World Poetry Day

Spring Cleaning

 

de Lord is my shepherd

I shall not want

 

an she scraping

de las crumbs

aff de plate

knowing ants will feed

 

maketh me to lie down

in green pastures

leadeth me beside de still

waters

 

and she han washing clothes

spotless

lifting dem outa de water

drying she han careful slow

pon she apron

 

restoreth my soul

 

she mixing

sugar

water

lime

she filling she favourite jug

de one wid de cool palm pattern

 

yea though I walk

troo de valley of de

shadow of death

 

she opening de fridge

de cowl stapping her breath

for a motion

 

I will fear no evil

 

she put een wah she want

tek out wah she want

shut de door

 

for thou art wid me

thy rod an thy staff

dey comfort me

 

an she looking wid a far eye

pon de picture a de children

side a de almanac

pon de wall

 

surely goodness an mercy

shall follow me

 

she pick up de broom

an she sweeping

 

all de days of my life

 

an she sweeping

 

an I will dwell

in de house of de Lord

 

she sweeping out

sweeping

out

 

shake de broom

in de wind

dus fly

she beat it gains de fence

dus fly

she cup she han

unda de pipe

an she sprinkle water

roun she

stan up

hans akimbo

 

she watching

all de dark spirits

departing wid de dus

 

sunrise in er eyes

 

forever

an ever

 

Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze

List of Kindness

Last week was a better week in that I functioned almost normally for the whole week. Less crying, more doing, but also more tiredness and less emotional bandwidth for stuff that could and does tip me over the edge into not being able to cope.

Lovely things happened. My brother and I took our mum and dad out to Glynn Purnell’s in Birmingham to eat a nine course tasting menu to celebrate early mother’s/father’s day. It was delicious, although I did have a gigantic hot flush on the way home which saw me leaning out the window with my tongue out all the way up the M6 while sweat rolled off me in waves. I’m just glad it happened on the way out. I hate it when stuff puts me off my dinner.

I went to see Elbow last week. It was the closest I’ve come to a spiritual experience (that didn’t involve food) in years. It was everything I hoped it would be and more and I just loved it. I’d like to go again and again, only I know that would be greedy. I’ve been driving everyone mad listening to their new album on heavy rotation ever since.

My own lovely bunch took me out to my favourite Thai restaurant for lunch yesterday (Thai Orchid, Banbury) as an early mother’s day celebration. It was fantastic. I also went out with my friend Caron on Friday to eat fondue. It seems that everyone is intent on fattening me up for posterity, which is good, although I will have to stop sometime soon as the seams are beginning to creak alarming. My own and my clothes.

I also went to lots of meetings last week and took many notes and fired off emails and attempted to appear slightly efficient, only marred by turning up for a meeting at one site when it was at another site entirely. Although I did make it eventually despite wanting to chuck it all up and go home, particularly after spending twenty minutes circling a car park, swearing and waiting for a space. Nevertheless I count all these things as small victories.

Today is the first day of spring. I celebrated it by eating toast with a friend, wandering around doing errands in the pouring rain and falling asleep wrapped in a blanket on the sofa this afternoon. It is, apparently,also international happiness day. I am celebrating it by not reading the news and not telling myself off for falling asleep.

Tallulah’s school is celebrating a whole week of being kind to each other. The girls have all been given a list of things they could do to be kind to each other this week. It is slightly concerning that the school are obviously not comfortable in the knowledge that they might be able to figure out how to be kind to each other without a list. And that a week is about as much as can be expected of them on the kindness front.

As expected, the list is hideously embarrassing and was clearly given out by a teacher who goes by the moniker, ‘Call me Dave.’ He probably sits sideways on the desk rather than in a chair, and almost certainly does social science of some kind that means he can claim to be down with the kids.

If the kids were on Noah’s Ark.

One of the suggestions for kindness was to write a lovely note and slip it into another pupil’s backpack for them to find.

