Tuesday 9th June, 2015
I’d promised myself last night that I’d have a lie-in this morning, so each time I woke up (5:15, 6:24, 7:19, 8:32) I forced myself back to sleep, knowing that I needed it and telling myself that there were no fells outside the window. When I eventually awoke after yet another anxiety dream at 9:51 I let myself up properly, not sure whether my attempt at a lie-in had done me much good at all.
A slow, restless, exhaustive day, with my mood sinking with every passing hour. My to-do list, on which I’d even written points like ‘get dressed’ and ‘read for thirty minutes’ to help me feel more productive, remained largely unticked. I sat at my desk ultimately doing nothing, with little to justify it. My sunburn left me clawing at my skin and unable to lift my arms straight above my head, and I had to take off my necklace because it was irritating my chest. This is the longest I’ve not worn it since Mum first gave it to me just before I started sixth form.
Eventually I got so cold that I retreated back to bed, shivering, until Mum came home and reminded me that we’d agreed to go to the gym. I’m not sure why, but recently the idea of the gym has filled me with an anxiety I’ve not felt for a long time. I find myself making excuses as to why I shouldn’t go, and feeling shaky and nauseous and desperate for somewhere to hide. I hate this, because the gym has always made me feel strong mentally as well as physically; I always leave on a high, not just from endorphins but because of the success I have demonstrated over the cruel voices in my head, which for many years told me I was hopeless at exercising, and shouldn’t be seen by anyone (myself included) in gym wear or a swimming costume. But recently, they have returned: you aren’t good enough, they tell me.
We went to the gym, and as I cycled for the first ten minutes I had to fight every second not to dash back to the changing rooms and lock myself away in a cubicle. It was horrendously busy, and even though logic told me that nobody gave a damn what anyone else looked like – ultimately everyone’s there for the same reason – I couldn’t bring myself to take off my hoody, despite the heat.
Yet somewhere between my pulldowns and my pullups, the voices started to fade a little. The mechanical rhythm of lift-lower-repeat took over my mind as I completed my sets without really thinking. I don’t think this is the best way to work out – exercise is so much better when you’re there, in the moment, feeling every tug and tear of your muscles – but routine was numbing, and it forced me to breathe. By the time we left the gym I was not much happier, but I was much more myself. Skype with G made me feel better, and I indulged myself in new nail varnish and a favourite tv show very late at night.
“I’m sorry I was down,” I said to Mum after tea. “It’s been happening a bit recently.” And I’m a bit worried about myself, I realised later. This isn’t a position I want to be in three and a half months before university. With Mum I’d mused that I think the reason I’m ‘down’ (which is realistically a bit of an understatement) is because I don’t feel like I’ve much of a purpose anymore. All year I’ve been able to introduce myself as ‘Lucy Furneaux, Team v Leader for Norfolk’. I’ve had long-term projects with short-term targets to tick off day by day. And now I’m back to just being me again, and I’ve never been good enough for myself.
Yet I know that purpose doesn’t have to come from something external; all it requires is careful forward planning. I have got projects I’m working on – some of which really need to get finished (and others which need to get started!). I need to learn to give myself tasks and deadlines without having somebody else checking in on me every couple of weeks.
I read a quote recently which said ‘The best project we ever work on is ourselves’. Ultimately, I think this is where I have to start.
You might have noticed I’m being more open here than usual, and there are a number of reasons for this. The most crucial of these is the way in which social media forces us to beautify our lives: our Facebook timelines turn into popularity contests, our Instagram pages into check-box art shows. Everyone’s feed is a fairytale, and it’s all too easy to forget the person behind the profile.
I’m guilty of this too – I don’t know anyone who isn’t. But I also think that sites like Facebook and Instagram actively encourage us to post in this way. Blogs, though, are different; they don’t invite perfection – they invite reality, and it’s up to us to make the choice and effort to be truthful. So although in the past I’ve not been quite this honest in my hundreds, I’m making more of an effort now because I don’t really see a reason not to.