Monday 23 November 2015

Portugal Take 3: Lost

I've faced this page, ideas screaming around in my head for about two months now. It seems my last post, organizing the video, setting up the profile on the Dispensary, thinking back to times of travelling and realizing how I badly wanted to get away, were all just too much. That's what I told myself. That I needed a break from social media and hours spent organizing a blog post. I told myself I spent too much time online. That I needed to spend more time in the sea, in nature, out of the city, out of the mind bashing dizziness of everyday reality. Stress was the reason I felt like this.

I took a two week holiday to Portugal to surf and rest but five weeks before I was due to go and take a break from my life I had a panic attack and it drove me to run away from everything I knew and loved, everything I had worked towards because my whole life felt like it had been built on quicksand. I handed in my notice at work, I called my landlord and dear friend to tell him I was leaving. I struggled to see two and a half years squashed into the back of a car and I made a decision that I would never live in Dublin again, probably not even Ireland. I wanted to run away from it all.

It came as a surprise to most that I was leaving work and life in Dublin so suddenly but for me it was a ten month delay. Despite the lunches on Friday paydays, the access to cinemas and cool little cafes, runs in the park with friends, nights out and great students, I was predominantly miserable and I couldn't hold it in anymore. Friends knew I was struggling with my mamma's illness and that it tired me out but I only told one how I wanted so badly to run away from the whole thing.

The night before I was due to fly out, we had a going away of sorts. A few drinks and some food in a great Korean place around the corner. I was so thankful to the people that made the effort to turn up. There were some great friends who could only make it for five minutes or half an hour but their love, hugs and kind words were immense. The whole night felt like I was experiencing it through two different versions of myself. There was the smiley, well traveled, curios Grace who would miss her friends but was looking for a new adventure. She did her best to shine through the hidden world of loneliness, confusion and despair that belonged to the Grace who had built a life full of brilliant people, events and opportunities but still had a gaping hole in her life. I'm not even sure if I managed to convince people that I was excited and full of energy about going away and this new chapter I had haphazardly created for myself. When one friend gave me a hug and said, "I hope you find whatever it is you're looking for", it took every bit of energy I had not to choke with tears. When I went home to one last night in my little cottage in North Strand, a small thought of not going trickled into my consciousness. I pushed it away and forced myself asleep.

When I got to Portugal, the weather hit me with one storm after another.  It was miserable. I couldn't understand why I wasn't enjoying it. I moved to another town, the stunning 'island' of Baleal. The sun came out, along with freckles all over my face and for the first time in months, I could breathe properly again. I surfed and smiled but I didn't want to get to know the new people that would arrive every few days. I felt like a hyperactive fraud every time I opened my mouth to speak. Each sunset and surfable wave calmed my nerves, until they got ratcheted back up by night time and I would hide away in my dorm. 

I stayed on for four weeks. I missed my mamma's 60th birthday. I talked that day to most of my family. When my big sister got on the phone, she laughed down the line. "How are you?". "Where are you?". I laughed it off, said I was enjoying not knowing. That night I couldn't sleep and when I woke up the next morning, I sobbed silently because if I had been truly honest with myself, I would have answered "I'm not ok" and "I don't know where I am: I'm lost".

Through texts and facebook messages, emails and phone calls, I spent the next two days explaining to my family that I wasn't ok and that I needed to come home. I spent over three hundred euro on a stupid Ryanair flight because I couldn't cope with having to stay a minute longer alone. 

That was three and a half weeks ago. In that time, I've slept, cried and been more up front about my depression and anxiety than I've ever been in my life because for the last eighteen years, I've felt like a fraud, an unsuccessful emotional fraud. Every single time I tried to 'get on with it', 'put a face on', 'cop on to myself', 'get over myself', 'stop being so sensitive all the time' or 'smile through it', I've only ever managed to do it for a few months before I burnt out and failed miserably at life again. I'd not only lose out on what I loved at the time but I always ran the risk of losing friends who thought I didn't care, a job, money, a place to live and always, always, a part of my true personality and my self worth.

Now, at almost thirty years of age, my mind has had enough. It's as though there's a part of my personality, the inner part of me that hates the anxiety and depression has had enough of me and my decision to try and wash over it once the fitness or good food or counselling has kicked in. I realized that I can't keep crawling on my hands and knees emotionally. I've written about my depression and anxiety before but more along the lines of an anecdote but I can't take it anymore.

I'm fed up. I'm tired of feeling like this, of wondering when, if ever, happiness will extend to a majority in my mind and in my life. More importantly, I'm tired of pretending to the point where the pretense is beyond obvious. I've known that I'm obviously not the only one who suffers from mental health issues but I've never known anyone to admit it openly, to stop hiding. Then I read a book.

I stepped into a tiny bookshop and stared at the cover for a long time, my eye settling on the word 'demons'. I'd read about how Bressie had opened up about his mental health and anxiety disorder before. Then I judged. A rugby player, boyfriend to a model, professional musician, wealthy, respected. How could my anxiety possibly be related to his? I was enthralled. He felt the same about Mullingar, the schooling system, college life and relationships. Most importantly, he had lost sight of his values, of himself as an individual, of what was truly important to him. He had sacrificed his values for others, each time redefining his personality in their eyes. I just wanted to be good, to be loved, to be valued. I was willing to change everything about my personality to fit other people's expectations and my anxiety and depression were the painful repercussions of that habit. Toxic environments, stress, going against my opinions to be liked were all part of my life growing up. 

