Sometimes you ask and ask and ask for help and answers and explanations and yet you get nothing. Sometimes all you need is to be acknowledged, getting nothing then can be the worst thing.
This has been a pivotal week where everything and me have been ignored.
I used to have nightmares about being operated on while I was awake. Awake enough to be able to see and feel and hear and know exactly what gruesome tasks were being preformed on me, too sedated to be able to move or scream or shout or flinch. I would wake up from these nightmares with my mouth stretched as wide as it would go while my lungs forced the air out of my body and I tried to scream a silent scream.
That is the closest that I can get to describing life on medication.
Far from being a cure, it simply numbs feelings and thoughts and emotions to the point that they can wash over you, slip by completely unnoticed if you allow them. This creates a basis for coping. You cope because everything is numb and quiet and just nothing.
But it’s just like that surreal moment between asleep and awake when you try to scream but nothing comes out.
Yesterday was a bad day. A day where everything seemed to go wrong and no one seemed to listen or understand and where I found myself too exhausted with it all to care anymore.
From the second I woke up it was one thing after another after another and after a particularly grating telephone call I wanted to cry. I really wanted to cry. I wanted to feel my whole body racked with sobs while tears streamed from my eyes and I gasped for air. I needed that, to feel the release. To feel something. But no tears would come. I am numb enough not to be shattered into pieces but too numb to react. It would hurt more if anything could hurt.
After an awful day I tried to be proactive (positive? Normal?) and we walked to the park. Because this is all about Beans isn’t it? Everything is for her and she is everything and maybe if I go on the swings and swing and swing and swing I will feel the wind in my hair and the flip in my stomach and release.
Instead I watched as for the first time ever, as if she had been doing it all of her life, Beans declared ‘steps’, climbed each one by herself, walked across the rickety bridge, holding on tightly to the rope all the way before sitting at the top of the slide, grinning at me, before she pushed off with her arms and slid to the bottom to clap herself for being so clever.
She climbed up the steps and slid down the slide all by herself.
Something that she will do times a million and then some more before she grows up, something that kids do everyday. But she’s my kid and this wasn’t every day this was day one and just wow.
Again, I wanted to cry. Not because it hurt but because my baby did something clever by herself and was so proud and beaming and I was so…something and I wanted that lump in my throat, the salty taste of tears that accompany a sweet moment.
But I can’t even have that.
When bedtime came and went and Beans decided that she wasn’t going to go to bed tonight actually thank you mummy and it took me over three long hours to settle her. When everyone was telling me what I was doing wrong and I needed to do this or that. When in the end I just got her out of bed and told her that I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care if she slept or not, I didn’t care what she wanted or who she wanted but I was just not doing this anymore. I wanted to cry then.
I wanted to tell everyone and Beans and all the people that were nowhere near me but who I had spoken to in some way during the day to fuck right off. Just fuck off. This is hard for me you know? I am fucking trying. But how can I try when I can’t even feel? How can I cry when no tears come?
It feels like everything is being taken from me, sucked right out of my soul until I’m a husk of something that used to be a person. I can’t be sad, I can’t be happy. I can’t be. A lump won’t even form in my throat when I want it too.
My heart would break if only I could feel it.
Did you know that when you’re not pushing a pram or wrangling a toddler you are free to walk down the road holding hands with your husband? It was a revelation last night and we walked along quiet streets as the sun set. And then it was a revelation that the revelation had taken so long to be had. Our first evening, our first anything in fact, 100% child free since forever.
And it was lovely.
Once we got used to the fact that we were free (freeeeeeee!) we relaxed into our chairs, sipped our drinks, ordered our food (an absolute feast) and found we could hold a conversation without breaking into nursery rhymes or a chorus of no!
We ate, we drank, we discussed our mutual unease about Mr Tumble and our mutual desire to do this more often. The freedom thing, not the conversation about creepy Mr Tumble. I only checked my phone twice – just in case Beans needed us. She didn’t. Obviously. She slept better last night that she had in ages.
We walked back through dark streets at closing time and wondered how parents who still go out frequently manage it. Our bellies were full and our eyes we glassy and we asked how it’s possible to stay awake any longer as our buggy free fingers intertwined.
This morning, at 7:20am we bumped back down to earth and into our mummy/daddy roles. But that little taste of freedom and the reminder of what life used to be like – all be it will a much higher degree of tiredness and a much lower tolerance of alcohol – was so refreshing.
Like the tantalising world that first opened up to me when I made it through the door of my first club aged 15, last nights very quiet evening of food and drink has me itching for more. Maybe one day we will be the parents who can go out, drink, maybe even dance embarrassingly and still be able to transform for toddler fun the next morning. Maybe.
Is there a training program that we could go on?!
‘So…’ the husband said to me from across the table this morning, one eyebrow raised and what can only be described as a look in his eye. ‘Tonight. You and me. How about it?’
Are you…flirting with me? I asked in a combination of mock outrage and actual outrage because my hands were still wrapped around my first cup of tea of the morning and my hair hung in matted tendrils around my shoulders and I was swamped in his dressing gown.
