Life

Unpredictable

I left London today. I’m not sure when I’ll be back (nothing new there).

I came back to London full of trepidation; I wasn’t sure if I should stay. In June I had a dreadful time: being here was simply too painful. Something was pulling me here though, I had a feeling that I needed to be here, that it would be good for me or something.

For most of the past 18 months, I’ve not been great. Even before mum passed away, I’ve felt broken. Out of sorts. Not okay. However, because I am stubborn, I just kept cracking on.

I ignored the times when I felt really really shit, and told myself to stop being so weak.
Just get on with things. What’s wrong with you?

And then mum died.

And it felt like I did too. I couldn’t function; I was so, completely lost. All of my tried and true coping mechanisms failed; so, instead, I turned into myself and shut everyone out. I ran. My world had turn to shit: for months on end, my daily existence was bleak. I felt like I was trapped in the darkest depths of despair, with no hope – no light at the end of the tunnel.

The thing about grief is, there is no process. It just happens to you. This has been the hardest thing for me to accept and understand because I’m literally a Planner. Planning, thinking and strategizing is my default. I’m pragmatic to a T; I think and lead with my head all the time. Logic over feelings, always.

I learned very quickly that I can’t think myself out of grief and pain. Well…actually I can’t take all the credit for that: my incredible therapist helped me get to this conclusion.
There is no plan, Temi. You can’t control it. You can’t think up a way to stop your emotions and feelings.

Grief, like life, is unpredictable.

My time in London has been nothing like I thought it would be. I desperately wanted some sort of routine after galavanting around Asia; more importantly, I no longer felt like I needed to be away from everyone. My plan (!): I’ll come back, pick up a bit more freelance work, see some friends and stay in my box. Maybe the familiar will make things better. I didn’t have high expectations, because I’ve never really felt at home or happy in London – way too many painful things have happened here. So, when I got back in August I was feeling pretty dreadful and I was dreading it. Granted, I wasn’t feeling as low as I felt before, but I was still very very fragile.

I have distinct “before mum died” and “after mum died” versions of myself. I often think of 2015 Temi: confident, gregarious, strong, fun. I don’t really feel that’s me now…sometimes I feel like that person will never exist again.

However, I am feeling more like myself again. I’ve stopped avoiding social events, and have made an effort to meet new people. I dated. My anxiety’s not as a bad. I don’t spend days on end unable to stop crying or just feeling super sad. I stepped out of my protective box.

Heck – I even got drunk!! (I know. Major.)

I’m not religious, and I don’t know if I believe in heaven or God. But, I think the reason I felt like I needed to be in London is down to my mum somehow. She’s buried in London…I dunno. Maybe she lead me back here?

It’s also down to some incredible people in my life – some who I haven’t known very long, and some I haven’t even met in person (#digitalnomads)! Helen, Peter, Buky, Raphael, Jerome, Natasha, Tom, Clio, Sarah, Nurki…you may not know it, but you’ve helped to put broken old Temi back together again. You’ve all been a huge help and so supportive – more than you’ll ever know.

I don’t think I’m back to my old self yet.

But…I think I’ve found the light at the end of the tunnel.

Life

Sorrow

Today, I walked around and visited some of the last places I went to with mum. Because I was away travelling or living in Australia since 2014, I realised I didn’t actually get to spend that much time with her before she got sick, and before she died.

I went to the cafe we had our last brunch together at, on Hackney Road. The day I told her my plans to move to Oz. She had driven all the way from Enfield to spend the morning with me because I told her I was having a rough weekend.

I walked past the restaurant on Liverpool St where we had dinner that one time ages ago, after work. I paid for it and she was so proud I could afford to do small things like pay for her meal. Of course the cheeky bugger bought the most expensive dish.

I walked past my old flat near Broadway Market where she and my dad helped me move out last.

It hurt a lot. Sometimes I felt like those moments were just yesterday. Sometimes I thought I might burst into tears, (but I didn’t, because I’m in London right now and Londoners donotshowemotion).

I miss her, so so much. I’m so angry I want to punch someone —  I cannot punch cancer in the face, but I can call it a fucking see you next Tuesday.

