Swaptober got off to a rocky start but I confess that the highs all far outweigh the lows: I’m having a ball. I haven’t laughed this much in years! From ending up sprawled like a clubbed seal across my yoga mat to waddling around as if a giant salami was wedged between my legs for two days following military fitness training, there has been much over which to chuckle. I have accepted every challenge with a distinct lack of grace but plenty of humour. I will endeavour to write more of my experiences but I can’t seem to find the time. I am firing on all cylinders, propelled onwards and upwards through the stratosphere by sheer will, love, determination and a rare, rare joy that radiates from my temple to my toes.
It has been a truly wonderful and blessed week. I finally found myself… my true self, not the grief-stricken, depressed victim created by those who sought to make me feel suicidal, worthless and expendable.
I decided to seize control over the anxiety, pain and nausea which were threatening to derail my Swaptober plan for positive change. I have been back in high gear all week, resuming my Swaptober activities and resetting my mojo. Thank God.
I strayed briefly from the path but my compass is set and I’m heading back towards the tiny inner haven which houses the best part of my soul. I have so many good things awaiting my arrival; so many strengths and attributes to liberate and rediscover.
I want to write endless words, to share my awakening and celebrate my joy, but the volume is too great: I can never hope to record it all. I feel blessed. I feel lucky. I feel rebuilt.
I have been in fine form all week… one not seen nor felt since 2006, just before I misguidedly welcomed The Forgiven One into my life. I remember who I used to be before the days of his campaign to erode my self-worth. I am slowly and surely becoming reaquainted with my old self… and she is fantastic! She is motivated, tenacious, funny, happy to socialise, and enjoys spontaneous escapades. She laughs all the time – even through pain – and thrives on challenging herself and having fun along the way.
She is my best self… my true self. And she’s back from the brink to take the reigns and show the world her worth.
I caved and followed my heart: I wished The Forgiven One a Happy Birthday and I am glad I stayed true to myself. I love him; I always have.
Ignoring today’s date was impossible. I have been stressed to the maximum, despite my best efforts to ease into October with positivity and change. It bothered me that I wasn’t to wish The Forgiven One a Happy Birthday because he thinks I’m trailer trash. It all bothers me: the distance between us… it hurts; giving years of my life to someone who thinks I am nothing… it hurts. I want to switch off the grief but this behaviour drags it to low and burgeoning depths. It’s ridiculous that we have reached this point: strangers who succumb to avoiding one another and blocking each other online. It’s all so juvenile.
Yesterday, I almost had a full blown anxiety attack following a reference to him during my weekly therapy session – a sensation which has since persisted for over 24 hours. I even had to cancel my Friday night plans: a stay at a friend’s place in a picturesque location on the outskirts of the city was hexed by headache, nausea and chest pain (which had been assaulting my body since the session with my therapist). The symptoms intensified on route to a train station and I started heaving in public.
I was forced to apologise to my friend and return home, enduring a truly horrific, hour-long journey through the height of rush hour, feeling queasy, faint and ready to die. I cried myself to sleep, cursing my life and the grief I have suffered.
I still don’t feel well and I have no idea why this is happening beyond stress and exhaustion from lack of peaceful sleep. Since October began, my nightmares have intensified and it is difficult to remain upbeat when plagued by extreme fatigue. Add to that my bouts of excessive bleeding, toothache, Endometriosis pain, ankle trouble, constant anxiety… my world suddenly seems intensely claustrophobic and debilitating.
My stress levels have soared since the start of October, and last year was exactly the same. I genuinely hoped this year would be different, putting all my efforts into a series of positive actions intended to combat the negativity associated with this month. Thus far, they have all proved futile: I clearly underestimated the level of damage to my subconscious.
Multiple factors have overlapped this week to create a suffocating layer of stress and self-doubt. These are elements which I need to systematically address and consider… starting with the hardest one of all: The Forgiven One’s birthday. I had no hopes of easing the emotional burden of today’s date by ignoring him. I wish him well and that’s not a bad thing. Being spiteful and ignoring his birthday felt like a betrayal of my upbringing and values.
I have felt so marginalised, worthless and sub-standard but that has to change. I cannot drag myself down further by piling guilt upon my beleaguered heart. I don’t know how to deal with my disappointment and grief regarding The Forgiven One. I truly have no idea. Maybe it’s something that will last forever or maybe I’ll wake up in a month’s time and feel totally cleansed of his memory. Who knows? All I can do is my best… my best as a person; as a daughter; as a sister; as an aunty; as a friend; as a living entity.
