What I’ve learned from the first six weeks of pursuing a career as a writer.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been nearly two months since I left full-time employment, in order to focus on building a new career as a writer. These six weeks have been both interesting and challenging for a variety of reasons, and I thought it would be wise to get a few thoughts down while they are still fresh, to help me better reflect on where things are at on my new journey. I’m also just two weeks away from my trip to Brazil, which I am tremendously excited about, so it’s a good time to pause a bit, and to take stock of what these last few weeks have been like.

Firstly, being away from an office environment is both wonderful and hard. Wonderful, because you are not bound to a specific time where you have to be anywhere, plus you have the freedom to do what you would like to do, when you would like to do it. It must be said, however, that it can be quite a challenge to your overall levels of discipline (sometimes what you want to do is not what you need to do), and it requires razor focus to continue with the grind each day. Truth be told, in this situation you don’t have to be accountable to anyone but yourself, and you are responsible to make things happen for yourself. It’s freeing, but not easy. I don’t claim to have this waxed or figured out yet, and I probably will never have it fully figured out — a sentiment often echoed by my entrepreneur friends. As with anything in life, it remains a work in progress, and I take each day as a new opportunity, as a new chance for growth, and with hopes that I will be able to continue the forward momentum I have generated so far.

It tends to take a fairly high level of dedication to manage your own schedule, and I have noticed that without establishing a routine quickly (each week in fact), my productivity and self care efforts have tended to dwindle a little bit. I’ve had to stop myself, and gently nudge back in another direction, as soon as I’ve noticed this. I think that the block comes in with the notion of being fearful of failure (aren’t we all), a general fear of not knowing what is coming and feeling like you’re swimming blindly each day, and also a lingering thought that you’ve done something incredibly brave, but quite possibly, incredibly stupid. This is what makes it both thrilling and daunting!

Anyone who works for themselves, or in any entrepreneurial venture, will know that it can be quite an unstable, yet very rewarding path to pursue. They will know loneliness, only because very few take the same path, and only because it is hard for those in a traditional working environment to comprehend what it means to truly be the last line of defense when it comes to your income and sustenance. On the other end, there is always a sense of opportunity; that a new day can bring any possibility, and that your fortunes could change at any given second. I was reminded of this on a plane to Johannesburg recently, where, out of everyone I could have been seated next to, I found myself sitting next to someone who works in publishing. He gave me some great tips on self publishing and we exchanged details: a great example of how things are unfolding without us really having too much control over them.

I want to circle back to fear quickly, which is important, as it tends to escalate on days when it is harder to get out of bed. It doesn’t help that Cape Town is entering winter, which is usually icy, rainy and dreary. I’ve found small remedies to manage my anxiety and make it a little easier to get going when I wake up. I’ve found that meditation is a big help with this (fifteen minutes in the morning does the trick), writing or scribbling is naturally something that is wonderful for my mental health, and working a few other key self care elements into my day (a walk, an ASMR video, drinking a cup of tea, etc.) really does really help to keep me in a positive flow. To an extent, I am still finding my feet in this new chapter, and I know it isn’t a process that is going to happen overnight. I’ve got to remember to practice patience and perseverance in that regard. I am discovering new self care practices each day and I am always mindful of wanting to go gently and kindly in whatever I do.

I only have good news to share when it comes to my writing. I haven’t had any problems actually writing, which you will have noticed if you’ve been following the poems I’ve been publishing on the blog, if you’ve listened to the podcast or if you’ve had any sort of conversation with me in recent weeks. Sure, as with anyone, I’ve had a few days where it has been harder to draw inspiration, but other than that, I know I’ve made the right choice for myself in making the career change, not because of some romantic idea that I had of what it means to be in a creative career, but because I still get excited at the prospect of waking up and writing in the morning. I hope this feeling sticks with me, and that no matter where the road takes me in the coming months, that this remains a constant in my life.

