Black River Gorges National Park

In July my boyfriend and I spent a week visiting family in Mauritius. One morning we went for a hike in the nearby National Park. Here are a collection of the best photos from that gorgeous day.

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We did the Macchabee-Petrin Trail and it took us 5 hours.

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To say that it was muddy is an understatement. On the way back down I fell on my butt more than once. It was great fun.

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Super Me

So my mood has been elevated for nearly a week now and I won’t lie – I’m loving it. I feel so great about life and myself and it’s crazy to think that my brain has this ability. I feel special and beautiful. It’s almost like a super power. 

The world is glossy and my soul is glittering and I’m all too aware that I feel like I’m on ecstasy despite being totally sober. I feel like I could try anything and succeed, no… fucking excel at it. Listening to music is like having a brain orgasm and I’m seeing colours and patterns in everything. 

There are some not so great parts – like the lingering electric headache buzzing in the background of my mind, or the flashes of intense irritation when something doesn’t go my way or people don’t like or see the meaning in something as much as I do (which is pretty impossible for them to do since I’m in love with the world right now). The often overwhelming compulsion to talk talk talk, and the worry that I’m going to say something inappropriate and offend or annoy people. Those moments pass though because I’m aware of them and see them for what they are – just moments. 

I’m not submitting totally to this mood swing. Not this time. I’m disciplined and aware of the stimuli around me. I’m sticking to my new routine. After a certain time at night I put away my phone and my music and I take my meds and go to bed. 

Often I can’t sleep but I force myself to lie in the dark until the chemicals that help bring me down kick in. I’ll even talk to my brain sometimes: “give it up buddy – you’re not getting anymore music or screen time or dancing around the apartment like a loon… may as well sleep”. It’s worked so far (told you I could succeed at anything haha). 

One of the best ways to bring my mood down to a normal level is to sleep, stick to a routine and remain engaged in healthy activities. The powerful pull of the destructive urges are there, like magnets drawing me in, but I can and will resist them. It’s not easy though – it’s hard to stay on the ground when you feel like you can fly – but it will be worth it because hopefully I won’t crash into suicidal despair like last time. 

Sheesh. What a rollercoaster. 

Feeling Good

I am feeling fantastic this week. Hallelujah.

I am motivated to start studying again and I have decided that I am going to apply for masters in clinical psychology at the end of next year when I return home to South Africa. I have already begun researching my thesis topic (social media and how it impacts on depression and mental health), and have ordered a textbook on abnormal psychology. The last time I applied for masters I made it through to the interview round… and crashed and burned. It was an atrocious experience but one that I think has made me stronger overall. I will be better prepared this time around.

I have also gotten myself into a brilliant routine. I wake at 7 every weekday morning and then (often groggily) meet a friend for our usual walk around the park. The simple (ha – not so much) act of getting up early frees my days up nicely, so that instead of rolling out of bed and madly dashing for work I am able to get things done before I have to leave home. Reading (academically and otherwise), writing, listening to music and mentally preparing myself for the day ahead – all these things make me feel damn accomplished. I’m also flying through mundane admin tasks – like laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning – which usually weigh me down. Suck on that depression.

Speaking of music… I bought myself a new set of Sony headphones last weekend (I know I know… watch your spending girl!). To be fair I have been lusting after them for nearly a year now and finally they are mine. They are simply fantastic; an emerald greeny/teal colour (my favourite), equipped with bluetooth and USB charging. Music is my saving grace on a daily basis. Currently I’m listening to Florence + The Machine and it’s making me feel electric… okay… perhaps I’m feeling a little too good now.

It’s under control though. I am channeling my high levels of energy into productive tasks. I am harnessing my motivation/inspiration and making it work for me, not against me. The last time I felt this good was in March… and it didn’t end well. This time I’m hoping my self discipline will be enough to prevent a major crash. Wish me luck ♥️

 

Waiting For The End

I haven’t been able to listen to Linkin Park since finding out about Chester Bennington’s suicide last month. Last Friday I attended a quiz night after work and a song of theirs was played. Hearing his voice again felt like a stab in the heart. 

