Cutting And Pasting

There are days, weeks where it becomes obvious that things, habits, attitudes, people no longer fit. It is as if someone, somewhere is wielding an enormous pair of scissors and is cutting out bits of my life as if they are pages in a magazine – bits I am attached to, that I need – and pasting them somewhere else. Maybe even somewhere that has nothing to do with my life.

After this week two old friends are gone. Two old friends I needed but who didn’t need me. I am too much work for them. They didn’t say it but I know they thought it.

The thing is, I am not that much in the way of hard work as a friend. I am a good conversationalist, I can touch on a wide variety of topics, I don’t talk about myself ad infinitum, I can be quite funny when the need arises and I am genuinely interested in what is going on in other people’s lives.

However, the part of me that does involve a bit of work is the part where most people don’t like to delve – the mental health part.

You would think that people who you have been friends with for over ten years would not turn and run at the first mention of depression. I feel as if I have stepped on a landmine and that even though bits of me are now missing and they can see that they are missing, they will not acknowledge I have a hole in the middle of my chest.

I’ve been having panic attacks. One of them caused me to lose a freelance job I had lately. It’s a long story but basically I completely messed up something I was editing and edited the whole thing as if I was someone who couldn’t speak English. My thought processes became completely incoherent. When the person I was doing the job for rang me and said as politely as possible : What the hell is this piece of crap you’ve just emailed me? I got into a state and couldn’t explain myself. So I got sacked. And now I’m panicking so much it’s stopping me from applying for other jobs.

So I went to the doctor. When I walked into the Waiting Room there were 25 people already there. 25 people at nine in the morning waiting to see a doctor. They looked annoyed as if they had been waiting for a long time and I began to panic thinking that I might need to sit in the waiting room for hours and hours. I tried to calm myself by counting the people. Asssessing them to see how sick they looked. Most of them looked perfectly well and then I thought: What if they’re all having panic attacks like me? They might see the doctor for an hour each. I could be waiting for days.

So then I began to panic some more. I grew a little light-headed and I grabbed at the table by my chair knocking over a little boy’s bottle of juice. His mother got cross with me and asked me if I was an addict. Great, I thought, Not only do I have to wait for three days, I look like a junkie. This day just gets better and better.

I think I must have started breathing quite heavily because my doctor suddenly appeared and pulled me into her consulting room. There is something faintly amusing about a panic attack. There is so much heavy breathing involved that you feel like you are doing the sound effects on a porn film.

Do you want something to calm you down? the doctor asked.

How about oxycontin? I replied. Isn’t that what all the movie stars take? I’d like to feel like a movie star for a day.

You’re being incredibly facetious for someone who is not well, she said.

Come on, I said. I feel ridiculous. I have to make a joke out of it or I’ll throw myself on the floor in the foetal position and suck my thumb for the rest of the day.

The doctor carried out an assessment on me. She did some of that memory stuff like where she lists ten things and you have to recite them back to her in order. I could only remember the first two because I was still thinking about the porno sound effects and happened to notice she had two shag pile cushions on her couch. There seemed to be a theme happening (shag pile, get it?) and at any minute I expected Austen Powers to walk through the door warming up his stethoscope.

The bottom line is my doctor thinks I shouldn’t work for a while. She has given me some new medication and has suggested I apply for sickness benefits. I don’t think I will do that because the application process is a nightmare and involves being assessed by a government appointed psychologist. I have met a couple of government appointed psychologists before and quite frankly, I would rather do the sound effects for a porno.

To cut a long story short I was supposed to go somewhere with my two friends on the same day I had the panic attack in the waiting room. It was somewhere relatively important. I was feeling so stressed that I couldn’t go. I mean I really couldn’t go. I just felt really, really flat. And exhausted.

I feel bad that I didn’t go. I should have gone. But I just couldn’t. And they got mad with me for not going. Really mad.

Accusations were flung about. I was painted as unreliable, potentially negative. Too much of a wild card in their perfect little rose-coloured world.

And the scissors came down and cut them out neatly from the place on the page where I had always imagined they would be. And then they were pasted to another page, a page I cannot yet read.

Sometimes when ways are parted it seems like a desert lies in the part of your mind where a lush forest used to grow. But there is calm to be found in the desert, a light that turns the air clear.

And even though the road is dusty and dry, flowers still push through the stony ground.

