No Defeat

Several months ago, I weaned myself of citalopram, a medication I had been taking for anxiety and depression. In the space of two weeks I went from 40mg to nothing. I had been taking my medication daily since 2010.

I was in my last year of University. I was working towards gaining my BA (Hons) in Creative Writing when I suffered a debilitating migraine which lasted for over a week. Almost overnight my creativity and ever optimistic attitude towards life drained away and I was left feeling scared, empty and passionless. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t smile, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t watch TV, I couldn’t communicate effectively…I could hardly breathe.

I couldn’t understand what was happening inside my head.

Life was one terrifying moment after another, and I couldn’t see any way forward. I flinched at the sun and cried through the night. I didn’t want to sleep alone. I thought I was going to die.

I can remember when I first started on the medication. I was terrified. I had to be coaxed to split open the little silver tabs and swallow the pills. I couldn’t believe that they would bring Katie back. I felt hopeless.

After a few weeks, my limbs didn’t feel so heavy. When I picked up a book, the words didn’t swim. I started to shower because I wanted to. I noticed the stars again and I let the sun warm my face. I started smiling. I started to laugh. My creativity would whisper, like a patient friend, that I should pick up my pen. I began writing again. I started working on my University portfolio once more, after months of hardly being present in the world…and I completed it. I graduated later that year with a BA (Hons) First Class in Creative Writing.

The medication had brought me back to the surface. I could breathe again. When I looked at myself in the mirror, my eyes were clear and focused, not bloodshot and flitting one way then another.

After stopping my medication this year I felt euphoric. Life was so fucking beautiful and I appreciated every single moment. But after a few months, I noticed I was starting to feel anxious about things which had previously not bothered me. My creativity was harder to reach. I decided that I would not panic. I was living a dream in Sweden with a man who encouraged my heart to sing whenever I looked at his face, whenever he opened his mouth to talk to me. I decided that I would ride it, this budding storm, that I was strong enough. I decided that I was more than my thoughts. The moments when I was able to just be without anxiety – for example while out canoeing with my boyfriend, sitting with each other at the table working on our own things or having Fika with his wonderful family – were bliss of the purest kind.

But the storm became more fierce, and I realised that Katie was going under. My memory, concentration and ability to feel joy in the moment was suffering. That’s when I made the important decision to bring medication back. It felt like a defeat to begin with. I felt angry with myself for needing help. But over a few days, I started to accept that the chemicals in my brain needed some support if I was going to be my very best self again.

My boyfriend accompanied me to the Dr’s. He was with me in the room while the Dr laid out an action plan. We celebrated that evening with candy and a movie. I felt empowered.

The Dr prescribed some anti-anxiety medication along with the citalopram. It makes me feel fatigued and I need to nap at ridiculous times of the day, and nearly always fall asleep on the couch in the evening, but the panic that was holding me hostage is releasing its grip. I feel like I’m taking back control. I’ve been back on the citalopram for a little over a week now. The world is a clearer place and my creativity, once again the patient friend, is holding one hand. My boyfriend is holding the other, and encouraging me one step at a time.

 

The Gift Of A Bike

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I can remember when I first learned how to ride a bike. I was five years old and we lived at the end of a street of terraced houses in a small town called Thornaby in the North East of England. (Interestingly, the name Thornaby dates back to 800 AD when Halfdene (Halfdan Ragnarsson), King of the Danes presented the land as a gift to Thormod, one of his noblemen.)

My bike was white and pink, and had those noisy spoke decorations on the wheels. (I think they came free in a box of Rice Krispies). I bloody loved it. I was a determined kid. The words ‘give up’ didn’t exist in my vocabulary. So when my Dad let go of me and I fell off, I got back up and I tried again, and again and again, until I could ride that bike all the way to the bottom of the street and back.

There was rarely a day I didn’t cycle during my younger years, and as a teenager and an adult, my bike was my mode of transport. I thought to myself ‘why learn to drive? I can just cycle.’

Since being in Sweden, I’ve either walked everywhere, or have been in the car with Sebastian. I never thought about cycling much until recently when I was pushing a friend’s bike while he drank a beer (Sweden for you!), and I realised that I actually missed it. I missed the freedom a bike can give. I put up a post on Facebook asking if there was anyone who would be able to sell me a bike for cheap. Hardly any time had passed before a good friend in Borås posted a comment offering me her bike…for absolutely nothing. I was ecstatic!

