Love is a losing game

‘Love is a losing game;
One I wish I’d never played.’

My god how Amy was right.

I’ve been single coming up three years. When I became single, that’s all I wanted. To be on my own. To be independent, to be fully comfortable with myself and have a firm set of values and beliefs.
Time passed. I healed. I began to listen to what my intuition was telling me. I learned why I made the choices I did, didn’t do the things I would have done for others, for myself. I worked on the things I wanted to improve in my life. I still am.
Things were great and I was content with life.
And then I started thinking… I reckon I’m ready.
I reckon I’m ready to really put myself out there, put the hard yards in and try and find the person for me.

Well, in this modern day and age, ‘put yourself out there’ (when you live as isolated as I do) means ‘online dating,’ and ‘online dating’ is code for a cess pool of time-wasting men (or people), many of whom don’t give a fuck about anyone except themselves.

So, without delay, let’s delve into the world of my ever-failing love life.

First, there was the Plumber who came in STRONG.
So strong that one day, after only three dates, he came around to my house while he knew I was out… AND DID ALL OF MY YARD WORK.
AND TOOK THE GREENWASTE AWAY WITH HIM, so as not to leave a trace.
He then preceeded to lie about having done it, but did let slip “I was so worried the entire time that you’d come home and be like “WTF are you doing!?” ”
Well… YES. That’s exactly what I was thinking, so, Pal… if you were thinking it… why were you doing it in the first place?!!!
Such a helpful, yet gross invasion of privacy!
There was no connection, but I endured. It’ll develop, I thought.
After, once again, showing up at my house unannouced, he invited me to go diving at the beach with him. I apologised and said I couldn’t as I had some work to do, needed a bit more notice, but would like to another time.
Two days later I recieved a message saying “It’s not going anywhere and I’ll see you around.”
Here, folks, was the first time I encountered the come in hot, abrupt ice cold exit strategy.
It wouldn’t be the last.

I then dated a Geologist. He was nice. He was kind. He was tall.
What he wasn’t, however, was engaging. Or overly interesting.
We had two dates,  one of which I was very unwell on. Needless to say, my patience ran out very quickly and his big-boy charm became big-time irritating.
I apologised to him and told him I wasn’t interested, and I wished him well, thinking it was the end.
He then continued to send me snapchats for up to eight months after the fact.
What do you do in this instance? Reply? Not…? I don’t know how to navigate this social norm.

Next, was the Doctor. Oh, the Doctor.
Interesting. Check.
Smart. Check.
Sense of humour. Check.
Vegetarian. Check.
Concerns for the environment. Check.
Cares about people. Check.
Connection. Check.
Love. I was sure it was going to turn into love.

Oh, how I was wrong.
Not only did he completely forget that we had arranged to have a date one night, he had forgotten because he was too busy playing the new handheld PSP he had just purchased. How do I know?
I phoned him several times only for it to ring, then go to Voicemail. When he finally checked his phone and realised, (tail between legs) he said he was so sorry, his “phone had gone flat.”
Funny; when I phone my friends and their phone is flat it goes straight to Voicemail. Flat my arse.
When I arrived, the PSP had been carelessly strwen on the ‘bed’ (matress on the floor).
Lies. Check.
Lack of basic level of bedding for a thirty year old. Check.
Exit Strategy…  Check.
He moved. Islands. To Dunedin.

‘It wasn’t love, it wasn’t love.’

There was the date with ‘the Builder’ who was so intimidated by me that he showed up to the venue already drunk. And smelling of stale cigarettes. That, teamed with his clear mysogyny was enough the curtail anything there. Goodbye.
And another Plumber who asked how tall I was… (164cm) and promptly ghosted me.
Clearly I wasn’t petite enough [for his small stature and tiny ego].

