Layer upon Layer

Posted on December 5, 2012

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Do you remember at primary school when you’d make those newspaper and glue paper mache things that when they dry they go hard? You’d take a sheet of newspaper, wrap it round something, it could be a wire frame if you were say, making a lampshade, or less complicated, a christmas tree ornament. Then you’d paste over the paper with the glue and do another layer of newspaper and repeat and repeat until you had reached desired thickness. Then wait till it was dry, and then paint or gloss over it to make it look pretty, and give it to your mum for mother’s day.

Over the past two decades i’ve been doing this in my mind with distractions, layering over whatever was in my core that was dark and uncomfortable – and for the first time recently I just stopped. Illness forced me to. And as the layers were forced to have to peel away and I had to face what was left under them, something amazing happened.

Don’t get me wrong, it was hard at first and the thicker outta layers took years to shift – after all, i’d spent years building them up. They were hard muther fuckers. But eventually I stopped doing drugs. The hedonistic nights became replaced with less damaging distractions like evenings in nesting with wine, more cultural trips abroad (Istanbul over Ibiza or Berlin); buying my first flat and lots of dancing round my living room (which to be honest, had always been a fave pastime). But as exhaustion slowly kicked and all my energy was going into my work, a job I’m very passionate about, I found I had little time for anything else.

Once parties evolved into evenings in bed, I felt sapped of energy. Drained. Like there was no room in my head anymore for anything. So I gave up wine and carbs, and as a result of a stress induced switchy eye I started weekly meditation and yoga. Well, one session. Hey! I have commitment issues! But it massively helped. I started thinking more mindfully, not letting my thoughts control me or spin me out. Book reading took over. Self help. Sick-Lit. Lots of crying. And for guilty pleasures the odd celebrity auto-biography. It’s always good to read about other people’s hardships. Tulisa you are a good friend (albeit imaginary one).

The layers peeled back and a viral infection forced me to stop. I just couldn’t go on. Motivation left on the dancefloor, and i’d stopped dancing. I was signed off work from Exhaustion – or Burn Out – as its otherwise known. I think the wake up call came one day when I decided to venture outside, and I got excited at the prospect of a trip to Asda.

Getting sick, and just stopping, forced the final layers – distractions – to shed and I was caught in a computer says no stress hangover. All I could seem to cope with was staring out the window or cooking a slow meal.  I realised that when you don’t spend enough time with your core self, and I hadn’t been doing that for a really really long time – you put all your energies and effort into other things, relationships, family, friends, work, dramas (not on TV – the ones in your life) and without realising you make it harder to get to a happy place. Perhaps you think you’re happy, but its a false happiness curated by the adverts on TV and the idealism promoted in hollywood films. None of its real, yet the distractions are temporarily keeping your happiness above quarry levels, because whilst the distractions are good, they’re simply avoiding the real issues at heart.

I have finally started to spend time with what is on the inside. And the last few weeks I’ve been to hell and back. Not that I believe in hell, but the kind that affects the living, as much I could imagine being in purgatory could be if it existed in one’s mind. Which actually to be fair, it really does.

I have been thinking about the little girl I was when I was – whether intentionally or not – rejected and neglected. And now that I have, i’m okay – I just have to work on finding peace with it. Not all of its pretty. And I still default to thinking i’m pathetic for feeling bad about this. But peeling back the layers gave me the headspace to think about who I was as a child, my hopes dreams and fears – and this is what I meant by something amazing happening –  because in that exploration I discovered things I hadn’t realised before. Re-examining who I was aged 7, or 12 allowed me to find warm feelings for myself that I hadn’t had in a while, if in fact ever, and I let go of a lot of pain from that age, and felt differently about myself. Kinder. More loving. Accepting. I no longer felt like I was going to continue bullying myself, something i’ve definitely been doing for pretty much the whole of my life.

The darkness is still there and i’m struggling on a daily basis to get to grips with it, but I feel proud of myself that I’m facing it head on. I’m just rolling with the rawness of it and finding solace in the fact that I have the skills to be aware of it. In time, once i’m in a good place – it will be because I really am, as opposed to having created scenarios around me that fool me into thinking that’s what I have.

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Posted in: The Truth