I’ve never lived or worked in Cambridge, but it’s home. I grew up in a similar sized if socioeconomically very different Waikato town. And while I’ve lived in Auckland for well over half my life now, Cambridge is still the kind of setting that makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy. Going there is like flopping into my own bed after a few months of living in a hotel room.

John Kerkhof Park has been home to Waikato Bay of Plenty national league entities off and on for over 6 years and I’ve loved absolutely every minute I’ve spent there with them. Last year was on the off side of ‘off and on’, as the regional federation preferred their flagship squad strutting their stuff on Melville United’s Gower Park carpet. I can understand why. It was nice. But it just wasn’t home.

And for me personally, I’m temporarily getting back into attending football games for the purpose of writing about them. I haven’t really done that since the last kick of WaiBOP’s 2018 National Women’s League campaign. And I don’t intend to do it again after the last kick of WaiBOP’s 2019 National Women’s League campaign.

It feels right that the beginning of the end of that particular journey will be v Auckland in Cambridge. And if WaiBOP don’t make the final, the end of the end will be there too when they play another Auckland team (Northern) on December 8.

It’s been a rough year. I knew it would be long before the stroke of midnight last December 31. I spent the first few months of 2019 almost perpetually in tears. I had already been in a state for the last couple of months of 2018 and recognising that I needed help, I had got myself a psychotherapist and started seeing her twice a week. At the end of January, a month I spent large chunks of curled up in my darkened bedroom, I realised it was time to see my GP and talk medication. She put me on a course of Sertraline – a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (anti depressant) – at twice the dose of the same drug that my partner, who is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, takes to manage her condition. I was also offered powerful tranquillisers but I politely declined those.

This was all pretty bloody scary to be perfectly honest. What was happening to me? Why was I feeling like this? What was wrong with me? Was it going to last forever? How long could I live like this before I would be prepared to do something drastic to make it stop?

Worst of all was the self-loathing. I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that any independent arbiter who looked at my problems on a piece of paper would think I was being incredibly stupid. I lived a privileged life. I had a secure job with a high income, a beautiful house, the best partner in the world, a fun hobby, plenty of people around me who truly cared. What the hell did I have to be miserable about?

And that was the worst because when I was in that bedroom with the blinds closed, torturing myself off and on for days at a time, that was the thing that was circling around and around and around in my head more than anything else – “why can’t you just pull yourself together, you’re such a pathetic stupid fuck”.

But the important thing I learned from this was that no problem that makes a person feel like that is stupid. Distress is not a thing you can control. It’s caused by trauma. And it’s your body telling you “hey, this is important” whether or not you like it and whether or not other people in your life understand what you’re going through or your resulting actions.

It’s easier said than done, but you have to give yourself a break and let yourself feel what you feel. Saltiness is not a crime. Bitterness is not a crime. You don’t have to “get over it” or “grow up” or “harden up”. Whatever is upsetting you, be it a football game, a breakup, a death, or a bad latte – if it hurts it’s a real problem.

I’ve had a couple of months of feeling ok now. I’ve weaned myself off the Sertraline. I’m taking a daily dose of two baby feline dingalings named Maki and Tao instead of pharmaceutical medication. I’m only bursting into tears for no particular reason once a week or so.

And looking back, there are a number of things that helped me get to this place of relative wellness. I’m going to share as many as I can with you over the next few months but if you only take notice of one, I think it should be this – repeat after me: My problems aren’t stupid and neither am I.

4 Replies to “Prelude”

  1. So great to see this in writing. We shouldn’t hide mental health. Thanks Enzo, I’ll be following the blog (I.e. I’ll be putting it on my list of regular Enzo Giordani blogs to follow).

  2. I’m so moved by that Enzo. They way you have distilled it down to such a simple lesson for all of us. It’s bloody beautiful.

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