37 thoughts on “Cutting And Pasting

  1. aw, shit, sel, i’m sorry. i’ve had my battles with the mental health too and i also know that particular combo of shame and absurdity that is having a panic attack in the doctor’s waiting room. hang on. you are loved, and you have a great heart and yr friends will forgive you when they get the whole story. sometimes folks just need a little time/patience to understand us and the bizarre internal weather that we have to sail through. hang on.


  2. I think people run away from loved ones with mental health issues for a couple of primary reasons: either they do not understand it, and are afraid of the emotional depths it plumbs; or they’ve been there – or tiptoed precariously around it’s edge – and are afraid of revisiting it, or falling in to its murky whirlpools.

    I’ve been there, Sel. I have been deeply depressed. To the best of my understanding at the time, irretrievably depressed. I understand what it’s like to have parts of who you are seem to turn against the other parts of you, while you clammor for some sense of solace, or groundedness, or…acceptance.

    Everything will be okay. There are many who love and accept all parts of you, and will not run away. You have such a luminous presence, and that is who you truly are. Yes, its very difficult right now. No question. But you’re going to come out of the other end of this, and you’re going to be okay. Just breathe (without flashing on scenes from Boogie Nights πŸ˜‰ ), take baby steps – only when you’re ready, and most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Love you, my friend. xoxo


  3. Oh Selma. I have been down this road. And Panic Attacks are incredibly exhausting, and they do make LIFE impossible. I cannot tell you how many times I have cancelled appts and dates with my friends because of anxiety. And, I did take a mental health leave from work because of it.

    You really MIGHT want to consider going through the immediate hassle of the paperwork and meeting with the government appointed psychologist JUST to eventually get to take the BREAK you REALLY need!


  4. I’m so sorry this is happening to you. I’ve seen friends go down this path and it’s frightening because there is nothing you can do.

    I think Meleah has a point, it may be worth applying for the benefits. It might take the stress off financially (at least a bit) and help you take the time to get over this fully. I know it’s a pain to have to go through all this.


  5. “Look at yourself~we are continuously faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.” anon
    “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” Buddah
    I am so sorry for what has happened to you and that you are hurt. What is important to understand is that people are brought into our lives to teach us, it is what you choose to take away with you that is important. It is the saddest and hardest moments of our lives that can become the best learning opportunities (if you let them). Believe me, I speak from experience! You are a talented writer, you are a mother and a wife. you have so much to feel good about, focus on the positive. Learn from your experience, no matter how sad it makes you feel. Take a step back and think about what has happened. Make your decision based upon your intuition not based upon emotion, you WILL know what is right. Last but not least, lift your heart to the sky and be proud of who you are.


  6. You? Are stuck with me, lady. No scissors, no paste, just me waving a bit idiotically from the page.

    Also, let me third the notion that a needed mental health break might be in order, my love. Time to BREATHE a space, kwim?


  7. Hi VIC:
    You give the best hugs. Thank you.

    Hi MAMA ZEN:
    I’ll be OK, hon. Those two friends and I come from different worlds and this week the worlds collided. Your kindness means so much.

    Hi JASON:
    I love how you describe it as the combo of shame and absurdity because that’s what it is exactly. Your comment has helped me more than you know. You are FAB!

    Hi STEPH:
    I can’t stop laughing about the Boogie Nights reference. It’s funny what pops into our heads under moments of stress. At least I know I can laugh about it. Your support is invaluable. As are you.

    Hi MELEAH:
    It probably is the way to go. You’re right. If I could just get a little break from the worry I know I could bounce back. It would be such a relief. Thank you for your excellent advice.

    Hi NAT:
    As my old punk rocker mate always says : Life is pain. He wears it on a T-shirt. It’s very tongue-in-cheek but is in some ways, very true. You just have to ride these things out when they come along. I really appreciate your comment, hon.

    Hi KATHI:
    Thank you so much for visiting and leaving such an incredibly inspiring comment. I particularly like your point about the saddest and hardest moments of our lives providing the best learning opportunities. You are so right. I will lift my heart to the sky. You are wonderful!


  8. Hi HEATHER:
    Have I mentioned your awesomeness lately? You really are so dear to me. Imagining you waving on that page just cheers me so much XXX


  9. These challenges are nothing to be ashamed of and I am sorry that you lost two friends. I hope that you do think about a short break as it may work wonders personally and professionally. I’m sure you’ll bounce back on the work front with your good writing abilities.

    Best wishes Selma.


