Putting back the layers

bubble 2

When most people describe depression they talk about a black cloud or fog. For me, it was less about life becoming clouded and more about finally being able to see the truth. And that “truth” was like gazing into the yawning mouth of hell.  
I hear that troubling existential thoughts are very common when struggling with anxiety and depression. But like with all symptoms, knowing how common they are doesn’t necessarily help when you’re lying in bed at night wondering why we’re here and what the point of it all is. When you’re looking into your beautiful baby’s face and struggling to remember why you brought him into this horrible world in the first place. Or when everything you planned for your whole life is so utterly different from what you expected that you have absolutely no clue why you’ve bothered getting this far. These thoughts, and others, were my constant companion for many months.  
There is an almost superiority that comes with seeing the “truth” in this way. I would look at others going about their day to day lives and wonder how they could be fretting about such small, petty things when they could be looking at (and fearing) the big picture. How can you get excited about buying a new dress whilst ignoring the horrifying pointlessness of it? I would wonder how they could laugh and smile at small joys like a tasty dinner or a child laughing when the question of a mankind’s presence on earth is still unanswered?  
You can tell I wasn’t well just reading these words, can’t you? And, heartbreakingly, I knew it then too. I knew just a few months previous my thoughts were consumed with nursery paint samples, maternity pay cheques and which takeaway I fancied most. But it seemed that now the truth was revealed to me I couldn’t put it back in the box. I couldn’t get back behind the shield of the Every Day 
I knew I had to do something. I knew I couldn’t recover with the bubble torn away and these big questions laid bare and unyielding before me. I knew I needed to build the layers back up, get slowly behind their protection again.  
So I starting catching myself in the act and talking to myself. I found a phrase – “Shrink it down. Just shrink it down.” If I was in the supermarket and the sheer pointlessness of buying food and consuming it would freeze me in my tracks I would take a deep breath, let the fear rumble through me and say “Shrink it down. Don’t worry about all that for now. Just focus on what type of potatoes to buy and move on.” 
This took some practice. The phrase “fake it to make it” springs to mind. And it took an awful lot of time. But eventually I’d be shopping, or at a toddler group or having a glass of wine with my friends and I’d realise I hadn’t thought about the meaning of life for twenty minutes or so. Then an hour. Then maybe even a whole day. I’ve since found out that this is called mindfulness. 
My grandad loves physics and when I was a child he would teach me all about the solar system and galaxies and my young brain would struggle to comprehend the sheer endlessness of the universe. As a young person I would relish a late night, drunken debate about religion, the Big Bang or the supernatural. If I’m honest, I shy away from those topics a little now. I still fear thoughts that are too big, it can still cause a wave of anxiety to run through me. I can’t imagine I’ll ever be quite the same as I was, quite so curious, quite so fearless. I guess some truths are so unpleasant that once seen they cannot be unseen.  
But I’m back in my bubble and I like it there. Layer by layer I built up my defenses using bricks made of the mundane. The beautiful, wonderful mundane. Because really isn’t that what life is about? The small moments.  
Chances are none of us will ever get the answers to life’s big questions. I’m never going to be 100% certain why I’m here. So in the meantime I’m going to focus on the taste of the pasta sauce I’m making, the smell of freshly mowed grass and the gorgeous grin my son gives me from across the room, because those are the things that matter. 

8 comments on “Putting back the layers

  1. This is an immensely important post to digest and reflect on… I am totally in agreement with you. And I can also say I understand where you’re coming from. I often tell myself “look at the Big picture ” which helps me to change my view whenever I am stressed out about little trivial things. I often reflect on the meaning of life, but I also try to do mindfulness by simply being and observing my surrounding. Just being is a wonderful thing . Again, this is a wonderful post . Thanks.

  2. I know this is an old post but have just found it in my current struggle with antenatal anxiety and intrusive thoughts. It is such a relief to read about someone else having the same huge, mind bending thoughts as me and to read that you have got through them. Even though I have got through them before (usually with a low dose of medication) when you are in the midst of them it is hard to see a way out! I am currently 32 weeks pregnant and trying to avoid meds but slowly starting to think that it may be best for me an baby to take something to prevent things getting even worse post natally. Anyway, I’m rambling. Just wanted to say thanks for your honest post, I find it hard to describe my feelings to my husband and family so having this as a reference will be useful! Glad you are doing so much better and enjoying life as a mum xx

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to reply.

      Having “big” thoughts about live, the universe, our purpose etc can be utterly terrifying when struggling with Anxiety or Depression. It took me a long time to quieten those types of thoughts and occasionally they’ll still try to draw me in but nowadays I simply remind myself they are just thoughts, they don’t deserve much of my attention and I do feel lots of happiness in my life so the big questions don’t really matter. Being present & practicing mindfulessness helped me a great deal to shrink scary thoughts down.

      I don’t know if you follow my Facebook page but I’m currently running a weekly series of Facebook Live videos about a different Anxiety symptom or management technique every week. In a few weeks time I will be discussing this very issue so feel free to hop over there and follow the page. Thanks again x

      1. Thanks so much for your reply, it really helps to read about someone who’s feeling better. It feels a bit impossible at times! It really is a terrifying feeling. Have started meds this week so praying for some improvement before baby arrives. Xx

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