The voice

IMGP8583 In the ‘awfully big adventure’ that is life, for the blogger like me who writes about her own ‘adventures’, I guess it is easy to blog about the good stuff, relatively easy to blog about the challenges and how you overcame them, and near impossible to blog at all when things are not so great. After all who wants to read that someone they have been inspired by or someone whose writing simply entertains on a rainy day, is actually human and is struggling? That’s what I’ve been thinking, and that’s why my blog has been a bit quiet recently. But what the heck? I AM human, and I AM struggling. This blog is about truth. Life is tough which ever beautiful corner of the world you happen to live in, and maybe it’s ok to struggle sometimes: normal, painful, real.

Before I left England, and after my divorce I suffered a depression, and echoes of that have somehow tracked me down in South America… after all ‘we take ourselves with us wherever we go’, as they say. The first echo showed up in my mind on New Years Eve. Sitting out on my balcony not too many days after I wrote a post on this blog about how far I have come in a year, I let myself think just a bit too hard about my family back in good old ‘Inglaterra’, and ‘Bang!’, something kicked off in my head, and it has not shut up since…

My ‘voice of doom’ talks to me like this:

‘Sal, so yeah you miss them, but you chose to leave. And you chose to stay longer instead of going back to them… maybe that wasn’t such a good idea after all.  And what are you doing anyway living on the other side of the world to everything you know? And why the hell did you buy a flat there and fall in love… now you can’t run, even if you wanted to. You idiot. And do you want to? You do don’t you. There you are you see, you can’t stick at anything. You are a complete nomad: utterly eccentric, utterly selfish and you always will be. You’ve been writing a blog about how you are changing, but are you changing? Look at you, right back where you started. You don’t know how to love, you don’t know how to live. Just admit it you are 44 years old, and you are a complete failure… and what is the point anyway?

This voice talks fast, LIES, has the capacity to suck the life out of me, and it’s very scary. It finds me in the night when I wake with the heat, in the morning when I wake with the light. It drags the nausea of anxiety with it, and lethargy, and tears, and it has been with me now for two weeks. Sometimes I manage to shut the voice up. I manage to fight it off with a television programme, a tango lesson, a trip to a Milonga with friends, or a few days away with Carlos. But the voice even found me this weekend in Colón: somewhere between going to bed on my second night, and waking up with the morning. It woke me in the darkness, and it was shouting. And it was telling me that I am losing my mind.

After a few days of this voice and the intense panic that accompanied it, I was so scared that I went to see a doctor, on my medical insurance. It was tough explaining how I felt in Spanish. And when the doctor asked me why I came to Argentina in the first place, well I guess I felt that all my answers sounded completely ridiculous. They sounded ridiculous to ME. God knows what he thought of some mad English woman who left her whole life behind to come to Buenos Aires to dance tango. Tomorrow I will be seeing an English speaking psychologist. The doctors want to put me back on an anti-depressant. I have the pills in a box in the flat, but I can’t bring myself to start taking them again. It’s six months since I took myself off them after the divorce and I just feel I want to deal with this, without drugs, but it’s frightening. Poor Carlos is at a loss. I am at a loss. I just want to know myself again. I want my peace back.

Now don’t get the idea that I am sitting feeling sorry for myself and wallowing. I am not. That is not me. I am trying all the things that usually work: using the support network I am fortunate to have in every corner of the globe, talking to my friends, talking to my family, talking to Carlos, talking to my soft toy tiger Hubert, talking and trying to listen to God, writing, being honest about how I feel… in as far as I know how I feel. But so far the path is very rocky.

Why am I moved to write this post? Isn’t it better to keep your mouth shut when things aren’t going so well? Probably. But I think that if I don’t write honestly now, then maybe I will never write another post. Maybe the blogging will stop. Maybe the blog is a pressure in itself, to be Sally: tango dancer, writer, adventurer. Is there any room in its pages for Sally: small girl, lost in South America? Thing is, so many times, writing about who I really am on this blog has helped me move forward, find a new perspective, lose the fear. And maybe, just maybe, it will help me now.

The fact is that I know, because I have learned a huge amount about myself in the past twelve months, that the voice does not tell me the truth. It wants to lead me into empty places and show me all the things that I don’t have. It wants to convince me that every decision that I have made has been a crazy one. It wants to promise me that everything I do have will self destruct, or that I will destroy it first. It wants to crush my life-force and suffocate my soul. But I cannot let that happen. I have met Sally in the last year, and I like her. She is a free spirit yes, but she is trying her best to follow her good heart and she can love. She is worth saving. I want to keep her safe and I want to make sure she keeps right on dancing into the future. I will fight to find her again.