  10. I have very strong feelings on what some term “Mental Health.” 13 years ago I was diagnosed as hypomanic. I had bout’s of insomnia.. mania…depression…extreme highs and lows. After almost losing my mind being on “Medication” , I came to the conclusion that this is who I am . I am not sick. I am different. Some of my best writing and ideas occur during these periods. I have learned to manage this “Condition” of just being me using various techniques.

    I have been called crazy and psychotic by some of my closest friends, and that cuts to the bone. I can relate. I wrote them off. Fuck them. I am me. Sometimes I’m up and sometimes I’m down. They and the doctors can’t ever fathom the experiences that I have undergone which have molded who I am. Nor , would I be willing to tell them.

    ” I have taken my blows , and I’m still standin'” (kid rock)

    So in conclusion, I will say; I hope you feel better, be careful with the meds…But Most Of All …Don’t Change ! I love your writing as do many other people.

    Huge Body Hug from Hawaii ,

    P.S. Being called Mentally ill is the best excuse one can have for relaxing and enjoying themselves , So as a friend , I urge you to go on “Holiday.” Have Fun!


  11. Hi SLAMDUNK:
    Life does have its ups and downs and we just have to go with it. I truly appreciate your good wishes. Thank you so much!

    Your comment has struck a chord with me because I think what you describe is a problem for many people and that is, being different. It is so important for everyone in society to be viewed as ‘normal’ and in seeking that normality we sometimes lose a part of ourselves. I am going to have a little break and see what happens. I’ve got a lot of stories in my head so I might as well take the opportunity to churn them out. Thank you for the Hawaiian Hug.


  12. I hope your friends are reading this … I have a message for them.

    Depression, panic attacks etc. are NOT contagious! They require tolerance and sympathy. Only the other day, a friend knocked on my door, and said ‘Let’s go and see Tom! He’s having one of his things again’.

    We saw Tom; we persuaded him to go for a walk with us, we talked, we went for a coffee … and afterwards, he thanked us for sticking to our guns and persuading him to come with us.


  13. I’ve never found that psychologists or docs have much to offer anxiety sufferers (and we do suffer!). I tried all kinds of treatments and approaches and I would say a good hypnotherapist really can help (but it needs to be a good, understanding one). It’s not cheap but it’s such a relief and it does make it easier to deal with everything (and not care about ineffective ‘friends’ and crap like that).
    I think we all have inner calm…it’s just that some of us find it harder to locate than others. It is worth finding it though…if you can. It’s very useful…and enjoyable.


  14. Perhaps they were not so good friends after all then, Selma. Would someone who really loved you and cared about you treated you this way? Your state of health and well being is more important than people who don’t want to at least try and understand.


  15. Those gals are just all about themselves. I know you like them but they’re really not worth it. No matter what, you’ll always have me. And Mel. And Johnny. Try not to worry about the others.


  16. I’m sorry to say Sel that I have to agree with Jules. If these friends have known you for that long then they should have some idea by now of who you are. To make you feel guilty because you just weren’t up to going wherever it was is just shameful. A little bit of understanding would have gone a long way. Let’s hope for their sake they never have to walk even a few feet in your shoes lest they might actually have to eat crow.

    You have friends like Jules and you have all of us who know you and love you just as you are. Sending you the biggest Gypsy hug ever. xxxx


    I can imagine you would be a fantastic friend. That was a wonderful thing you did!

    Hi RACHEL:
    I know that inner calm is there. I just need to dig around for it a bit. That is really interesting about the hypnotherapy. I’ll look into it. Thanks for the tip!

    Hi ROWE:
    There is a rather selfish aspect to them that I am only just becoming aware of. You are so right. It would be nice if they at least tried to understand.

    Hi JULES:
    That means the world to me!!

    Hi GYPSY:
    I love your hugs. LOVE ’em XXXX


  18. Many, many hugs, Selma. I am so sorry this has happened to you.

    My advice is to focus on you and getting well again. In time you can worry about trying to repair that friendship if anything is left to be repaired. People get exasperated with what they can’t understand, and some people lose patience with friends/family who seem stuck in a rut. Sometimes they come back, because they truly care, because they want to help. Sometimes they don’t.

    I had been thinking a lot about this post since I read it first, and I had been carefully considering what to comment. I wanted to say “been there,” but I am not sure I have. I have carefully built my life to avoid this sort of thing from happening to me. I am friendly, but distant. I hardly ever open up to people. It’s a defense mechanism: do not depend on anybody, do not allow anybody to depend on you. As a result, I keep most people at bay, at the level of a casual acquaintance or a coworker with whom you share time at work and nowhere else. Hardly anybody I know is aware of my ongoing struggles with depression, unless they read my blog (which I don’t promote). The downside of this is that I have basically alienated everybody except my immediate family and very few brave, persevering souls who are used to not hearing from me in ages. Guess I am not a reliable friend.