I have officially traded my laptop bag for a satchel, and now walk everywhere carrying my notebooks (which are stacking up), the book I’m reading, plus a collection of pen and highlighters. Post-it notes have also become my best friend! I scribble ideas on these wherever I go. Through some of the online courses I’ve completed in recent weeks, I’ve learned that creativity is not something you create yourself, it’s something you catch in the moment. I’d like to continue to be prepared at any possible moment to catch it wherever possible.

In aide of this, I wake up each morning and read the following to myself, as a reminder of why I’m pursuing this path, hopeful that it will keep giving me the opportunity to connect, learn and love.

My name is Conrad. I am a writer. I want to connect with people from all walks of life. This is what I want to do, so if it is going to benefit you, then contact me. I’d like to continue to serve other through kindness. Please guide me along the way.

– Conrad was here.

The podcast has landed, and as you can tell, I’m all sorts of emotional, excited and scared.

I have to admit that seeing it pop up on Spotify was quite something and I may have gotten just a little bit emotional (and done a dance in the kitchen).

I do quite a bit of talking in the episode so I’ll keep this post brief — I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who encouraged me to do this, everyone who has helped me on the path towards finding my confidence (and my voice again) over the last year, and especially to the people who have done the hard slog with me and sat with me through the good and the bad. You guys mean the world to me.

The show doesn’t feature any snazzy production, or over the top edits. I did this for a reason. As with the blog being more about my words and connecting with you through my writing (you’ll notice I never share visuals in my posts), the podcast is an opportunity for raw connection, and for you to see me a little bit more clearly, coughs, sniffs and all. If I wanted to, I could have added a whole lot of autotune to my voice (circa T-Pain 2007) but I prefer to keep it more authentic and this will likely be a theme throughout future episodes as well.

The first episode is called “Welcome to Wellness with the Schwellnus” and you can find more details about the topics I cover, as well as listen to it over here. All future episodes will be shared on the same page, so make sure you bookmark it. The next episode will air on Thursday May 9th and I look forward to staying connected with you via the blog until then.

– Conrad was here.

Embarking on a 50 day challenge to start healing my tricky relationship with food.

I’ve always had a tricky relationship with food — it’s usually been more of an emotional crutch, because I’ve never really learned how to cook and usually tend to go for more efficient food options, rather than making the most nutritious choices.

If it was up to me, I’d swallow a pill every morning that would give me all the nutrition I need in one go, but I’ve recently become more aware of how much food brings people together, creates joy, and is at the heart of communities around the world. Considering my plans to travel for the rest of the year, I’d love to be able to explore more types of foods and traditional dishes from cultures other than my own and it’s time to get out of my comfort zone a bit.

Tomorrow, I’m starting a 50 day personal challenge to start working on adjusting (or healing) my relationship with food. My goal is to reconnect with food as a source of nourishment, something to enjoy and quite frankly, to be grateful for.

I stumbled onto a TedTalk about this topic after doing a basic Google search earlier today and I was happy to find out that I’m not alone in the struggle. The talk was hosted by dietitian Eve Lahijani, and included the following tips, which I’ve tweaked slightly to fit my lifestyle, and incorporated into the challenge:

  • Reconnect with your hunger. Eat only when you’re hungry, not out of boredom, stress, or just because it is available. Do so when you first get hungry, not when you’re already ravenous.
  • Feed what your body is craving. Go with your instincts about what your body is asking for, which requires you to tune into your feelings. I think this will be particularly useful to me during my morning meditations.
  • Try not to use food as a reward or punishment. I’m a pro at this, and will need to be extra mindful of this. Mostly, my rewards are sugar heavy and I’ve gone down the sugar rabbit hole far too many times for my own liking.
  • Don’t punish yourself for bad days. It happens, carry on.

Over and above this, I also have two additional resources in my corner that found their way to me today, which I’ll also be incorporating into the challenge.

The first, is the latest episode of the Spiritual Gayz podcast. Angel and Brandon discuss the importance of ritual, and especially so when you’re working on healing some or other aspect of yourself. From listening to the show, I’ve decided to work a small mantra into my morning routine, a ritual of sorts, where I’ll start my morning with a simple sentence: commit to feeding yourself with love today. It’s as simple as that.