Then I would run away. I told myself I was travelling, trying out a new job, exploring other possibilities but in reality, I was running away from myself, my anxiety and depression. Afterwards, I would feel entirely alone and think that friends would now hate me, thinking I didn't care about them. Employers would think I was a waster. Teachers and lecturers would deem me a waste of time. My family would think of me as an overly sensitive, wayward and melodramatic child. These are the horrible thoughts that go through my head and for the last ten months, they've rolled on repeat. 

I read Bressie's book and last night, I watched Iron Mind. Watching another man from Mullingar talk about how if he could work through his mental anguish, he would be a different person jabbed me. He said he would be happier and less tired, instead of going to bed weary with tiredness. I knew what weariness felt like. A woman my age, beautiful and smiling with ebony hair, couldn't calm her mind even when she tried and another woman stared off into the distance as she spoke because there was so much pain there, she was numb. 

Coming home from Portugal, admitting to my family completely what was wrong, reading that book and watching Iron Mind all culminated last night in a decision. This will be the final time that I allow myself to be mentally so fatigued that I can't function. This is the last time I will devalue myself into burnt out, shy away from being completely frank about my mental health, live a balancing act of putting on a front when really I am numb. This is the last time I am running away from this part of myself. My mental health is worth more than some stop-start quick fix. If I'm to finally have a happy life and live the life I want, I need to accept that my mental health needs to be a priority. Just like a diabetic or asthmatic needs to monitor their health, I need to be open, honest and proactive about my mental medical needs. Even if that means facing my fear head on.

I feel like I'll scare people away, that friends will think I'm "too much", others will feel uncomfortable, maybe people I worked with or went to school with will wonder who the hell am I to write with such over the top honesty about something that should be kept private. I'm sorry if you feel that way. I'm writing all this because I can't stare at another blank blog post page, creativity blocked each and everyday because I can't cook, eat or photograph with even the remotest emotional energy for as long as I keep all this locked inside. Because the more that I ignore this pain, the deeper it becomes and the more havoc it causes in every aspect of the things that make me even slightly happy. Because if I'm to be brave enough to live with my mental health in a positive and nurturing away I have to stop being so afraid to share, to be so fearful of what everyone else thinks and how I will be judged. I have to start to realize that there are several beautiful friends and family who love me and who will read this and get in touch out of love. I have to stop being so damn scared all the time. And maybe, by writing this so publicly, other people who read this, who are going through the same agony, won't feel so alone.

Busylittlefoodie will still feature food, foraging, gardening, travel, people, places and recipes but I would feel like a fraud writing happily about blackberry jam or pasteis de nata in Portugal, accompanied by sunshine filled photos, if I didn't write all this first. I can't keep smiling for the sake of it. Hopefully this journey will be different from the last two and a half years of putting a band aid on a broken leg. I hope you'll stick with me.

Love, love, love


  1. Wow!!!!! What a star you are xxxxxxxx So brave and much respect and love winging your way . I'm on that journey too as are many of my friends and its such a release to acknowledge it openly don't you think? So many more people than we realise are facing this too, unfortunately most cope so silently that we never know until someone like your beautiful self names it in themself, It seems to give permission of sorts to others suffering the same to say 'ME TOO!!' xxx

  2. Mel you beauty! Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment! All the love and respect is deeply felt. It really is such a realise. I had no idea. All those years of being terrified of what people would think, say or do. We're all in this together. I really hope it gives others permission to say 'me too', loud and clear. Lots of love to you awesome lady! X

  3. Gracie!! Wow... thank you so much for sharing this. I've been balling my eyes out reading this.... I'm going through something sooo similar..... been feeling so much anxiety, feelings of "I'm a failure", fear of being judged, not being good enough, so many fears, depressed, exhausted, lost........ I feel you!! You made a huge step by openly talking about it.... I am starting to talk about it to all my friends and mum and sister, but still struggle to share it with dad, that is where my biggest fear lays, to show him how weak and lost and vulnerable I fee right now....... just writing this has me in tears again. Anyway, thank you lovely for sharing xoxox Always here if you want to chat some day!

  4. Darling Freddy! I'm so sorry that you are going through a pain and sadness of your own but I'm so happy that you could get in touch and write about it, not just to me but so openly on this blog. I am so proud of you that you're talking about it with friends and family. It really is such a huge step. Dad's can be trying at times. I was afraid to tell him too. I thought he would think I was weak or a failure or that he wouldn't be able to handle it emotionally. It wasn't easy telling him and it will still take time to fully understand but overall, the sentiment he gave back was pure love. I'm sure your Dad is the same. All the fears I had about telling anyone and writing this post disappeared the minute I published it because beautiful people like you got in touch to share your love and pride in me about being honest with myself. There was no guilty feeling or an idea I had to 'come clean' about my problem. It's not like that at all. I believe you can do it and am always here to chat to too. Lots of love X

  5. Hi, Grace!
    I know and understand exactly how you feel. 3 years ago I ran away for everything. For almost all of it I thought I had found myself but this year I feel like I completely lost me again... I honestly don't know myself anymore and can't cope with a lot of my feelings. But there's only one person that can change it and that's me. I'm struggling but at least I keep in moving. At least you tried, and move forward from that. You'll get there without even noticing. You just have to believe and time will tell. Trust your guts, you are an amazing person - give yourself that credit. And don't forget that good things happen to good people. And happiness is only real when shared.
    Lots of Love,
    Nina :)

  6. So beautiful places are shown in this post. Great work from you, keep posting like this.
    From team Subway Princess Run