I was never a die hard Linkin Park fan (my brother always listened to them more than me) but growing up I found a lot of their songs spoke deeply to me – particularly those that touched on things like struggling with depression. Chester’s voice and lyrics were so powerful. They always will be. 

This morning something pushed me to look up an old favourite of mine – Waiting For The End. This song still sends shivers through my soul, and listening to it on repeat today I didn’t even try to hold back my tears. 

I hope wherever he is that he has found peace. He fought for so long through so much, and in the process comforted so many with his music. It’s heartbreaking that he is gone at only 41. Thank you for all you did in this world Chester.

The Little Things

I am a world class expert on berating myself for not doing well – be it for sleeping too much or too little, not eating right, picking at my skin, not doing better at work… you name it. I even beat myself up for not feeling better when I should.

Ah… there’s that dangerous little word: should. A shit ton of destruction is packed into those six little letters believe you me. Nothing damages us more than the stories in our heads of how things should be.

So today, instead of focusing on the things I’ve “done wrong” this week, I’m celebrating the things I’ve done right (no matter how small they seem).

  • I’ve gone to work every day even if I wasn’t feeling well (Monday was particularly horrendous – complete with breakdown in front of co-workers – but I got through it).
  • I’ve had my annual health check done (a requirement to renew my Alien Residence Card for another year here in Taiwan).
  • I’ve met up with my language exchange partner even though I really didn’t feel like it (surprise surprise – I felt better after I went).
  • I’ve woken up four days in a row at 7.15 and gone for a short walk in the park with a friend from work. Starting my day this way does wonders for my mood.
  • I’ve been open with loved ones about my feelings even if it scared me.
  • I’ve been open with myself about my feelings even if it scared me.
  • I’ve reached out for help when I’ve needed it.
  • I’ve scheduled a hair appointment for the weekend.

It may not seem like much but I am proud of myself for doing these things because they weren’t easy. Baby steps.

Cover Ups

During my recent trip home I treated myself to a new tattoo. I got it primarily to cover up a rather large scar on my upper thigh. The design represents a full heart bursting with life – the opposite of what the scar represented. It took around 4 (painful) hours to do and I am very happy with the end result ♥️

Emotional Impermanence 

I remember learning about object permanence (OP) in 2011 when I was in my first year at university. It was touched on briefly in one of my lectures – psych 101 if I recall correctly. OP is something all of us acquire when we are very young. Put simply it is the knowledge that an object exists even when it is out of our immediate sight. When we are first born we do not grasp the concept of OP – meaning that when something is gone from our view it seemingly ceases to exist in our minds.

Now, if you take the idea of OP and apply it to emotions you’ll get something called emotional permanence (not an official term as far as I know). I’ve read a few articles that mention the phenomenon so I know that it’s nothing new I’m talking about. My recent efforts – albeit minimal – to try and find it mentioned in any official journal articles have proven to be frustratingly fruitless.

This topic interests me greatly because I often find myself falling into the trap of what I will informally label as emotional impermanence. When I feel good it is all encompassing. The months and months of constant depression fade so far into the background that I question if they even existed at all. This doesn’t happen often – since my euphoric highs are painfully few and far between – but when they do roll around they make me feel like a fraud. Surely it wasn’t all that bad? Surely I made it all up in my head? Surely the constant panic and intrusive thoughts about killing myself are just normal parts of everyone’s life? Surely…

In reality, my depression is very far from made up – despite what my critical inner voice tells me. When I am depressed I genuinely don’t remember feeling anything else. The happy times, and even the stable times, disappear completely from my mind and I feel as though I’ve been in hell my entire life and it’s never going to get better. 

This is why I have found it invaluable to track my moods. When I’m in the thick of despair sometimes the only thing I cling to are my mood charts – actual, tangible proof that I can and will eventually feel differently if I can just ride out the current state I’m in.

