Keep on running

Yesterday I went for a little run in Swindale and thar got me thinking a bit about my running. I’m not a great runner, I’m not even a good one; maybe an average one on a (really) good day. Until I was about 20 or 21, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than going for a run. But then something changed and somehow I decided I wanted to run.

I’m easily influenced by what I see and when I guess running was always something that seemed like a “cool” thing to do (because God knows, I’ve never been cool in my life and yet it is my life goal to be cool!). I’m not a natural when it comes to any sport; probably spending the first two decades of my life avoiding any physical activity didn’t help. So my running started with 200 m and them collapsing in a heap. Slowly I started to get a bit of a hang of things and managed to run a few kilometres and then 5 kilometres and so on until few years onwards I ran my furthest race in Estonia: 13.6 kilometres.

When I moved to Cumbria, my running took a bit of a hit because when you’re used to running on the flat roads, the smallest of the inclines seem like mountains. However, for some reason I still signed up for the local half marathon in March 2016. I did actually train for that: got my runs in and did circuits and HIIT training and for the first (and only) time in my life I felt like I was in good physical form. The half marathon felt great. I was still slow, I finished in 2 hours and 13 minutes but I was never planning on breaking any records anyway. I was happy with my results.

After that though my running became incredibly sporadic. I tried to start again and again but never got very far. The decline of my mental health wasn’t helping the matters along. I also have a tendency to compare myself to others, so spending a lot of time working alongside with a freak of nature, who runs ultramarathons, the hilly ones, for fun, wasn’t the comparison I could deal with. A five-mile run around the block looked so pathetic next to his 30-mile loop up and down hills. I struggled with motivation, everyone was just so much better than me and I couldn’t find a reason why I should even try.

When I mix my anxiety with an unhealthy relationship with work, it’s not a good mixture for a healthy lifestyle. It basically means that I’ve felt exhausted for the 99% of the last few years. And that’s not great for doing any physical activity. The chronic iron deficiency isn’t helpful either.This year, I’m working on doing things differently. It’s not a smooth path (I had a major meltdown on Thursday night..) but I’m trying.

One thing I realised while out yesterday is that if I want to run (and I do want to run), I need to change the way I look at running. I can’t exactly turn my anxious brain off when I go running, worrying for me is like fly paper – it sticks to everything around me. So whenever I go for a run, the first few kilometres I struggle because I worry about not being fit enough, about being tired, about feeling crap etc. When I did the DaffyDo (a 21-kilometre run/walk that was NOT a race), I struggled for the first 4 kilometres because I was so nervous about running. It was only after I managed to let go of my expectations and just allow myself to not worry if I can’t run, that I started enjoying the running. (The last 5K of that event were again a bit of a struggle with a sore hip and being tired, because my preparation for the whole thing was about 6 runs over the course of 3 weeks, but it was the thought of cake at the finish that kept me going.)

I didn’t plan to go out for a run yesterday until about 30 minutes before heading out. I had promised to take the dogs out and they would’ve been just as happy with just a walk. But with that aforementioned freak of nature running a 53-mile ultra on that day, I felt inspired to do more. But instead of saying to myself that I’m going for a run, I said that I’m taking the dogs out for a walk / run over in Swindale. I said I would run a bit and walk the bits I couldn’t run (mainly uphills and some of the downhills). The result was that I ran most of the way and even decided to extend my route half way and ended up doing 12 kilometres.

Because I had taken the pressure off myself that I have to run and assured myself that I could always just walk, I was actually able to run and enjoy it. Yes, I was slow. And yes I still did 73 kilometres less than that freak. But I learnt something on that run and that is not to obsess over running. Because I have regained some of my confidence about walking, it has allowed me to start building my confidence about running: at least I love I can walk back to my house/car when I can’t run anymore.

So I took home a few new understandings from my little run with the doggies. I don’t have to run the whole way. It’s okay to just break and enjoy the scenery and catch your breath for a few minutes or even for 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter if I don’t run fast, I’d much rather keep going for longer (and further) than breaking my PBs. I also made a promise that when I have a few hours to spare (which I won’t this week, which will be hellish…), I need to make an effort to go for a walk in my running gear and without putting the pressure on myself, try to run as much as I can or want. Maybe this will help me find my way back to running. And maybe it’ll give me the confidence to challenge myself with 20 miles in October…

Post scriptI also finally discovered yesterday how fucking boring and dull it is to run on the road! As I was making my way back from the waterfalls, I thought that once I cross the river it’s just a little bit on the road until I get to the car park… except that then I remembered that I had parked my car at the crossroads, which is two more kilometres further up from the car park. Despite being the fastest, those were the worst 2 kilometres of my run…

Previously on my so-called life*

Somehow it’s suddenly almost mid-April and I’m back at work. This winter has been a bit of a blur and I’m not sure how to make sense of it all. So before I can move on, I’m going to try and write some major points down on “paper” to help me navigate through it.