It’s not all bad. Remembering these times did make me smile because honestly, I know i’m biased, but:

My mum was my A1. I hope I can be half the woman she was.

 

 

Life

Time

I’ve been quiet on here as I’ve struggled to deal with the past 12 months*. A recap, for those who don’t know:

  1. I left Oz
  2. I travelled around SEA
  3. Upon returning to Europe, I had an actual nervous break down
  4. My aunt died unexpectedly
  5. My mum died unexpectedly
  6. I left the UK (again)
  7. I’m travelling again (and working)

It’s been difficult. But I don’t really want to get into all of it.

Ever since I could finally admit that my mum isn’t coming back (since April maybe?), I’ve felt really restless. Traveling around Asia, meeting new people – isn’t cutting it. Getting new clients while on the road, and being a “digital nomad,” isn’t cutting it. I’ve changed.

My mum’s death has changed me.

It’s changed me in ways that I’m aware of (Hi anxiety! You’re new) and others that I’m not. I feel broken on the inside and out. This feeling of restlessness is one I can’t figure out; I don’t understand its origin story. The past week I’ve flip-flopped back and forth over where to go next, which city to explore, or which country to visit. I look at my list of places I want to visit, things I want to see…and I feel nothing. I feel numb.

It’s not that I want to do nothing per say – but I really don’t fancy speaking to people a lot lately. And I don’t really think that exploring new locales as a mute is as much fun, tbh.

Here’s what I do know:

  1. I want to do something active (I’m an activity monster. I hate not being physically active)
  2. It would be nice to do it somewhere I’ve not been, or explored before
  3. It has to be a challenge
  4. It’s gotta take some time
  5. I want to be alone/ have time to be with my thoughts.

So.

15644427383_20b593dccc_kImage

In November, I’m hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal – across the famous Thorong La Pass.

Why? I’ll have time to think (but not too much as I’ll probably be praying to some higher entity for new legs), it’s repetitive motion (which has been shown to aid in providing clarity and peace) and I’ll be surrounded by nature. Doesn’t everyone always say nature is good for healing and shit?

I don’t really know what I’m looking for -actually-  I do. I hope to 1) complete this trek in one piece, and 2) emerge as a less broken Temi.

I’ve learnt this year that, no matter how much you’re hurting, or whatever tragedy you’re going through – life goes on. It doesn’t stop so you can pick up the pieces.

I have to go on, too.

And I really, really(!!!), don’t want to take my broken self into 2017.

*Understatement of the decade
Life

744 Hours Later

It’s been a month today. Thirty times I have managed to get myself through the day and night since you’ve been gone. It’s been three months since my life was turned upside down and six months since I felt happy.

It still doesn’t feel real. It was only in November that we learned you were sick. I remember on December 2nd, when Dad told me the doctor suspected cancer. I cried immediately – but also kind of thought it was a mistake. “Cancer!?!??!” I thought – “but how? What happened to it being gallstones, surely they’re confused? It’s not cancer.”

I think I stayed in that confusion, (or was it disbelief?) up until the end. I couldn’t, or wouldn’t believe it. I could see you deteriorating before my eyes each day, but I thought they had it wrong. To be fair – they didn’t actually confirm that it was cancer until the week of December 21st, so who can blame me for thinking it was a mistake. After we found out, I started to feel numb – I was protecting myself and I didn’t want you to see my fear. You said you were scared; you didn’t need to worry about me being scared too.

I made the mistake everyone did. I thought we had time: time for you to give chemotherapy a go; time for you to get better; time to spend together. Even though I knew that a majority of cancer diagnoses end with death, I thought, “even if it’s hard and miserable, at least you’ll have chemotherapy and we’ll re-assess after that.” We all did.

I hate that we didn’t have that time. I hate that you couldn’t finish your PhD, something you worked your ass off for, something you were so passionate about, something that you were so, so, close to finishing. You were only six months out from finishing. I hate and it pains me that the last months of your life were fraught with worry, fear, pain, anxiety, sadness and stress.