After the Doctor I went on one date with a Paramedic and one with a Builder.
I paid for drinks on both dates because, feminism. Generosity. Kindness. You pick.
Well, ladies… both ‘ghosted’ me immediately after. Turns out being self sufficent or independent isn’t attractive!
Oh gosh darn. What a shame.

It was then that I reaslised that dating was exhasuting. Being rejected constantly does take a bit of a toll on ones self. I needed to rebuild my mental health, spend a bit of time recharging. I took a break. It was a good break. It was a long break. It was a needed break.

Did I mention dating was exhuasting, per chance?
I did? Oh, good. Because as it turns out, after a very reasonable break, I seemed to have forgotten this very, very important fact.

Next, the Journalist.
There were so many good things about him. He was interesting. We shared values and he was socially progressive like noone I had met before.
Yet every time someone asked me about him I replied with something along the lines of “aahhh yeahh…. I dunno…. he’s nice.”
Here, after such a long break spent on my own (mostly working and reading books) I applied the same line of thinking as the Plumber… Maybe if I keep going on dates with him it’ll happen… something will happen… surely? Anything? Maybe…?
No. The answer was no.
Whilst there was some good chat, there was no chemistry and a few awkward moments which ultimately ended up with him attempting to clean up dog shit he’d trampled into my carpet one day.
Are you surprised, fair reader, to hear that after this… once again… after two months of dating…
No, neither am I. I mean… why would you talk about your feelings or care about anyone elses’ when it’s just SO easy to not do ANYTHING at all!

To be fair. Upon reflection of all of this dating, I have learned a few significant things about myself. Like the fact that one goes on dates to meet someone, to get to know them… but I won’t actually let anyone get to know me, not without a deep connection, and generally not in the first three to five(ish) months at least. Go figure!
Socialising is exhausting.
Small talk is the worst.
It’s tiring tying to be yourself,  but not all of yourself, or not too much of yourself at once…
As one friend mentioned when I was dating; “You can’t go ‘Full Sarah’ to begin with! You need to ease them into that!”
I love you, friend. But I only know how to be me and that’s either full on fairy, or awkward unicorn.
Also… I was right. I do want to be on my own. It’s so much more comfortable!

I think, perhaps, from now on, I’d much prefer to stay in the house and read a book instead. Bring your babies to me for cuddles.

‘Well I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart.’

Farewell, dear Journalist. I wish you well on your endeavours.
And your potential move to Dunedin. A place it’s looking likely, I may never, ever visit.

You see, the funny thing about depression is…

First off, let me just start off by saying there is nothing funny (in the comical sense) about depression, and the effect it can have on people. It can be so severe, so crippling, that some people can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and are so engulfed in the darkness that they make life altering, even life-ending decisions. Although it is improving, there is still such a stigma around mental illness in our society which is not conducive to helping those in need when they need it. The stigma needs to end so those affected feel supported when reaching out, or even as friends, family or colleagues, being aware of signs of depression so you can say, upfront, to someone “hey look, I’ve noticed [this] and [this] about you which are signs of depression… what can I do to help?” So, to that end;

I’d heard the ‘post O.E. blues’ mentioned before. I heard people casually drop in to discussion that they “struggled” upon moving back to Aotearoa after years living amazing lifestyles in incredible European cities. Heck, even as close as moving back from Australia.
But what I didn’t realise was that “struggled,” in a lot of cases, meant depression. I heard phrases like “I’m trying to get back to NZ life…” or “It took us a while to get used to being back,” “It took a loooooong time to come right once we moved back. About… two years I reckon.” But that was about it. A mention of difference in lifestyle but no mention of mental health.

So, a confession. Before I left, I naively thought that one could return from their O.E. (‘Overseas Experience’, an NZ/Australian ‘right of passage’) changed, of course, perhaps more ‘worldly’, but relatively similar to how one was before they left. That, and that you’d slot straight back in to the kiwi lifestyle.

Haha. Good one past Sarah.