So, after 2018 summer season, I was broken. It would be easy to say that it was just the work but I think it was an accumulation of many things that led to my breakdown. Because let’s be honest, it did look and sound awful like a breakdown. After one really bad episode, thanks to an encouragement from a friend online, I did something I never thought I would or indeed could do: I asked for help. I faced my enormous fear of doctors and went to see my GP.

So I sat there, almost nauseous with fear, shaking uncontrollably and trying not to cry (didn’t really work out), worried that I’d be sent home for wasting NHS time and money. I wasn’t. In fact, my Gp was and has been brilliant. It was such a huge thing for me to be taken seriously and not be brushed aside. I had a full bloodwork done and it confirmed that my old friend iron deficiency was back again, and as always, when I go low on iron, I go low. I’m not sure how medically sound it is but I always tend to go low after periods of being stressed out, so it wasn’t exactly surprising. But it’s still pretty annoying.

Besides starting on iron supplements once again, my GP also referred me to therapy, namely Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. She suggested also medication but also worried that it might be something that I might struggle to come off, so after some reading and consideration, I decided to try therapy first without medication.

The months after those first appointments with the doctor weren’t all plain sailing. Because I had managed to completely exhaust my body, I ended up catching every cold and virus and bug that went around and was coughing, sneezing or just generally feeling shit for about 2 months straight. Not to mention the tiredness – I felt more exhausted than ever and it just wouldn’t go away. Usually the iron kicks in quite quickly making me feel stronger just after a few weeks but this time, it took almost 6 weeks for me to start noticing the difference in how I feel. And then I caught the flu in February, which was the most horrible 5-day period of the winter. I regretted complaining about my colds because they had been nothing compared to that shit! It felt brutal, I couldn’t sit or lie down because my back and legs and arms were hurting and yet all I wanted to do was sleep. And the hallucinations from high temperature were just something else. Anyway, I am now really considering a flu jab for next winter because I really don’t fancy doing that again in the next few decades!

As for my mental health, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster. There were (and still are) so many moments when I almost regret going to ask for help. I feel like I’m overreacting and just seeking attention. Or at other times I just feel like I’m a complete basket case and that I should be kept away from people. I’ve had many meltdowns, some more embarassing than others (an email to work dripping from self-pity comes to mind….). The good old bathroom floor has had to endure quite a bit…

I met with a therapist for the first time in February and she collected my demons under a name: generalised anxiety disorder. The first few sessions I walked out of therapy feeling like I had just been through a boxing match and lost. I’ve never talked about how I feel, so I found it hard to suddenly have to explain and describe things. Did I also mention that I’m afraid of doctors (or anyone resembling one like a nurse, dentist, physio, optician, pharmacist etc)? I’ve now been to 5 or 6 sessions and it’s not fucking easy. I’m constantly swinging between “Yeah, I can do this, I can beat this thing!” and “God, I’m so fucked up they should just shoot me.” It’s been difficult to accept having to need help and having to be vulnerable but it has been equally difficult to let go of my thought patterns that have made me succumb to anxiety.

So that’s the honest summary of the struggles of this winter and an update as to where I am now. But it hasn’t been all dark and gloomy. As my 30th birthday present for myself, I bought my first car. (Because I’m a fucking adult now!) It’s a little Suzuki 4×4, comes with a few scratches and dents, so I don’t have to feel bad about those that I’m going to add. Although getting used to driving again after more than 18-months of being off the road was extremely nerve-wracking, I’m slowly gaining confidence. I’m okay with driving in the dark and I even drove on the motorway on my own the other day! My 3-point turns are completely on point (pun intended) but I still can’t park or reverse to save my life!

