I'm not writing this from my sickbed - I left it this morning after about 10 days of the most nauseating flu. It came on about halfway through a mad trip through the capitals of the UK - a couple of days in Edinburgh which was cut short due to a near fatal car crash on the way there, a couple of days in London baby and a mad dash to Cardiff to see the rugby with my dad. After all of that I collapsed into bed and have only just emerged. Still coughing but otherwise intact.
Now the thing about illness, as we all know, is that it drops our defences and lets all sorts of stuff in that otherwise we would keep at bay. For me it was the monster formerly known as depression. After all the work I've done this year, all the therapy, personal soul searching, Drs appointments, stress management, she bloody well came back. And took me by surprise, I can tell you.
And, because I was incapacitated, not doing anything else, I was able to look at her, really stare her out, and give her some unadulterated focused thought. And here's what I found out.
I feel her in my chest and shoulders. In my heart. She hurts me in my heart. Breaks it. Fills it with black gooey treacle. Her voice is loud and gruff and drowning and tells me I'm useless, purposeless and quite a bit sh*t. I look at the world through her eyes and I see all these people doing wonderful things and I want to destroy them. I am jealous.
And that's how she manifests herself in me - through jealousy. I've never been able to see that before, let alone acknowledge it and say it out loud - I am jealous of everyone who is not me. I've never got close to how she truly feels - how I truly feel when I am encased in depression. How I have spent so long protecting my heart from hurt - from not listening to the voices and what underlies them - the thing that is my lowest, most painful truth. How a less painful path seems to be to attack everyone else rather than admit my failings.
So there we are. Jealousy. That's not very nice, is it? A bit shameful. A bit embarrassing. Not a great admission from someone who professes to be able to help others get better at what they do. But there we go, in all my vulnerability I show myself in my true colours to you. Its my low self. Sorry.
So this morning I decided to try to embrace her, to welcome her in. To get to know her name, her smells, her colours. Because if I can meet her with compassion maybe I can understand why she visits me so often and what purpose she serves.
To humanise her and get to know her I decided to name her. The first name that jumped into my head was Tarquin, closely followed by Mervyn. Neither of these particularly worked, so I turned to t'internet for inspiration. I googled jealousy and found that the Greek God of Jealousy is Phthonos. His female counterpart is Nemesis - Goddess of Jealous Retribution. That sounds close. I did a bit of digging around Nemesis. She represents the resentment felt against those who seem to have undeserved good fortune. And we all know that feeling right? So she represents balance, as all good Goddesses and Gods do, by measuring out happiness and unhappiness and ensuring that the balances are met - i.e. if you experience too much happiness then she will come along to bestow a bit of misery on you in what ever form she likes. Just to keep the balance.
I'm sitting with this now. The thought that my Nemesis visits me because I am focused on my happiness. She comes from my fear - maybe I am scared that I underneath all this work I am doing, the mantras, the behaviours, the writing, underneath it all I believe that I don't deserve happiness. So Nemesis comes along to bring me misery: to get me to self-sabotage all the wonderful amazing things in my life that I value and cherish. Because I don't really deserve them.
Right now I don't know what all this means. But something resonates. I don't know what effect it will have on my happiness project. I still have full intention of making happiness my default position and I am moving towards achieving that. Most days now (this incident aside) I wake up with a smile on my face and approach the world with a bucketful of love not fear.
But I think its important to acknowledge that the dark is still there. It hasn't disappeared and it is there to give me balance. To remember where I've come from, to appreciate the entire circle of light to dark, good and bad, summer and winter, yin and yang. To give me time out of the world to process, to understand, to introspect, to gain wisdom around how I feel and what it means. To allow me to heal myself when I am damaged, hurt, poorly. I'm starting to understand why I need my nemesis. And eventually, in time, I'll get to love her.