I am a great believer in the process of life, the learning process that is. This is I know, is just part of my learning process. I must be patient, accept that this is a low patch, but that it will pass. Everything passes. In time my ‘voice of doom’ will quiet and my mind will be at peace. I have come through a lot worse and survived. This is a moment to remember that I rode across the vast green spaces of Mongolia when I was at my lowest ebb, that I am an adventurer just as much now as I was then, and that if adventure was easy, then it wouldn’t be adventure. I will get through this. I will find the true voice of my heart once more.


27 Responses

  1. You have done an amazingly courageous thing in moving to another country in an attempt to find who you are. It is no small thing, and I would be surprised if you never had a moment of questioning/panic/doubt.
    The thing is, there is a whole world of people (myself included) who have never met you and yet are amazed and proud of all you have accomplished and shared with us. And please know that you have our support and friendship.
    My thoughts are with you, and I am sending along good energy to transform “the voice” into a song…..
    Be well

  2. O.K. Sally, since I don’t really know you I am just going to say this. You have probably already heard it. But having lost beloveds to this illness I am just going to say it: Listen to the doctor, take the meds, and THEN keep working on the relationship, your voice, your adventure. You have to get stable. Debbi is right in noting that your move is not a small thing, and it has probably triggered the uncertainty and the panic. It would for anyone. O.K. I said it, and knowing that you are very strong and willing, I am sure that you will get well. Really Big Hug, and please forgive me for being so frank. E

  3. Sally, who do you think you are? ME??!!

    Oh honey, this dark side seems to haunt anyone who was a #5 (see Tina’s post – Actually, almost EVERYONE experiences this at least once in a while. And you are right: it too shall pass. I hate these moments, but believe that if I can learn something from it, it had a reason to be there.

    As for meds, let me share something with you: I have always been one of those “healthy”, “natural” people, which is why, when I got cancer, everyone was so shocked. When I started treatment, a veritable tsunami of meds was headed my way and I had serious rejection issues about taking so much “stuff”. It was my cousin (another “treehugger”) who shared what her doctor said to her during her own bout with cancer – the meds are there to help you through a difficult time. You will get off them when you no longer need them.

    I do NOT believe you have to be in horrific pain for a lesson to be learned. If you have meds, and they help, you would not be a wimp or less enlightened to use them to help you through this difficult time.

  4. Oh Sally, **HUG**.

    Maybe when I get down there, I need to introduce my voice to your voice, and while they’re off getting acquainted somewhere else, you and I can go have coffee and take a break from them. 😉

    You always write with such heart, such truth, and that is why I come to your blog. You are so human and you don’t hide one bit of it. You really are an inspiration, and I hope you know that. I’m sure others will agree. I look forward to meeting you in a few weeks. I think we will have some very good conversations. 🙂

  5. sally,
    I haven’t read your blog in awhile and tina pointed me to yours today. And Today I am feeling exactly what your voice of doom is saying to you. But I call my voice “Barry”. I know EXACTLY how you are feeling it is where I am right at this very moment. I agree with you that one should be HUMAN even on your own blog. I tend not to write when I am down as well, feeling that no one wants to listen to Katie whine about her life…..but in some ways I believe, like you, it is therapeutic. I applaude you and I am with you in spirit! Keep you chin up, I am sure everything will turn around as well and turning off the “voice of doom”. ciao 🙂

  6. “I have met Sally in the last year, and I like her. She is a free spirit yes, but she is trying her best to follow her good heart and she can love. She is worth saving. I want to keep her safe and I want to make sure she keeps right on dancing into the future. I will fight to find her again.”

    This is your key, Sally. I have been where you are. But even at my lowest, there was a little bit of a fighter in me, just enough to keep pushing through the darkness. It is there for you, too. You will be fine. Big hugs to you.

  7. […] to hate him Posted by katerinafiore09 under ME | Tags: Barry |   I am spinning off of Sallycat’s Adventures latest post entitled ‘The […]

  8. What I heard in your post was the not the Voice of Doom but the Voice of Hope. You know that you have everything it takes to get through this. Keep writing, even if you decide not to post it immediately.
    With best wishes to you.