The final resource I’ll be utilizing along this journey, is a Masterclass I found today, which is hosted by Thomas Keller. From just the first lecture, it’s clear that he will be delving into the very basics of cooking, even to the point of discussing which kitchen utensils are best to use and how to prepare before you even start preparing a meal. It’s very clear to me that I need this in my life! I’ve decided I’ll be doing one class a day for the next month and I believe it’s also a nice way to easy myself into it, soaking up each lesson and practicing some of the lessons, rather than binging them all in a single sitting.

As I mentioned at the start of the article, I have never learned how to cook, and have always had a “get it done and move on” attitude towards my own nourishment, but perhaps, as part of my self care journey, and just generally wanting to lead a more healthy lifestyle, which protects the one body I’ve been gifted with to live this life through, it’s time for me to take my relationship with food to a new level. Today brought me a couple of signs and I’m excited to see what the challenge does to my energy levels, mental health and frankly put, my general enjoyment when it comes to food.

I’ll be sure to document some of the journey on the blog, and feel free to get in touch if you have any tips, suggestions or resources. The challenge will wrap up on June 1st, and I’ll be sure to share my results and learnings with you on the blog, so stick around for that over the next couple of weeks.

– Conrad was here.

A space to write, a space to type, a space to sleep.

I recently started what I call a six month “flow experiment” — essentially, the beginning of an opportunity to embrace change, learn to be more open to flexibility, practice patience, and generally to just see “where to wind blows me” for the rest of 2019. It sounds very fancy and like I’m playing the lead role in an indie movie, but in reality, it’s all kinda daunting and overwhelming. A couple of things have led me to this interesting point in my life, which I felt like writing about today.

In December I decided that I wanted to quit my full-time job, in order to primarily focus on my own business again. Running a business while working full-time is no joke, and my mental health definitely took a knock as a result of the stress from doing this. Delve 6 will also be turning three this coming September (it’s hard to believe it’s been a part of my life for such a long time already), so what better time to give it a proper bash, to see who I get to meet through taking on new creative projects and quite frankly, to enjoy myself along the way. It’s taken some time, a lot of lessons, and a lot of work, but I’ve certainly fallen back in love with the idea of taking it to new heights over the last couple of months.

If marketing is the main course to my life, writing can only be referred to as the dessert. Along with the decision to quit my full-time job, came the realisation that it was time for me to pursue a long lingering dream of being a published author. Some of you may have already seen that I’ve started rolling out my first poetry anthology, and I also entered my first writing competition earlier this year. Writing is something that brings me a tremendous amount of joy, mental clarity, balance and gives me the freedom to express myself in a way that provides various perspectives on my own life, feelings and decisions. It is the kind of skill that helps in all avenues of my life and one of the biggest blessings of the year so far has been the ability to write (or scribble) each and every day so far.

The last new piece of the flow puzzle is that I’m travelling from South Africa to Brazil at the start of June, and will be staying in South America for at least a month. It’s time to get out of my comfort zone and out of the bubble a little bit. I’ve been looking forward to travelling for a very long time, and finally decided to take the plunge and buy my ticket. This will be the first time I’ll travel alone as an adult (would you believe) but thankfully I’m meeting up with my partner in São Paulo, which should make it an easier (and a more exciting) trip as a whole. On a more practical front, I’m currently taking Portuguese lessons every day (I’m about four weeks in), which I’m sure will also help to amplify the experience to an extent. Something I wasn’t initially aware of was that South African passport holders can stay in Brazil for up top 90 days without a visa, which is pretty amazing, so my ticket back is flexible at this point, and I’ll see how things go, and assess my next move as and when the time comes for me to do so.

In general, all three of these new pieces of the puzzle constitute quite an uncertain whole… and certainly brings a fair share of excitement and anxiety along with it. I do like to overthink most things, and when I caught myself starting to question my decisions, I wrote the following down as a gentle reminder of, quite simply, the only three things I really need to be concerned about for the next six months:

A space to write. A space to type. A space to sleep.

