When The Solstice is Telling Me to Stop

Dwindling daylight has shrunk to shortest day.
And tomorrow light lengthens again, as the sunshine starts to shine for a little longer – partnering in its’ ever transitioning cycles with the moon.
It’s time to turn towards sunlight and Spring again, as well as to turn over the fallen leaves of autumn, and sweep them away from my dim winter doorstep.
MY Winter though, actually began some months ago…
And whilst I wanted to keep the darkness quiet and work through it, that meant that I was feeling it, but not admitting to it.
One day in the early hours of a May morning, I woke up in panic, breathing hard and feeling terrified. My thoughts were spinning and tumbling, but I rationalised that it was a simple nightmare and the feelings would dissipate with the dawn.
But when I woke again, I felt a knot of anxiety at my core. My body felt flooded with Cortisol. And this stayed with me, over days and weeks – always, always that tight knot of anxiety, the feeling of being in fight or flight mode inside, no matter what I was doing on the outside.
Thinking I was simply stressed and needed a rest, I booked myself a spa break, thinking I either needed to be there or in a padded cell… But to my puzzlement, rest and pampering were not the cure – I still felt that anxiety at my core.
So I sought support. Talked to my GP, and saw a gynaecologist – as I believed menopause might be the cause and he tested me and agreed.
To me you see, it felt like a physical, rather than mental health issue, but still I did what the medicos said and sat with a counsellor, on the phone, talking it out. Whilst it felt good to vent, I found the process unfulfilling… It just wasn’t getting to the heart of what ever the matter was, or revealing anything I didn’t already know about myself and my life.
Yet things improved, time moved on, and the knot unraveled.
Then life started to happen… bereavement, trauma, stress, crisis, pain, surgery, illness…
Then to compound it all, my car broke down, and so did I. Driving home one evening, I stopped at traffic lights and my car stopped too. So I turned on the Hazard lights and started to sob with self pity and roar with indignant anger that this had happened to me. Passers by and police asked me if I was alright as they pushed my car to a side street, then left me to call for help, as the tears eventually subsided.
Well, help came, eventually. I called breakdown assistance, and waited 3 hours for them to cart my car away to a garage. And then my boyfriend turned up with a hat and mince-pies, to warm me up, cheer me up and drive me home.
And whilst all ended well, the knot of anxiety had returned, wound tightly within and this time I just could NOT unravel it.
Still though, I carried on with my life, as it was. I felt anxious and stressed, but this wasn’t ALL I was, I worked, loved, laughed, supported and smiled, too.
I talked to my loved ones, I went back to the doctor. I found a new life coach.
Yet life kept happening, there was more stress, and more to do, in every part of my life, with deadlines looming and decisions to be made.
But then you know, I’m ‘self aware’, a life coach, so I knew what was going on and what to do about it. Only I DIDN’T do it… Instead of facing up to it, I backed away from it, switching from thinking to doing, to block out the feeling. My survival it seemed, depended on hard work and getting things done – despite anxiety, illness and exhaustion. In response my brain shut down it’s consciousness, so I worked like an automaton. But I also stopped exercising, eating well, and writing – and so many of other things that fill me up, nurture me, and engender a sense of contentment. Instead, I continued to toil, as I was wading through mental treacle, feeling indecisive, slow and ineffective…
And Christmas was around the corner, or rather Chris-STRESS, with a 1001 ‘to does’ needing to be ticked off a long list, on top of everything else I was not doing or doing badly…

Until I just HAD to stop.

Because the panic attacks had come back and the anxiety was now a constant screaming pain in my gut.

