I imagine many of you chose your property carefully, whether it be rental or bought. Was it the character features? The wide, spacious, open plan living? The sumptuous carpets or solid hardwood floors? The sleek kitchen or modern, trendy bathroom? Do you like your furnishings, carefully selected and placed? The textures, the finish, the niknaks?
Now imagine it all, every single item, absolutely plastered in a variety of bodily fluids and regurgitated food. Patches of unidentified crust that just won’t shift. This is the reality of sharing a house with kids.
Nothing is sacred. Every item I own is fingered, examined, secreted away in the doll house, or perhaps a shoe. Drawers are emptied, books no longer have covers and jewellery is broken. My vase can now only face one direction, to conceal the dried brown glue holding it together. Every seat cushion, rug and bed has been urinated and/or crapped on.
Sure, I expected the drill holes from baby gates and the occasional pair of soiled trousers soaking in the basin. But the jam hand prints, the weetabix cement, the nodules of playdough on the carpet, the shredded kitchen roll, the smell of spoiled milk on fabric, the snot like slugs trails, spoons behind radiators, biro on the wooden floor, ink stamps on the furniture, flipping mattresses…you cannot comprehend how infuriating it will all be.
I’m afraid this isn’t going to end with a sentimental paragraph about how worth it it all is, that material things can be replaced but a child is precious. I’m just thankful that Ikea is cheap.
It doesn’t feel like too far back I was typing up the title ‘Moo Turns Two‘, but that’s how it goes with this child rearing thing. Every day is fleeting, and yet your life without them seems an eternity ago. I can barely remember who I was before Moo. Becoming a parent changes everyone, but choosing motherhood has altered me in so many ways, and so deeply.
Life has been a blur this last year, we’ve been busy. A family holiday, the first festive season that Moo could really get stuck in to, a trip to the hospital with a UTI, my pumping journey came to an end.
Today was wonderful: cake, sunshine, cards, gifts, Mr Men balloons and family. Moo has loved it, all the sweet treats she could manage and blowing out her candle, without any help this year. I’m tired, so tired. There were times I was anxious and fucked off. The beast doesn’t let you forget it’s there. But I’m still here, I did it. I wonder if Moo will remember today and look on it fondly. Or will the worst times of her childhood be the lasting impression?
How do I feel, as my toddler becomes a ‘preschooler’? Sad. Sad and angry that yet another year of her life has passed with my mental illness hanging over us like a dark cloud. Three years of my daughters life have been sucked into a vacuum of depression, the wonderful moments entirely overshadowed by the awful ones.
I’m not sure what the next year will bring. I know that Moos preschool adventure will begin, she’ll get taller, her hair longer. Our relationship may evolve as I begin some intensive therapy. I hope this year will bring about the start of me becoming the parent I so desperately want to be, to the daughter that I love beyond compare.
Good grief, I can feel the anxiety rising as I write this, but I may as well put it out there with everything else. Honesty and authenticity is important to me.
As I slowly start my ascent back up from wallowing in the absolute festering pit of despair, with the tiny blink of light and hope at the surface, a new feeling descends upon me. It’s a curious mixture of relief and sheer terror.
I’m relieved that mental health professionals are taking me seriously, that they realise this isn’t a quick fix with six sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy, that actually, some if my issues are rooted deep into my childhood. The cynic in me still believes that they tell everyone they’ll get better and that I’ve heard it myself a hundred times before. But, if I just think about my therapists empathetic face, I have something to hold onto, a guide rope to assist me out of this hole.
When I think of my life when it was more ‘normal’ (or as normal as my life has ever been), I miss it for a moment. Chat with friends, play groups, walks, going to work. Just day to day things, the simple pleasures, lighting incense, sorting the recycling. I feel there’s a sort of nostalgia about it. It seems so long ago that I was building train track, trying to drink a coffee before it went cold.
And then, debilitating fear. Shit. I’m not going to wake up one morning with all this baggage gone. Baggage I’ve collected over 27 years, with a little extra acquired as I was dragged down into this current rut. It’s going to take work. Tears and time and open wounds and breathing techniques and mood diaries and medication changes. That’s not what I want. I don’t have that kind of energy. Where’s the exit? I should have got out of here while I had desperation and the enthusiasm for overdoses.