That’s what gets me the most: you didn’t even know you were dying until it was too late. Everyone says to enjoy each day as though it’s your last, but it’s a bit fucking hard to do so when you’re bed-bound because of pain and you’re not even sure what’s going on with your own body.

Needless to say, but, I fucking hate cancer.

I think about you every single day  – and sometimes I wish I didn’t because it hurts a lot.

I’m not OK.

Everything feels kind of hazy and grey; I am living, but I feel like as though my soul has gone and my body is empty. It feels like I am a Sim, someone is playing me in the game – I’m eating and drinking and have autonomy, but it’s not a real existence. I can typically manage throughout the day fine. I’m not working because I just can’t, and I don’t want to. On the surface I seem fine; I’m coping, but it’s the quiet, unassuming and random moments when I remember, and then I fall apart. I just finished eating lunch, for example, when I remembered your last week in the hospital: all of a sudden it feels like I’ve swallowed poison. It feels like I can’t breathe; I’m transfixed as I’m tortured by my own brain. Images of you during that last week flash by; it’s like my eyes have been glued to a kaleidoscope of painful memories.

I can’t sleep. Sometimes I turn on your mobile and look through your photos. I tried to smell it yesterday to see if it smelt like you. It didn’t.

I’m struggling with a depression that has robbed me of myself and a grief that’s left me an empty shell. You of course already knew this; my depression wasn’t new. It feels different now: before I was able to cope by supplementing with exercise, and lately through travel. However, I now don’t feel able to do the things I enjoy, nor do I want to. It’s easier to stay in bed comfort eating and watching mind-numbing TV, than it is to try and confront your issues, and your grief.

I remember you asking me to try and explain what depression feels like…even when you were in so much pain yourself; you still were thinking of me. I recently watched something that says what I couldn’t: “Picture someone you know, who you don’t like very much, but you’re forced to spend a lot of time around them. Now imagine that someone is you; that’s how you feel about yourself.

It still feels like that, except now I don’t have you to comfort me, or to tell me that it’s going to get better. In fact I pushed you away from trying to do so many times because I thought you just didn’t get it. I’m still that person who I don’t like very much.

I’m sorry, mum. I don’t know if I can live up to the promise I made you. It feels like a mammoth task. I haven’t given up yet; I am trying. I hope I can.

I don’t really know why I’m writing this – it began as a distraction of sorts to stop myself ruminating. I want you to know I think about you and I wish I could be by your side. I want you to know that I am trying, trying to pull myself together. My therapist says I have fight in me still.

I know you want me to stay in London and be around the family, and youbut I cannot.

Doing so feels like pouring salt in the wound. It’s like breaking up with someone and then still living together. Everything in this house reminds me of you. I need space to heal. Space away from anything you ever touched. Anything that could bring more painful reminders that you’re not here.

I want to feel better already. I know that time plays a big part in that; I also want it to slow down because it’s a sneaky little fucker. In the…what — month? we had from your diagnosis to death, I so wished I could’ve pressed pause. Wished I was able to pause time so that we could have had six months, or 12, or 24, or forever.

They say that time is the longest distance between two places; If that’s true, I feel like I’m stuck in-between a past I don’t want to re-live, and a future that I can’t imagine.

Discover It, Live It

Climbing Mt Batur, Bali, Indonesia

One of the reasons I wanted to travel to Bali was so that I could climb an active volcano, at night and see the sunrise at the top, eating boiled eggs cooked in the steam from the crater.

And so I did.

The sunrise at the top at the peak

It was pretty amazing.

Before the clouds broke

I was picked up at 2am by a driver and guide, and there were six other people in the mini-van, two couples and two women. We drove for an hour to Kintamini, where we stopped to have a quick light breakfast and toilet stop.

Mt Agung in the distance

Then we drove 15 more minutes to the base of Mt Batur. It was packed – there were heaps of other tours getting ready; all huddled together by their flash lights and head torches. Despite being 2am in the morning it was still pretty mild; I had packed my raincoat in my daypack as I’d heard it was chilly at the peak.

Sunrise on Mt Batur

After meeting our tour guide – a fairly old man named Ketut, we headed off into the darkness with only our flashlights and Ketut to guide us.