So I started to confess my dirty, not so little secret – that the ditzy, positive, capable person that so many relied upon, had crashed and burnt.
And whilst I believe in openness and honesty, when people asked me how I was, I lied and said “I’m good”, fearing the consequences of revealing my ‘weaknesses’ and being a failure. It was a way in which I could exert some control over the chaos I found myself in, when in fact, it was actually covering up a LACK of control…
But then my doctor said ‘enough’. I had tried to keep all the plates in my life spinning, but instead they were crashing to the floor. But now someone had validated that I HAD to stop. And I’d known that for some time, but filed it away under ‘want’ rather than necessity, at the back of my brain. Looking back, I realise, that I wouldn’t actually stop, until someone else had given me permission…
So now, a few days later, I’ve slowed right down now, but not stopped as yet… I’m winding down to that and to Christmas. Instead of going cold (Christmas) turkey, I have been easing myself in, making changes, asking for help and having faith that all will work out as it should.
And as for Christmas, it will still happen – even if I only had the energy to put up one tree this year, the presents aren’t perfect and fewer cards have been sent. My health and happiness is far more important than any of these things. My gift to myself is the choice of a sweet and slow Christmas, with those I love, taking care of myself first and foremost, so I can be at my best for all the rest…
And whilst the doctor rubber stamped the stopping, it’s down to me now – to put myself first. To love who I am, instead of hating what I think and do. To give myself permission to do less, so that I get more (out of life). Deciding to let the world take care of ITself, whilst I take care of MYself. And not least, asking those around me for understanding and support.
The irony is that I have preached self care and self love for a long time now, exhorting others to ‘put the oxygen mask’ on themselves first, but still… here I am… So, as the bible says, ‘physician heal thyself.’ Be this physical or mental, unhealed trauma, hormonal or causal, I need to stop doing now and start BEING.
I write this not for sympathy or pity, because I know that I have so much to be thankful for in my life. This life is a gift and I want to make the most of every precious moment of it.
And to do that, I wanted to confess, to stop pretending to everyone and anyone about what is going on for me. And by being beautifully selfish about that, I want anyone going through anything similar at this moment in time, to give them self the permission to stop, too.
Please know that you CAN pause, rest and re-evaluate. What ever is going on for you, or your brain, sense of duty or someone else is trying to tell you.
Know that this is the way of life – Winter Solstice is giving way, slowly, to Spring. Nature is following its course, so that after all the darkness and cold, all is ready to be reborn and grow upwards, towards the sun. And as a creature who lives under that sun, it is now your time to do that too.
And where ever life finds you right now, may sweet solstice blessings be upon you, xx

Love Letter to a Bug Eyed Monster

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The calendar states a significant date, a date that asks me to respond to it, for so many reasons… It has been designated The Time to Change World Mental Health Day 2015… And that prompts me to finish my latest ‘Love Letter to Life’, a post I started several weeks ago, but found it hard to finish for many reasons.  Now it is time to reconcile and to conclude…

Dearest Me

Do you know what – there have times when I have literally been crazy..? Crazy with anger, with grief, with self-pity, with sorrow and the injustice of life… And since life is a balance, I have also been sweetly sane too, yes, I have been happy, relaxed, connected.  So it is that I have also walked the survival line – just getting on with the business of living, and getting myself from A to B – paying the bills and filling my time.  Indeed there are many versions of my life, and so it follows that there are many versions of me…

This time I am writing to an ugly, gargoyle version of myself. Today, physically anyway, I am a bug eyed monster with grotesquely swollen eyes.  It’s probably a simple allergic reaction, but I don’t like what I am seeing in the mirror and how I am feeling right now…  So if it is true that we manifest symptoms from deep rooted emotional causes; then in every way I can conceive, I don’t like what I am seeing right now – in the mirror, in life and in practice.  And here is a sick selfie of me – taken on that swollen day…


I managed to manifest these symptoms on Saturday, so it took too long to connect with medical support.  The serious fact to me, that my eyes were nearly swollen shut, was of no concern to the ‘professionals’ (they said, without seeing me, from a far distant desk, on a phone somewhere, in a place unknown), just take an anti-allergic tablet and wait…  Waiting is an anathema to me, being of little patience and wanting to be seen and to be ‘fixed’, right now, thank you very much.

But wait I do, and eventually, after days, my face shrinks back to normality in physicality.  But the concerns and symptoms of fate and psyche still remain, so it is time to now to reckon up…

If I have been crazy, then I have acted crazy – I have ranted and cried and shouted and screamed and smashed at various times…  Sometimes to rage and sometimes to vent.  Sometimes for minutes and sometimes for months…

I can easily give what I go through diagnoses, and wear them as labels, (figuratively) on my lapel… ‘I’m depressed’ and ‘I’m menopausal’ have been 2 favourite badges.  And I’ve taken tablets for both lord knows.  I’ve medicated in other ways too, by swallowing wine, chomping chocolate and filling my belly to hurting with calorific comfort food to take away the pain, or even to help me forget about it momentarily.

But if I don’t like what I see, it’s not just about me – I see this particular pain all around me, with family and friends; people that I love going through this too – in tiny and extreme ways; medicated, going through therapy, going through life with other remedies, either keeping it screamingly within, or reaching beyond their silent situation, becoming loud in behaviour and crying out to be seen and for support.

Such pain has surrounded me for ever, lord knows – my mother was prone to what was known as ‘nervous break downs’, so I witnessed this from childhood – she was labelled with depression, paranoia, psychosis and so many other badges too.  Then one day, my father had his own ‘nervous breakdown’ and it killed him.  He didn’t survive his own deep dive into craziness, and became both physically, mentally and as it turned out – terminally ill.