It can really be as simple as that and well… it is. This, and entering into each of the days ahead being both brave and afraid at the same time, something which has become somewhat of a life mantra for me. Who knows which adventures await me between now and the end of September, but the time has come to close my eyes, jump and see where it all takes me.

– Conrad was here.

I don’t have all the answers right now, but also, it’s OK that I don’t need to have all the answers.

I’m a self professed control freak. That much anybody who knows me, will know all to well. I used to write five year plans rather rigorously, something I’ve mentioned on the blog before, though I’m happy to report that those days have come and gone.

It does however take a lot of effort to stop myself from rigorous organisation, persistent faffing about “the little things”, and generally, trying to control the direction my life is heading in. It was a lot worse when I was younger, but thankfully these days I’m more self aware, so it does become somewhat easier to spot and navigate accordingly. Naturally, there are still obvious challenges, especially ahead of big changes, like the career change I’m entering into, the closing of chapters in general, and starting to look toward the next phase of my life.

About a year ago, I was set up with a coach, as part of the National Mentorship Movement program in South Africa. I have enjoyed working with her so much, that we’ve continued our relationship and monthly sessions outside of the prescribed sessions from the NMM. In the most recent session, she made an interesting remark, that made my ears perk up a bit (and that I scribbled down right away):

The more stable you can get in this belief of flow and ease, and inspired action, the more it’s going to become stable for you.

What we had been talking about, was how introducing more ease and flow into my life had already made me a lot happier and less anxious, how new opportunities had slowly started to present themselves, and how detrimental rigorous checklists and planning have been to my mental health over the years. It was an important realisation for me. She was encouraging that I should rather look at the items I want to get to in a given day — the ones I am pulled towards — rather than looking at what I need to get to in robotic fashion, while also remaining open to the emergence of spontaneous opportunities to have some fun during the day.

This means, that it’s OK to take a 15 minute break once you’ve completed a big task, to go have a chat with a colleague about how their daughter did in yesterday’s swim meet, as it provides an unforeseen opportunity not only to connect with others, but to possibly learn something in the process too. The universe works in our favour when we swim with the tide (unintentional swimming pun, I promise), adjusting and adapting where necessary, rather than attempting to make everything happen the way we think it should be happening.

I often have to remind myself that, as hard at it may be to believe, the world is not out to get me and I don’t have to do everything based on my idea of what’s correct and right for me. If that was the case, we would all be making a myriad of absolutely stupid decisions all the time. Just today, I’ve made a few of those already, which I can thankfully laugh about and move on from.

What brings it home for me, is that everything is actually always “working out for me” (or working in our favour) in a weird and wonderful way, although it may sometimes be very slowly, painfully and in a way that can be hard to comprehend or come to terms with. When my self talk realises this, and “claps back” by throwing anxiety at me for living outside my false sense of control, I now make a point to respond that I don’t have the answers right now, but also, that it’s OK that I don’t need to have all the answers. This usually helps soothe the soul just a little bit and perhaps it will help you too. It has taken a while to get to this point, but I am happy we are here.

– Conrad was here.

 

 

Do you believe that we are receiving day-to-day guidance from the universe?

Do you believe that we are receiving day-to-day guidance from the universe? I have a story to share from last week which I would love to hear your thoughts on.

On Monday, I was distracted on my way to an appointment, and I drove into another car — a Mercedes Benz, in fact, and the couple I dealt with at least showed me some kindness as they could tell I was a little frazzled. The grill of my car was damaged by their tow bar, and after a day of moping, I decided to stop to have it checked out. I was feeling very deflated, and upset with myself for not paying enough attention on the road, but I was told by my friends to try be gentle, and that these things happen.

When they opened my car bonnet to check if there was any damage to my engine, they discovered a rats nest of all things: we’re talking about hay, plastic & fur all over my engine, with the plastic already melting onto the engine. I had been ignoring the distinct burning smell while driving for the previous day, hoping I was imagining things and being fairly in denial I guess. I live on a ranch, so this isn’t uncommon for this to happen (although this had never happened to me before), but had I not had the accident, I would not have spotted this nest for at least a few weeks. I was told three things could have happened: (1) a fire could have started, destroying the engine (2) the rat could have chewed through my brake cable or (3) apparently they chew through your airbag cables too, so you may be driving over a speed bump, and your airbag will deploy spontaneously, causing serious injury in most cases. It gave me a lot to think about.