One thing that made me much more confident about my driving was taking my car to Isle of Harris. Although Scott did majority of the driving (especially going there through a snow storm in the middle of the night and getting us safely to Harris on completely ice-covered roads!), it make me trust my car and that just adds so much to decreasing my anxiety about driving. Harris itself was beyond words! A magical island! One of these days I will kick myself in the butt and edit my photos and put something together. I did write an essay about the seals on Harris, which I might share.

I’m slowly trying to get myself back into gear for doing more walking and running. I challenged myself by signing up to do a 13-mile walk/run in March called the DaffyDo. I entered with not very high hopes as my training for this was 3 weeks, one of which was just dominated by storms. I was sure it’ll take me about 3 and a half hours to get from Pooley Bridge to the top of Hallin Fell and back but I ended up finishing in 2 hours and 45 minutes. It was a beautiful day and I managed to run about 60% of the way (and walk all the uphills). I definitely did not feel fit but it also wasn’t as big of a struggle as I had feared it might be. I’m now pondering whether or not to sign up for a 20-mile challenge in October. The jury is still out…

Besides running, I have been trying to get some fitness back by being beasted by the wonderful Wiz Lees Fitness and a little bit of yoga (not really much this winter I’m afraid). Now that the season has started, I’m going to have to give up on the evening classes again but I have signed up for personal training sessions, which are brutal (but lovingly so.. right, Wiz?). Although Scott and Leigh-ann gave me the full collection of Wainwright’s books for my birthday as well as a poster for ticking them off, I haven’t really been walking in the hills much this winter. The most I did was on my winter walking course on Harris (still waiting to receive my certificate for that…). I am hoping to get back to it but with everything going on from my neck upwards, it has been a real struggle.

I also returned to my writing group and have actually managed to write a few things that I don’t completely hate. I have recently found a bit of confidence to write about my memories and my life experiences and they have been well received by the group. I have always thought that my life has been so uneventful and ordinary that no one wants to read about it. Also, I find it really good for sorting my shit out by just writing snippets of memoirs.

So there we go, that’s my last few months. I feel like I needed to write it out to start making a bit more sense of the blur of this winter. Maybe it’ll help me to write more. Maybe it’ll be another 6 months by the time I come here again. I don’t know. I’ll just try and get to the other side of this burnout-breakdown and see what’s left of me.

(*I remember always trying to imitate the dramatic voiceover at the start of TV soaps saying “Previously on The Bold and the Beautiful” etc but for little Eastern European girl, the word ‘previously’was pretty impossible to pronounce, so i’ve always wanted to say it)

Never good enough

I haven’t been writing recently because of several reasons. Firstly, the lack of energy. This summer has completely sucked the life out of me and I can only blame myself. Already a few weeks ago I had to admit that I had hit the wall quite thoroughly. I feel completely burnt out. I’m just so tired and not in the way that can be fixed with a few good nights’ sleep.

Secondly, I feel like I can’t write what I feel because it would upset my friends reading this blog. I’ve never been good at talking and writing is one outlet for helping me to get some feelings out of me. But sometimes what I feel is very dark and scary even to me, so knowing that people who know me in real life are going to read it and draw their own conclusions freaks me out. And I end up not writing because I’m too afraid to deal with consequences of what I write. So I end up wondering if I need to filter what I want to write, what’s the point of writing at all. Most people know me as a normal, silly, slightly crazy person. That’s the image I have maintained for decades. They don’t know that I’ve been struggling with various demons since early teenage years…

Thirdly, I haven’t been writing because I feel that I can’t write. I’ve convinced myself that my writing is never good enough. The right words don’t come out. The sentences and paragraphs are sloppy and all over the place. My texts are just boring and not to the point. So if my writing’s that shit, why bother at all?

I’m a perfectionist, I know that much. It might sound like a good way to be because the drive to achieve perfection is a force that keeps you going in life and makes you successful. Maybe in some cases that’s true. However, I’ve realised lately how much I let that trait to be in charge of my life. Being a perfectionist for me means that I’m never going to be good enough in anything I ever do. And that’s a frustrating way to live.

I’ve given up so many things in life because I couldn’t be perfect at them. From small things in life to hobbies I’ve really enjoyed. When I was in secondary school, my PE teacher decided to teach me to dive. I was an okay swimmer (for an extremely nonathletic girl), but I had never learnt to dive. So she gave me some useful tips and I learnt to overcome my fear and my dives started to look less like belly flops and more like dives. So one weekend I went to my local pool to practise and I belly flopped every single time. My perfectionism flared up, I hurried out of the pool to spend the rest of the day loathing myself convinced that I’m the most useless person in the world. I can’t even dive, what’s the point of trying to do anything at all! I didn’t try diving for years and even now I rarely do it (I might try it when there’s no one around to see me).

