I opened this blog post to write this morning and I just couldn’t do it. Usually I don’t think about the blankness of the page in front of me, I just plunge straight in and write. I try not to edit or delete until I’ve got to the end of a piece of writing because sometimes the bits I chop out afterwards are the most important bits for me to write for myself, even if they’re not the bits that are important for other people to read.
Even though the blog is public, it is this freedom I feel as I write that has meant I have stuck with it through thick and thin. I’ve never felt so honest, been so honest as I have here in my little corner of the virtual word, plonking words down, finding my way through my days and thoughts and making my mark (s).
Today I found the blankness daunting, because what did I have to say?
What I had to honestly say was that I have had a rough couple of days since my last post and I was disappointed, bitterly disappointed, because I had thought I was on the mend and now I felt like I wasn’t. I didn’t want to say it to myself. I didn’t want to say it to anyone else.
I didn’t want to make it ‘real’ by writing it down, and yet perversely I knew I needed to, because all this stuff about failing is just more of those lies I’m telling myself, and when I write it down I have to think about and acknowledge all the twistiness of my brain. This morning it felt too difficult to do that. Tonight it doesn’t.
I have spent the last two days crying. That spontaneous crying that you just can’t help. The tears that just well up and won’t behave and go back where they came from. The big, fat sobs that are just full of sadness and rip out of you whenever they feel like it.
It has not stopped me doing anything, this crying. I have cried while scrubbing the bathroom floor, while feeding the cat, while making bread and listening to Oscar read. I cried in the shower. I cried on the way to meet my friend today. I cried after my friend visited yesterday.
I don’t have anything to be sad about. I have everything to be sad about. There is a lot of sad, and I was feeling all of it. Or that’s what it felt like. It feels less like that now, which is good. It was almost certainly what I needed to do. It was cathartic. It will probably happen again. This feels less good, but it does feel more ok than it did this morning.
My thoughts told me that I had failed. That I was not getting better.
The reality is that there isn’t any failure in this game unless I choose to stop breathing, which I don’t. Every day I draw breath in and out of my lungs is a day I win. Every day I put one foot in front of the other, I win. Every day I find ways to take care of myself, I win.
Recovery from depression/mental illness is not a straight line on a graph. That’s just another lie I tell myself when I’m not very well. Recovery for me, is a bit of a three steps forward, two steps back game. I gain ground, but some days it’s imperceptible and generally it’s only in looking back that I can see how far I’ve come.
The devil is in the detail with my mental health. Yes, I have cried my eyes out, but I have also managed to wash, sleep, cook and eat. These details are important. These boring, mundane things are the pegs on which my recovery hangs. Making sure I am turning up for my life in all the ways that count.
These things sound so unimportant and it’s easy to take them for granted, until I stop doing them and don’t know how to start again and get lost in the ever tightening spiral of carelessness that sees me sleep deprived and hungry and wearing the same clothes three days in a row, not because I want to be, but because everything else is too difficult. That’s when things get really bad, and I’m not there at the moment. So that’s good enough.
So I have been sad, horrifically sad. I have cried and cried and cried. And I can’t say it’s been great. It’s not how I would have wanted to spend my days, but that’s what happened, and that was what was real for me, and it was alright. And I got through it, and if it happens again, I’ll get through that. It won’t be pretty or graceful or Instagrammable. It won’t be comfortable, and yet it will be ok. And I have talked about it with my friends and my family and particularly my children, because it’s important.
When I was with my first husband and we were talking about having kids, he said to me (I paraphrase) ‘You’ll have to stop being mental if we have kids. You can’t pass your stuff on to them. You need to get well.’
It sounds brutal. It was. But to be fair to him, it was what had been haunting my own head. He was just brave enough to say it. I worried myself sick about having children and then being too mad to look after them, or worse, passing my madness onto them.
I didn’t really have a lot of choice about getting well at that point having said that, so that pep talk didn’t really help. I tried. I’ve always tried. I’ve been in and out of various therapies since I was seventeen. It wasn’t for the want of trying, but there really isn’t a magic wand for what ails me, at least not one I’ve found to date. So they had to put up with me as I was. I had to, too.
I had to do the best I could with what I had, and I have, I hope. And what I chose, given that a cure wasn’t an option, was to be as honest with them as I could (in an age appropriate way). I don’t hide my feelings from them. I don’t pretend or put a brave face on things. I figure that it’s important for them to know that things happen to people, emotions fill people up, and then things stop happening, and emotions change. Everything changes, even when it feels like it doesn’t.
It’s important for them to understand that ‘this too shall pass,’ and that it is ok to be human rather than super human, because one day that might be the most important thing I’ve ever taught them. I try not to see myself as broken, because if they ever feel like this, I want them to see themselves as perfect no matter what, because that’s what I see in them. I want to let them know that just being exactly how we are in this moment is good enough, even when it doesn’t feel like it. It’s hard for me to do, but it’s what I want for them, and so I try.
It’s important for me to let them see me dealing with my stuff, feeling my feelings and being their mum who loves them just the same on the bad days as on the good days.
And they’ve been brilliant and they’ve hugged me, and asked me if I needed anything and bought me tissue, and we’ve just carried on, with a bit more snot than normal.
And that’s good enough for me today.