On Being Solar-Powered

It’s been a while since I posted on here so I thought I’d give a quick update. My grandma passed away at the end of July, only a day after she ended up having to go into the hospice. Sadly she passed away only a couple of hours before we (my entire household) were supposed to be going in to visit her. So we all felt extremely sad that we didn’t get to say a final goodbye. But my dad, my grandad, both aunts on that side of the family, my uncle and my two cousins had been with her all morning. My two cousins were actually by her bedside as she passed away. She had stopped being able to talk to people or to be fully aware in her final hours but she could still respond in some ways. Apparently just before she passed away, my eldest cousin (who is 24) found some Scottish country dancing music on youtube on her phone, and played it to my grandma. My grandma (who had a lifelong love of Scottish country dancing and was once a member of two dancing groups) made a sound as if she recognised the tune and then started moving her feet in time to the music as if she wanted to dance. So all in all, not a bad way to go – dancing out of the world.

We were all of course very upset, and my grandad hasn’t really been the same since she passed away. We’ve all been doing our best to make sure he’s okay. My dad is actually living with him right now while he looks for a new house, my aunt is there about every other day, and I visit him for a drum lesson and a chat once a week. Thankfully, he’s joined quite a few new social groups so he keeps himself quite busy most days, but he still struggles at times. He seems to have become very anxious about a lot of things since my grandma’s death.

To be honest, things have been sh** recently and I’m probably not much fun to be around. My mental health has suddenly fallen off a cliff as autumn has arrived so I suppose I can put another tick in the “strong evidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder” box for the…13th year in a row now? I have so much anger towards the psychiatrist at CMHT who asked me to fill in a screener for S.A.D, read it, and then proceeded to tell me absolutely nothing about whether I met the diagnostic criteria or not. He did then loan me a SAD lamp, to be fair, which was helpful, but it would have been good to actually know for sure given that it’s something that affects me for HALF THE FREAKING YEAR, and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. Fairly sure it’s self-evident at this point though.

I mentioned a few posts ago that a counsellor at university had told me about a counselling place that accepts donations. Given that CMHT are apparently refusing to see me, it seems like this is my only option other than medication unless I can one day afford £70+ per 50 minute session of CBT at a private practice (highly unlikely as an ecologist!). Even at the voluntary counselling place, I’m still paying £10 per session, which is A LOT of money to me right now. I started seeing someone there not long after my grandma passed away but I didn’t get on with the first counsellor I saw and couldn’t open up to her at all. I spent 3 sessions pretty much just staring at the floor (and may as well have used that £30 to play a game of tug-of-war with my staffy cross), so needless to say, I asked to be put back on the waiting list to see a different counsellor. I’ve since had 6 sessions with the new counsellor and while it’s not been as helpful as I hoped, I have been able to open up to her a lot more and it’s helped me to see things a bit differently and understand why I am the way I am in certain situations. I’m hoping that I will eventually be able to fully open up about my experiences of being bullied in high school, and of being emotionally abused and hit by my dad.

Speaking of my dad, my past experiences with him have been eating away at me lately for some reason. On the one hand, I don’t just want to hold it all inside myself and pretend it didn’t happen for the rest of my life, but I also don’t want my family to hate me or to think that I’m making things up or exaggerating. I did try to bring it up a while ago with my mum and stepdad but my mum just dismissed it, saying that it can’t have been as bad as I say, and my stepdad (who knows absolutely nothing about it) said that my dad would never do anything like that because he’s a lovely guy. And yes, he is a lovely guy now, but that doesn’t mean I’m lying. I used to think that as I got older, I’d understand where my dad was coming from and I’d see that I was in the wrong. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I see how he repeatedly messed up as a parent. I know I’m not a parent but I cannot imagine ever saying to my 13-year-old daughter “No wonder you don’t have any friends” or “No wonder you’re so fat” or telling my 4 kids “I’ll be glad to see the back of you when I move out and don’t have to deal with your shit anymore”. And I cannot imagine saying those things and more, and losing my temper and hitting my child, and never once apologising for any of it. I think that’s what hurts the most – the fact that he never, ever apologised for anything he did or said. If I could just get an apology from him, even all these years later – an admission that it wasn’t my fault – it would go a long way towards helping me to heal. But I’m too afraid to bring up the subject with him. And – perhaps rather ironically – I don’t want to ruin his life. He’s a LOT happier now than he was back then, when he was living a lie. I don’t want to ruin that. And I don’t want my family to hate me. I’ve been wondering lately if I should try to speak to my mum about it again. I opened up to her a few days ago about my experiences with strongly suspected S.A.D, and she was actually really understanding about it. But I don’t know if she’d ever believe me or accept that what my dad said and did back then was so hurtful and had such an impact on my self-esteem. I don’t know where I’d even begin. We used to be quite close but I find it so difficult to open up to her about a lot of things these days.

I mentioned in my last post that I had to defer my graduation due to being ill for so long, but now it’s looking like I’ll have to do so AGAIN for several reasons. This has been causing me a lot of stress (and obviously not helping my mental health), as I don’t even know if my university will allow this. Basically, I’m WAAAAY behind with the data analysis part of my project (which is taking me far longer than I expected), and have been struggling to put in the time over the last couple of weeks because depression has hit me like a brick wall once again. Given that I had to defer, my student loan has also run out. I’m in far better situation than most people due to the fact that I still live with my mum, but I did have to take on more hours with my seasonal ecologist job than I otherwise would have, and I’ll be working full-time for a couple of weeks in the lead up to Christmas. Again, this has led to me being a lot further behind than I should be at this point. It’s hard for me not to feel like a failure at this point. And I don’t get it because I was managing really well with juggling it all – my master’s, working, making sure my grandad was okay, going to counselling – surprisingly well until a couple of weeks ago, when it all came crashing down.

At the moment, I’m doing my best to force myself to do all the stuff that’s supposed to help with depression/ SAD and that has helped me before – exercise, light therapy, eating healthily, mindfulness, nature walks, CBT, planning out and reviewing my day – but sometimes I do all the things that are supposed to help and I STILL feel like crap. On the plus side, I haven’t been suicidal, but I still don’t know if I can cope with this for the rest of my life.

I’ll be really busy between now and goodness knows when my master’s project finally gets finished, but I’ll see if I can write the odd blog post between now and then. Some happy memories of my grandma have come into my head just as I finish this post, and I just want to thank her for fostering my love of nature, for always listening to what I had to say, and for showing us all what unconditional love is.

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2 Responses to On Being Solar-Powered

  1. klodo says:

    Sorry to hear about your grandma, that’s a lovely thing to do, playing the Scottish music. I came across a picture of my GG grandparents on a genealogy site only last week and wonder what they went through in their lives. I hope the counselling goes better for you as it certainly sounds as if you need it with all the problems caused my your dad, physical and verbal. Once again it shows its the way we were brought up and things that happened to us beyond our control that still effect our daily lives and that its not our fault even if we are the only ones that can now change things. They say we should learn to forgive but its a very personal choice as only you know the true extent of what happened. Good luck with your masters.

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks klodo. I hope you are as well as you can be. Yes, it seems to be a common occurrence that people with SA have been treated badly by one or both parents. I’ve read papers suggesting that critical and overprotective parenting styles both increase the risk of social anxiety. It’s amazing how even siblings who are quite close in age can have very different experiences growing up in the same family. None of my siblings have mental health issues but I always felt my dad treated me the worst of the four of us. My mum was also quite overprotective of me from a young age because I was shy and probably also because I was her first child. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to fully forgive but I can understand what lay behind my dad’s anger issues when I was younger. Thank you.

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