What happens when I’m through the other side of that (if I ever get there)? Life. Life is what happens. Day to day routine, a little high, a little low, normality. Every day. Every. Day. And there it is again, that heart constricting, suffocating feeling. This was a huge mistake. That life I was getting all sentimental about earlier? I don’t want it. The responsibility, of raising a human, running a home, going to work, it’s too much. I’m going back to option A, the pills and the bath tub. Cowardly? Yes.
I need the therapy to fight the depression and anxiety. Once the depression and anxiety lift, I may not feel this way. But I’m too depressed and anxious to try. These circles of torment, I’m exhausted. I’m completely overwhelmed, I don’t know where to start or how to help myself. The only positive that I can draw from my present situation is that at least I have occasional moments of wanting to get better. They’re brief, but they’re there. Sometimes, instead of death, I want ‘normality’.
I’ve just had a breakthrough, a glimmer of something hopeful. I need to hold onto it as tight as I can and not let go. This episode of depression is battering me like a hurricane, but I will tighten my grip and ride it out.
Moo woke from her sleep at around 10pm, obviously too hot in this muggy heat, perhaps woken by the thunder. MrTPM went to her, I didn’t even hear her until he flicked her bedroom light on. When I stepped onto the landing, she was face down in her doorway, sobbing, not wanting to be held. This is where the magic began.
Just four hours previously, we’d been to the supermarket, the three of us. Anxiety high, pins and needles in my legs, I’d hated it. Moo wouldn’t sit in the trolley properly, she was being loud, typical two year old stuff. I couldn’t deal with it. I came home and cried. I didn’t want to be a mother, having to care for this thing that wanted so much from me. It would make me the worst parent, but I was done.
But tonight, as she lay on the hard wooden floor, hair stuck to her face with sweat, my heart was drawn to her. I calmed her, picked her up, soothed her, undressed her gently. I stood holding her in the dark for a while, watching the storm clouds out of my bedroom window. I tucked her back into bed and lay with her. I told her I loved her, I kissed her. For the first time in days, I wanted to be near to her.
Every inch of my heart loves that girl. My body seems to physically ache with it at times. I may want to disappear, to change my life, to undo the last few years, but there’s no doubt that Moo means so very much to me. I just need to get my brain on board, before I fuck it all up.
*TRIGGER WARNING – SUICIDE*
HOPE. Something I had very little of yesterday, as my husband frantically tried to get me some help. The last few days have been filled with staring vacantly, anxiety that made me want to claw my own skin off, and almost constant planning of suicide. My mood made even worse with the knowledge that, logistically, I had no sure fire way of ending it all. The day spent smoking too many cigarettes, the nights tearful and panicky.
The calm that thoughts of suicide can bring is eerie. Time is spent looking for websites that will legitimately send you morphine for $20 and the best way to drown yourself in the bath. Working out how long it might take you to walk to the nearest train line, and how you’d explain yourself in a note to the train driver, to be read long after they’d scraped you into a body bag. It all seems rational, logical, the obvious best choice. For you, and for those around you. Then you realise, you don’t really give a shit about those around you anyway, your own pain is all consuming.
Getting quick help via the community mental health team is nigh on impossible. ‘We’ll speak to a doctor and call you back’, ‘they’re just with a patient, we’ll call shortly’. All the while my husband was trying to juggle work too, and I was going even further out of my fucking mind. Then the call that saved me, for now at least, an appointment made at the inpatient unit with the home treatment team.
Sitting in that waiting room was tough. Really tough. Anxiety level high, sobbing, not wanting help, just wanting to die. Knowing that once these people were involved, there was no way I’d have the opportunity to see it through. I’d be stuck receiving help that I didn’t fucking want.