Well, here I am, 6 months post arriving back in the country and still, the ‘dirty creature’s got me at a disadvantage from the inside‘. For the most part, depression is so incredibly lonely. But, you see, the funny thing about depression is, sometimes, when you’re in the depths of it you just have to laugh at yourself.

Or, I am, at least.

The first few months once you’ve returned back you manage to avoid the blues… kind of. Granted, when I finally got off that last plane, in to the terminal and in the arms of my awaiting Mama I did fully breakdown. I was emotional, tired, full-on ugly crying, heaving and just wanting to take my bloody boots off. But, you’re home. You’re catching up with friends and family, seeing old things, seeing new things, eating comfort foods of your past, trying new foods that have arrived since you left. It’s all a bit overwhelming. Your mind is occupied with all the going-ons so it doesn’t have the time to slow down and start playing tricks on you.

And then all of that settles down, and you’re left to your own devices.

Tim Finn was completely on-point when he wrote Dirty Creature; “Sneaking up from behind, binds my gags and wit, Dirty Creature’s got my head exactly where he wants it.” 

Honestly, I didn’t see it coming.
I had never suffered from depression before and I’d always been careful not to use the word in a sentence to insinuate that something was “depressing” because I had no experience of it. But slowly I started to feel more and more like a zombie. I was my usual all-singing, all-dancing bouncy self in the classroom. Outside of it however, nothing.
It’s so bizzare, that feeling of nothing. That’s how it started. Slowly I stopped feeling what felt like, anything. Anything positive at least. I wasn’t chirpy, and most of all, *gasp*, I wasn’t cheeky… the absolute essence of my soul!

I walked around with what I thought was a look of ‘nothing-ness’ on my face, and I couldn’t change it. My colleagues noticed. So many of them reached out and said something, or asked if I was ok. And I answered honestly ‘Not really…’ Because when you’re in the grips of it, you need to be honest. There’s something about knowing that someone (or in my case, many people!) has got your back, that they’re there for you and they notice you’re not ok, and let you know. It feels like a safety net; like you’re not in this alone, there’s people who’ve got your back and they’re going to help you fight this! And all you fabulous folk – I truly love you for that. Thank you.

Well, this is about when the fun part began.

I broke a mug.

That’s it.

I broke a mug. I was doing the dishes, picked it up and went to put it in the drying rack and it slipped out of my hand and fell handle first into the other sink and broke. I picked it up and saw the handle had broken off. I closed my eyes, inhaled very, very deeply, and then started crying. And crying. And crying. I cried myself to sleep that night. All I could think was these eight things:
“That was my favourite mug.”
“A lovely student in my first class in Scotland got me that mug.”
“That was my favourite mug.”
“I used that mug in Scotland all the time!”
“That was my favourite mug.”
“I don’t have very many things and I just broke a bloody mug!”
“That was such a good mug, it had so much volume!”
“I loved that mug.”
“I can never get another mug like this, there’s not a TK Maxx in New Zealand.”

What?! Completely irrational. I mean, it’s just a mug!
As well as thinking all of the above things, I was also completely bewildered with myself. I kept trying to remind myself… it’s just a mug!
I’d broken crockery before and never reacted like that. But I was completely consumed by the fact that the damned cup was broken and I couldn’t replace it. At that point in my life, it wasn’t just a mug. It represented the vessel to which my emotions about having to leave Scotland were carried in and now it was laying in the bottom of the sink all broken and sad. Much like I was feeling.

So the next morning I laughed as I told Stephanie about the mug. I held back tears, but I laughed through it because; it was just a bloody mug! But it was at that point I knew I had a problem – why was I so upset about it?!? So I told a lot of people about the mug. I laughed and smiled because, well… my reaction was ridiculous, and I knew it. I just couldn’t help it. A week later I was chatting away to my GP who, with a pensive look on his face interrupted me and said “It sounds like you could be depressed.”
To which I replied, “Yes, I’d agree with that. I know, and am aware, and have things in place to help me try and keep my mind healthy.”