And that’s just one example. I stopped dancing after more than 10 years because I couldn’t be as good as professional dancers who had danced since they could walk (I  first joined a dance class when I was 13 or 14; also being tall and stiff-jointed doesn’t exactly help in becoming an amazing dancer). I used to love dancing but gradually I refused to perform with my group, then I decreased the number of classes I took until I just stopped altogether. Some days I really, really miss it but I doubt I’ll ever take it up again. Because I’m not good enough.

More recently, I was nudged towards taking more photos. I’ve always considered myself not very creative visually. But a few people around me liked the photos I’d taken and urged me to do more. I let myself to be flattered and I even bought myself my own DSLR camera. For a moment, I felt quite good. I was even allowing myself to be a beginner, to not know everything at once. And then I saw someone else take interest in photography and instantly I started comparing my photos to theirs and mine looked so much worse. And I’ve now decided that I can’t take photos. That they all look shit. I should maybe just sell my camera.

I feel like my life is a constant struggle against myself. Whenever I decide to do something, I always have to fight against this little very loud voice that tells me not to bother because it’s not going to be good enough anyway. I’ve decided not to go to my writing group this autumn because I feel like my writing’s not good enough. I don’t want to go for a run because I’m never going to be able to run as far or as fast as this friend or that. I barely cook or bake anything for myself, because it’s not going to taste and look as good as other people’s cooking. What’s the point in putting on make up or buy new clothes or even just brush my hair if I’m going to look fat and ugly anyway? And so on… I am constantly comparing myself to others. And I always fall short. Every. Single. Time. And so I end up just sitting here, just a heap of self-loathing.

I don’t want to be like this anymore but I don’t know how to not be a perfectionist. How do you even start liking someone you have hated for most of your life? How do you argue against that voice in your head telling you you’re just a waste of space? I genuinely fear that this perfectionism will eventually just lock me in a room staring at the ceiling because I’m too afraid to do anything else in case I’m not good enough at it. And I don’t need people to feel sorry for me and tell me how I’m not a bad writer, bad photographer, bad person… As much as I appreciate it, I also cannot take it in because my inner critic is that much louder, that much more powerful. And she will convince me that you’re only lying and that I’m not a good enough person to deserve nice people telling me nice stuff.

Should I stay or should I go?

This is the question that haunts my days and nights and causing me endless amount of stress. It’s nearly August and I still don’t know what to do.

I feel like instead of making a decision on what will make me happy I am choosing between what will make me less unhappy. I can’t even bring myself to make a list of pros and cons because I don’t know what will fall into what category. Also, I’m scared. Absolutely fucking scared shitless. I’m scared to make a decision because I feel whatever I would choose, I will regret not choosing the other.

All my life I have taken pride in the fact that I have lived my life without regrets but for the first time ever, I’m worrying about regretting. And it’s driving me insane! I’m not sure if it’s being little bit older (nearing the 3 and 0, which I know isn’t that old at all but when you’ve never had to write your age down with a number that beings with 3, it’s a but daunting…) or if I’ve just suddenly become a coward, but I am genuinely afraid to choose.

Staying means staying at a job that I really, really like. It means working in a place that I have become to love and work with people I really like working with. It means for the first time in my life being trusted and appreciated at work. It means feeling like I’m important and what I do is actually helpful. It means knowing that maybe I’m not completely shit at what I do.

Staying also means staying in this area that I find so home-like. It means being able to wander around in the hills and nature. It means living in a small community where I am not judged, even if I am a foreigner. It means the simplicity of a village life. It means not worrying about what I wear to go to the shop or for a dog walk or the pub.

Staying means independence from influences of my family. It means being able to be far away to make my own decisions and choices. It means not worrying about having to explain myself. It means not being judged for wanting different things.

But staying also means being alone and lonely. It means feeling like the third wheel most of the time. It means feeling like a annoying little sister who is only invited along because that’s what “mother” order, because it’s the polite thing to do. It means always being the outsider. It means not having my people who’d make me feel like maybe I’m not a complete loser. It means being the only single person in a society full of couples.