  9. perhaps that voice which keeps tormenting you is doing so for a reason. it is not its deepest intention to depress you or bring you pain and suffering but to bring your attention to something urgent at a very deep place in your soul. maybe a way to confront or get to know this voice is to do what you already do so well: write. write to it, ask it questions, curse at it if you have to, give it attention. it is a part of you after all and you can stand up to it like you can stand up to other people. and who knows, it might tell you why it is really here and help you learn something new and important about yourself.

    maybe rilke was right when he said: “perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something lonely and scared that wants help from us”

  10. Dear Sally,

    I feel empathy for how you feel. I have been lost myself for years in fear, anxiety, guilt, depression and being just so tired to the point of not caring whether I’d die or live. Now I am well. Among other things, a key event has been to reach the bottom and to realise that it really doesn’t matter how we feel or what we do: we live anyway. You don’t have to dance, love, be good, be a success, be happy, be young, be in a specific country. You (already) ARE, and that is all that there is to it. You don’t need anything else than just being, which you are anyway. Once I became familiar with this notion everything became a bit easier. I keep feeling the pain and the cold from time to time, but I feel like I wear a thick, soft, warm coat that protects me from the worst wheather. And I feel like I have more choice over whether to love, be good, etc. and over (re)changing all if I need.

    keep breathing 🙂


  11. Dear wonderful people who left a comment on this post,

    Truly I cannot tell you how much all your comments have helped me. Just to read your words, hear your experiences, your suggestions, your HONESTY… you comfort me and give me fresh hope, ideas and strength. I wish that I could write to each of you a beautiful reply, but I can’t right now. I just haven’t got it in me. I just want to take in what you have all said and use it.
    I hope you understand.

    Every one of you has said something that really is going to help me as I walk my path today. Truly.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    And I will write more soon.


  12. Sal,

    You’re a courageous woman. It takes bravery to face it and write about it. I am much admiration for you.

    Big hug from big apple

  13. Dear Sal, I spent a year being beaten up and brainwashed by a voice in my head. Some of the things it told me were hard to argue with, e.g. that I’d walked away from a very wonderful woman, that I’d hurt her and deserved no love or happiness in my life ever again. But I have peace again. I am not perfect and I have made mistakes; that’s what it means to be human. I came through thanks to the love of my friends and the kindness of strangers. You will do the same, you have an army of friends, people who recognise you for what and who you are. Thanks for posting the poem. I met Phil’s new girlfriend last w/e and her two small children. Seeing them made me think (yet) again about what might have been. Love always, Mike xxx

  14. Sally,

    I’m sorry you’re going through such a bad time, and I second Elizabeth’s suggestion to get back on those meds asap. There is nothing wrong with taking antidepressants. From my understanding, antidepresants just allow our natural good chemicals to stay with us a little longer, like they were meant to do, instead of letting them deplete too fast. We love you and want to you take whatever you need to get back to yourself as quickly as possible. Not wanting to take the antidepressants is the depression talking.

  15. Dear Sally, I just want to join the others in saying that:

    1. You are one of the bravest, more honest, genuine people I’ve met. I know you will get over this; for one thing, you are conscious of it and you are getting help and trying to understand and put things in perspective. That’s a lot of the road already walked.

    2. As Tina and others suggest, we all have a nagging voice. Many of us have gone through depressions and are struggling about things that nobody else knows. Perhaps you haven’t heard because not all of us have the guts to do what you’ve just done and write it 🙂 My point is… you may feel inadequate for hearing it, but we all do; it is just human.

    3. It is normal, let me stress, that you are wondering about the path you are taking. Every second you live there is a bit of information, something that may make you wonder. It is healthy and inteligent to question the wisdom of our decisions as we get more information and our feelings evolve. Nothing wrong with that. And changing your mind, if you ever found that you made a mistake or you don’t feel the same way about things, is not dumb, and it doens’t make you a failure, it just reflects taht you are intelligent enough to realize that circumstances have changed, pick up, and move on if needed. (This is not to imply that this is what is happening, just that in the worst case scenario, it is not a “bad” thing per se… it depends on how you look at it).

    Last but not least. I know you’ll survive this… and it will be yet another part of your rich story about how Sally met Sally 🙂

  16. The biggest warmest hug I can send.

  17. Dear dear Sallycat,

    Let me add my voice to the others who have already commented here and given such wonderful advice and support. Such moments of grief and despair are never wanted, but I do think after they pass they can give us more joy and life than we ever expected.