Tallulah has put a note inside one of her friend’s back packs.

It says: ‘Dear Nadiya. You have a delightful pancreas.’

Maybe they did need a list after all.

(Incoherent) Rant must equal feeling better

I am currently reading Attack of the Fifty Foot Women by Catherine Mayer, courtesy of the Amazon review programme. Mayer is one of the co-founders of the Women’s Equality Party of which you will know I am a member.

I’m only half way through the book so far, but I am finding it absolutely compelling. The reason I haven’t finished it yet is simply because in between every chapter I have to go and kick the wall and wait for my teeth to stop grinding long enough to start again.

It’s not an angry book, mind you. It’s thoughtful, thought provoking, intelligent and says many of the things I try to say  when talking about the issue of equality, but without the tongue tied, impulsive, expletive ridden phrases that spring to my mind.

Or the need to give up, go away and drown my sorrows in a vat of gin, because God forbid anyone would actually listen to what you are saying rather than assuming you have said what they want you to say so that they can trot out all their fears, prejudices and set party pieces instead.

After all, who the fuck would want to listen to a girl anyway? We know if a women speaks 25% as much as a man in a meeting, they are considered to have ‘dominated’ the conversation and be talking ‘too much.’ Why would it be any different in real life? Good job here I’m mostly talking to myself. I shall dominate away.

The gist of this week’s conversations boil down to.

‘You forget, young lady, feminism is not what you say it is to you, it’s what I want it to be so that I can tell you you’re wrong and how you’re not as important as me and your ideas are stupid. And what you need to remember is that feminists don’t actually want equality at all. Even though they say they do. It’s well known that women lie, which is why you can’t be trusted. And don’t forget, equal rights for women is not as important as, ooh, I don’t know, any other thing on the planet that benefits everyone except women first, because there isn’t really any tangible benefit to liberating women from oppression. As if women are ‘actually’ oppressed anyway. Come on! We live in a world of equality now. The fact that 86% of the austerity measures since 2010 have been shown to burden women means nothing. The fact that nobody has ever been prosecuted under the equal pay act is irrelevant, despite the gender pay gap, which is a myth anyway. The fact that we’re the fifth biggest economy in the world and girls in Liverpool are missing school because they can’t afford sanitary towels just shows that they’d rather spend the money on trainers and live on handouts, not that women are suffering and that we could actually do something to alleviate it, but we won’t. It doesn’t matter that women have never been truly liberated so I have no evidence except my fear and prejudice to back up what I’m saying against your actual statistics. It doesn’t matter that studies show that actually, in the small pockets where equality is encouraged, it has a positive impact on everyone. I haven’t got time for experts and data because then I wouldn’t be able to wilfully ignore evidence in favour of getting really angry with you and wheeling out a list of denigrating labels to squash you with. Why would you want equality for women and by extension, equality for all when you can just have my boot smashing into your face forever?’

That. Forever. Basically.

One of the things the book is particularly good at is looking at equality as an issue that affects and benefits everyone. I’m finding this particularly relevant this week after trying to talk to various people about it and finding myself hitting my head against the brick wall of them believing that when I say ‘equality for all’, what I mean is ‘superiority for women.’

I raise my head from that brick wall only to smash it against the further wall of the fact that they also assume that when this happens, women will be as punitive to men as men have been to women for hundreds of years. They seem absolutely incapable of grasping the idea that this is not about revenge, and that just maybe, women won’t be invested in kicking men to the curb, because if we have equality, women will have better things to do with their time than think about bloody men all the time. The ego truly does know no bounds in some cases.

An example I was given to prove I am wrong is that this is what ‘women’ do now. Women in positions of power now apparently just want men’s balls on a plate and are actually more horrible than men, so who would want a matriarchy?

