Say, do you have the time?

It’s amazing that when you’re going through something – no one you’ve been there for affords you the time…

So here I am with COVID – first time 9 months after the first major outbreak in Queensland. I’m taking that as a total win and a testament to the powers of social distancing.

How do I feel? Well, it’s day 4 or 5 (I’ve lost count) and I feel pretty crap if I’m being real with you. My whole body hurts, the congestion is causing migraine after migraine which is making it near impossible to concentrate.

I’m not really here to talk about my experience with COVID today though – I’m sure I will when it’s all over and I’ve recovered, but I see no point in telling half a story.

I’m sure it’s news to a lot of people, but during the second year of COVID, I had a particularly hard time. After Crohn’s disease changed my life – Stocker and I found our own way to find fulfilment – and yep, it wasn’t the ‘traditional’ way. We coped a lot of grief for that – and sure, it was hard at the time, but the reality is what’s right for other people isn’t right for us and vice versa.

Anyway, along comes COVID which then takes away the activity we had buried ourselves in – travel. At first we thought it was only going to be a couple of months – after all this was a new respiratory virus – they can’t keep it out long term. We were so wrong.

I rode out the first year pretty well – with the vaccine being released in December 2020 to the USA I had renewed hope that it would be over in the next 6-months and life would return to 2019 normal.

I couldn’t have been more wrong – in fact, things became gradually harder for me with the introduction of mask mandates and having to navigate an exemption.

By the time July rolled around, I had hit the rock bottom I’d been sliding toward for months. For the first time in years I was having suicidal thoughts and that little voice in the back of my head was telling me “lockdown forever – you might as well just opt out now”. The last time I felt like this was 2004 – when I was embarking on an epic bender of sex, drugs and booze that would cost me the next 5 years of my life. Back then [in 2004] I thought I felt the same way that everyone felt – no one really talked about it. I didn’t realise I was struggling with my own demons.

Around the time the 3rd or 4th (I really lost count, it became such a joke) lockdown was called I was done – totally done. Couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t focus, didn’t want to play anymore, done. I needed help – but my elderly psychiatrist couldn’t attend in person appointments (for obvious, COVID reasons), so that was a problem. During this time – all the people who regularly lean on me – were leaning, really hard, even though I clearly wasn’t doing well. Knowing I couldn’t pour from my obviously empty cup any more, I started withdrawing from that position under the weight of other people and from some hard conversations I just couldn’t have in an act of self preservation.

Here’s the thing – when you’re always the person that’s there and who helps, then suddenly you’re not – people get angry at you. This has happened all throughout my life. People who are completely dependent on me for emotional support get angry at me because I take a bit of time to get my own health (mental and otherwise) under control. They say I “ghost” them. When the reality is, I just give myself a bit of space, they don’t like it and decide to hate on me. I think people would be shocked to learn how often this happens to me… and the simple solution is – don’t lean on me so hard, let me get up from under the weight every so often and breathe, then I wouldn’t need a total break…

It’s like though – the co-dependancy that I unwittingly encourage, can’t handle that situation. In itself – the people who attach themselves to me in this fashion have their own mental health to work through – but use me as a “get out of counselling free” card.

I’ve been having an encounter like this for almost a year now, a grown woman, sat across from me last December and rained abuse on me for, and let me direct quote, ‘not being a good enough friend when [she] needed it’, phew. Luckily in December when the barrage of abuse took place, I was doing a bit better than say, September. I had been able to arrange a few tele-health appointments with both a psychologist and my psychiatrist. I wasn’t good – but I was doing what I needed to do to cope. I just need to point out the stark contrast here…. Rather than relying on other people to get a shovel and dig me out of the hole I was in, I took my medication, I went to professionals, and I started getting back into some healthier habits.

The question remains, am I the bad friend if this other person doesn’t even realise that I was drowning?

The matter she’s dealing with is serious – like, life or death serious. But given the way I was feeling this time last year – my issues were pretty serious too.

I feel like this, like she, might be the last straw. I really do feel like she has sucked the last of my empathy out and I can’t deal with any more personal problems belonging to other people – because this is always the result. When I need to have a break from being the counsellor, the shoulder to cry on and the validator – I’m instantly the enemy, and to be blunt, I’m fucking sick of it.

My final piece of commentary on the situation is: when you’re ‘venting’ or getting emotional help from someone close to you, who is not a professional, stop for a minute and look at that person – really look. If they don’t look ok – chances are, they’re not. You can help by simply giving them a break – or asking them about how they are going and really listening in return.

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