Sunrise at about 630 AM

The climb is advertised as being fairly easy enough to do – if you can run 5km without stopping and getting stitches this climb should be no problem for you. Too easy, right?

Wrong.

After about 15 minutes there’s a significant sharp incline increase; this is made much worse by the fact that you’re hiking up volcanic rubble and not rocks like one may be used to. And it’s pitch black – you can only see what your flash light lights up.

I’m not going to lie, it was a strenuous climb. Our group were all pretty fit and only stopped twice briefly (I could’ve stopped for longer but at the same time I was quite keen to be done with it – it was hard!) We passed several other groups who were panting and struggling to get to the top – lots of young children and OAPs who were probably having the shock of their lives.

The last 30 minutes of climb to the top were horrendous – we were walking in the pitch black at a near vertical incline, climbing up ash. This meant your feet couldn’t really grip on to anything – imaging walking up a mountain with a sand path. At several points we had to use our hands and feet to stop us from toppling over backwards and down.

Our guide Ketut does this climb twice a day (sunrise and sunset) and he was climbing in the complete darkness – with no flashlight! He later told me he’d been guiding tourists up the volcano for ten years; he knows the route like the back of his hand, and would tell us where the best places to put our feet were. Thank goodness for Ketut!!

Beauty!

The climb took us about 1H45M as Mt Batur is only about 1700m in elevation. The view at the top was more than worth it.

Unbelievable

I’m so glad I did this hike ’cause the sunrise was magnificent. The trek down was nothing short of terrifying but also exhilarating – seeing what I’d climbed in the dark was both something I was both proud of and left me mortified. There were sheer drops on either side during some points of the hike…I know I would’ve been absolutely bricking it had I been able to see my surroundings, so I’m pretty glad we did the sunrise trek.

Eat It

Eating in Ubud, Bali

Eat, Pray, Love is what most people think of when you say you’re going to Ubud.

I’d wanted to go to Ubud before I’d seen the film or read the book. Then my friend Pooja, with her brilliant literary taste suggested, nay, implored that I read the book.

So I did.

And thus my desire to go to Ubud grew exponentially. And it was pretty much everything I imagined and then some. Everything you may have heard is true – lush tropics, yogis, raw vegan food warungs (the Balinese word for restaurant) healers, hippies, travellers in abundance. It’s a health foodie/fitness/coach/nutritionist’s dream.

My days in Ubud went something like this:

Meditate, exercise, sweat, eat, walk, walk, walk, read, explore, get lost, taksi? transport? mah-sauce? sweat, sweat, read, walk, walk, eat, eat, shop, read, take photos, walk, yoga, eat, eat, walk, walk, walk, eat, sleep.

I miss Ubud terribly already (I’m in Seminyak writing this,) so here’s a round up of some of the meals I ate and my favourite places. Definitely recommend hitting up all of these places should you be in Bali.

Dewa’s Warung – Best Indonesian food on a budget

Dayu’s Warung – Best healthy food on a budget

Sari Organic – Farm to table, organic healthy food with a view

Alchemy – Most western-style raw/vegan restaurant

Holy Basil – Cheapest vegan food

Bali Buddha – Best variety of food (raw/vegan/healthy/Indonesian)

The Seeds of Life – Best raw vegan desserts

Putu’s Warung – Best satay sauce made from scratch (Lovina, Bali)

Divine Earth – Best raw vegan menu (Seminyak, Bali)

I may have eaten Ubud’s entire supply of: tempeh, steamed greens, carrot & beet juice, tempeh crisps, sesame cashews, SATAY SAUCE, and…did I mention tempeh? I had a love affair with tempeh before I got to Ubud but they do it so well there. It’s one of their main vegetarian protein sources. If you’re not sure what it is, you can educate yoself on the difference between tempeh and tofu here (and a quick little recipe too)! Ubud cemented itself as my favourite town in Bali when I stumbled upon Dewa’s Warung, for the price – they served the most moreish tempeh satay sticks for $2AUD…memories.