I pointed out that perhaps women (not all women (ha ha)) behave in this way because they are being forced to operate in a patriarchy, and that if things were equal, truly equal in terms of opportunity, they wouldn’t be, because they would be living and working in a completely different environment, and given that we’ve never had that environment before, it’s impossible to predict how they would behave, or men would behave, but I would be willing to give it a try. I also pointed out that a society which operates under the terms equality for all, is not actually a matriarchy.

We talked about the ‘fact’ that women  cannot be true feminists if they think this, that or the other or don’t support every single cause that men think women who are feminists should support. I say talked about. I was told this is true. I was then ignored when I pointed out that I don’t think men are inferior men if they don’t support the issue of spiralling male suicide, or express their maleness by naked drumming in the woods, or whatever, because it’s not up to me how a man wants to label how they define themselves. I am also able to separate the word men from the word patriarchy and accept that the patriarchy is a way of oppressing everyone, men and women, and that by wanting to smash the patriarchy it does not automatically follow that I want all men’s balls on a plate. I just want my girls and my boy to grow up in a world where they can do what they like without being shoved into gender appropriate boxes that deny them the richness of a fully lived life.

I am perfectly capable of, and frequently do understand and demonstrate my understanding that not all men do all things so why should people think that all women do or should do all things?

Why should women have to be responsible for the whole of woman kind in order to be a ‘good feminist’? Whatever the fuck that means.

 

The answer?

‘You forget, young lady, feminism is not what you say it is to you….boot in face forever. Libtard, snowflake, quinoa eating, Guardian reading, vagina bleeding retard. Label, label, label, sweeping generalisation that allows me to feel angry, sanctimonious and right about everything. You know nothing about being oppressed because whatever you say your experience is is a lie because it’s not my experience and you can’t possibly understand my experience because you don’t ‘know’ anything. And if you’re the slightest bit more economically comfortable than me, you’re obviously akin to Marie Antoinette in Versailles lording it over the peasants, rather than someone who pays a bit more council tax than me but still gets the same shitty schools and bin service. And that’s handy because it lets me dismiss everything you say, think and feel because that’s what I ‘know’ you’re doing to me, even though I actually don’t ‘know’ because I’m too busy getting angry at what I think is true to actually listen to anything except my own prejudices about you.

I win even though I lose and keep losing and what I lose hurts me more than everyone else.

I lose because I’m so busy pushing everyone into tinier and tinier boxes that show just how far away from me they are that I haven’t got time to think about what would happen if I wasn’t. I haven’t got time to think about what might happen if I stopped shouting and reached out to people in a way that doesn’t infer they are mentally subnormal if they don’t agree with me. I haven’t got time to think about what would happen if I listened. I haven’t got time to think about the fact that by shouting and boxing, boxing and shouting, I’m doing to others exactly what I am shouting that others are doing to me. I haven’t got time to think about the fact that if I want the world to be a better place, maybe I need stop looking into what I think is the face of hatred and derision, when all I’m actually doing is looking at my own reflection. I haven’t got time to think about the fact that if I changed, the world around me would change, and that reflection would be different and I could stop shrinking the world and start opening up. I haven’t got time to face up to the fact that actually it’s not you I’m angry at or scared of, it’s me, and that if equality for all really did exist, then I wouldn’t have anyone else to blame for my stuff but me.’

Or, in a nutshell.

‘Take your feminist agenda and fuck off.’

 

Anyway. Read the book. It’s great.

 

 

 

Enough for today

Good day yesterday, bad day today.

What’s the difference between them? Only my head, that’s all. It’s that simple to understand and yet it’s that hard at the same time, as most things tend to be.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, or where I’ll end up, but I’m just going to write, because I have to.

I like things to be as near perfect as I can get them. At times this verges on the manic. I like to start a job and then finish it in the same day. I don’t like messy edges. I don’t like saying I will do something and not being able to finish it to my satisfaction.

