( a continuation from we’re all a mess but, that’s besides the point)

a playlist for this post

autumn unfolds itself within me, and it has been my undoing. where anxiety and depression have cloaked me and warmed me in their embrace. I watch the sun rise and set, laying down wrapped in my sheets watching the leaves fall, dancing for me in the sunlight. light falls through my windows into my ochre coloured room and I feel at peace for once, despite hearing panic banging at my door.

it’s been hard to communicate and process my feelings and actions, and sometimes, I wish we understood the effect a lack of understanding of our minds can do to us, especially when we withhold grace. we blame people for their laziness, their anger, their behaviour, their fears, their attitude, their reaction, without looking at what’s behind. we forget the why and only see the now, and people are more than that. we are human, and we so often forget that. it’s not an excuse but a reason, and I wish we took a moment to pause before reacting, to give people more space to understand them so that they know they are seen as they are. more so now, as nothing has made sense this year. nothing at all, but I am taking time to cloak myself in truth because depression and anxiety aren’t the end of my story. they aren’t me, and I can separate the struggle, the pain, from who I am and what I do. pain doesn’t define who we are – we are more than our pain.

autumn is unfolding itself within me, and I honestly don’t like it. I am uncomfortable, but I also don’t want to sit in my pain and sometimes a lack of comfort is what’s needed to get through and realise that I have worth, I am loved and I have value. it’s not always easy to remember, but it’s truth I must wrap myself in even when I don’t feel like it.

I’m saying all of this, but it doesn’t mean it’s been easy to believe it or act on it, especially in the middle of a pandemic and with every type of -ism, especially racism, throttling themselves at our doors; and giving people a chance to open doors and do something about the collective grief we are all experiencing, doesn’t always work. but within this, I also have to remind myself that I can’t save the whole world; it’s a group effort and even though others may join the group, it doesn’t mean they are willing and it doesn’t always mean participation.

which is also why I no longer have the energy to sustain digitally formatted conversations, as time lulls by and I am exhausted from staring at screens all day and the pressure of answering the 27 messages on my phone and the other 50 something emails. between that, my job and my relationship – I am exhausted, and I no longer want to be here.

my curled up in a duvet state, with something on Netflix humming in the background, reflect where I’m at and moving from this very comfortable and undaunted spot seems to be getting harder the longer I stay here.  I wish I was bothered to care for what I’m meant to be watching but, working from home this whole year hasn’t done much in separating what used to be, ‘just work’ and what is now ‘home’. my home no longer feels like a place I willingly choose to rest and not think about anything but my life, and my people. work has now seeped through and filled up the gaps and spaces I didn’t ask it to fill and with it, it has made rest less of a thing, sleep impossible and all I seem to do is fill up the space and silence with my thoughts and sadness.

I find myself more often trying to fill up the the silence of an empty flat, not with noise per se, but with things – working out so I can help manage my emotions, but that’s not enough and therapy isn’t easily accessible and to be honest, I’m unsure if I’m ready to discuss my emotions and past with a stranger, because from being a therapist, I know that finding the right one isn’t always easy. it’s like finding the right shoe, and making sure it’s your size, comfortable and suits your taste. I’m not ready to go shoe hunting, so I’ll stew in my emotions for now and be sad, even though my livelihood is to help others through the exact same thing I’m going through. I sigh externally, God, there’s so much space for thought, I am beyond tired of listening to myself. I didn’t think intimacy with myself could reach higher levels than it was already at so for now, due to the impending doom of the world, here I am, curled up in bed, burrito style in forest green blanket, sad, tired and having my third existential crisis of the week, and it’s only Tuesday.

unwillingly, I peel myself from bed, drudging myself to the kitchen turning the kettle on whilst grabbing a ramen packet from the cupboard above – since that seems to be all that I’m capable of feeding myself this past week. elbows on the kitchen counter, chin in hands, I watch the kettle boil hearing police sirens wailing in the distance, the rain knocking at my windows and dogs barking merged with the sounds of children’s laughter outside. it takes a moment for to notice the knocking no longer sounds like rain and is actual knocking. sighing, I peel my eyes from the entertaining performance of the droplets in the kettle and go to the open the door.

“hey, hi, finally! oh my gosh, it took you forever and a day,” Iva barges herself and her suitcase through the door. shutting the door, I roll my eyes in response to her ever-dramatic self.

“I got distracted. I apologise for taking all but 2 minutes longer to answer.” I roll my eyes again, finally looking at her being met by a grin. she’s in her usual state of cohesive disarray. her black and forest green braids heaped on top of her head in a messy bun, wearing a knitted thick black jumper, light wash ratty jeans and small gold hoops in her ears. “you look delightful,” I say to her taking the bag off her shoulder.

she smiles at me, all teeth, her brown skin a shade darker than usual, she’s annoyingly happy and literally glowing – the signs of spending a summer in New York. “thank you, I feel good for once. also, thanks for letting me stay here, because I really didn’t know what to do when I lost my job and obviously I can’t stay with Xav because, you know, health.” sadness flickers in her eyes for a moment, before she’s beaming at me again. I feel like she’s hiding more, but I’m not one to pressure her knowing how hard this year has been for everyone.