Going means being close to my people again. It means being able to go out, talk, drink wine, do silly things. It means having an option not to stare at the ceiling on my own when not working. It means having friends again. It means feelibg like I belong. It means being slightly less lonely and alone.

Going means being living in a bigger place with more opportunities to do things and to meet people. It means more diversity in options. It means standing out less in a crowd like a sore thumb. It means being able to blend into the mass more easily.

But going also means risking not finding a job that would offer me as much as my job now offers. It means having to start from square one to prove myself. It means risking nit having an employer who can see past my insecurity and complete lack of self-confidence. It means risking not achieving anything because no one will belive I can achieve anything. It means feeling like a failure in life.

I don’t know what to choose. I don’t want to choose! I’m afraid to make the wrong decision. I’m afraid of not knowing what to do next, nit knowing what I want to do next. I’m scared that whatever I do, I’ll never amount to anything more than a lonely failure. I just don’t know what to do!

I just want someone to look into a crystal ball and tell me it’s going to be alright.

Lazy, hazy days of summer

It’s been hot in here! Although living in what is supposed to be one of the wettest places in England with a name that suggests that it’s half way between shit and crap, I shouldn’t really complain. Not that I am but it is very hot.

Mostly, it doesn’t bother me as I am at work most of the time anyway (although the kitchen can get a bit too uncomfortably hot when we’re doing dinners). Wednesday we catered for a school group of nearly 30 kids plus the normal dinner service. It all went as smoothly as possible actually. So much so that when Thursday evening came around and it seemed like quite an average night, I let myself to be chilled out a bit and not worry about the night. Big mistake. With the England v Belgium game on and a few unnecessarily difficult guest, I lost it and had a anxiety attack that left me shaking and gasping for air. My night was ruined from then on. I was angry at myself for letting myself and everyone down. Luckily my Employer realised something was off and closed the kitchen door to allow me some space away from guests and took on some of front of house duties.

By Friday I was once again knackered but in slightly better form than a week ago. We had planned a Wineskype with friends, so by 4 pm I had managed to set out a little picnic on my patio and open a bottle of cava. I really needed the catch up and I am forever grateful to have friends who are still willing to give me a time of day even after 3 years of being away. And who are happy to set aside dates 2 months in advance for catching up in person.

It was nearly 9.30pm by the time we finished our call. I enjoyed feeling a but chilly sitting outside after few days of not being able to cool down. I had had no plans for Saturday except for just a bit of chilling but at about 9 o’clock I got a message from my Employer inviting me to walk the dogs in Swindale. I wasn’t going to say no and just in case packed a towel and put on my swimwear in chance I could get in one of the pools of the waterfalls. We did end up scrambling up the river and to the lush pool at the top.

That place feels like a real secret paradise: it’s off the path and covered by steep banks on either side with some lush vegetation surrounding it. Although thanks to Tia the dog having a shake at the very moment I had hunched over her to give her a hand on rocks, I was already pretty wet when we reached the pool, I still decided to actually dive in the water. I couldn’t really feel it being that cold, the difference of temperature did give my body a but of a shock and for a moment knocked my breath out.

It was a perfect swim. After nearly three summers in this country, I had never swam in open water till the last couple of weeks. First I went for a swim in Windermere a few weeks ago after paddle boarding and now Swindale Beck. I love water and especially natural pools. As I kid I spent all my summers in our local lake only emerging when my parents managed to convince me to sit in the sun until my lips were no longer blue.

I spent the rest of my Saturday being lazy and not doing much. As it was so warm, I also decided to head for a swim in Shap open air swimming pool. Apparently my Employer had got me a season ticket so it would not do wasting it. I invited LA to join me and we spent about an hour leisurely measuring the lengths of the small pool. After a nice dinner and a glass of wine at home later on, I slept like a log until 8 am this morning, which is a major lie-in in my books!

We’ve got one more long week to survive at New Ing and next weekend we’re going to have Saturday, Sunday and Monday off!

Sunset in Swindale

After a lazy day, I did decide to go walk over to Swindale just to have a sit down and think. It is one of my most favourite places in the the world. There’s something about sitting on the verge of that valley and looking around that just cuddles my soul. It’s both calming and it also stirs up plenty of emotions.