Essentially, I was gently guided from a bad situation (on the surface), into one that was in fact a ‘positive’ experience of sorts. I felt looked out for in a way. I was thankful that I had had the accident with minimal damage, as it led to me checking the bonnet sooner rather than later. I just cannot believe that this was a coincidence. So I ask again, do you believe that at times we are being guided by the universe?

Needless to say I will be keeping an eye under my car bonnet for a little while in case the pesky rat (who is in actual fact rather cheeky and entrepreneurial, if you think about it differently!) makes a reappearance.

– Conrad was here.

Six months into my depression recovery, what have I learned?

This morning I’m off to see the doctor for my six month checkup, armed with renewed confidence, thanks to a voicenote from a friend, who decided to sing “Happy Six Months, Conrad” to the tune of “Happy Birthday Mr. President” (in Marilyn Monroe fashion) to start off the day. I fully embrace the wonderful weirdness of the people I have in my life these days and she is someone who is so very special to me.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been half a year since my breakdown, and while challenging, these have been incredible personal learning months for me. I’ve made some big decisions, which I’m in the process of putting into action, including moving to a new living space in October, prioritising my inner circle over interaction with a broader crowd of acquaintances, and generally working on actively practicing self care and self love as regularly as possible. Man, is it bloody hard to do! You’d think it would be easy to be as kind to yourself as you like to be to others, but some days it is a real struggle. I’m working on it and it remains a daily practice.

The main lesson I’ve taken from this period is that recovery really is a day-to-day process and that you will go through cycles of feeling good, and cycles of feeling awful, based not only on life’s daily challenges, but also related to your sleep pattern, and how well you’ve been eating. Some days I feel stronger than others, some days I can take on more, but altogether I have definitely realised I have less capacity to take on and handle as much (or as many daily tasks) as I used to be able to. This was tough to come to terms with as I am known for being an overachiever. It’s hard to be gentle to yourself knowing what you used to be capable of doing, but my friends remind me that it’s like comparing two completely different people, which is so true. I hardly recognise the person I am today, compared to twelve months ago. I feel like I have progressed into a version of myself I recognise as someone more authentically me; less of a version I felt an expectation to be throughout my twenties.

This more authentic me does need a regular talking to though, and a regular reminder not to try to take on too much. When I get anxious, I get busy. I’ve had to learn how to draw a line in the sand with work, social and other life commitments. I’ve had to start saying no, even when it was very difficult to do so. My reasoning may have nothing to do with the request or the person, and everything to do with working to uphold my recovery boundaries. If a social setting is going to compromise my sobriety, you can guarantee I won’t be there. If a friend calls me only to offload their struggles, I have to gently remind them that I don’t have the capacity to take on any of their problems on top of my own. I can be an ear, I can’t be a solution. This is something that people are getting used to, as I used to be a yes man, and used to agree to anything and everything just for the sake of pleasing others. And here I wonder why I burnt out completely in June – clearly it was a long time coming! My life is far less complicated now because of this and quite frankly, it works for me.

Something else I’ve learned over these past 180 days, is that recovery from depression remains your journey, and yours alone. Yes, it helps to have a support network and to have access to resources. At the end of the day however, you are still responsible for getting yourself up in the morning, honouring your commitments, and you are equally responsible to consider how you would like to respond when you notice that you’re starting to spiral. I do some really stupid shit when I spiral, but I’ve learned that it’s not about being judgmental to my actions in those moments, but rather stopping to reflect on it as soon as possible, slowly working to navigate myself back to a healthier headspace, hopefully a bit sooner than I did last time. It’s very difficult but it has gotten easier over time. The best advice a friend gave me during a spiral day recently, was simply looking me square in the eyes, and saying “STOP IT”, with a cheeky smile. Another friend has reiterated that I “shouldn’t be so mean to her friend”, i.e, if I’m mean to myself, I’m essentially mean to her friend, which is a very sweet idea. These might not apply to and work for all relationships, but it’s helped to have a couple of people who can tell it to me straight when I need a dose of truth tea and when I start going down a rabbit hole of emotions. Similarly, I think I’ve gotten better at being direct and honest with people, which is always a positive.