I take her backpack from her and set it on the sofa, “it’s ok, I think I need it more than you do. it’s been very quiet and lonely the past few months. so it’s no bother. I enjoy the company.” I block a yawn and dump myself on the sofa next to her bright red bag, pins of black fists and plants splayed all over it.

“Cade, what’s going on?” I hear the worry in her voice and she plops herself in front of me on my rug.

“I’m just very sad, Iva. I’m taking this whole pandemic and the life that comes with it harder than I thought I would. I thought I’d enjoy it when it first started. I’m an introvert, I willingly choose to be away from people, but it’s been harder than I thought, and starting a relationship mid pandemic wasn’t the best idea when we only had a few moments to see each other during summer. it’s just a lot.” I move my feet underneath me on the sofa and bury my head in my lap. God, I wish I could disappear right at this moment. why everything feels so overwhelming, I don’t know, but it just is and I want to escape from this hellscape asap.

I hear her get up, her footsteps leading somewhere in the apartment. I keep my head in my lap, listening to the birds chirping outside the wind and rain harmonising, whilst Iva rummages around with things in the background. unsure what she’s doing I lift my head from my lap and rest it on the sofa, “Iva, what are you doing?”

she doesn’t reply and continues moving things around. too tired to move and argue with her, as I normally would, I decide to stay put where I am and continue listening to the nature sounds outside. it’s a beautiful day, it’s wet, it’s windy and the colours of the leaves are brought out by the rain in all their glory. I forgot how much I loved autumn, especially since it’s arrival this year was quicker than most, I missed it in the blur of my sadness and anxiety. it’s a season of rest, ironically, even though so much starts at this time, but there’s something so beautiful about how the leaves change colour and fall, preparing themselves for winter. it so often teaches me that sometimes, we need to let go and be in order to grow and experience life as it is, in its full capacity.

a couple pass by on the walkway, hands held and their little one not so far, trailing behind them on a scooter. they stop to wait for her, turning, hands still held as if being apart would cause them to disintegrate. they share a quick kiss, as the little one moves towards them glee all over her face, laughing at something one of them has said. this is such a normal and innocent moment, and it should fill me with joy, but all I feel is a pang in my heart and overwhelming guilt that I am not where I want to be right now. this year wasn’t meant to be like this, and I really need a moment to breathe and just be before I burst into tears again I am so tired of crying.

before I can wallow further into the depths of my mind, Iva stands in front of me – now wearing one of my ratty beige coloured jumpers, deep green cargo trousers and Winnie the Pooh socks – holding two mugs, probably of coffee, and hands one to me.

she moves her bag to the floor, and sits beside me crossing her legs, cup in hand. “I have many words I want to say to you, but I also want you to know that it’s okay you’re struggling. none of this has been easy for anyone, I know it’s hard being everyone’s shoulder and carrying it all without complaining is admirable, but Cade, you’re also allowed to be your own shoulder and give yourself a moment to process, reset and allow us to care for you, too.

“you have people. I know it’s hard to see during an episode, but I’m here, even if it’s just to sit with you, and not say anything or to give you a hug and leave it at that. this is a safe space, and I’m not going to try explain away the pain, worry and anxiety you’re going through, but I want you to know I am here, and it’ll be okay. God’s got you, we’re all holding you, friend.”

it’s still raining outside and the wind is still howling, and I am now sat up, buried underneath a blanket Iva has placed on me. her words seep through me like the steam from the coffee I’m holding is literally burning my face. sometimes, I forget that all we need as people, is to feel seen, to feel heard, and from there things naturally fall into place. it’s not easy, and it requires effort but hope makes it all worthwhile. recovery and healing aren’t linear, and you’d think as a therapist I would know this, but I am also human and it is human nature to forget that we all need room to heal.

I didn’t realise the weight that autumn has unfolded within me, it sits heavier within my chest than it had the past week, and this time, its brought a heavy fog along with it. drowning me in their embrace to the point that despite moving forward with life, I’m not ok, and acknowledging that is the first step. it’s hard, I won’t lie about that and not seeing the ones we love for fear of endangering their life, coupled along with a heightened awareness of the colour of your skin whenever you log onto social media and honestly just wanting to be; without being angry or upset by someone else dying for no reason whatsoever but hate. it’s not normal to repeatedly be exposed to grief to this extent, and I didn’t realise how much I’ve been carrying with me.

I sit up, and look over looking at Iva. she’s busy scrolling through her phone, my favourite mid-yellow mug in her other hand. trust her to steal my nice stuff for herself as soon as she moves in. “Iva?”

she looks up from her phone, brown eyes on me, “thank you for being here. thanks for just getting it.” she doesn’t say anything, but just smiles at me and sips whatever hot beverage is her hand. I take a sip of my coffee and a wave of tiredness suddenly cloaks me. I haven’t felt this tired in a while. you’d think the lack of sleep in the past month would have exhausted me, and yes, I am tired, but sometimes anxiety coupled with depression doesn’t leave much room for rest.

I keep telling myself I need a moment, I need a moment to breathe and just be, so I’m going to give it to myself now. closing my eyes, anxiety still plagues me and worry walks beside me but, there is still peace here. there is still joy here, despite not feeling it, I am allowed to sift and sit through the mess, but I also have the freedom of doing something about it despite the weight of this year, this world, and the loss that has come with it. I always have a choice, and I need to remind myself of that often, and actually hold onto it.

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