But then a few days later it struck again, in potentially the most odd circumstance.

I was sitting at home on a Saturday night doing my usual nothing. I’ve always enjoyed, in fact, preferred listening and watching live music being played than I do just playing a record. I got the YouTube up and put on Slipknot’s 2009 Rock am Ring set and off I was, playing my air-bass guitar, bopping about and swinging my hips, ’cause there’s nothing more can get me dancing than that of nine grown men in masks and jumpsuits jumping around like lunatics. I had a glance at the screen and the bassist, Paul Gray, was in the shot, looking like he was having the time of his life. And then the sadness sunk in. I did the maths in my head… Oh dear god!! This was filmed just months before his untimely death! Oh no…. He died when his wife was 8 months pregnant with their first child! I look up again and in a moment on solidarity and teamwork, percussionist Chris Fehn is playing the chords on Paul’s bass as he strums them out. Oh no…. here it comes…

I don’t even know where it came from but a visceral noise escaped from my body. And then the tears started. And right behind all the irrational thoughts I was having about this musician that died 8 years ago, I thought to myself… You didn’t react this way at the time, look at you, you’re being ridiculous, stop it! But I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop. I mean, I could have stopped the video. I could have played something else. But I didn’t. I let the entire set play, and lost a tear every time Gray was in a shot on the screen, or someone looked like they were having fun. And at the time, I knew it was ridiculous. I was crying during songs titled things like ‘Pulse of the Maggots’ and ‘Heretic Anthem’. “How is this normal?” I was thinking. But I decided to go along for the ride because I clearly needed that cathartic experience to rid myself of whatever it was that was irking me.

I saw a Hedgehog out walking the dog one night and went back to see it a few minutes later and it had gone. I was engulfed in an overwhelming sadness. It physically gripped my body, and I went back inside, head down feeling defeated. What?! It was just a hedgehog! I cried at some other things too. But the aforementioned two were the most ridiculous.

So, you see, the funny thing about depression is, sometimes, when you’re in the depths of it you just have to laugh at yourself.

You laugh at yourself because you break a mug and you think the world is going to end.
You laugh at yourself because you’re crying to a video of a heavy metal band!  (What!?)
You laugh at yourself because some of your reactions are absolutely ridiculous, and you know it, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
You get through it, and you laugh at yourself, throw your hands up in the air and say “I just… I dunno!”

So if you are about to come back, already back, have been back for years or even if you’re in the thick of it now, having a rough time, behold; you are not alone! A lot of people go through depression and it’s a normal part of life. I find the sad thing, however, is that it’s only once people are through it that they’re happy to talk about it in the past tense. So this is my attempt to show you, right from the middle of the storm, that actually… hey! Here I am, and you know what… I’m ok! All the things you’re trying to do to ward off the darkness, keep it up. It’ll work eventually. And just know, that those little irrational things that are happening…. yeah, it’s normal. Just go for the ride, and ask for help if you need it.

Because with the love and help of those around you, you will get through it.

With all that being said, my Dirty Creature and I have a few people to thank.
LW, you’re the bloody best. There’s nothing like a bit of fresh air and nature to shake the cobwebs off. That, teamed with our coffee dates pulled me back into reality. You’re the only one who I reached out to who dropped everything and drove the one and a half hours to come and see me. I needed it. Thank you. My colleagues; you lot inspire me every day. Thank you for your love and compassion. You’d think in our profession we’d run out of it at times. Alas, no. To those wonderful people around the world who messaged me, sent me the greatest memes to cheer me up and just generally kept me happy by talking to me, and telling me about your lives, thank you. To my gorgeous friend in Scotland who offered to go out, buy me a mug and post it over; thank you, you beautiful thing. And to my Mama – thank you for replacing it with an equal sized, massive tea cup!… Needless to say, I now have a new favourite cup.

But if that cup ever breaks… my god, look out world!