I’m sitting in a small bistro, not far from the Airbnb where Diane’s lovely parents and I chatted away in the kind of broken French my seventeen year old self would be horrified at.
The waiter, a tall, brown haired charmer walks to my table and looks straight into my eyes with a sort of intensity that I associate with movies or the sweet beginnings of relationships. My own eyes dance back a little. For the first time, in a very long time, I feel beautiful. I feel like me.
Moments later, I’m sipping on a tall glass of Bordeaux, feeling horrendously confident with a sprinkling of pretentiousness in my air and I sit back, breathe and drink in the gorgeous atmosphere that engulfs me. As the alcohol starts to loosen the weight of my neural connections, I feel suddenly flooded by a lightness, a happiness- one I have grown to cherish beyond measure.
Life is worth living.
Six months ago… suicidal thoughts were a normal, every day occurrence. I’ve been reading ‘Reasons to stay alive’ by Matt Haig. I started the book several months ago but the first chapter in which he describes the depths of his depression resonated with me so hard that I had to stop reading. When I say suicidal thoughts, I don’t mean overt plans to kill myself off. It was more just an overwhelming feeling of the pointlessness of life whilst wishing away my existence. Matt described it perfectly: it’s all about wishing you were never there in the first place. If I open my diary, I’ve casually written of what it might be like to just overdose and end it. I never did try. Partly because I was convinced I would fail and I know the treatment protocol in hospital because sadly, I’m a doctor. And secondly… I didn’t want people, especially my family knowing what a morbid mental state I was in.
Describing this now, lying alone in my bed in this Parisian apartment, I remember the reality of it all and choose not to hide from it any longer, no matter how morose it was. Was I clinically depressed? Probably. Was I anxious? Again, certainly. Always have been and probably always will be.
I suppose, reader, you’re waiting for some kind of twist, some moral, some sense of righteousness or a tale of ‘getting better’. Well perhaps it’s a little disappointing but I don’t really have one. I went to therapy. I learned to open up to people around me. But most importantly, I learnt how to be compassionate with myself, kind to myself and accepting of whatever emotion I felt. Compassion is the most healing force in humanity and I learned, through therapy and shitloads of practice, to channel that compassion inwardly.
And as one compassionate practice led to another, I found myself adding to my life in ways that made it feel like it was worth living. I took myself on holiday to the city I love. I took myself out for coffee and dinner and roamed the streets drenching myself in the Paris-ness of Paris, only for the fact that I love it. I took the metro and I even uber pooled without worrying I’d get taken (and my dad is not Liam Neeson). All these acts are like mini victories for me, each one pouring itself into a shot glass of self esteem that I’m throwing back with determination.
I know I could fall into a place of sadness again. In fact, it’s probably inevitable. I don’t know why I feel emotion with such intensity. Maybe it’s genetic. Much of it is early childhood experience. But it’s also okay. It makes me who I am. And I did it, didn’t I? I got out. I realised my own self worth and began to treat myself like I believed it.
Now that I’ve moved out and am kind of starting to find myself (don’t die from the cliché) and get comfortable with who I am, I’m seeing how much I need this. Time alone. To learn to be complete. To heal. To let my relationship nourish me and challenge me but not to let it take over.
Sitting in the bistro, one overpriced meal and another glass of wine later, I realise the rush I felt earlier was actually love. Love for myself. My whole life I’ve not known how it feels to even like myself, let alone love myself. It was sort of unnatural and strange until I settled into it and allowed myself to feel it with every cell in my body.
And now, as I get ready to leave the place of my dreams, knowing it’s not long until I return… I can think to myself that here, in the city of love I started an intensely loving relationship with myself that I should’ve started twenty four years ago.