At the moment that isn’t possible. It’s probably a good thing that it isn’t possible. Life is messy. There are many things in life that don’t start in the morning and finish the same evening (life itself for a start – thank Fuck). There are many things that are better for the wait, or revisiting. Bolognese sauce is a prime example here. There are many things you just have to learn to live with because as soon as you’ve done them, they need doing again.  How many times can a kitchen floor be swept is a question I like to tease myself with regularly. There is no such thing as a finished to do list, and I learned long ago that being competent at stuff only leaves time for people to give you more jobs to do.

I’m having to let go of more things than I’m comfortable with at the moment, and that’s hard. I’ve got self imposed deadlines I’m not meeting. I’ve got things I’d like to do that I’m not doing. I’ve got things I don’t like to do that I’m not doing. I’m hating that I’m having to take baby steps with this stuff or even no steps at all. I thought today, as I gave up something because I just couldn’t concentrate anymore on what it was I was trying to do. I thought that this must be a bit like what someone who has had a stroke feels like when they have to try and relearn walking and talking. A massive sense of frustration and the annoying, ever present knowledge that they used to be able to do this stuff without even thinking about it. It probably isn’t, let’s face it, but I am in the business of melodrama at the moment, so that’s as coherent as I’m getting.

I learned a long time ago that it’s ok to let go of things other people think are important and I used to think were important. Things like ironing, having clean windows, using wrapping paper, sending Christmas cards, having neatly mown lawns. All this stuff I’ve given up really doesn’t bother me any more. It’s liberating in the main. I don’t miss those sticks I used to beat myself with. And I am here to tell you that my life is much richer for having put them down and walked away from them.

But there are other things I’m still learning to let go of. My weight (although I do not regret for one moment throwing out the scales), my body image, my fear of failure, my need to be right, my anger both at myself and others, my guilt. My shame, my feeling that I need to be ‘doing’ things to justify my existence. My fear. The worry of being/feeling stupid.

Those are tougher. Particularly at the moment. I pick those things up and put them down about a thousand times a day right now. I spend a lot of time telling myself that ‘I can’t.’ and then telling myself that ‘I can.’ All the things I talked about in my last post are helping. Some days they help more than others.

Today I couldn’t bear myself for a while. I paced around the house. I cried. I did domestic jobs. I read my book. Nothing helped.

In the end I went out into the garden. I didn’t want to walk today, but I knew I probably needed a change of scene and some fresh air. The garden is a wreck after the winter. The deck is slick with mulchy leaves. The sycamore saplings are pushing up through the stones. There are tree branches kicking around from storm Doris. All the pots are full of dead things and the raised beds are full of weeds. A badger has dug holes in the lawn and the bark chipping. If my garden were a house, you’d say it had been ransacked by burglars.

I looked at it, like I’ve looked at it for the last few weeks, and felt the same overwhelming inability to do anything. Everything was too big. Everything was too complicated. And when I’ve done it, it will need doing again, and again. Forever.

And then I thought about it like I think about things like the poverty that gets me donating to food banks, and the inequality that gets me campaigning for WEP and the endless meetings and work I do around the NHS. I know I can’t solve world hunger, or legislate for equality for all, or save the NHS, but I can do my bit, and doing my bit is better than doing no bit at all. And doing my bit might tip the balance, might spark bigger change, might mean someone else does their bit, and I do that stuff in the full knowledge of how hopeless it seems and yet I am optimistic and I do it anyway.

And I don’t have to enter my garden for Chelsea, and I don’t have to make it perfect. I just have to do my bit, and today, my bit was to weed out a few hundred sycamore seedlings, and pick up some branches, and sweep up some leaves and I spent about an hour and a half out there, and you can barely tell where I’ve made changes, but I have made them. I might do some more tomorrow, and I might not, but I will do it again, and again, until it is done, and then when it needs doing again, I’ll do it again, imperfectly, from time to time, in my own way, and it will be change enough.