I have realised – through the course of ongoing nightmares, therapy and even by observing the behaviour of others – that trying to be someone I’m not is never going to work. I want to be free to be myself – even if the rest of the world hates me.
This is for The Forgiven One, because I’m not a monster. I cannot make contact to send my good wishes but I post them on here where God and the universe can see what’s in my heart and the love I still carry for someone who regards me as less than nothing:
Today, he will be surrounded by those he loves and will receive greetings from scores of valued friends. He will not even notice my absence nor care if I am alive or dead. To The Forgiven One, I am – and always have been – worthless. To that, I say: no-one is worthless, not even people like himself who hate and judge others according to value. No matter what has happened in the past, I sincerely wish him a very Happy Birthday and a life worth living.
I hope he has a great day.
On the second day of Swaptober my troubled mind gave to me… another bout of melancholy.
I spent much of my day feeling as if I had been transplanted into a battle of biblical proportions. It began with my subconscious electing to dispatch a squadron of nightmares to invade my sleep – including a heart-stopping vision in which my mother succumbed to Cancer. My body, refusing to be overshadowed by a mental opponent, retaliated in bloody fashion: I was hemorrhaging non-stop all day, with an uncontrollable flow of blood seeping steadily into my clothes.
My subconscious hit back with a vicious anxiety attack, sent forth to strike me down on public transport. A counter strike from my body included renewed ankle pain and plantar fasciitis, restricting my movements and weakening my defences. Suddenly, a lethargy exploded across my being like a toxic nerve gas and I was quickly lulled into the belief that I was drifting across the River Styx to be carried into the Underworld.
As mind and body competed to dominate my being, my soul – fed up of being crushed, bloodied and battered – decided to wade into the fray, sword swinging, to decapitate both serpents. Through the clash of steel came a shrill and fearsome roar – a battle cry which shook me to my core, “You cannot stop me; I am too strong”. With this reinforcement, my day panned out as follows:
I forced myself out of bed this morning; checked my mother was still alive; explained my odd behaviour and weakened state to my baffled father; gulped down painkillers; applied more make-up than Maybelline can produce in a year; donned dark clothes; headed off to a job interview and… arrived as planned (early and looking suitably presentable). I answered all questions without crying and talked with evangelical fervour about my skills and career.
I finished my interview with blood raking my thighs, severe fatigue and nausea, along with pain and tightness across my chest following an earlier panic attack on the train.
My ankle swelled as I completed my shopping before journeying home, and my broken tooth throbbed throughout in protest. A blister, the size of an egg, formed upon the surface of my heel and my skin burned with every step forward. Yet, through it all my soul screamed, “You won’t hold me back; I am too strong!”
Yes, I came home and burst into tears (who wouldn’t?), finding myself caught briefly within the grip of conflicting emotions towards The Forgiven One and his upcoming birthday. It was a cowardly attempt by my subconscious to take me down, going straight for the jugular with an unexpected strike to my weak spot: lost love, guilt and worthlessness. I felt bereft and ready to surrender. Suddenly, I heard my soul yelling out with terrifying purpose: “Enough!”. I quickly pulled myself together and got on with the rest of my day. Still bleeding. Still in pain. Still feeling drugged and weepy.
I AM strong. I know I am. I have lived through days such as this far too many times to count and I’m still here, still breathing, still standing, still persevering, and still winning. There are infinite positives to celebrate about my day, beginning with the fact that I survived it, which is the best of them all.
It’s October 1st – the first day in my Swaptober campaign to exchange damaging memories linked to this time of year for new and uplifting emotional triggers. Sadly, my brain and body are seemingly conflicted about my desire for change. If anyone out there still doubts the harmful effects of stress and thinks it’s all paranoid mumbo-jumbo spouted by emotional cripples, consider this:
● I went to bed in a happy mood last night, only to dream of my tormentor and former lover, The Forgiven One, humiliating me in public once again and branding me as worthless. It’s almost two years to the day since that actually happened… what a horrible way for my brain to acknowledge the start of dreaded October.
● I awoke from the aforementioned nightmare to find my bed clothes and undergarments soaked in a sickening pool of thick, cloying blood: my Endometriosis (supposed to be under control by powerful medication) kicked in with a vengeance during my troubled sleep, resulting in pain and abnormal bleeding. I haven’t had an episode this severe in months and the bleeding only seems to happen during extreme bouts of stress. Hello, October! Thanks for the bloody reminder that you’ve rolled around again and you’re the month in which I was backstabbed and left for dead.
