Putting On A Stiff Upper Lip And Pretending Everything’s OK

This is a tricky post to write but one I have been meaning to put pen to paper about for quite a while. I was finally prompted by a visit to the doctor yesterday. You know how you can guarantee you’ll meet the world and his wife in the waiting room and you always say “How are you?” “Oh I’m fine blah blah blah”. You might be there for something crucial and devastating but in true British stoic style we normally put on a stiff upper lip and pretend everything is OK.

I saw a lady that I only know vaguely, looking very forlorn, tearful and generally in a bad way. We sat fairly close to each other and, after a couple of minutes, I felt compelled to go over and see her. She looked up through tear-stained eyes and gave me a weak smile. I gave her a hug and said “I have no idea what has got you in this way but things do get better you know” and squeezed her hand. She then (extremely bravely I thought) told me she had been compelled to come and see her GP as she was very depressed and having suicidal thoughts. I whispered gently that you would be surprised at how many people felt this way and that recognising she needed help was the first step to recovery.

I have been on my own now for 7 years and have gone through all sorts of ups and downs. There were periods where the downs were extremely dark and I found myself in a spiral that it was hard to climb out of. Eventually I realised I was heading toward being in a very bad way and sought counselling which helped me enormously and put so many things into perspective.

I regularly try and write in my gratitude journal about things that are positive and uplifting in my life – even if it’s just that I went out for a sunny walk.

I am not working currently. If I said it was due to a clerical error getting my security clearance it sounds so much more exciting. This is indeed the case and most of my girlfriends think I have hit the jackpot! So far one month off and looking like the rest of April off as well! And yes I am being paid!
However for me it has been like a sentence. As someone who now lives alone, my work is also my social life, adult interaction and a reason to get up every day.

My life is sometimes crippled by loneliness and this does nothing to help. I can sometimes go days without seeing or talking to someone. My friends, whilst sympathetic, think a break from their hectic lives and days of blissful peace and quiet must be utter joy. It isn’t when you have days and days to try and fill.

I am trying to be good and go to the gym each day and meet friends for coffee when I can. The dog is having 2 LONG walks each day but I am generally home by 6 each night wondering how to fill the 5 hours before bed.

I remember now with shame how my mother told me how lonely she was when my father died. I just said “Oh Mummy you have lots of friends – just call X Y or Z and meet up for lunch!” Oh how patronising and how simplistic. Life is not that easy. I often open a bottle of wine and drink a bottle of wine. All too easy when there is no-one to share it with. No wonder I felt my mother was turning into an alcoholic towards the end of her life.

A few very close friends know when I am going through a bad patch. Ironically I stop posting on social media, stop texting and tend to go into hibernation mode. They recognise the signs.

Another friend recently remarked “Oh you have your lippy on. It must be a good day.” But this is not always true. Sometimes my lipstick is like my mask and armour. If I put it on I can look happy – even if inside I am dying. If I am feeling truly confident you’ll see me totally make up free without a care in the world!

My ex-husband got married last week and it was a difficult day for me. Not because I still love him or want him back. Those feelings have long gone. But he was the love of my life and to think he has now married someone else is weird. He came to tell me in person for which I was grateful and I offered to officiate! The flicker of terror on his face for just a nano second was priceless! However we hugged and wished each other well and we are on very good terms.

However on the day knowing there was this huge family celebration and party to which I was excluded was difficult. So girlfriends rallied round and took me for a fabulous spa day where many bubbles were consumed. I am back to my gratitude journal with gusto. My home, my health (the doctor was a routine blood test), my financial security, a job I love (when I get back there) and my doggy who gives unconditional love. And my most amazing girlfriends who do their best to remind me each day that I am truly fabulous!

If you doing know someone who might be going through bad times, keep an eye on them. They might well say they are fine and smile, but sometimes a hug, a coffee and a patient ear go a long way. I think too many people suffer in silence with feelings and emotions that sometimes they cannot rationalise or process.

It is true that time heals and there is always something in your life to be thankful for, however small. The weather now is hopefully improving and with sunshine and warmth on its way it is good to get outside. Life is for living.

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