Life

An Open Letter to Depression

It’s such a dirty word.

It feels taboo. When I think about depression and how to tell people I suffer from it, I often think of euphemisms to use instead, because I’m not comfortable with it. If you know me, you’ve probably heard me say things along the lines of: “I’ve been feeling really low lately;” “I’m not feeling myself lately;” “I’m just not having a good time, mentally/emotionally – if you know what I mean.” None of which accurately describe nor explain the absolute mindfuck that this illness is. None of which actually describe how bad I feel.

I also always use adverbs like ‘lately’ or ‘currently’ to show that that this isn’t me always (which it isn’t). But, I also do this because I don’t want people to think less of me – I’m ashamed. I don’t want people to think that I am weak, or weird. I don’t want to be judged.

I hate that I suffer from it. I have a Type A personality, and people like me are not supposed to suffer from things as abstract and difficult to explain as depression. People with Type A personalities are apparently most likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. A horrible, evil disease, yet one that people understand and can empathise with easily.

If you didn’t know I’m depressed, it’s because I didn’t know you well enough or feel secure enough in our relationship to tell you. When I have told friends – the reactions I’ve had are the most bizarre. When I was first diagnosed early last year, I told one friend over dinner that I was feeling very lost and sad; I’d pulled back from our friendship group and she’d obviously noticed. I wasn’t being the same Temi who’s outgoing and gregarious – always game to go dancing or for drinks.

After I told her, she soon stopped responding to my texts and invitations to hang out – yet she become closer friends with my housemate at the time.

Some of the people who I’ve felt strong enough to tell – those I felt closest to have been shit; not supportive in the slightest. I expected them to care more. I think about if the roles were reversed and how I’d react, and I know I’d be there for them. Some people who I don’t really know at all have been the most supportive.

This instance still sits with me even after more than a year because a) it really hurt, and b) that’s when I realised that people do not know how to respond to depression. Most people I tell I don’t think actually believe me. I often get, “but you’re so smart and successful and driven and pretty, why are you sad!? Stop being sad!!”

Cheers thanks, I hadn’t thought of trying that.

I’m quite good at hiding how I feel, so I guess this response is fair. Little do they know I ask myself that daily – there’s nothing wrong with me. Why am I depressed?

Having depression makes me feel weak, pathetic and confused. How did I get it? Why do I have it? There is nothing wrong with my life. I am privileged: an educated, hard-working and, career-wise, a successful young woman. I have a roof over my head, a stable income, and food in my fridge. How can I be depressed? Nothing has happened – no real traumas. The meme First World Problems has never felt more applicable in my life than now. And yet, as time went on from December 2013, I became more depressed, but I just got better at hiding it from others. I would feel so low, empty and so lonely, but I rarely spoke out. Only my family knew.

The thing is – I’m smart. I know that negative thought patterns make me susceptible to depression. I know I should go out and be social even when I really don’t feel like it. I know things like therapy help. The number of times I’ve spoken to counsellors on the phone but then decided not to go to a session sits at about four.

I’m smart, but I’m also stubborn. I don’t like asking for help. I feel like I shouldn’t need help – for me it signals a sign of weakness. It’s almost as though I’d rather suffer alone in silence than ask anyone for help. I don’t want to be a burden, and I don’t want people to treat me differently.

This is why I keep schtum about it; why I use euphemisms. I’m trying to minimise the impact depression is having on me, because I want to beat it on my own. If I don’t make it seem like a big deal, then it’s not a big deal and there’s nothing wrong with me.

I guess I don’t want depression to become who I am – I’m pretty sure the same Temi pre-depression is still in there somewhere. I’m not depressed 24/7/365. Some days I feel OK, or more than ok – I feel great! And then, I think: lol I’m not depressed!! Silly mind playing tricks on me. But, like a pool of water in the desert, this too is a mirage.

I know that not seeking help and keeping quiet is not helpful. It’s maladaptive and stupid. I know.

But I’m working on it.

You see, the thing about being stubborn is that giving up is pretty much not an option. There’s always an ounce of fight in you somewhere. The first stage for me was acceptance. Now it’s time to get better.