I had a great and much needed chat with a friend on Facebook yesterday and it gave me plenty of ideas to chew through. One of the drawback of stepping away from social media has been no longer being in touch with goes on in my friends’ lives. But a beautiful thing that has emerged is that in the last couple of weeks, a few people, whom I haven’t really been in touch with for a while, have messaged me because they haven’t seen me online and asking if I’m alright. It really means a lot to me. One of the reasons I felt I needed to step back from Facebook and Instagram was that it made me feel so alone and isolated. So to have people notice my absence has been a huge surprise to me, but in a very good way.

Anyway, at 7pm last night I packed my notebook, book, some wine, my badass wine glass and a few snacks in my backpack and headed towards my spot. There wasn’t a soul about except grazing sheep. I found a spot that gave a good view of the whole valley and settled in with my book and a glass of wine. As it had been an overcast day, I didn’t expect an amazing sunset but in the end I think I got what I came for.

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I got back home just before 11 pm. Straight to bed and enjoyed a good night’s sleep. With all the thoughts that ran through my head as I was sitting there, one certain decision that I made was to buy a new camera to take better photos and transfer them in a better fashion.

Lazy days

I’ve been so tired lately. I feel like my whole body is exhausted. And today I decided to succumb to it and accept it.

It’s Saturday and last week has been pretty busy at work. Wednesday night we must have served about 40 covers, which is a lot for our establishment. It was pretty full on night making sure all the guests got looked after, getting all the orders right and trying to stay smiling all through it. I didn’t finish until after 10pm and I was back at work just after 5am the next morning. Thursday night was late again with some added drinks (because I’m an idiot who thinks she can drink on school nights). Friday was a again a 5am start (with a very bad head) and busy day of getting the house ready. Then I got a lift to Kendal straight after to do my food shop, back home for a quick tidy up, shower and a minute in the deck chair before heading to town for a few beers with Employer and the Monk.

I was so tired that I even forgot to put on my shirt for going out and didn’t realise it until half way to town. I wasn’t exactky naked butbI did feels like in in just my strappy top and shorts. Now that dogs are no longer allowed on the window seats at the Fell, I occupied it myself and I really struggled with staying awake as we sampled the beers. I really haven’t felt so completely knackered in ages. I could barely concentrate what was going on around me. It got to the point of exhaustion when nothing really matters anymore. I did seriously considered just closing my eyes for 10 minutes in the bar… just for a quick kip. I didn’t. But I was early to bed last night.

This morning I still feel tired but I decided I’m going to embrace it. I worked hard and I’m allowed to be tired. I’m allowed not to do anything. So instead I’ve been reading in my PJs on the deck, caught up with TV and genuinely lounged about. Normally I’d feel bad about it but I decided not to today. As I walked to work early Friday morning, the hills looked so lush and I want to play in them so badly but I also want my body to have a chance to recover. So when my Employer suggested dropping me off at Shap Fell early morning, I told him to jog on. I as much as I feel the need to be in the hills, I also needed to have a good night’s rest. And I am thinking about maybe heading to Swindale for sunset to catch the light and have a little moment there.

Until then, I’m just going to be lazy and not feel bad about it. I’m taking my first steps in trying to listen to my body and offer it what it needs. And today it needs a couch, loads of water, fruits and chocolate. And that’s okay.

The end of a dream

It’s Easter weekend. It’s the last weekend before our season of bedding and breakfasting guests starts again for the next six or seven months. And it’s not exactly a free weekend. I have 24 people expecting a 2-course dinner tonight and I’m doing it alone. And Sunday, two of us will go in to do another dinner for the same lot.

The last few weeks have been quite a carousel of emotions. On the one hand, I am looking forward to working full-time again. It’ll be my third summer working here and I know what I’m doing and I know how everything works. I also know that I’m not completely shit at what I do. I like my job, even if it does mean working around the clock at some days.

On the other hand, I’m more confused about things than I have ever been. I had a horrific few days last weekend of just being curled up on the couch not able to move or do anything but be engrossed all the darkness that was occupying my mind. I guess I realised how bad it was when my Employer sat me down on Monday and essentially told me to get my shit together. In a nice and concerned way. I am scared of this season of working as I feel like after last year, I was left so empty and broken, and I’m not sure I’ve fully recovered. And I’m scared to be empty and broken again. I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t be able to handle it again.

I’m also scared because I feel like the pressure to reach a decision on what happens after this summer. Am I going to stay or am I going to go back? Or go forward? I have no idea what to do and I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve always had a secret dream or a plan of what I want to do. But I feel like I have reached the end of my dream, like this path I’ve been on is leading to a dead-end. And I genuinely have no idea what I want to do or indeed should do next.