I’ve had the bike for a few weeks now and it rides like dream. It took a while to get used to the peddling backwards to break, but, like when I was a kid, I tried and tried and tried again until my brain was used to the different method of stopping. Every time I’m on it now, any stress melts away. I find clarity and awareness of the moment. My friend’s beautiful gesture has opened up a new page in my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

 

Turning 30 In Sweden

When I was fifteen I was extremely unwell. My family weren’t sure if I would make it to sixteen. Back then, thirty seemed an impossible age. But I reached it intact, and opened my eyes on my thirtieth to see the face of the man I call my True North. Never in my wildest dreams could have imagined that I would be living in Sweden, on the edge of a forest with a man who lights up my world with his smile.

We had made plans to go canoeing for my birthday, but the weather here in Borås had other ideas. Instead we spent the morning and most of the afternoon just lounging and enjoying each others company. Sebastian then went out to ‘fix some things’ and came back with a Princess Cake…of which I ate three slices. I’ve always wanted to try Princess Cake (Prinsesstårta), but have never had the opportunity. This traditional Swedish cake is made from airy sponge cake, pastry cream, lots of whipped cream and a green marzipan coating that’s sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with a pink marzipan rose. It tasted like what I imagine cakes in fairy tales to taste like.

In the evening, after playing air soft, Sebastian unveiled a heap of presents. The first was a silver bracelet from him. The shine of it is unlike any silver I’ve seen before. Then came a lovely gift from my friend Erzabet – some pencils (I’d been talking about needing some!) in a beautiful little paper bag inscribed with some heartfelt words. Then came gifts from my lovely Swedish family – Pia, Peter and Linus – a unique makeup bag, a gorgeous scarf, a spectacular cathedral like candle holder and a most beautiful piece of art made by Pia herself.

My 30th birthday was so perfect in every way that I had to ask Sebastian  more than once, ‘Am I dreaming?’

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Thank you my love. It was the best.

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“I’m not very good at surprises…” Sebastian told me just before my birthday. As a matter of fact, he turned out to be a master at them. The silver of this bracelet is so bright I can see it lighting my way forever.

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For my makeup when we visit Hagfors.

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One of the things I always notice when we visit Hagfors is the gorgeous array of wrapping papers that Pia had in her reading room.

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I intend to Own It!

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Oh goodness…my heart.

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Love the stonewashed grey of this scarf.

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I’m looking forward to when it gets dark later…so we can see how this beauty looks all lit up.

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Pia has a talent for creating the most spectacular pictures using hot wax. The last time we were in Hagfors I told her how much I loved this one. And now it’s in our home.

 

The Last Day Of My Twenties

I woke up early, and, unsure what to do with my day, I decided to first write a poem based on a line that came to me in a dream a few days ago.

Will You Climb Mountains With Me When We Are Old

When we are old, when my hair is pale as a winter skyline,
and the calluses on your hands are hard as stone,
will you climb mountains with me?

Will you walk with me in perfect silence past the hills of trees,
towards the clouds.

Will you wait for me when my breath is short in my chest
and I need to stop and breathe
more slowly.

Will you place your hand on the hollow of my back
and keep it there until I am ready to move forward.

Will you hold my hand as the sun rises.

Will you kiss my throat, my lips,
will you smile and tell me
‘it couldn’t have been a more beautiful life.’

 

Then I headed out into the forest where I dropped down to my knees time and again to capture the things often left unnoticed.

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Gifts From Home

Whenever I see my name and the word Sweden on the same envelope, my heart misses a few beats. There’s something so special about receiving post, I mean real post, not bills or shopping ads or local newspapers. Post as in handwritten notes, post as in specially chosen books, post as in seashells plucked from a seashore.

The past few weeks have seen some gifts arrive from England and Scotland, including the book Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, a box of Yorkshire Tea, some creatine to help me with my body makeover, a beautiful shell from Stornaway in Scotland and a packet of baked apple and cinnamon treats.

These thoughtful arrivals have made me think hard on my own post giving. I was supposed to send my brother and his girlfriend a housewarming card the other week. It’s still on the kitchen table. I vow to improve.

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My 40 Kronor Thrift Haul

I’m imagining that your eyebrows went skywards when you saw this post headline. A haul for 40 kronor? Is that even possible in Sweden? Well Emmaus Björkå made it so. The sale, which has been going on for a few weeks started off at 30 kroner, then 20, then 10 and the other day 5. Everything you see here was 5 kroner, except for the tartan scarf. That was 10. I’m something of a scarf hoarder. I’ve never liked having a cold neck, and the comfort that comes when I’m wearing a scarf is something I’m attached to. And with autumn slowly closing in, there’s no better time to increase my hoard. 

If you’ve been reading my previous posts about thrifting you’ll know that I’ve been experimenting more with colour. I’ve been giving myself permission to edge away from black to time to time. 

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