Once a scientist…

Dusk stretches for an eternity.

Birds circle overhead, the scent of jasmine wafts around the garden.

This is my favourite time of year.

I feel tired, pretty sad, and very hollow at times. But all things considered, I haven’t stopped sleeping and started losing 10% of my body weight (a shame really, because I would look better in my bikini for the Summer ), which is what I normally do post-breakup.

Ok, I am snappy with the kids, have low energy and trouble concentrating at work or feeling optimistic about the future. But somehow, I still kind of function, and hey, I can even smile at times!

Importantly, I don’t feel as much of the physical, ripping pain of heartbreak.

For the first time in my life, I accepted to take a course of lightly-dosed antidepressant to get me through the emotional shock. It tastes revolting, but let me tell you what, it is like getting an epidural when giving birth: Why on earth did I ever do without before?

Anyway, my mind wanders…

If you were to consider the period 2008-2015, and plot my breakup trauma intensity with T, Mr Nice#2, and Mr Xmas as a function of time on a log scale, I guess you’d get something like this:

log scale

First, that’s an average of one major break-up (I’m not placing Mr Nice #1 in that category, let’s just call it a minor rehearsal) every 1.9 years.

Which I guess, may even be a respectable performance, if Major Breakups were an olympic sport.

Now, if we were to plot a regression line, and hypothesise that I will keep on the same trend, we could basically extrapolate that somewhere between 2021 and 2022, when I experience my n+3rd major breakup, I may perhaps check my nails, before carrying on writing the shopping list… regression curve Hmm

It’s not you, it’s me

Dusk rainbow by Lady E

Dusk rainbow by Lady E

“It’s not you, it’s me” says a tearful Mr Xmas.

No shit, Sherlock.

I, for sure, am not the one currently in the depth of the worst bout of depression yet,  whose clarity of mind probably stands around 0.3% of its normal average, and who decides that, wohey, isn’t this a great time to wreck the most significant relationship of my last few years?

Let’s all pause to give Mr Xmas a round of applause for his truly outstanding judgement.

Mr Xmas is honestly the sweetest, most loyal and supportive companion when he is not depressed. It’s not always easy when he feels down, but he readily admits that overall, our little family is a positive help in his fight against the funky kind of unipolar, bipolar depression that’s been plaguing him for the last 27 years. I love him. The children love him.

But the abysmal bits of the funky unipolar bipolar thingy turn him into someone else, someone tortured, who oscillates between abject self-loathing, guilt, sadness and anger. Someone too scared and hopeless to give medications a real go. Someone who believes that the demands of family life cause, rather than help his depression, and that he is better off without it.

I am out of fight. I sit on the sofa and look out at the moutains, rain clouds shifting in the evening sky. I wish I could be somewhere else, perhaps the other side of the world …

Emily Loizeau – L’autre bout du monde

Worlds collide

Petals by Lady E

Petals by Lady E

A baby I don’t know is sitting in my daughter’s buggy. A red-haired little boy, who dribbles on the straps, looking content. His mother smiles, hands me a few notes, and walks away.

A little piece of my heart tears.

There is something really odd about standing in the sunshine on a perfect Saturday morning, selling chunks of your children’s babyhood for a few euros.

I look at the new mums milling around with newborns strapped to their chests, at the collection of baby-bumps cooing over minuscule onesies and ridiculously cute pyjamas. I remember being one of them, walking around NCT sales, oblivious of the middle-aged mothers selling their wares, absorbed in my own present of moses baskets and muslins.

Today, I have a son in middle school and permanent bags under the eyes. There will be no baby number 3.

As the sale closes, I stay behind with a friend who is expecting her first, and shows me her loot. As she beams and talks animatedly, I lose myself in the rush of pregnancy and newborn memories. The hopes, the worries, the excitment.

A man is walking towards us. I automatically look the other way and carry on smiling, but my pounding heart muffles all other sounds, as recent, painful memories in France collide with the bittersweet flow of UK pregnancies.

A year ago, Mr Nice and I walked down the same road, hacking out the menu for our evening barbecue with friends…

He walks past us, a stranger.

My friend doesn’t even notice.

Love it or leave it

The last threads of daylight hang suspended above the mountains, birds have gone to sleep, leaving the muted hum of city life take over.

I too have been quiet lately… Muted, but not gone. Sometimes going under in the storm of Mr Xmas’s depression, but soon bobbing back up and carrying on with a steady stroke.

After years of practice, I am a master of resilience. I can juggle a demanding new job, tax returns, play dates, and still think up ways to cheer up a miserable Mr Xmas. But there are also the times when I feel worn out, and so lonely I could cry…

Bless his heart, Mr Xmas is trying, and I am touched by his efforts be there for me and to help. He truly loves me.

But most of the time, he just isn’t really there, lost in the private hell that has become his mind.

He is so far from my reach, I feel so helpless, so unable to help.

Or to answer any the nagging questions: Will he get back to being the Mr Xmas I loved? When, for crying out loud? And anyway, how often will these depressive episodes happen? Is this the life that I want?

Asaf Avidan (who happens to be a hugely talented, generous and good-looking -if slightly tormented, fellow)- Love it or leave

Lifebuoy

LifebuoyDepression.

This is what Mr Xmas’ gradual retreating from life has been down to. We’ve had big conversations over the last few days, and have been friends long enough for me to know that he occasionally suffers from bouts of depression. But the thing is that neither of us thought it would return… Not now that he had gotten his life to where he wanted, and bagged the girl he’d been in love with for years, surely ?