    I agree with what the others have said: take your medications, get your therapist sessions, do whatever it takes to stabilize yourself as you work through this. You are already doing the right things to help yourself, even if you don’t think you are. You have been through more changes in a short period of time than many people might go through in years, so be patient and kind to yourself as much as you can. Anything that is an upheaval never goes away completely, but as time passes you will see that it gets easier for you to handle the bumps when they happen.

    If nothing else, you can read our notes to you again and again, and not only remind yourself that you are not alone (or ever alone) but that people all over the world care deeply about you and will be there for you always.

    Sending you lots of love.

  18. More wonderful people all over the world,

    To come back this evening to the quiet calm of my flat and to your amazing comments of support is overwhelming. The positive energy coming out of my laptop is massive and very very welcome.
    I am sitting here and making myself understand that you guys are talking to me, Sally, me.
    I feel surrounded by love tonight.
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


  19. Dear Sally,

    I, too, have had depression and anxiety – I had a breakdown a few years ago while pursuing a dream of mine, – and I recognise very well your description of the nausea-inducing random anxiety. I’m so sorry it’s rearing it’s ugly head again for you.

    Everyone has to find their own path through, of course, and I know the drugs help some people, but personally I didn’t take the pills, and I’m really glad I didn’t. I worked my way out with a combination of CBT techniques from a brilliant book I found, sheer faith, and support from my amazing friends, gob bless ’em, and I learnt so much. Like you, I’m a big believer in the learning process of life, and if I hadn’t had that experience then there’s no way I would be in Argentina now, because I learnt so much about how to deal with my own fear (which has been really debilitating all my life). Ditto for all the other challenging events of the past few years – I’ve emerged a better and stronger person, able to do more of what I want to do.

    You have huge amounts of faith, courage and intelligence, and you’ve beaten it once before, so I am absolutely certain that you’ll beat it again.

    As others have said, those doubts aren’t surprising – it’d be amazing if you didn’t have them. If your depression is anything like mine, I imagine the problem is not the initial doubts per se, but the way they spiral into other thoughts and feelings? For dealing with that I found CBT techniques hugely helpful (Overcoming Depression by Paul Gilbert – brilliant book).

    Anyway. If there’s anything I can do, let me know. Really. If you need an English speaker to rant at, let me know – I have time coming out of my ears at the moment!

  20. […] fascinating to me, a continual diet on the blog might put my server to sleep. Recent posts by Sallycat and Katerina give me an excuse to dust this puppy off and add the […]

  21. Oh dear Sally, who among us has not lost his mind?
    Mine went years ago, maybe just misplaced, but I fear is gone forever.

    So what? Like in tango, we shouldn’t think, just do, feel, experience, live!

    You are an incredible person, but how can you not feel “down” at holiday time, so far from home and loved ones?

    I applaud your spirit, honesty, openess, vulnerability. Brava!!!
    (And not to mention you are one heck of a writer!)

    All of us have our “public personas.” When I’m feeling bad, I crawl into a hole to hide until I can come out smiling and energetic. That’s not a good thing, but a sign of weakness, disbelief I suppose that others can stand me when I’m not in my party mode.

    And what expat can always be up? What human?

    I almost always feel like a stranger in a strange land, trapped, a prisoner, if you will, of Buenos Aires.

    I took antidepressants for a little while after my husband died, but I couldn’t stand the side effects. But I have friends who have been on them for years! Do you know that Prosac is the #1 drug of the U.S.?

    Life is hard. If it helps to lean on something for a little while, why not? At least until we can learn not to be so hard on ourselves.

    Sally, I hear you. I feel for you. I understand. Like all of your friends do.

    This too will pass.

  22. Hi Sal
    It’s refreshing to hear the less rosey stuff. And useful actually. You always say that if your blog helps someone who wants to undertake a similar adventure, then great. This is helpful to hear because you are not dillusioning any wanna be adventurers that they will be free of doubts and emotional turmoil. Indeed, if I take myself off abroad, alone, even just for a couple of weeks, issues come up – what i’m saying is that i think all of this is completely normal, especially since this is more than a couple of weeks.
    The older you get and the more adventures you go on, the more experiences you gain. This is great because wisdom ensues, however this also means that things are more complex, your perception changes more often and more questions and conflicts arrise. This is logical and normal and happens to everyone to some degree.
    I think that perception is so important. If you eat an apple when you are really hungry you perceive that it tastes better than if you were less hungry. But at the end of the day, if you eat an apple, you eat an apple – the apple is the same, just the way you think of it is different.