‘Let me take you out for dinner’ he asks.
A decidedly less adult request than the one I had envisioned from his previous flirting I raise an eyebrow back. Beans giggles from her highchair and launches a piece of toast dripping in butter and jam high into the air. As it slides a sticky path down the wall I sip my tea.
Holy shit, we haven’t been out, together, alone since…since *racks memory* … *sips tea* … *checks watch* since, well our honeymoon I guess. The honeymoon that we left for two years ago tomorrow. That’s a bit embarrassing actually.
We are fun, the husband and I, we are. It’s just, at the end of a long day we are more than happy to just, y’know, sit. Maybe have a cuddle. Watch some TV. Sleep.
But tonight we shall shake off the shackles of our domestic drudgery, alright our shackles of boring, and we shall go for dinner at the place we had our wedding reception two years ago today.
I will even re-do my make up and dig out my eyeliner.
It’s kind of daunting though, the idea of eating a meal outside of the house, alone. No toddler to shout for what’s on our plates. I mean, what will we talk about…?!
Two years ago today I hitched up my dress to precariously climb the metal grilled steps up to an empty room. My heals click clacked across the wooden floor, the summer breeze whispered in from the open windows and through the jars of cut flowers on the tables.
Music played softly through speakers and I leant against the cool marble fire surround to take a breath.
I’m married. Wow.
The husband appeared in the doorway, a silhouette against the bright sunlight streaming in behind him. And then the chorus started and as the volume increased everything else faded away.
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When weeks feel like they are made of up of many more days than the standard seven it’s best to reduce the words and focus on the pictures instead.
Focus on the fleeting moments, the moments between birthdays and teething and meeting after meeting and one step forward and seven million back, because there were some good ones.
When it feels like so many things have gone wrong or been delayed or complicated or just ugh it makes times hard. The week dragged by, the minutes and the seconds dragged by and there were just too many thing for us to contend with.
From meetings to forms to letters to molars, everything has been against us. We drank tea and tried to keep our chins up. We collected a bucketful of rose petals and giggled when we held the bucket aloft and they showered down around us, floating to the ground to be collected once again.
In a big, huge, massive leap of faith we went further from the security of home than we have been in months and months. The fact that it really felt like nothing worse could happen might have been what spurred the decision to throw caution to the wind (gale) and venture on an adventure.
Having only seen the sea once before a long time ago, this time was a pretty big deal. It was overcast and cool but as the grey clouds rolled in to shore we paddled and splashed until our teeth chattered.
Tomorrow I am the birthday girl.
This does not make me want to jump and sing and dance and whoop like it used to, it makes me want to closely study my face in the mirror for hours and hours letting out a sigh every time I spy a new wrinkle or line or sag. Or spot. What the hell skin? My days of being twenty something are numbered but I’m still blighted by spots that any teenager would envy. Pur-lease.
I’m not old, not by any stretch of the imagination – I’m not. Am I? – but the thing is, I’m getting there. And I’m well past the age of not being a grown up. Twenty seven years after I arrived, all 8lb of me, five days late, I’m still always late, I’ve made friends, lost friends, had boyfriends and no boyfriend and kisses and snogs and sipped Bacardi Breezers under age. I’ve done school and college and uni and parties and mornings after and walks of shame. Days after my 25th birthday I got married. Six months before my 26th birthday I became a mummy. There’s no escaping it, my carefree days are behind me and I am most definitely a fully-fledged grown up now. And that bothers me more than age. Sotra.
I remember being 9, super excited about finally making it to a birthday that bestowed me with ‘double figures’. Because 10 is, like, so totally, like, grown up. Except, obviously, nothing changed. Nor did it when I couldn’t wait to be initiated into teenage life – like, so totally, like, grown up but I don’t even care though because age is just a number and I am, like, so totally mature anyway – and again at 16 and again 18. I spent the last of my teenage years, amongst other far more fun things, feeling in limbo, waiting for the magical age of 21; When I would finally be taken seriously, where people would respect me as a grown up. I think I took myself too seriously.
For more than a decade I wished and wished to be older and now I sit here, frowning at the way that the skin on my knees goes all crepey when I pinch it and then remembering not to frown because frown lines for the love of god, frown lines! My body is slowly but surely starting to show signs that it, if nothing else, feels grown up. No longer can I do 100 sit ups a week and boast the toned stomach of youth (why did I never appreciate it when I had it?), no longer can I stay up until the 6am sun rises above the horizon and signals the end to an awesome night. No longer can I enjoy a life free of responsibilities. Because I am a grown up.
I worry about bills and the car and bills and food shopping and why can no one in this house pick their wet towels off the floor right next to the rail and hang them up? I worry about the future and money and house prices. And my crepey knees and saggy stomach. And the lines that are etching their way into my face.