● I spent all morning flooded with overwhelming guilt for something others would deem ridiculous: it’s The Forgiven One’s birthday on Saturday and I won’t be making contact to wish him well. He won’t even notice – unless it’s to rejoice in my absence from his life and to make nasty jibes about me to his girlfriend or peers. Why then, do I suddenly feel like a terrible person? After last night’s awful dream, I should be reminded of the need to move onwards and upwards. Instead, I feel horribly guilty that I have sunk to cruel lows and will be perceived as callous. It’s irrational but I have spent hours weeping about my lack of grace, humility and compassion in choosing to ignore someone on their birthday who was once so treasured. Why does October have to be his birthday month on top of everything else? Is there not enough on my plate already?
● The tooth which has been troubling me ever since I was backstabbed (thanks to the stress-related grinding of my teeth) resulted in the need for another emergency visit to the dentist today. I’m still in pain and uncomfortable. Forget “pinch, punch… first of the month”; October’s arrival is more like “mutilate, humiliate… October brings a terrible fate”.
I’m still determined to rebrand this month, despite the obvious resistance to my efforts. Admittedly, I may look, feel and, unfortunately, chew like crap throughout the next 30 days, but I will somehow emerge a victor. By the end of Swaptober, I will be fitter, slimmer, stronger and wiser. I’m more determined than ever!
I have learnt something useful from today’s dramas, in spite of my pain and grief: I am a vulnerable, sensitive and ultimately too trusting woman who needs to stop punishing herself for past mistakes. I loved and cherished a man. So what? That’s nothing for which I should feel ashamed. It’s not October’s fault that this man happened to be a black-hearted Judas who treated me as a worthless tool. He was secretly ridiculing and humiliating me for years before I discovered the truth. I was branded as expendable long before October 2012 – I just didn’t know it.
I need to rebrand this month not only for my health and wellbeing, but also because it deserves my empathy: we have both been unfairly labelled and criticised for too long. October is not my enemy; it’s a kindred spirit in dire need of love, compassion and praise.
My mission to “rebrand October” is officially underway. I vowed to offload the debilitating emotional anchors dragging down the month and I have hatched a plan to achieve my goal.
Swaptober shall see me exchange hibernation and self-doubt for positive actions and emotional reward. I have already swapped old habits for new, pulling together a weekly routine to improve my health and fitness.
I attended my first ever yoga class yesterday; a regular fixture in my schedule over the next five weeks (longer if means will allow). I have also enrolled in outdoor and indoor fitness sessions – strict bootcamps run by former military trainers. I need to lose weight, tone up, get fit, improve my balance and strengthen my damaged ankle. A drill sergeant should whip me into shape in no time!
If all goes to plan, Swaptober will become a milestone month for new beginnings. Since 2012, the tenth month of the calendar has marked the hideous anniversary of being backstabbed, branded as worthless and left for dead by The Forgiven One. He will celebrate his birthday in a few days – another painful October memory – and this is the first year in which I shall allow it to pass unacknowledged. I will inwardly wish him well, of course, but I am leaving behind the past and doing what’s best for both of us. I still miss his company but his friendship was never genuine and unless he proves himself to be a drastically changed man (a lobotomy, perhaps?), there is no point in allowing him to occupy a place within my life (even if he still holds a place within my thoughts each day). You see, Swaptober doesn’t allow for weakness – only strength, optimism, hope and tenacity.
I am committed to changing my life for the better and Swaptober will help to redefine my being as something worthwhile. My strategy hinges upon the creation of new associations for a month that is typically frought with grief. I hope to look back and think of October not as the worst month of my life but the end of my obesity, fatigue, depression and grief. Yes, there will be low moments during the month (there’s no quick fix for past hurts) but there will also be several highs to look forward to during the coming weeks. I anticipate pride and achievement, potential weight loss, increased endorphins, an improved diet, serenity and relaxation, greater physical and emotional strength, and a much-needed sense of self-worth.
In all honesty, I am already part-way there: I have laughed and danced my way through several days in the latter half of September. I haven’t been this cheerful and optimistic since early 2011. I feel a renewed sense of self. In short, I feel like my old self; the confident me who used to chase her dreams before being ill-treated and labelled “worthless” and “expendable”. Prior to this cruelty, I used to be celebrated as a “go-getter” and “resourceful”: values which are thankfully re-emerging and will, hopefully, illuminate the return of other positive attributes.
I have certainly been forced to explore beyond the limits of resourcefulness during prolonged unemployment and I have further extended my range in the lead to Swaptober. Each of my yoga and exercise bookings costs less than a cup of coffee thanks to carefully researched discount deals and special offers, and I’ve been looking at cheap options for my Bucket List of things to do before I die.
Swaptober is the first month of the rest of my life and I’m determined to make it count.