    Big events like New Year always seem to cause people turmoil. The combination of, you + tango + NYE + new life in BsAs, seems to have changed you perception of your current position in life. I think that this ‘voice’ is not separate to rest, but just one extreem of a continum; i think that it is the same voice that whispers in your ear when you have had the most heavenly Tango, the one that makes you feel satisfied when you have worked hard, as well as the one that challenges your decisions. Indeed, in this regard I think it must be listened to and understood. It is challenging your decisions and making you feel bad because something in your subconcious needs addressing. Pushing it away with day to day distractions and meds may only bury it deeper and make it worse. By really addressing the voice head on, you may feel better instantly because you are accpting that it is real and taking control of it. It sounds like the voice is asking you to face up to and validate the decisions that you have made about moving to BSAs. And this may be a good thing because you can turn round, when you are ready, and say ‘I am Sally, I am healthy, I am happy more often than i am not, I am not homeless/pennyless, my family and friends love me, Carlos loves me, I am talented, I can speak Spanish and I can dance Tango (which i LOVE!)’. SOME of these things you would have had if you had stayed in England, but you are lucky enough to have ALL of these things because you are in BsAs.
    I don’t know for sure if i have said the right thing, i don’t know if it will help any, but i hope that it does. Cxxx

  23. And once again, to more wonderful people,
    The last few days have been less uncomfortable. Not all the time but in moments at first, and gradually for longer periods of time I feel the more optimistic, positive and hopeful Sally emerging through the fears.
    The comments on this post are helping me to see myself in all my multicoloured parts: some darker, some lighter. In the end they all make up who I am, and I want to learn to accept all the shades of me and not be so terrified of the parts that I understand less.

    You guys have helped me this week, more than you know.

  24. I agree with everyone… and I also think one of the best medicines for you will be to share a big double alfajor with me when I get down there. 🙂 Alfajores eaten with friends tend to perform a certain miracle.

  25. Tina, sounds completely perfect! Can´t wait…

  26. Hi, Sal. A long time ago, as part of the Corporate Blue training in presentation skills, I remember a line about “Enthusiasm” coming from an ancient Greek root which translates roughly as “God In You”. The point was something about enthusiasm carrying the day when everything else fails.

    I’ve been following your posts as an occasional lurker, and you have gone **so** far beyond “enthusiasm”. You’re probably several steps further than “passion”, although I’ve no idea what noun describes that elevated state. Maybe something in Sanskrit which translates as “strange English woman who is at one with the world through Tango”.

    For what it’s worth, during a radio monologue, there have been a few times recently when I’ve wanted to quote an example of someone who has gone after a goal, or someone who shows conviction and passion, or (and by &deity, I wish there were more people like you) someone who communicates just beautifully through words in a way to which I daren’t even aspire. Those are the times when I mention my mate Sal, who had the guts to drop everything, go halfway round the world, learn a new language, find new friends, develop a new way of life and generally do all the things that the rest of us contemplate but only get close to by reading cheap novels*.

    “My mate Sal”, and I’m so glad that you have chosen to share your world with all of us. Big hugs. Happy/Merry.

    John xo
    “Having a wonderful time, wish I was here” 🙂

    * strangely, seeing that in print reminds me that L did much the same thing. Impressive…

  27. Hi Sallycat
    A friend sent me a link to your videos…which are fantasic by the way….I then started to read your blog…. wouldn’t normally write anything….I’m by nature a lurker…. but just wanted to say I always find New Years a nightmare.

    It brings out my own personal inner critic ….It’s talks in a language of “should” and “should have dones” …it makes me forget that all the decisions I’ve made have been the best I could come up with given the situation and information I had at the time. It talks to me in blacks and whites, rights and wrongs – even though rationally I know life isn’t like that.

    I have this ridiculous notion of “perfection” that I wouldn’t dream of judging anyone else by…..only myself….…. when I’m in that “bad place” it takes a constant effort to remind myself that it’s important to be kind and forgiving with myself too….and that includes allowing myself to feel sad sometimes… without worrying if I have the “right” to feel upset….and to accept help without feeling weak or guilty.

    Luckily emotions (and life) aren’t static, they move and flow just like a piece of music…thankfully the tempoand melody will always change…. I can see from watching your videos you know how to improvise… in that and good luck with everything. X

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