Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. Audre Lorde
When I ended my relationship with my ex-partner, I hit the self-destruct button and have been on a downwards spiral for the past three months. I felt so helpless and hopeless that I engaged in a series of self-harming practices such as binge smoking and drinking. The pain I felt was so excruciating that I had to numb myself in order to get through the evenings and the nights. I could tolerate the days, but evenings and night were filling me with dread. I wanted to switch off. I wanted to stop the racing thoughts in my head. I wanted to stop analysing what had happened. I wanted the night to be over. I wanted to sleep. So, alcohol seemed to be the best option at the time and Jack Daniel’s and Marlboro became my best friends.
Unfortunately, now my highly unhealthy coping system has caught up with me. I have been diagnosed with persistent LRTI (Lower Respiratory Tract Infection – pneumonia) and have been referred for a chest X-ray. The GP seemed genuinely concerned and that scared me, especially when she went to get the fingertip pulse oximeter to measure my oxygen level. As I am a “worst case scenario” type of person, I immediately thought that I had cancer and I was going to die and it was all his fault because he had put me under so much stress for the past two years that I had ended up destroying myself. These were the exact thoughts that popped into my head at that moment.
My first instinct after leaving the surgery, was to contact my ex-partner. I needed to tell him because he had to know what he had done. Also I needed someone to talk to and although he was the last person I wanted to see, he was at the same time the only person that I thought I could confide in and that he would look after me as he promised when we were together. Then I remembered my “When I Miss Him” list and the urge slightly receded. I was also afraid I would find out that he had moved on and replaced me by one of his harem members – Princess Gemma or Queen Monika or Gorgeous Sole or Lovesick Paula or Shesjustafriend Marta. Just thinking of this, the urge died away and I spent the next two hours listening to music and crying on my bed.
After crying for two hours and thinking of all the horrible things that I would have to face if I had cancer, I decided that negativity was not going to make me healthier and that in fact it might make me worse. Facing my own mortality made me spring into action. If I was really going to die then I needed to make the most of my time. So I left the house, went to the town centre and browsed in a few shops. I just wanted to keep my mind occupied with mundane things to stop the negative thought in my head. I was out for a few hours and it did help me to calm down. After I came home, I took a Zopiclone tablet and spent the rest of the evening relaxing on my bed, watching a series on my laptop.
The day after, Sunday morning, my daughter came into my room and told me that she was going for a long walk in Richmond Park, because she needed to prepare herself for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage walk that she has arranged to do in July. I thought “Why not join her? I need to get out of the house and it will be nice to spend some time with her.“ My eldest son and the dog joined us too. We had a lovely two hour walk in the park, ate ice-cream and went to the restaurant afterwards. It was a lovely day and I felt happy to reconnect with my children and with nature. During my relationship with my ex-partner, I had isolated myself from everyone, including my own children, so it was time to make up for time lost.
Now I am looking after myself better, trying to eat healthy food and look after my mental and physical well-being. What I am sure about is that I will never smoke another cigarette in my life. This Friday I am going to the hospital for my chest X-ray and it will take one week to get the results. My therapist gave me a few tips this morning on how to tolerate uncertainty in order to avoid unnecessary anxiety. Writing my blogs will also help me to put things into perspective. So I will wait patiently for the results and luckily I have a few more Zopiclone tablets to help me sleep.