The nurse was so lovely, without being patronising. She allowed me to sit and cry, to mull things over, my husband could ask all the questions that he wanted. I’ve never been so open and vulnerable in a mental health appointment. There were moments that I did my usual cover up thing, dry humour, laughing. But somehow she cut through the bull shit. That and there was no point in trying to be strong any more, I didn’t want to be strong, I was just desperate. The home treatment team will be visiting all week, with a treatment review with the community mental health team on Friday.
I’m not sure how I feel today, really. Am I relieved I’m getting some help? Will this mean more effective treatment? Am I fucked off I’m not dead? I could be long gone by now; relief. Am I just vacant, defeated? I think I’m all of those things. Nothing sounds appealing, nothing raises a smile. There’s the occasional fleeting moment, when my daughter talks to me, that I’m engaged, I forget. And then that moment is gone, and the emptiness returns. Is there a sliver of hope? Perhaps. Which is more than I had yesterday. I feel a bit indifferent about life, I can’t commit to any opinion or emotion. I’m just…here. Barely existing.
I’ve had enough of being mental. I. HAVE. HAD. E. FUCKING. NOUGH. Someone, get me out of here, for fuck sake. I’m laid here, thinking about the 60 years of life that I might have left, literally panicking. I don’t want to live that long like this. I don’t want to have to fight every day, just to stay calm, to get out of bed, to quiet my mind. Kudos to those with bipolar disorder that have the courage to live with the constant threat of relapse, but I can’t.
I don’t think I’ve ever been this intensely ill, for this long. Something really isn’t right. I need help. I’ve needed help for a long time. Someone needs to make me better pretty sharpish, because I’ve had enough of this crazy ass bull shit. Is there some sort of medication that fixes this? Or do I just need some alcohol and heroin?
It’s so exhausting; over thinking every single thing, my mind never quiet, consciously hearing every thought in my head. The emotion I feel most is anger. Absolute burning rage. I want everyone to fuck off out of my life, leave me on my own to just lay still. And if that’s not a viable option, then I want to be dead, to not exist. And then sadness, intense sadness. I’m so sad that my life has become this. And then the guilt. It’s so heavy. Knowing that I’m wasting a life and am such a burden on others. I’ll be told that I’m not, but my husband is miserable, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s obvious that I’m fucking up Moo.
I’ve been planning a suicide, but all options are scuppered, either by my own anxiety not allowing me to leave the house, or lack of means for gaining enough prescription medication to do the job. I’ve felt quite calm about it. I know others won’t see it, perhaps for a few years, but it is the logical thing to do. I can’t live like this any more, the thought of one more day like this makes my anxiety soar. It’s inhumane. If I were an animal, I’d have been euthanised a long time ago.
How do I convey these thoughts to my community psychiatric nurse or psychiatrist? How do I make them see that I’m not making progress, I’m not coming out the other side of a ‘down’ patch, that I’m actually fucking mentally unstable? Or am I not? Am I just over analysing? Really I just need to get the fuck over myself? And it begins again. Fleeting thought, intruding, mulled over, scrutinised, creating anxiety and then, before it’s processed, another surfaces. Endless.
What the fuck?
Struggle to open eyes.
What the fuck.
Take medication x2
Try to make myself presentable.
What the fuck.
Vaguely amuse child
Hate life a bit.
Roughly tidy house.
Throw together a meal.
Tell child I love it.
Have some great ideas.
Try several random things to distract myself.
Freak the fuck out about getting up again tomorrow.
Tweet a bit.
I’m struggling, really struggling. I’m going to roll out the cliches, but I’m in this whirlpool, spiralling down, surrounded by shit. Eventually the plug will be pulled and I’ll drop out the bottom.
Many of the things I’m struggling with are pretty basic. Running a home, looking after a child, working part time. All challenging, but manageable for most.
Then there are the petty things. The pathetic tasks that I’m almost embarrassed to admit I can’t cope with. Remembering to sort prescriptions for my medication. Ordering the food shop online. Going to the post office. Driving. Opening post. Using the phone. My tax return and child tax credits paperwork was a minefield of anxiety. Every day it wasn’t done I was worrying about it, yet I had no energy to do it. I procrastinate my arse off to avoid facing up to the things that need to be done.