And I don’t have to be mentally well all at once, and I don’t have to do it anyone else’s way and I don’t have to do it perfectly and I can take a break and be as mad as a hat for a while, but I know I am doing my bit, and my bit is enough because I am turning up and I am doing it, even when it’s overwhelming and it feels like nothing will ever be different. It already is. And that’s what I keep telling myself and that’s enough for today.

Uppy Downy

Another week bites the dust.

It has been better, on the whole. I have slept less, laughed more and turned up for more things than I’ve turned down. My period has finished. I had some of the best cheesecake of my life. I went to see What the Butler Saw.

In the spirit of honesty, it has still not been great. I had another menstrual migraine which was a bitch and a half. I am sad more than I am happy. I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror at the moment. I am overwhelmed more than I am whelmed and I am constantly misjudging how much better I am, which leads to moments of deep fucked-up-ness in which I realise I would really have been better not doing this or that.

However, I have not lay down on the floor and wept, or burned anything down, or punched myself or anyone else, so this is all positive. I also keep on knowing that this will pass and all will be well again. Sometimes I don’t know how I know that, but I always do and that’s a blessing.

I have been thinking about things that have been helping.

Breaking the time up into manageable chunks. I do not have to do ‘this’ forever. I just have to do this for the next moment. I only have to sit here for another five minutes. I will only feel like this until I fall asleep. I will only have to interact with this person for the next ten minutes. Whatever I can cope with. Whatever is easiest for me to achieve. I just keep breaking down the difficult bits so that they don’t feel eternal.

Telling people what is actually happening if I have to explain stuff. Even people I don’t know very well. People who get it behave excellent well. People who don’t get it but are fundamentally nice people behave excellent well. People who don’t get it tend to panic and behave pretty well albeit it in a rabbit in the headlights way. This may be because they fear you’re going to go postal on them. I don’t care, as long as they do the decent thing. I haven’t come across any dickheads yet. If I do, my plan is to either cry on them or punch them, or punch them whilst crying. I think it will be cathartic.

Crying. Even though it doesn’t feel like it’s helping much. I know it is. Better out than in, as my granny always used to say.

Getting out of the house. Yesterday when I was recovering from my migraine, I wrapped up in a blanket and dragged myself into the garden. The cat and I sat on the big wooden table we have out there. She told me she was protecting me. I took comfort in the lie and scritched her ear. I drank coffee and blinked down the sunshine. I ignored the thousand small jobs that needed doing and just existed in the moment. It was nice. It was simple and uncomplicated. Walking to school to pick the boy up is good too. Saying hello to all the cats in the road who have unilaterally decided it is spring and the pavements belong to them, ambling through the church yard and over the stream. I can do that. It is good.

Reading. It’s the door out of my own thoughts. Always. Thank God for something that gives me time off from myself that isn’t illegal and doesn’t give me a hangover or diabetes. I am reading Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood. It’s absolutely the best thing I have read so far this year. It’s totally strange and genius and very funny and it is helping.

Avoiding the Internet. There’s just too much stuff in my head at the moment for me to safely add a whole lot more I don’t know what to do with. I pass through. I read emails and your comments. I check in, and then I leave. For a long, long time, the internet has been my place to hang out, but right now it’s all a bit complicated. I’m sticking with the garden table for a bit longer.

Really hot showers. Just standing in the middle of a boiling hot, needle sharp cascade of water. I don’t know why. I don’t really care.

The cat. Her utter indifference to human suffering is an object lesson to us all. Also, sometimes when she falls asleep on the arm of the chair, she forgets she’s on the arm of the chair and falls off, which is always good for a smile.

 

 

 

 

IWD

It’s International Women’s Day in case you hadn’t noticed.

Let’s get the usual shit out of the way:

  1. International Men’s Day is on November 19th
  2. If you’d like it to be more heavily covered in the media try a) knowing when your own day is, b) organising something, c) not expecting someone else to do all the work.
  3. Who do you think organises IWD? That’s right, women do. Are you expecting them to organise your day too?
  4. Yes. I know. Not all men.