However, there’s no denying that after a gradual slow-down over the last couple of months, Mr Xmas is now stalled. Unable to make plans, withdrawing from existing ones… for crying out loud, even the idea of booking a train ticket currently sends him into a tail-spin!

On the one hand, it’s an immense relief to know that none of this is to do with me, that his love for me is intact and that leaving me is the very last thing on his mind.

On the other hand, fuuuuuuuck!!!

What am I supposed to do?

I am currently living with someone who essentially wants to be left alone, retreat inside a cave and stay there until he feels able to cope with life again. Err…, fair enough, but what about me, and the kids who have come to rely on him to be their rock too?… Am I supposed to just grin and bear it, wait until he emerges again? Is this what love and accepting someone wholly is all about?

Don’t get me wrong, I do feel for Mr Xmas, because what he’s going through is just awful, and I know he is crushed with the disappointment that despite all the work he’s been doing in therapy over the last few years, his depression has returned.

Now, having seeked medical advice, my opinion is that anti-depressants are the lifebuoy he needs… But he just wants to wait it out, as he has more or less always done and resents the pressure I am putting on him to resort to chemistry. After all, it’s his lfe, and why should I dictate what he should and shouldn’t do? When can you make someone take a lifebuoy they don’t want?

Meanwhile, Spring lavishes its usual flowery splendour, I have been given a promotion after six weeks on the job, and feel like celebrating, making plans, whooping… But can’t do it with the man I have undoubtedly grown to love. I could cry with frustration.

So, internet friends, have you ever lived with someone affected by depression, and if so do you have any coping tips? How did you limit the damage on your relationship? Where did you draw the lines?

Silence

IMG_1373Not just my radio silence over the last couple of month. The thick, unsettling silence of my empty house tonight, as everyone is off somewhere for half-term.

Anyway, I know you’ve probably all but lost sleep over the terrible cliffhanger I left you with in early February. But at last the wait is over, as I can finally reveal (drumroll, crescendo: ) that I chose the terribly paid but interesting 6 months contract over a permanent and better paid, but not so interesting job. That’s it for the nutshell version.

The real-life version involved hopes, plans and tears, suspense and twists, but the funny thing is that in a few years, no-one, not even I, will remember the high drama.

And over a month ago now, I started working in communication for the international relations department of a local university. It has been a weird experience: Not working in English for the first time ever, learning about the subtle codes of the French workplace, and about University life in the 21st century.

Learning to forego anything not strictly falling within the Essentials category has also got its challenges, since Essentials do not include flowers, haircuts, new clothes or eating out. So I go around slightly dishevelled, wearing my last two pairs of still smart-looking trousers. But overall, it’s been nice: Work is fairly relaxed, my colleagues are friendly, and I like what I do.

All good then? Mmmwell, not quite…. And not quite involves old fears coming back to haunt me, as Mr Xmas and I talk about moving in together and plans for the future.

Gradually, my one-day-out-of-the-blue-he’s-gonna-leave-me-like-the-others-did radar has gone into overdrive. I scrutinise Mr Xmas’ face, and every word, finding warning signs everywhere in a nasty kind of PTSD-like fashion.

After many months of relative peace and security, it feels like being thrown back in time. Makes me want to howl and hide…

This song by Belgian singer Jacques Brel has been in my head a lot, recently. It came out in 1977, but (like me, ahem…) hasn’t got a wrinkle: It talks about a strange collection of things, which somehow manages to evoke our universal struggles with broken hearts, the passing of time, and friendship. I love it. So here’s to you, my online friends…

Jacques Brel – Voir un ami pleurer (English subtitles on the video)

Voir un ami pleurer from Franco Pachtoune on Vimeo.

The view from my office

View from my office

View from my office

Firstly, why did I ever think that cycling into work in a blizzard may even remotely be a good idea?

Secondly, night is falling now. And the roads will be even more slippery than this morning.

Thirdly, only a week left to go. In a week, this will no longer be the view from my office, because I will no longer be working here.

Just to add to the stress of wrapping-up a zillion projects before I leave, I have to take BIG job decisions. And frankly, I don’t like big decisions. They feel daunting, and definitive, and I would rather stick sharp things under my nails than decide.

Ok, so the reason decision time has come is because even though I have signed up for a terribly-paid but interesting fixed-term post somewhere, I am now being offered a slightly-better-paid but less interesting permanent position somewhere else. And that’s really just the executive summary of the problem, because there are many more ramifications such as being able to work part-time, how much time off  I can get to fit around the kids, development perspectives, the fact that if I go in one less-interesting direction, I will be closing the door on future, more interesting ones, and the all important issue of how good the canteen is.

So, hey, I know I am lucky to even have the luxury of choosing between two (well, actually it’s three, but the third one was a no-brainer) jobs, but guess what: I am scared. There’s been a lot of change in my life over the last five years, and I feel like hiding under the duvet pretending all this latest job changing lark isn’t really happening.

I know that I will eventually get over it, but right now, my eyes are watering, and I can feel a headache coming on.

At home, Mr Xmas, who has picked up the kids, showered my youngest and cooked dinner will be there, all deep-voiced and calm.

Think I’ll just catch the tram and bus home tonight…

Buena Vista Social Club – Dos Gardenias