The reasons I struggle with all these things? Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Affective Disorder Type 2. I cannot live with these things and function day to day.
Something’s got to give. I need to make a list of all the things that stress me out, then decide how I can eliminate some of those worries. The parenting can’t go, obviously. Kinda stuck with that one on my own. Some of the small crap can be better organised.
But work? Claiming benefits? It’d be a whole new world. The media is full of stories of unfair cases, complicated processes. If I can’t go anywhere new on my own or talk on the phone, how do I even make a claim? Then the stigma. Yet another person ‘pretending to be mental to sit on her arse all day’. Daily Mail fodder. And then, that’s another thing added to the whirlpool. I’m drowning.
I saw him too. All 20 stone of him, stomach bulging out of his vest, sprawled on the path. Snoring pretty loud, wasn’t he? With just the one shoe on, asleep in public. I get that it was kinda funny. Funny in a way that it was unexpected. Of course you pointed him out to your friends. And you weren’t the only ones looking. It’s not often you see a middle aged man, mouth gaping, having a kip by a church.
First glances, double takes, they’re pretty standard. But you turned back, didn’t you? Hard to resist, wasn’t it? You knew you’d get lots of ‘likes’ for this. Perhaps it’d go viral. You left your friends, you turned back, and you took a photo.
Now, I’m making assumptions here, but I’m pretty sure you’ll share that snap. You and your friends got in your car, you probably laughed about it all the way home. Perhaps it’ll end up on your Facebook. Your mates will think you are the fucking business – good spot.
And while you’re sharing, and commenting, and snap chatting, that vulnerable man continues to sleep. Outdoors. On the ground. He might wake up later (and I’m making assumptions again here) and ask for some spare change. For food, or tobacco, or cider. Or he might not. He might put on his other shoe, tuck his vest into his trousers and stroll off home.
Either way, you laughed at that man. A vulnerable, sleeping man. You thought it appropriate to take a picture of a person as they slept. And not in the spur of the moment, you considered it as you walked away, decided it was the right thing to do and came back.
Did his vulnerability enter your mind? His rights? Did you consider that it might be appropriate to ask a person before you take their photograph? Did you think over the circumstances that led him to be there? Did any fibre of your heart reach out to him, hoping that he was ok? If that was the only place that he had to sleep?
Perhaps we’re living in a society that fundamentally lacks empathy. It’s a world where you’ve got to look out for you, take what the world owes you. As long as you’re ok, everything’s ok, right?
When it comes to people, and human nature, I like to consider myself an optimist. I hope that as you travelled home, you did think some of those things. That you deleted that photograph. That next time you see a vulnerable person in the street, you might wonder what you could do to help.
I wonder if, once my bipolar medication is effective, I’ll be this whole other person. Does a person ‘develop’ bipolar disorder, or are they born with it? I’ve certainly had mental health issues since my teenage years. So perhaps I’ve lived my entire adult life so far under this cloud of disease? Maybe the ‘monster’ has always ruled my thoughts, my actions, and once it’s under control, I’ll finally be ‘me’.
I wonder which bits of me will be left. Will I still have a short temper? A penchant for alternative style? Will I crave coffee and nicotine and need to plan everything in advance? Maybe I’ll be less emotional, or perhaps more so?
I like to think I’ll be able to achieve the things that I’d like to right now. Driving again, answering the phone, the social phobia gone. Less Dermatillomania would be great. A career might be nice. Or travel. But I’d settle for just being content with what I have now, and being a better parent to Moo.
My entire thought processes might be different. Just the way I function day to day altered. What if I don’t like the new me? What if the bits about myself that I do like (surprisingly, I can think of a couple) are also gone? A tick sheet to fill out would be great. If only I could opt out of some of my personality and keep the rest.
Once I’m this new person, will I have deep regrets? Will things that were once blamed on ill mental health suddenly become more rational? Maybe I am just an asshole. Maybe I do just hate being a mother. I won’t have depression and anxiety to hide behind. Maybe I’ll just be a lazy, demanding, high maintenance, ungrateful, snappy, moaning old bitch?
Meh, we’ll see.