I’m not going to sit here and say it’s been an easy road so far, but I definitely know myself better than I did six months ago, and for that I’m very thankful today. I’m taking a moment to pause on that and to reflect. My plan moving forward is to continue with the anti-depressants for at least another three months, and to re-evaluate where I am at in March. Let’s see what the doctor says and take things as they come.

Conrad was here.

A few learnings from the first 40 days of depression recovery.

Today marks 40 days since I was diagnosed with depression, and this weekend I’m planning on celebrating 6 weeks of this new lifestyle, marking a milestone in the recovery process and congratulating myself on the progress made so far! I’ve discovered that usually I’m more than happy to be overly critical of my choices, but I never take the time to celebrate the victories, no matter how big or small. All that is busy changing and it’s starting this weekend, when I’m planning on doing something for myself as a small pat on the back for the progress.

In lieu of this, I wanted to share a couple of lessons and learnings from the first forty days of being on anti-depressants, being in weekly therapy and generally starting to open up about my diagnosis and reaching out to others going through the same things:

  1. How you navigate life’s curveballs plays a big part in the recovery process. Life doesn’t stop when you get diagnosed with depression. If anything, things continue to move forward, but making an active decision to keep on your path, not getting distracted by the happenings around you, however difficult they may be, you keep going a single day at a time. It has helped me a lot to stay focused, and I’ve proved to myself that my willpower remains strong, even through some tough adversities, like retrenchments at the office, or even turning 30, and having to turn down multiple requests for a “bender on the town”.
  2. Life will continue to teach you lessons and you need to continue to be flexible and adapt. Since I got sober and started taking my meds, I’ve become far more self-aware and have noticed where my day-to-day behaviour needs a bit of work. I’ve become acutely aware of being quite insecure in my work (wanting to prove myself, when I don’t need to) and have always been a bit of an overachiever – something I’m starting to work on now to maintain a bit better balance. I’m a successful marketer and business owner, and I need to start owning and acknowledging that.
  3. Friends and family will see you getting better, and forget to check in with you. This is not a negative reflection of them, but rather an impression that you are starting to get better, which is obviously a good thing, but they may assume that you don’t need to be checked in on anymore. This is not always the case. I wanted to share this, so you don’t have the expectation that people will check in with you too much as you go through your process, but be mindful (and take note) of the people who were there at the beginning, and always draw on that strength and support, especially on low days. I don’t need to be checked in on daily anymore, but I still love getting a random message from a friend, even just saying “hope you’re doing OK”.
  4. Recovery will mean getting to know yourself in a way you can’t understand when you start the journey. As I slowly regain my confidence, and gain clarity on the decisions I made in my 20’s, I’m learning so much more about who I am now and starting to look reflectively at my life, pondering where I want to continue to make changes, and also work more actively to keep certain negative influences (selfish people) at bay. It’s an evolving process and I’m happy for the clarity and the ability to distinguish between situations that are good for and ones that are detrimental to my recovery.
  5. My mood is drastically improving from this week. The doctor did say it would take 6 weeks for the SSRI’s to really do their thing, and I can feel it this week. I’ve started having spontaneous good moods in the evenings, and also found myself dancing, singing and just enjoying myself day-to-day a lot more from this week. My cheek muscles are starting to hurt again in the evenings, from laughing so much with friends and colleagues in the day. I’m compartmentalising my problems from a much healthier foundation, and saving dealing with them for therapy, choosing to focus on some of the smaller joys and pleasures in my day.

