Three months ago I wrote about my plan to avoid yet another winter of SAD so as we gladly arrive at the Winter Solstice I thought it might be time for an update.
I’ll be honest from the start here (as I tend to be) – it has been hard work, meant a massive lifestyle change and has cost a truckload of cash but for the first winter in years I feel like me. I have energy, enthusiasm and haven’t sobbed uncontrollably once (apart from during a recent trip to see It’s a Wonderful Life – hey, I’m not dead inside!) The self-pity has lifted and my perspective has shifted – I can see things objectively and appreciate my wonderful life for what it is. Pass the sick bucket.
I have, inevitably, also managed some spectacular feats of (often subconscious) self-sabotage – a trait which I doubt I will ever fully get rid of.
For example. A big part of my plan was to do regular hot yoga. I found a new studio, called Lumi, near my house and it was great. But about a week in I decided to have elective surgery to get rid of a small lump I’ve had on my leg for ten years that is of no medical concern but I just hate it. Four stitches later, I was told not to exercise for six weeks. Ah. I really can be an idiot sometimes. I took a deep breath and went back as soon as I could without bursting them – in many ways my stupidity just gave me more drive to do it than I might have had before. It’s often when you are told you can’t do something the desire really kicks in.
Doug at The Mindfulness Project runs an eight week MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) course, which is where I have found a way to be ok with just about anything, including my own stupid self-sabotage. Through discussion and meditation I have learned to ‘respond’ to situations rather than to ‘react’, to recognise how often I put my own interpretation on things which have no basis in reality and to take the time to enjoy being in the moment as life can change so damn quickly. You have to leave your cynicism at the door, but I highly recommend it.
In a screenplay I wrote a few years ago there was a character who had lived in a commune since the ‘60’s who was always meditating. I was taking the piss when I wrote that character. Now I am horrified to find I am doing the same thing. But it works! Being more aware of where I am in the world at any given moment has allowed me to engage with living in a way I hadn’t before and to be braver and stronger. I might have become a hippy but I still struggle with my demons in social situations…there’s no peace and love for me there, yet. A few weeks ago I went to the London Screenwriters’ Festival – a magnificent event where the keynote speaker, Chris Jones, made an impassioned plea to us all – “You are all in the same boat! Talk to each other, communicate, make friends because….you are FUCKING AWESOME!” This became the motto for the Festival and after that rousing speech I jumped up and down, hugged two strangers and skipped off to my first session. I was then mute for the next two days. Standing in a corner with eyes darting all over the place trying not to make contact or laughing inanely at jokes I hadn’t even heard while in the coffee queue. It wasn’t until the third day – when I had a word with myself, wore a low cut top and took up smoking again – that I actually started talking to a few people and it was lovely. Mindfulness, tits and fags – at least I know my MO for next year!
Part of the reason I was so shy at the Festival might be down to the fact that I couldn’t dissolve my nerves with a glass of red due to my ridiculous new eating habits. I went to see a nutritionist about my IBS and he immediately put me on a ‘no sugar no yeast’ diet. And it’s working. Remember the stomach I found hard to love in my last blog? I found it hard to love because it wasn’t actually mine! Within two weeks on the diet, one of the tyres from my belly had completely disappeared. The most important, and shocking, thing about this diet though, is that, after being on medication for high blood pressure for five years, my blood pressure is now lower than it ever was on medication.
The diet is only supposed to last three months and then I can start re-introducing things – thank god as I miss pizza so much, but all I can say is, it’s working – I feel fitter and healthier and it’s really not that hard – apart from when you are having a few days with your bestie in Dubai and you just happen to have a glass of champagne, and a couple of shots and… oh well, as I say, I’m learning to accept my self-sabotaging too.
Looking back on the last few years now, I think in order to cope with SAD I used to revel in it. In my lighter moments I used to call it my ‘melancholia’ and sweep around the flat in my black lace housecoat, back of hand raised to my forehead. Then things would get dark and I would despise myself for everything, for simply being me, and allow myself to engage with my perceived failure at being mid-thirties and ‘alone’.
Now I can see that person from the outside I want to shake her for being so ungrateful and melodramatic and losing all sense of reality. But I must be kind to myself, those feelings were not a conscious choice and were the result of chemical changes within my brain, changes which through hard work, cash and probably a bit of luck, I seem to have side-stepped this year.
My perspective has changed so much this winter that I don’t even care that I haven’t had sex ALL YEAR! I’ve kissed a couple of boys, and a girl, but no shagging and that’s something which might have made me deeply unhappy in the past and left me worrying about what is wrong with me but right now I’m relieved. I considered shagging someone on Friday night but then things got weird when he just wanted me to spank him repeatedly while we were dancing, and then while we weren’t. Hmmmm, I left him to it. Anyway, if you don’t have sex for a whole year that means you become a re-virgin – right?
2014, both personally and worldwide has been pretty shit. Horrific atrocities are still taking place across the world and having done some research into Syria and islamic state for a script editing placement I did a few weeks ago (full blog to be uploaded soon) I am terrified by the complexity of the situation and where we go from here. In my family there have been too many hospitals, too much heartache and too much stress, but we’re still standing.
Now, change is afoot. I am moving to Bristol in January and am anxious and excited about it in equal measures. It is a move designed to place me closer to some of my family, to find a more balanced life and hopefully a bigger flat. I don’t yet have a job though, and part of me is concerned that this level of change, in the middle of winter, might trigger the old negativity. But I can’t stand still for fear.
So on this Solstice night, with the promise of Spring appearing on the very distant horizon, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Happy New Year.