I’m due for a blog, it’s a fortnight since my last one. Not sure if I can manage something coherent or whether this will just be a ramble, but I’ve achieved literally nothing else for two days, so I’ll give it a shot.
It’s been a tumultuous two weeks for me. I started taking some medication. It’s eased the pressure in my brain, like letting the blood out of a broken toe, and restored a lot of mental clarity. It felt initially like it was on the verge of giving me back the ability to sleep for more than four hours a night – felt like it, but wouldn’t quite happen. Like a sneeze that makes you screw your face up and then disappears. I may need to try something else. The mental clarity has remained but the sleep is regressing. I didn’t even bother going to bed last night, I was awake and alert the whole way through and knew I couldn’t have slept. And now, at 10.30pm after a night with no sleep, I still feel like sleep is somewhere in the distance.
I’ve also tried a new psychologist. I had tried one a month ago, and the guy was an idiot. He must specialise in the autism field – he spent the entire session trying to see if he could diagnose me with Aspergers (for the record, he couldn’t). But that wasn’t why I was there, and he just didn’t listen. It put me off, but early last week I realised I still wasn’t coping and needed to try someone else. The new woman is much better, and got it straight away.
On Thursday night, I also attended a local Hope Walk, intended for suicide prevention and awareness. It’s not really my sort of thing, but I thought I ought to attend after the attention I had inadvertently drawn to myself. It was one of the best things I’ve done, because listening to another sufferer describe all of their episodes of depression as having been brought on by big losses in her life helped me understand mine a lot better.
The first one was the farm. Being a family farm, we’re a lot more emotionally invested in it than most people are with their jobs. It’s not just a job. You carry it with you all the time. And these days, that’s a big responsibility. Farmers are not the simple, Fred Dagg type characters any more that a lot of people still conceive us to be. They’re running complicated, complex, highly-skilled businesses. But it’s even more than that. Your standard commercial business is funded by investors. If it goes wrong, some faceless investor loses their money and the person running the business walks away. Our investors are the life’s work of several generations of family. The cumulative life savings and the blood, sweat and tears of our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. All of the sacrifices they made, all of the hours of back-breaking toil they put in, that’s what’s at stake for us. Of course, then, we’re more deeply invested in it than someone managing a business financed by a hedge manager for a superannuation fund. How could you not be?
You can’t come home from farming and just switch it off. You don’t clock out at 5pm on a Friday and just blank it out until Monday morning. It’s always there, ticking away. And when it’s going wrong, like it did in 2010, the pressure is enormous. Working seven days a week, in horrendous conditions, steadily, inexorably losing ground. Watching nature laugh in your face, mock you for thinking you had some control over anything. And after endless weeks of that, the pressure got too much, and it broke me.
I hadn’t actually realised it until listening to the woman at the Hope Walk talk about big losses, but part of getting myself through the first episode had been learning to step back and not be quite as invested in it as I was. That will be why I managed to get through the 2013 drought without a relapse – which I was deadly afraid would happen at the time, and that fear added to the already intense pressure of the drought itself. But I’d stepped back, and wasn’t quite so emotionally tied into it, and I got through. I fed 5,500 sheep maize silage on 10 hectares for two and a half months. It was mind-bending stuff, but I coped.
And that’s why this one has rocked me so much. Because although we only dated reasonably briefly, I had come to care about her more than anything else in my life. More than the farm, more than my dogs, more than all of it put together. I wasn’t just heavily invested in it. I was completely, 100% invested in it. And when it went wrong, I went with it. As every interaction between us this year went wrong, I was right there, riding the trend. Going down with the ship, into the vortex to the bottom of the ocean. When one final text went wrong on the 23rd of March, I hit that rocky bottom, and my ship splintered into pieces. I couldn’t do it any more, realised I had to open up about it, and wrote that first blog. I’m still invested in it, and scratching my head about how I’m going to manage to step back from this one.
I ran into her on Wednesday, just a few hours before meeting my new psychologist. A chance encounter, in a shopping mall, both of us away from our home towns. And it went well. We stopped for a moment and chatted, as you do, and it was friendly, and smiley, and good-natured. It was our first in-person interaction this year, which helped – as well as two people might know each other, things can get distorted when all communication is digital. I’d made things out in my head to be a lot worse than they actually were. It was so good to see her, to see her smile at me, to hear her voice and look into her eyes. It’s been a bit of a setback in terms of now missing her terribly again, and wanting to make contact, and I’ve been low these last two days, which is why I’m unsure about this blog. Maybe I’ve got the tone a bit wrong. But this is where I am. More aware of myself, more understanding of what I need to do. And with the right help around me now to achieve that. Just because I asked for it.