    I think this stems from growing up with an alcoholic parent. We never knew what to expect at home, so I rarely had friends from school over at my house or spent time at their houses. From early on, I understood that I needed to draw a very clear boundary between the public life (school, college, then work) and the private (family, home) life. I have enough turmoil managing my mood, working and taking care of my family, so I try not to take on the burden of my friends’ needs. It sounds horrible, I know. And the cost of all this is loneliness. So I am certainly not recommending it. It is just how things are for me.


  19. Sorry to hear you are not so happy just now. Stay with it – it will get better. And I agree with Rowe – these friends sound kinda shallow if they cannot cope with you not feeling up to going out with them. Take care and hugs from Scotland.


  20. Selma,
    Easy for me to say, but now’s the time to focus on you and getting through. As someone who’s suffered depression and panic attacks, I know of the weight on your shoulders. Certainly you would benefit from you friends standing by you at this time, but perhaps you shouldn’t think about the ones who are taking a pass on their responsibilities. Not to sound trite – but they will be the losers in this. True friendship is more than the fun times. And judging by the responses above, you’ve got a number of friends who WILL stand by you and virtually squeeze your shoulders and admire you for your courage. And for what it’s worth, I’m cheering you on from way over here on the other side the planet.


  21. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and taking a break from things. Take a look at the outpouring of support and good wishes from people on this blog – that is an indication of how you are loved and respected. As Kathi stated, you are a mother, a wife, and a talented writer. You do have a lot of good things to focus on, and while it is easier said that done, you should try to keep your mind on the positive.
    Depression is something that we all face in some form or the other, and we all have different ways of dealing with it. I would agree with the others who say that maybe you should just bite the bullet and apply for the benefits. The process might not be the most enjoyable, but I think that having a break and not having to worry about not working will help you in the long run.
    As far as your friends go, I will say this. If they are true friends, good friends, then in time, they will understand that you were unable to be there for a valid reason. They will get over their anger/fear/whatever emotion may be driving them right now, and come back into your life. Keep your chin up Selma – good things will come to good people!


  22. Panic attacks are truly horrible. I had one at a work conference because I was overtired and stressed and afterwards some rumours were spread about me being ‘mad’ and a drug user (they assumed I was a drug user because I worked in the drug field – ha!). The lady spreading the rumours was a bit nuts so I got over that. The best thing is to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ otherwise you end up avoiding everything. If your friends don’t want to be around the real you with real world problems that many people have, you are better off without them.


  23. Selma, am sending you good vibes from the Middle East! Hope you are feeling better. I’ve never had a panic attack myself, but have friends who have and it’s tough. Surround yourself with supportive friends and take heart from the encouraging comments from your many virtual buddies…


  24. Oh Selma, that is terrible.

    The thing to remember is that good friends will stick by you whatever. So if these were not prepared to do that, then that is because there is a shortcoming in THEM not in you.

    I lost a lot of friends when I went through my Dark Days but whilst I tried and tried to push everyone away – three stuck by me (although I didn’t realise it at the time) and in a way I am glad I whittled my friends down and now know who I can rely on and who I can support.

    But it is a horrible feeling. Some people are very scared of depression or simply don’t believe it exists and that you should snap out of it. It is so hard to get people to realise what it is really like – partly because it is different I suppose for everyone who encounters it.

    Your Buns of Steel made me laugh. You are VERY wicked!


  25. Oh, Selma, I would give you a big bear hug if you weren’t so far away. Mental health issues are so difficult to deal with, and there are so many people who don’t understand what it’s like to suffer through them. Whatever happens, please know there are lots of us out here rooting for you and listening with an open ear whenever you want to talk.


  26. Hi INGRID:
    It doesn’t sound horrible at all. I think it is completely understandable. I do act like that myself a little. And the unfortunate offset is isolation and feeling alone.

    Your point about being in a rut really struck home with me because I think some of my friends view me as being in a perpetual rut. I can’t blame them – I think I am stuck in a rut – I think that is the nature of depression and anxiety. You climb up to the ledge and just as you’re about to walk off and frolic on the grassy fields your foot slips and you end up back down in the pit.