I’ve seen the maladies in other family members and in dear friends.  So many people so close to me.  I’ve spent so many hours worrying, talking, hugging, and visiting hospital wards.  I do what I can, when I can, since supporting others, somehow makes me stronger and means that in the cycle of life, I am better in supporting myself.

Still, my mind can wander and accuse me of not doing enough, and bringing guilt into the equation.  Is listening to and loving people for a while, sitting with them and fighting for them – with soft velvet gloves on, really enough?  I can only let them judge that.  But here for me, is what works – now my conscious coach-ly brain kicks in – I support where I can, with the resources and gifts that I have – including coaching and writing.  I choose to define myself by supporting others and symbiotically, this way this works for me too.

And if I have a failing, it’s that I don’t support myself enough.  I know that I must take the best care of myself, so that I can do the same for others.  It makes sense, but it is actually a tough thing to do.  Ironically there is a feeling that this is selfish, when if you really think about it, taking good care of yourself is exactly the opposite to selfish.

So here is what I do…  I take care of my health – I eat well and, yet still I treat myself with chocolate, drink and occasional excess.  I exercise – mildly, doing only what I love to stretch myself, and still I could do more.  I create a circle of love, with family, friends and trusted supporters, who I interact with and reach out to.  I share constantly and I support constantly, conscious of creating a balance.  It is an imperfect balance, but then I am not perfect.  I am, as it happens the most glorious work in progress…

And I found the things that work for me.  There is no one size fits all solution here.  We have to reach out and explore and test what is out there, beyond us, to help us – uniquely.  One of the major methods for me is to write…  I have decided to share my stuff with my words, to keep learning and reflecting on my life’s lessons.  And this feels like the most selfish, self-indulgent method of all.  But no excuses, this is what I do and by doing it, I do good, for me and then the person, or people or world that I touch as a result – that I have some impact on.  If that is one (me) or many (who knows who), then that’s my big ‘why’ for doing it.

So I’ve looked craziness in the face – in my face and the face of people I love.  I’ve shared some of my crazy shit, and so often with the fear that I will be judged – silently, selfishly and stupidly.

For so many, such sharing, and such admittance of what is wrong with their world is a sad stigma.  It is a shame in just about every way you can imagine.  But it is no coincidence that so often therapy involves sharing – taking that brave step of speaking out, not keeping your pain and symptoms locked within.  For believe me, I have seen these symptoms explode, so many times, within me and around me – when the brain and / or the body simply cannot cope with the pressure any more.

Many are medicated on their route to health and I have conflicting feelings about this.  It is a path I tried for a short while and it didn’t work for me.  But then it is my path.  People I know and love tell me that drugs have really helped them.  They are a recognised relief in our current health system.  I’ve seen both sides of that equation, including many unpleasant side effects.  Someone close to me has been on them for around 30 years and their belief is that it is simply a case of getting the prescription right, because their body chemistry is somehow out of alignment.  It’s not aligned yet though… My own belief is that such intervention should only ever be short term and to help people to build back their strength, then come slowly off them again.  But I refuse to be judge and jury on this for everyone – I cannot comment on every case and all of the pros and cons therein.

The motto of Time to Change’s Mental Health Day 2015 is “I want to live in a world where no one feels ashamed to talk about mental health”.

So let’s shed that stigma.  Let’s share and discuss and seek the myriad ways forward – the ones that work for you, in your world.  Speak out and reach out and get the support that will serve you best.  And please, please, please – help me to keep doing the same.  By sharing you never know who you will help – and if that is you – then good, and if this reaches beyond you – then good…

The bug eyed monster came, then went, and I’m back to a more symmetrical view of me in the mirror now.  I’ve plotted my peace, then rested and laughed and talked and shared. I’ve discussed and prayed and watched over my loved ones, and myself.

And here is my most recent selfish selfie, taken on a sunny / windy day on a sandy beach; since life is both a bitch and a beach… It’s a picture that is more smiling and symmetrical, so I’ll share this one today too…IMG_2094

And the craziness may well return, for me and for many, but then so too I know, will the sanity and the beauty, if we keep speaking and sharing.

So good bye bug eyed monster and hello me, in all my imperfect glory.

I love you (and me) – crazy, swollen, beautiful and all.

S xxx

PS: A collection of my ‘Love Letters to Life’ have been gathered together in to a book – ‘Peachey Letters’ – exploring all the facets of life and love, in its’ gore and glory. The book has been featured in Psychologies Magazine and The Lady, as well other local and national press.  In it you will find the dark and the light of love, in a way that will make you think, entertain you and let you know that you are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ by Sandra Peachey, from book websites any where in the world, including Hive (paperback and Ebook) and Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)… Or else ask your local bookshop to stock it and order it in…