I’m thankful to be approaching week 7 already. I wanted to take a minute to show some gratitude for my friends, family, colleagues and readers of the blog, for helping me to keep motivated and to keep going on this journey. I’m only 20% into my six month treatment, and there is a long road ahead, but I’m feeling optimistic about the process and the changes taking place in my life. They’re starting to feel big for some reason, they’re starting to feel life-changing, life-altering in fact. I still have a feeling something big is coming and that I’m preparing for, and I’ll be ready as a result of facing my depression head on. Hope you can get the strength to do the same, and remember, you’re not alone in this.

Conrad was here.

 

Maintaining personal boundaries for the sake of my depression recovery, regardless of surprise retrenchments at work last week.

On Friday, ten people at the company I work for got called in and told that their positions had become redundant. While I’m relieved that my position was not one of those, it obviously sent shockwaves throughout the entire office and anxiety levels across the board increased tenfold. As I’m typing this I have very sweaty palms, and am still trying to make sense of the decision and all the implications it has to the team as a whole.

While my reaction to the news was shock and disbelief, I knew that my response and how I would go about dealing with the news, especially as we approached a weekend, would be crucial and important to my recovery journey. The first instinct for a lot of people was to hand beers around at the office. I politely declined, and found myself turning my attention inward, boiling the kettle and making some Rooibos tea. This might not sound like something spectacular, but it was a big win for me in the moment.

When I got home, I was still in disbelief and shock, especially as two of my close friends had effectively been told they had just lost their jobs and they now needed to start making alternative plans. I knew that while I would need to support them through this process, I would need to make sure not to derail any progress I had made regarding my depression recovery in the process of doing so. This is very tough for me, as my natural reaction is to try and support and assist, and to put my own needs aside. I knew that self-medicating would not be the option at any stage during this process. On Friday night, while I only managed to put a bowl of cereal together for myself (at least I ate something), I decided to call it a night relatively early, ignoring any impulses to reach for a glass of wine or beer.

I did a lot of writing on Saturday, mapping out what this change means in the greater scope of my career, and also reminding myself that I should reprioritise my own business, which I’ve been working on for almost two years, but which hasn’t taken centre stage (and has been part-time) for a while. It got me to ask a lot of questions right now as I explore my next move and consider what I would have done had I been one of the unlucky people losing their permanent employment. Explore being the key term here – as I’ve been told by my therapist we’re in an exploration phase, not in a decision-making one, which is vital to remember. It’s nice to dream a little again, and to see where my thoughts will take me in the weeks ahead, but I’m not meant to make myself anxious and to pull my usual stunt, which is to react quickly, set some serious new goals, and then struggle to live up to them in the long run. Short and sweet is the only way to go.

I spent the rest of the weekend focusing on positive coping activities like walking on the beach with my sister, listening to a lot of music, cleaning the apartment (man, I gave it a great scrub) and cooking a really nice meal last night. I tried my best to maintain and keep working with some of the systems I have put in place, which are there for the very reason they need to be, to make sure the depression recovery ship doesn’t veer off course now. I went to visit two of my colleagues on Sunday, provided an ear where possible, but also forced myself not to take their struggle onto myself or my own shoulders, but rather just to be there for them and to show up for them as they had showed up for me in the past. It’s a fine balance and it remains a challenge to maintain the boundaries you set for yourself.

This was the lesson and the true test, in my opinion. Life is always going to throw curveballs, and this is a big one, but there will be more, and things continue in their usual ebb and flow. It would have been an easy reason for me to pick up a drink, or take my anxiety medicine, which I had been taken off’ from my GP visit last week, but I still have a few tablets left. For me, self-medicating is not the option, and I managed to remain rather level-headed throughout the whole weekend. It set me up well to be able to support the people coming in today for their retrenchment consultations and this was also a big victory in a way. I’m able to be level-headed today and clear about spotting where I need to help others cope with this.

While I’m definitely upset, I’m choosing to redirect those thoughts to a formal place (a therapy session tomorrow afternoon) and to simply take things a day at a time as we navigate through the week. It’s somewhat of a blessing that my best friend is visiting this week (see my previous post for more details about that) and I’m going to work through this time to the best of my ability, as we look towards the 6 week depression recovery milestone, which I’d like to celebrate in some productive way too. Baby steps.

Conrad was here.

Having a friend visit and stay with me for the first time since my depression diagnosis.

