So, this one’s a really personal one. And, it’s a hard one to write too. Because it starts with one of the darkest moments in my life: the moment when I didn’t want to be anymore. The moment when I lost myself.
I’ve never really considered myself an ‘ambitious’ person. I never had a career in mind, and so, when everyone around me was making five-year plans, I felt a little lost. But, I tried to jump on the bandwagon and make my own five-year plan. This changed from planning to enter a career in psychology, to training to become a primary-school teacher. But, neither of those things ever really seemed to ‘fit’. It was like I was always standing on the outside, looking in. Like I could see everything and everyone around me changing, but they couldn’t see me.
Nevertheless, I pushed. I forced myself into the mould that I thought could fit me. And, don’t get me wrong, there were moments I loved. I loved working with children. I loved how no matter what I was struggling with, they found a way to make me smile. I hope that one day if any of the children that I taught find When Caitie met Soda, they read this: Thank you. Thank you for being the brightest parts of my day. Thank you for making me smile. Thank you for asking me if I was okay.
Anyway, somewhere along this journey, the journey to adulting, as so many of us call it, I got lost. Really, really fucking (excuse my French) lost. I stopped knowing who I was. And, at the same time, my body gave up. What started as a stomach-ache every so often became a constant, crippling pain. I was so tired I found it hard to get up in the morning. And when I got home, all I could do was sleep. I started missing more and more days of work, which were spent at the GP, usually in floods of tears, begging someone, anyone, to work out what was wrong with me.
And when all of the standard tests came back ‘normal’, instead of being relieved, I was plunged further into despair. I wanted so badly for there to be a reason for me feeling the way I did. The reason for me failing at almost everything in my life (or at least that’s how I felt).
The more work I missed, the more difficult my life became. Soon enough the school called my university, and requested a meeting. And it was in that meeting I broke. I had known for months that I couldn’t do it, and I had tried, I thought, to ask for help. But because there were no concrete explanations for my physical symptoms, I wasn’t met with the understanding I so desperately needed. I was told that I was lazy, that I needed to act as though I really wanted to be there, and that I just wasn’t pulling my weight. And although I’m sure this was intended as constructive criticism, it did nothing but make me despise myself even more than I already did. You didn’t know that, did you? You thought you were giving me ‘tough love’. But instead, you were pushing me deeper into the darkest place. I know you didn’t mean to. But I wish you had heard me. I wasn’t trying to make your workloads heavier, or seem ungrateful. I was sick.
On that day, which I still remember vividly, I cried. In that room, I cried. And not like a few tears, either. I had a panic attack, and couldn’t compose myself. The other people in the meeting, presumably at a loss, asked me to go and sit in the office and ‘calm down’. And I tried, I really did. But I couldn’t. I was inconsolable. I have never, ever been the type of person to give up on something. I was brought up to know that when you say you will do something, you do it. No matter how hard it is. And I swear, that’s what I was trying to do. But something inside me had snapped. And instead of taking care of myself, I was making myself very, very unwell, trying so very hard to be the person that I thought everyone expected me to be.
That was really hard to write. Really hard. We’re years on now, and I am sitting here, with tears streaming down my face remembering it.
Anyway, there were a few people who helped me – not least, my family. My people. I will never be able to thank them for never asking me to be anything other than who I am. But one woman stands out in my memory of this time. She was a teaching assistant at the school, and she sat with me in that office, and listened to me – which I can only imagine was very difficult given the amount of tears and snot running down my face. And when she heard what I had to say, she simply told me that nothing was worth what I was doing to myself. Nothing.
And, that was that. I knew then that it was time for me to walk away. For the first time in my life. And so, I did. And I wish I could say that the people I was working with were understanding, that they supported me, but they didn’t. They told me to pack my things and say goodbye to my class right then and there. And that broke my heart. Because I loved every one of those children. But, I said goodbye. I still think of you all. Almost every day. And I wonder what you’re like now. What you want to do when you grow up. If it’s changed. Although you were part of a very difficult part of my life, looking back I can see that you were my Little Comets. You were the light shining through that darkness. And you gave me the courage to do what I needed to do, for myself.
I thought that day was rock-bottom. But, as it turned out, there were months of rock-bottom. Although leaving work was what I needed, it also meant that I had no reason to get out of bed. And so, I didn’t. But then, as you all know, came Soda. The firework of naughtiness that gave me a reason to get out of bed again. And with his arrival, marked the start of our search, in earnest, for a diagnosis, and answers. And a diagnosis we did find. And some answers. And then another diagnosis. And some more answers. And so it goes on. As it turns out, I am in fact less lazy than I thought. The conditions that I have come to live with will in all likelihood be things that I live with for the rest of my life. But, I’m learning to manage them. And on the days when I can’t, I’ve learnt to be compassionate to myself.
And perhaps the biggest part of learning to be compassionate, was learning how to make jewellery. It’s funny, really, because I was told that I was not artistically gifted at school. In fact, one teacher went so far as to make a strong recommendation that I not pursue anything artistic, ever, period. Which I felt was odd, because I thought there were some things that I was alright at. Like decorating the shit out of my schoolbooks, for example. Granted it was not a painting of a fruit-bowl (yes, that famous fruit-bowl), but still.
I know so many people who tell me that they aren’t creative. They were probably on the same table as me in art class, honestly. We were the ones mixing all the colours until they turned brown, and using all the glitter. We were the ones who didn’t fit that mould. But, we are, every one of us, creative. And it is through creativity that we find our voice; and, ourselves. The truth of it is that creativity scares us, because we have been conditioned into viewing it in the most narrow of parameters. I mean, if it’s not going to end up in a gallery somewhere, what’s the point? But, there is every point, I promise you.
And you’re probably being creative, without even realising it. Because to me, creativity is tapping into that part of your brain (perhaps it’s our Pineal Gland, Paul) where you feel the most uniquely you. So, the activity itself is largely irrelevant. If you experience peace, zen, tranquility, whatever you want to call it, doing the dishes, cleaning, journalling, tidying up, painting, drawing, making jewellery, reading, taking pictures, painting your nails, decorating your home, you’re already being creative. The trick to letting it do it’s magic is to do more of it.
And, the more you do, the closer to you, you’ll be. And don’t let that scare you. Because you’re fucking amazing. Do you know that?
Clean out a corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it’ – Dee Hock
I’d love more than anything, if you’d feel brave enough to share your story. Or even extracts from it. And, perhaps, ways that you feel you may be being creative in your own life.
With all of our love always, beautiful friends,
Caitie, and, of course, Soda xxx