I purchased this print in 2016, shortly after my separation. My mum was slightly pissed at me for doing it, because she could have easily painted this or better with her eyes closed! But I needed/wanted that visual reminder to focus on myself (and Hardy) and to progress my life in the direction I wanted it to go. I’d made some serious decisions, now was the time to make sure I’d made the right ones and for a reason.
At the start of this year I moved the painting from my wall to beside my bed so that I’d wake up to it and go to sleep next to it. It was a way to try and foster self-care and to take back control. After all, the year had gone off with a bang and not the right kind of bang either – I had my first major panic attack at a beautiful Mooloolaba wedding on New Year’s Eve in front of lots of people.
I’ve had a panic attack before, although I didn’t really realise it at the time. Hardy was a newborn and I was well and truly on struggle street. I had to be coaxed out of the shower.
But on New Year’s Eve I was watching everyone dancing on the dance floor and I can only surmise that, using the popping champagne bottles as inspiration, my suppressed feelings of loneliness and fears about my future (i.e. dying alone) just burst to the surface. BOOM POP BANG HEY YOU’RE MENTAL HEALTH IS FLAILING THIS IS YOUR WARNING SIGN HAHA GOOD LUCK! Some warning sign. But weddings are certainly an easy place to feel lonely when you’re single.
I think my dad could see it unfolding because he came over to ask if I was ok. I think I was crying. He and my mum sat me down in a little alcove out of the way. I could hardly breathe and I couldn’t speak and yes – I was definitely crying. Most likely KimK ugly crying. I had no idea what was happening to me – I was having a good time! But my mum knew. She stayed with me, didn’t say much, just calmly waited for it to pass like she knew it would. I found my brother and he talked me through panic attacks and anxiety and what was actually happening, and I started to feel better. In fact, I went on to have a good night.
Panic attacks and anxiety are kind of hard to explain, but in this scenario it felt like an out of body experience.
In the following days I felt exhausted by the experience, confused, and certainly hugely embarrassed for the scene I had caused, however big or small it was – I didn’t know. I didn’t feel depressed but obviously I wasn’t coping in some way and I needed help. I promised not to brush it off or forget it happened. And I suppose moving the painting was my first feeble attempt at that. The irony was that I’d always loved New Year’s Eve and believed it would really set the scene for the year ahead. Well, I guess I wasn’t wrong about that.
It took me a few months to really act upon my promise to ‘get it together’. By March, at my brother’s wedding, I still cried (in the acceptable and non-acceptable ways) but I didn’t ‘lose my shit’. Ok, that’s somewhat of an improvement. But I still wasn’t really trying. I hadn’t really done anything, to be honest, other than carry anxiety medication as a ‘just in case’.
But I’ve come a long way – so far in fact that I wasn’t even sure if that panic attack was this year or last year! Even though it’s only October I can already see that 2019 is possibly my most fulfilling year in many ways. And, as I recently came to realise, the only year in recent ones where I haven’t had a single date. Zero. Zilch. Nada. A severe dry patch one might say. It’s not for want of trying – I dabble in online dating (see stellar example below) and I go out and ‘attempt’ to meet people. But nothing has eventuated.
Sure there have been moments where the panic or some other negative sensation starts to set in, but largely I a) haven’t really noticed and b) haven’t really cared. I think I’ve been busy, somewhat sub-consciously, with this ‘self-care’ business. And how better to take care of yourself when you’re not focusing on anyone else? Hardy, family and friends the obvious exception here. My tools? Meditation, Yoga, ‘high’ intensity interval training (more like moderate intensity), and seeing a psychologist. And of course – travel. It would be hard to be disappointed with a year when 7 weeks of it were spent traipsing through Europe! I also try to socialise as much as I can for the obvious benefits of laughter with friends (and the wine that usually comes with it).
This year I was also introduced to the concept (for want of a better word) of nihilism. Among other things, nihilists reject the existence of meaning in life. Whilst I struggle with many aspects of it (I am in no way a nihilist myself), not worrying about why I am on this earth or what I should do/be doing with my life and similar things that can keep us up at night, is incredibly freeing. A weight off my shoulders. It has encouraged me to focus on the present and put less pressure on myself for not being in the hypothetical ‘place’ I ‘should’ be in at this stage of my life.
At a recent gynae appointment to discuss the state of my innards thanks to endometriosis, she asked me ‘what are your plans for the future?’ ‘Um.. I don’t really have any,’ I said. ‘Right. I like that,’ she said. Me too actually, I thought.
So whilst ‘my year’ was meant to be 2016 and probably every year after that, I can’t say I’ve ever been happier than right now in 2019. I sometimes walk around with a smile on my face. I catch myself doing it and think ‘why am I so happy?’ Anyone would think I’m getting laid.