I am a wife and a mummy and people depend on me and my body reminds me every day that I am older now, but I don’t feel it in my mind. I think I’m stuck at about 19, only with about 10% of the stamina that I had then. I’m still the same silly, cheeky, sulky teenager, not afraid of dancing in public half way to the shops if the mood takes me and, like, who actually cares what people think anyway because like, people are so totally self-obsessed these days and why should we all bow down to the social, like, constraints of society anyway?
A few years ago I would not be sat watching the baby monitor out of the corner of my eye while snug beneath a throw (jayzus, I’m o-l-d) and a laptop. I would be enjoying a whole Saturday of getting ready. How did I do that? How did I find enough bits of me to ‘get ready’ that it would swallow twelve whole hours?! And then I would drink and dance and flirt and dance and laugh and amble home, carrying my shoes and still dancing while the early morning sun lit my path.
Tonight I am at home. Tomorrow I will also be at home. Preferably in bed until beyond 6am and preferably woken with a mug of tea by my two favourite people in the whole wide world – when I told the husband that is what I wanted he assumed I meant Robbie Williams and Noel Fielding. I didn’t, although now I kinda do – and their cuddles and their smiles.
Because at, almost, as I write this – I’m still eking out those final hours, twenty seven years old and almost two years into marriage and almost eighteen months into motherhood, I’m slowly adjusting. Slowly trying to be happy, trying to let go of the life that was, with its carefree fun and reckless wasted days and embrace the life that is as I sing my baby to sleep. All while I slowly become more crepey and old.
I think I might, like, totally be having a quarter life crisis, or something.
My old psychology lecture room. I walked the same floors as I did ten years ago, to the same room that I sat in doodling while studies and theories seeped out of the tutor’s mouth and bounced off the walls. The hot afternoon sun beat in through the open windows casting long shadows as the marker squeaked across the whiteboard and I planned my weekend. It was also the room that housed my exam results one August a decade ago. I was scared to go in and then scared to look and then ohmygoodnessIdidok!
Everything is the same but different as I walk in after all this time. The chairs all face the opposite wall, the whiteboard has been moved but cobwebs still cling to high corners and sway gently in the breeze, the sun still pours in through the windows. No longer a room where I would study psychologists and daydream about seeing friends and boys and boyfriends on Saturday, it had become what I desperately needed to be a glimmer of hope, of help, and a way to access treatment.
I jumped through all the compulsory hoops (again); I filled in the forms, scored my mood out of eight and ticked the relevant boxes to get here. The next step. The place where I would decide what treatment would be right for me to help me to recover. It struck me as odd that the best way to do this would be to assemble
the mentals sufferers of anxiety, depression, panic disorders, phobias and similar in an enclosed space, close proximity, away from home and extremely publicly.
I feel far from comfortable about being in a room full of people with various mental illnesses of varying degrees of severity. In no other aspect of my life would I ever smile at someone I had never met before and, holding out my hand in greeting, divulge that I have a mental illness before I have introduced myself.
A PowerPoint presentation begins; every cliché, stereotype and misnomer about depression and anxiety presented in 72 point comic sans as each slide is read aloud for emphasis.
We all have to deal with stress, the projected slides tell the room, sometimes we don’t deal with it correctly and it becomes a vicious cycle. You, yes you, can learn to change that vicious cycle. We will give you workbooks and homework and group meetings where we will explain to you in fine detail all of the mistakes that you are making in life and how to put them right. And then if you work really hard you won’t be stressed anymore.
Shit, I’m in the wrong room. Did my feet carry me here because it’s a path that they were so used to treading? I should really put my hand up or something. Or just leave…A quick glance at the sign stuck with blu-tac at a jaunty angle on the inside of the door tells me that I am in the right room. Oh.
And then I want to leave. Are you telling me that this is a choice that I have consciously made for myself? I have been living this for nearly eighteen months, if I could have changed it I would, it’s taken everything from me. It’s taken me.
Break flashes up onto the wall, projected in looming letters (I hate comic sans) and bends and distorts around the woman who moves forward to tell those who want to stretch their legs to be sure to return in five minutes. I want to go. I want to sulk and flounce and close the door behind me on my way out. This isn’t what I need to hear or anything close to what could help me. I soak in my own private pity party on my chair in my old psychology room in my old college missing my old life. The last thirty minutes told me that I can choose not to be this way, but they also told me that depression makes you cry all the time. Over nothing. I want to cry; nothing.
The slides start up again. Not one person left the room. More animated bullet points about stress and its vicious cycle. The pity drains away and leaves anger in its wake. Slide after slide after slide of information about workbooks and healthy eating and exercise and homework and courses and spider diagrams and flow charts.
A person who feels a little low may put things off, for example, they may keep putting off washing their hair because of lack of motivation.
What about looking after a newborn baby? What if I can’t even look after my own child? I didn’t choose this. Fuck washing my hair. I want help. I want to be a mum.
My inner voice screams.
I have just ticked a box to say that I think about self-harm, that I think things would be better for everyone if I wasn’t around. How is any of this relevant and why should I give a shit?
Ten minutes later we are dismissed. I float out of the room, outwardly blank but internally screeching.