyone. Get away from me.
My jealousy over normalcy eats me up from the inside and I am left with only ashes and the same old fog of the day before; and the day before that, and the day before that.
I’m lying in the spare room bed because I’m afraid my thumping heart will disturb my partner. My heart beat is frightening me and it’s slowly getting faster and my spine is aching. I feel as though the world is ending even though nothing in the ordinary magnolia walls reflects this feeling of impending apocalypse and every breath feels like it might catch halfway up my windpipe and be my last. Tears prick my eyes; hot and heavy tears and I blink trying to keep them at bay but before I know it I am flooding. The flood lasts for hours and hours, accompanied by my thudding heart and ragged breaths and I find myself praying for this all to end. I don’t think I can live in this fog anymore, a world away from any real sense of connection.
The sun has risen and I am still crying, I find myself muttering to myself to just stop. Stop this; but I can’t. Stop it. Stop IT!
Eventually I am dry and nothing more can be rung from me. I arise and put my body into the shower. I am exhausted and trembling. I sit on the sofa and stare out of the window for a few hours then pick up my phone and without thinking about what I am doing I call the doctors…and listen to it ring. Eventually a female answers and I open my throat and thick words crackle out of me “Yes, hi. I’d like an appointment please…I…I think I need help”.
That day is ingrained into my soul like no other. I remember it so vividly as those that preceded it fade into nothing. It’s like a burning beacon in my memory. Booking the appointment and then getting dressed, walking down the road to the doctors as though I was being followed. I was desperate. I remember how desperate I was like an echo in the heart. I remember sitting in the chair opposite my GP and plead with silent eyes for an answer. The GP nodded and looked at some of my previous history, asked about my family; asked about me. I told and I didn’t lie. With a bobbing head he hands me a prescription and a form to fill in for the mental health referral team.
My first week on anti-depressants was an odd one. At first I was on a little bit of a high. When I got home from the doctors surgery I remember a huge sense of relief. I’d done it, I had realised I have a problem and I had actually made the first step towards getting help and not told any lies. The act of actually looking the issue straight in the face had started me on a path to recovery I would only later truly comprehend but after years of denial this first step felt like a huge leap.
I knew I shouldn’t drink on anti-depressants so this was also one of the first steps to addressing my alcohol problem…
I took the pills. I took one a day and I really looked inwards into myself for a few weeks. The fifth day I could almost feel chemicals in my brain adjusting, it was almost like a headache that isn’t quite painful. I was distant but different to the distance I had grown used to, it was lighter, less dense. I didn’t tell anyone but I would sometimes find conversations difficult and my clumsiness became a source of amusement for me and my partner who knew what I was going through. People would speak and I would process before responding, then when I did respond it was almost a surprise to me and I would laugh; the words almost floating in front of my eyes in the air.
I slept better. The internal monologue I had been carrying had been dulled to a murmur and was easier to ignore, or rather I just didn’t have the energy to care.
I couldn’t tell what was the ‘pills‘ and what was ‘me’. Am I doing this? Am I making this happen or is this the medication? I didn’t care at this point. Something was happening. That was all I needed; change.
I spent two weeks sleeping, processing, adapting. Like a new born who needs to tread life softly, delicately for fear I would break apart and drift into the atmosphere.
Finally after approximately three weeks I started to feel more human, less conscious of what was going on in my brain. Only this time the fog had dissipated and I had been so pre-occupied and fascinated with my internal goings on that I didn’t even notice. I looked with my eyes and they could see. I went for walks and I saw the shapes and colours that make up the world around me and I was in them. I looked at my partner and saw his face and his smile and felt something inside me wake up.
One day I went for a walk and looked at the leaves on the ground and burst into tears. They were wonderful! My dog gave me a confused look and I cried and laughed because I could see the leaves and I could see their colours and that was wonderful.
I went for my first social outing since ‘that day’ at the doctors and my partner held my hand under the table, knowing I was suffering badly with social anxiety, knowing I would struggle when people asked why I wasn’t drinking. We had discussed it and I wasn’t ready to tell people what I was going through, it felt private. It felt almost sore, like if I spoke of it to anyone else it would start hurting me again. I made it through but not without being asked if I was pregnant; amusing but not the truth.
I sometimes wonder If I hadn’t gone on medication and if I hadn’t gone to the doctor for help that day, would I still have eventually reached the conclusion that sobriety was the answer for me? I don’t know. I am glad for that day though. I look back and I am so thankful that I didn’t stay lost in that fog and allow myself to disappear completely.
Eventually my sense of self and of where I sat within reality re-aligned. The stronger I grew the easier it was to open up to those close to me and for me to be more honest with myself and others.
The most wonderful thing though was that along the way I rediscovered my ability to see all the magic there is in the world, the magic in the details. The blue of the veins under my skin, the soft kind brown of my partners eyes, the feeling of my feet stood solid on the ground, the sound as a laugh breaks free from my chest and goes ringing into the air as a reminder of joy; startling and brilliant.
For so long it was closed off to me, hidden by the fog. Depression was like having all my nerve ends severed, it felt like ‘nothing’ like I was completely empty. Alcohol unleashed the worst of me at myself and those I loved. Both were entwined in each other and moulding my life into something painful to endure…
…but I got out…How long had I been there? My memories are sometimes difficult to retrieve and I have lost days, weeks.
…But I got out. I am here. I am present.