I was having beers with the Employer at the top of the field on Wednesday night. “The top of the field” is a little corner of our grounds that’s the highest point and has the best view of the village and the hills in the distance. I love that view. As the sun was setting behind the clouds that had gathered around the hills, I couldn’t help but think, “How am I supposed to give this up!?” These hills are what I came here for, this quiet village life is something I have come to love and appreciate. A part of me cannot imagine life in any other place.

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But (and there’s always a big fat but) it’s an incredibly lonely life. It has taken me years and a huge amount of courage, but for the first time in my life I want, and need to admit it to myself that I feel lonely. I’ve always been the cat that wanders around on her own. I have taken pride in my independence. But there is a price to pay and it’s a dear one. I said at the beginning of last year that I needed to name my demons and I have realised after a lot of denial, that this one is my biggest one, and always has been.

As we were sitting outside in the cold (god, it was fucking freezing!) spring evening, I admitted to the Employer that I miss having friends. I miss having single friends. I only realise now what a stupid move it was to pack my bags and move thousands of miles from people who have so kindly opened their hearts to me. I don’t consider myself a nice person, or an easy person to befriend. I takes me ages to trust people and to make friends. I can count the people in whose company I don’t feel like the outsider, like someone they had to invite along out of politeness or social convention, on one hand. In fact, I don’t even need all the fingers. And they all live in Estonia. So what am I doing out here? Why am I here pursuing some selfish dream that’s not working out?

And don’t get me wrong, the people I’ve met here have been incredibly kind towards me. But Cumbria is an odd place and it’s very difficult to actually make genuine connections to people. And everyone I know here (with an exception of the Monk) has the other half. It’s a different crowd to what I’m used to and it’s very easy to feel out of place. More importantly, it seems to really emphasise my loneliness and isolation.

It’s gets more and more difficult to make new friends as you get older and I can feel like I’m getting to an age, where it’s nigh impossible to weave close relationships with new people. Everyone already has friends and habits and partners. They are not necessarily out to look for new ones. So living in a small community becomes very, very lonely.

All this is making me think about moving back to Estonia. Except that I cannot see where I would live or what I would do that would offer me the satisfaction that my work and my physical environment does here. I don’t know what to do. What to I choose? The place or the people? It’s not like I didn’t feel lonely in Estonia but at least I had those few people who were only a few hours away, rather than a day’s worth of travel away.

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I’m lost for ideas. I feel like this selfish dream I came to chase after was just an illusion and I’m back at square one but this time without an idea what the next step is. And it’s killing me inside…

What’s real anymore

I’ve been away from Facebook and Instagram for a fortnight now. It doesn’t mean I haven’t opened either of them, I have. It has been either for work or just to quickly check my notifications. But all this has been just a quick check. I haven’t scrolled through any feeds or posted anything.

On the one hand, it has been a bit hard. I am so used to still killing time by scrolling and finding what else to do with this time has been a strugglr. I went for a walk and got some nice photos but couldn’t share them. I still feel like maybe I’m missing something important. On the other hand, it has been incredibly easy. In fact, I feel like I have proved my point that I can step away but at the same time I don’t want to go back because nothing has actually changed.

I also realised that one of the reasons I have stayed away is the lack of authenticity. It dawned on me when I was speaking to someone. They had been out snow boarding just a few miles away from here when we still had snow. They showed me a video of them throwing a wobble after face planting in the snow. What made me realise why I wanted to stay away from social media was what was said next. They said, “I was upset because I had had the longest run of the afternoon before falling down but that wasn’t on the video. And I felt, what’s the point, the video wasn’t even on!”

Suddenly the alarm bells started ringing. The experience didn’t have a point for them because it wasn’t caught video and therefore it couldn’t be shared on social media. Wow. Maybe it wasn’t meant so bluntly but it certainly came out like that.