Aside from screwing with my head emotional impermanence also deeply affects my relationships with others. I am loved and lucky enough to know it, but often I find myself forgetting that if the stimulus is not continuously present. Needing constant reassurance that my friends/boyfriend/family still care and haven’t forgotten me is not only mentally exhausting, but an unreasonable expectation. I hate being as needy and sensitive as I am.

I am still trying to master the ever elusive skill of self-reassurance. Through reading up on the subject and talking to others I know I am not alone in experiencing this lack of emotional stability. By routinely self examining my inner word I have come to slowly recognize when my thoughts, feelings and expectations are irrational. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still fall victim to them sometimes.

Ah, the human condition; what a beautiful fuck up. 

Reality Looms

I’m sitting on a plane again, wedged in a middle seat on the left side of a tube with wings, only this time it’s headed in the opposite direction; back to Taiwan, back to summer and school. I don’t really know how I feel at this point. My holiday was great but also frantically busy. I didn’t really get to relax as much as I wanted to but hey, I can’t grumble (as my grandad always used to say).

This is the second and longest leg of our return journey. The first was from Durban to Johannesburg early on Saturday the 29th, a brief flight barely an hour long. This stretch to Hong Kong is a full 12 hours. Seven have passed so far. The man next to me is watching something in Chinese and keeps giggling to himself every so often. I’ve lost count of how many beers he’s had. The man behind me keeps vigorously stabbing his touch screen tv on the back of my seat. Not annoying at all. There has been perpetual turbulence since take off, mainly mild with some lurching jolts every so often. It sounds strange but I kind of enjoy turbulence.

Our next flight is another short one, from Hong Kong to Taipei. Then it’s just a matter of getting the High Speed Rail (HSR) from there to Taichung, the city we live in, which takes about 45 minutes. Finally, we will catch a taxi from the train station to our apartment. We should arrive in the (hopefully not too late) afternoon on Sunday the 30th.

Again – I don’t know quite how I feel about going back. There is sadness of course, I already miss my brother so much I wish I could have packed him in my suitcase, but not as much as I expected. Perhaps it will hit me harder on Monday morning when I officially return to work. No wallow time for me. No sir. Jumping straight back into things. Ripping the band aid off so to speak. It’s still going to sting.

I have a lot of things I want to post from my holiday (photos mainly). I purposely left it all until I got back so I would have something to focus on other than teaching and the terrible heat. Let’s hope I can find the time/motivation to start writing relatively consistently again. 

Bed Time

I can hear her calling me from the lounge, her voice echoing through the dark house. She is pretty drunk by now. I had just sat through a 30 minute monologue, punctuated occasionally with a firmly held out hand and “retain, retain” repeated sternly at me. Put another way: shut the hell up and just listen to me talk. I’m good at listening sometimes.

Her calling for me gets louder. Fuck. What if she’s actually fallen or something and I’m just lying here ignoring her. Earlier in the evening she had knocked over a full ashtray and when I’d tried to clean up the mess of cigarette butts and ash she had insisted I just leave it – picking up the empty ashtray and putting it on a side table.

Getting up I sigh inwardly as I see her sitting in her armchair under a pool of light from the lamp, the matching seat next to her empty now, with her iPad in her lap and a fresh drink in front of her. She begins to go on about a hacker, but I’ve already taken my night meds so my brain is in a slight free fall. “He’s a hacker” she yells as she punches the screen with her fingers. “We need to forward these messages.”

I can understand her feelings of paranoia. Don’t worry gran. I feel eyes on us too sometimes. I’m just too drugged up to give a shit right now. Reassuring her that no one really cares enough to hack into our dull lives, I crawl back to bed. A few minutes later I receive a Facebook chain message from her warning me not to accept a friend request from so and so.

Throughout the night I can hear her playing various games on her aging tablet and talking to herself as she frequents the bathroom next to the room I’m in. Her strong British accent floats around hollowly in the dark.

In the morning she asks me if my brother has been in during the night (he lives in the flat across the hall – the one I was in before I moved to Taiwan) because she has found ash all over the lounge floor. I tell her he hasn’t.

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