My best friend, who lives a two hour flight away from me, was supposed to come visit me the weekend of my 30th birthday, but we postponed the trip, considering my breakdown ten days prior and because I really wasn’t sure whether I would be good company to anyone at that time. I had just started taking medication and my body was (and is) still adjusting, so I’m really glad we made that decision, as hard as it was at the time and as much as it would have been great to have her around for a celebration. As my mom put it: my recovery was supposed to take centre stage at that time and I’m glad it did.

Two nights ago she let me know that she was travelling to my city for work next weekend, and that she was hoping to stay with me for a night or two. Usually, it would be a quick and easy YES and under “normal” circumstances it wouldn’t be something I would have to think twice about, but since my depression diagnosis, there are a couple of considerations to make and a few things that I had to consider before committing.

Firstly, I know she’s going to want to see other people who live in this area, and there will likely be networking commitments for her over the weekend as well. As I’m living day-to-day, it’s really hard to judge how I’m going to feel when I wake up and as I navigate my recovery, so I wouldn’t be able to just “up and go” and take part in spontaneous plans as in the past. Setting personal boundaries means I need the people in my life to understand that I can’t just be the “yes guy” jumping at each and every plan. As a result of this, there is definitely a bit of anxiety around navigating plans with someone who is more flexible and in fact has just started a new job, so also needs to still impress and show up to plans made by the MD of the company. Just last night she let me know that he had invited us to dinner on Friday night, which I am open to going to but still unsure of how I’ll be around a bunch of new people, but I figured committing to it would be good, as it would mean we have Saturday to spend some quiet (alone) time together. We’ve only seen each other for 4 days in pretty much the last 10 months and we used to live together and see each other all day, so it would be awesome to get a bit more dead time in, but I’m also aware that life is very different than it was a year ago for the both of us and our friendship has to readjust in certain ways as well.

The other consideration with regards to someone coming to stay with me is that it can be quite disruptive to the new routine I’m trying to establish. I’ve tried to systematically work in a healthier routine, which I’d like to carry all the way through to the end of the year and beyond, which will hopefully make it easier for me to get off’ the meds and help me to place some good coping mechanisms in place to deal with life’s upcoming ebbs and flows. Having someone come to stay is not an issue per se, but there is also a consideration to be made for the fact that this friend will have certain expectations and an understanding of how things usually were before my diagnosis. We usually enjoyed a glass of wine or three together when we saw each other and now that I’m off the booze it will be a different dynamic. It will be an adjustment and a test of some sorts to maintain my sobriety over the weekend too – something she would never make a fuss about – but something that I know will be a bit of an adjustment. Being out in town last weekend and staying sober was a big test and it showed I can do it and still have a good time, but I really can’t let anything – not even my best friend visiting – derail my efforts and get me back into that “self medicating” space which landed my mental health in hot water in the first place. Simply put, depression truly is disruptive in the simple and complicated aspects of your life, and you have to make constant considerations and rethink your old ways, if you’re looking to propel yourself into a new direction.

I think it’s going to be key for me to communicate my fears, to talk about the new lifestyle changes I’ve been making (for one – getting healthy groceries on a Saturday morning, followed by a delicious cappuccino at the place across the store, which I don’t think should fall away just because I have someone staying with me). She has to essentially fall in with my plans and my routine, and I have to navigate it so it’s as enjoyable as possible, without disrupting any personal progress. Feels a bit selfish but it’s what needs to happen. The upside? When she comes, I will have been on the anti-depressants for 6 weeks, which is when they are supposed to start “levelling out” (according to my doctor) and when the serotonin levels in my brain should be at their highest. This means my mood should be pretty decent and hopefully we’ll just have our usual fun, late night chats and we can speak openly and freely about what we’ve both been going through for the last while. I’m excited, a little anxious and generally aware that it will be a bit of a test, but life is going to keep throwing things at me, and I’ll need to learn to navigate, and what better way to pull off the bandaid than with someone who knows me inside out, and will be understanding regardless of what I do. Let’s see how it goes.

 Conrad was here.