To be alive when you feel dead

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If you’ve been following along on Facebook, you’ll know that a couple of weeks ago I went to Byron Bay for some pre-birthday celebrations and to spend some time with my friends.

What you probably didn’t know (because I didn’t talk about it) was that I didn’t want to go.  Correction; my depression didn’t want me to go.  The only thing that stopped me from cancelling the trip was the hundreds of dollars I had already spent getting there and on my accommodation.

I’d been struggling with my head for about 3 weeks before the trip.  After about ten days, I thought the episode was losing its grip but my PTSD and anxieties then got triggered and sent me into a dark hole.  I could barely talk to mum on Skype and told her that whilst I would ‘probably enjoy myself once I was there’, I wasn’t looking forward to going.  Even the thought of packing a 3 day suitcase stressed me out on a level that outweighs logic.  But it’s my head.  There was nothing I could do but attempt to move forward regardless.

And whilst I told everyone that I was going to have a relaxing weekend, there was something I knew I was going to do that was very UNrelaxing; a skydive!

It seems obligatory when you’re a backpacker travelling in this part of the world; something fun and adventurous, a ‘must do’.  But I had deeper reasons for wanting to take part; I hoped it would ‘jump start’ my head…be something so wild and out of the ordinary it would immediately bring me out of the episode I was experiencing.

I thought I would be nervous the night before or even on the day but I wasn’t.  I can’t even say I was excited.  Turns out my mum was the same when she did hers – very matter of fact about it all (clearly we’re adrenaline freaks!).  I was more excited that we saw whales from the plane as we were ascending than the thought of the actual jump.

But before I knew it, the door opened…

And the girls at the front of the plane screamed.

I continued to look out the window for whales.

And then we shuffled forward.

And kept shuffling.

Then we were on the plane floor.

‘Look up!’ my instructor says.

‘WHOOSH!!!!!’

The cold air hits and without conscious awareness, you’re screaming and laughing (and dropping a big ‘fuck yes’ into the air) at this disorientating wild and free ‘rollercoaster’ you’re on as you free fall back to Earth, not knowing which way is up or down.

The parachute opens and as your ‘falling with style’ slows down you take in the beautiful views that skydiving over Byron Bay offers (the highest skydive in Australia by the way because ‘go hard or go home’) from stunning blue sea to green mountains and you pull the parachute to the right to take you into a fast downward spiral which makes you feel dizzy but you don’t care because you feel so free.  And before you know it, the landing field is getting closer and closer…your legs are outstretched and you’ve landed!

It’s over and you are literally back down to Earth with a bump but the adrenaline is still pumping.  You’re waddling like a pregnant goldfish with the hardness still on but for a few very short minutes, all the worries in your head are gone and you care about nothing but the wind in your hair and enjoying yourself.

And though I didn’t realise it at the time, it really did help me to pull me out of my episode.

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I’m not saying, of course, that we should all be jumping out of planes at the weekend (though really you should because it’s a great experience) but between that, new surroundings and time with friends, the weekend really did help to soften my depressive episode.

It’s sad to think that I almost cancelled the whole weekend and didn’t go skydiving because the lying thief on my shoulder told me it wouldn’t make me feel any better.

I am glad that I know myself (and the illness) well enough to know when I have to push myself to do things despite not always wanting to or believing I will feel better for doing it.  I genuinely didn’t want to skydive but I am so pleased I did because I feel better for it.  As though I was a broken car, the skydive jump-started my good mood again!

And I think that proves two very important lessons for those of us who suffer…we often have to push through regardless of our emotions/thoughts and that we need to find anything we can that makes us feel alive.  Maybe it’s spending time with your friends and their new baby or taking your dog for a walk.  Perhaps it’s adventure sports or learning a new skill.  Maybe it’s an afternoon with friends and videogames (yes, even as an adult).  Whatever it is, we have to do it and though we may have to fight ourselves to take part, fight we must!

Because to be alive when you feel dead is the ultimate ‘fuck you’ to your illness!

Huge thanks to Skydive Byron Bay who gave me a discount for my jump, appreciating someone trying to live despite mental illness.  My opinions, I think you’ll know by now, are always honest – I really did enjoy myself!

4 Comments
  • Kirsty

    Reply

    I love your reference to a pregnant goldfish although it does make me worry about how your brain!!
    One of my problems (talents) is that I have to find an explanation for everything. It doesn’t matter whether it’s right just that it makes sense..so here goes.
    A few years ago my boyfriend at the time persuaded me to start horse riding lessons with him. I wasn’t overly keen but thought it would be something different to do. After a few months I took a fall whilst cantering and ended up in hospital. Once recovered I couldn’t quite persuade myself to get back in the saddle.
    A year down the line a colleague suggested I try again and a friend of hers would give me a few private sessions before I went back to classes. The private sessions were great and I did get a bit of confidence back. However, the lessons were harder for me. I was worried about other riders losing control.
    Each week I would force myself to go. I would be shaking and generally scared throughout. There were bits that I enjoyed but a lot of it was fear. However, driving home I wiuld feel almost euphoric and on a high. This is what kept me going.
    My explanation for this is that when you’re depressed, you have a lack of any emotion. A real apathy about everything (this is my experience at least). I realised that the riding actually made me feel something. Even though it was fear, I knew I was alive and this is what kept me going. The racing heart, flushing, jelly legs, butterflies…I really felt them all and I loved the sensation of experiencing an emotìon.
    This was my explanatiin at least…obviously a lot of people don’t analyse like this and can just enjoy ‘being’ ☺
    Thanks for another great blog x

    • Toni

      Kirsty – in the UK a ‘pregnant goldfish’ is the nice way of saying ‘twat’ lol.
      I’m with you on needing to find a reason or a ‘why’ for everything so I completely get what you’re saying particularly after feeling ‘numb’ with depression and needing to feel a live or distracted from your thoughts and emotions. I analyse a lot of my thoughts and situations so you’re not the only one…I think you hit the nail on your head with the explanation about your horse riding adventures! x

  • Jamie

    Reply

    “Because to be alive when you feel dead is the ultimate ‘fuck you’ to your illness!”
    Favorite sentence I have ever read! 🙂 Excellent post!
    Jamie recently posted…The Most Feared Word I Know…My Profile

    • Toni

      Jamie – thank you so much lovely! 🙂

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