That moment I realised why I no longer wanted to do things that I used to like such as going for a walk or a run. Normally, I would share my experience by way of photos on social media. I wouldn’t go for a walk just to get an Instagram post out of it, rather I would just want to share the beauty of nature and the amazing feeling it gave me (garnished with a healthy amount of showing off). However, I have noticed with certain people around me that the reason for going out lies in getting a great post out of it that would make their lives seems so awesome. And I don’t want to play that game. What’s the point of complaining the whole walk uphill about the weather and how hard if is just to then post a dreamy picture of looking into the distance at the summit. #blessed #somerandommotivationalquote #NOTREAL

I genuinely used to love being outdoors. I could go and just get a rest from my brain and I wanted to celebrate that because getting simple joy out of nature was such a healing sensation. Now I feel like that experience has been soiled by the Instagram hikers who go out to create an illusion of an outdoorsy life. I feel like the things I used to love are not real anymore. They’ve become the “cool thing” to do and I’ve never been cool in my life. I feel that if I were to post a photo of a walk it would be classed together with those highly thought through Pinterest worthy compositions and it would just make the experience not real. Summiting a hill wasn’t about the photo oportunity for me, it was about the experience of doing it and about that moment of sitting down, sweating and out of breath, and feeling like I had achieved something. I now feel like a liar if I were to do it. I also feel like if I can’t have an amazing photo out of the walk, I have failed in the eyes of the society.

It sounds stupid and full of bullshit, but I feel like there’s so little that’s authentic in the life around me and that people have become fake too. When you struggle with self-confidence and trying to fit in/belong somewhere, this fakeness is so difficult to stomach. It makes me feel incredibly lonely because I don’t trust anything or anyone to be real. I can’t really feel any connection with anyone around me.

Worst of all, it makes me feel fake and I hate it.

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How one “should” look at the summit

(Source http://pinterest.com/pin/387942955383280331/?source_app=android)

How I look at the summit (or in this case, half way up to the summit)

Why I am taking a break from social media

Today I deleted the Instagram and Facebook apps from my devices. Why? Because I need a break and a chance to see clearly without the filters. I have already written about how I live a life with an Instagram filter but only in the last few days did I realise how much I am actually influenced by social media and how anxious and depressed it can make me.

Over the last week, I have suffered through some pretty horrible nights. I have found myself unable to sleep and my brain has been working overtime. I have wound myself up to a point where I found it difficult to breathe or just to exist. As a result I haven’t been feeling great all around. I’m scared of going to bed because I don’t know whether I am able to sleep tonight or have to go through the ordeals again.

What has helped me a bit over these last few days has been shutting off my phone and making an effort not to check it after going to bed. It might seems such an obvious thing but it has given me a few extra hours each night. I realised that one of the things that I kept checking was whether someone was “communicating” with me. I was checking for acknowledgment from others in the form of likes and comments on my photos on Instagram and Facebook. I kept trying to figure out what to post to make my life seem more interesting and to collect more likes.

I realise that this a dangerous road to go down. There are never enough likes to fill the void I thought I was feeling. I have been feeling very alone and vulnerable recently, like I am isolated from people around me. I thought that Instagram and Facebook would help me connect with people, but in fact, they made me feel worse. I know that most people tap twice on a post on Instagram just out of a habit without giving it much attention. Tap-tap, scroll, tap-tap, scroll… I do that, so why do I expect anyone else to concentrate any more. So in the end, those likes that I was so desperately expecting didn’t really fill my desire to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be comforted in feeling alone and scared.

And when you are feeling alone and scared, other people’s carefully constructed and edited lives don’t make you feel any better either. I know that I shouldn’t compare myself to what other people post on social media, but it’s difficult not to when you are feeling down. I felt like I am not pretty enough, interesting enough, happy enough. I felt like I am not enough. So although I was scrolling through the feed in search for escape, it was getting even more locked up in my negative thoughts.

I didn’t delete my accounts and I have every intention to returning to them but I just need a week or two, or even just a few days of staying away. A few days where I don’t have to compare myself to what I could be. A few days when I don’t have to think about creating an image. I need a few days where I can feel my feelings and learn to not to mask them with filters. I need to learn not to look for acknowledgement somewhere where it’s not actually given.

Is it going to be difficult? I have no doubt it will be incredibly difficult. I have no problem admitting a certain addiction to social media. It will so tempting to scroll through Instagram posts first thing in the morning and refreshing Facebook feed as a break at work. It will take a while not to think about my day in terms of what interesting I could post on Instagram. It will feel even more lonely. But I hope it will hurt a little less, I hope I can sleep again with a bit more peace of mind knowing that I have chosen to miss it all. I hope I can at least for a minute stop comparing my life with others and feeling like a complete failure.