    If I ever get to Texas we are going out. And you can show me how to take proper photos. I mean it XX

    I love hugs from Scotland. It is so great that I can blog at one end of the world and you can blog at the other and we can meet online. I love that about blogging. It’s so cool!

    I do so appreciate your support. ‘True friendship is more than the fun times’. I couldn’t agree more. That is such an important point!

    Hi MANOJ:
    You are so right. Thank you for your constant support and wonderful advice. You are a gem!

    Punatik is awesome. One of the good guys!!!

    I’m sorry to hear you experienced that. It is much more common than people think. We live in such a stressful world these days, it’s a wonder we just don’t all keel over. Diving into the fear works for me. It’s scary but liberating. Fear isn’t so bad. I much prefer it to indecisiveness or inaction.

    Hi KATE:
    Thank you for the beautiful hug. I am so fortunate to have so many amazing online friends. It makes me feel really good.

    Hi RELUCS:
    It’s good to know that even though I might be depressed I can still appreciate a good set of buns πŸ˜†

    Depression and anxiety is different for everyone (that is such a key point) and it is important not to be afraid of it and above all, to talk about it. I am glad you had friends who stuck by you. Very glad!


  27. I made the “stuck in a rut” comment because most people who do not suffer from depression have no understanding or patience for it. They keep waiting for others to have some magic realization, “get over it” and “get on with life.”

    Depression is often recurrent and circular. We do get stuck in a rut, until we can move on. Sometimes we do not get the help we need to feel better, we lack healthcare or a good therapist. Sometimes we are stubborn and insist in a life free of medications (like me). Sometimes we have all the tools in the world at our disposal (therapy meds, a support net) and the depression still persists. It is not our fault, it’s just the nature of this disease.

    If your friends are unable to deal with your setbacks, then you are better off not worrying about them. But maybe in time they will get over their anger and realize you are in pain and need support, not judgments.

    If you ever come to Texas, look me up and let’s have fun. If I even go to Australia, you need to give me a tour of your city so I can take pictures!


  28. Hi INGRID:
    It is such an appropriate comment. Many people just say ‘snap out of it’ when they encounter someone who is depressed. Sadly, it is not that easy. I would really love to visit Texas. It looks fantastic. It is on my list!


  29. Oh hon,
    My heart goes out to you. A close relative of mine suffers panic attacks- frightening to the person and to someone (nonmedical) who is trying to help. I’m so sorry you were treated such at the dr. office, and that you lost that free lance job. Mental illness is not a defect; it’s an illness. I don’t suffer from depression, but I do have something else that is just as serious and others often “do not understand.” The condition makes me “high maintenance” to certain people who want to stick me in the “regular box” with everyone else. Well, even w/out the mental condition, I’d never fit in that box!

    I’ve been dropped by so called friends of years on end and cried my heart out, wondering how and why. (This happened before a diagnosis about me and was merely because of other circumstances in my life that were not “cheerful enough” for them to handle, like a loved one having cancer….) A few months ago, I was told to leave a group of women by just one caller from the group. Others wanted me to stay and were appalled, but Selma, I couldnt’ take all the ridiculous fuss made and the lies so I chose to do the leaving that was essentially forced on me. It hurts even more when it’s friends who should be there for you, like your friends of 10 years + and especially when it’s times like now that you need your friends the most!

    Just know there ARE those who accept you for you. I have to remind myself when meeting new folks that MANY people do like ME and that “me” includes ALL parts of me. I sure wish you weren’t hurting so and that others understood that deviations from the norm are, in fact, normal. I wish you could take some time off, though to just be without pressure or worry.

    My very best to you, dear talented, kind, worthy person. I wish I could heal the “cuts.” I have faith, you can paste your life together and will persevere because you’ve got special glue!



  30. HI GEL:
    You are so lovely. I am really sorry to hear you have gone through some difficult periods with friendships. It can be hard to traverse those moments. Knowing there are so many people out there like you who get it makes me feel less alone or even ‘crazy.’ Thank you so much. You are brilliant!


  31. I’m just stopping in for a quick read. I am SO sorry to read about this terrible day you had. Awful…I know what a panic attack feels like, I’ve had so many over the years. I didn’t even know what was happening to begin with. I am sorry your friends let you down. Oh Sel, it’s just crap when a wonderful person like you gets dumped on, in so many ways. All I can say is, hang in there…so many people love you and care about you, including me.

    Mr. C and me, sending hugs (he’s on my lap!) xxx


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