Back to the women. My irony klaxon is all worn out.

Women today were encouraged to go on strike, not spend any money and wear red. I have worn red but I can’t go on strike because I’m the only one around today, although I am going to make everyone help me cook the dinner. I did spend money because the food I wanted to eat was not in the house and I might be a feminist and a great supporter of women’s rights, but I am also greedy and decadent.

I’ve spent the morning with my amazing, wise friend Kim who has been helping me deal with some of my mental health issues. That seems like a good way to spend any morning, but particularly special on IWD.

Thinking about how grateful I was to have Kim in my life has made me think of other people who I’m also grateful for, and I was struck, not for the first time, by how many of them are women. I am so lucky to be surrounded by and inspired by so many brilliant women and today seems like the perfect day to thank them.

Firstly to my amazing mum for being brilliant and for teaching me so much and for always being there. And to my gran, Doris, who although she is no longer here, has never been more present than at the times when I am in my full on woman power ROAR. To my beautiful, brilliant perfect daughters, Tilly and Tallulah who could not be more different and yet are both my favourites and who are both always right. You complete me and inspire me to up my game because I always want you to be proud of me. To Suki for loving my brother. To Lisa for loving us all and letting us keep Jason.

To Andrea, my oldest friend, who challenges me, supports me and puts up with me and who is always up for a heated debate. To Rachel, heart of my heart, who filled it, broke it, mended it and refilled it. To Kate who didn’t kill me when I went alcoholic AWOL in Germany and for which I will be eternally grateful. To Kate who turned her life around and became the author she always wanted to be and who is living proof of all the things. To Claire who doesn’t realise either how strong or how fragile she is and who is a rock and a ball breaking, raku loving mischief maker who I am looking forward to retiring with very much indeed.

To Kaz who is this woman can and does and is. To Jess who is the fiercest of warriors and the nicest of people and whose SOTD stories make my day. To Jane who gives even when she’s running on empty. To Jenn, who doesn’t have the words but who has all the dinners and all the love. To Sasha who is the busiest woman in the world but who always finds the time for kindness no matter what is going on. To Ros who triumphs on two continents and who continues to rise despite everything. To Emma whose words speak to my heart. To Danielle whose anger and eloquence is a joy. To Nicole for the love and cakes. To Rosalind who I know, even after all these years would drop everything if I picked up the phone and asked for help.

To Lynn for never giving up. To Helen who has given feminist zealotry a new lease of life in the best way. To Kim for wisdom and love and the best party games. To Anne for all the woo woo in the world. To MaryAnn who is all the passion and who talks about giving up but never does. To Shirley for her resilience and compassion. To Liz and Doris, training the warrior women of tomorrow. To Shami for always being kind. To Bonnie for care packages and for going on the women’s march on crutches. To Marya for always making me laugh and for bringing a bit of dancing back into my life. To Michelle who thinks she is broken, but can’t see that the gaps are where the light shines through yet.

To Gina who has never been a bad apple to me and who is the best of all fruits. To Nicki who is the yin to my yang and whose skills with the glue gun know no bounds. To Carmen who is beautiful and who is helping to teach me how to survive. To Lizzie who is a real life superhero. To Hana who is kicking feminist ass in the Czech Republic in the most peace loving way ever. To Lizzie who never, ever gives up but who still hasn’t made me a cape yet. To Saj who conquers the world in six inch heels and is the most generous woman I know.

To Emma and Denise and Claire and Nancy. You are brilliant, powerful women I am proud to share my time with. We are already changing the world. I look forward to changing it some more with you. To Holly and Lee who started off marching as strangers and ended up as friends. This is how all the world will work one day. To Gay who is now in the gang whether she likes it or not. To Casey who is quietly healing all the wounds and who has a perfect soul.

To every single one of you who has read my words over the last decade on this blog or Twitter or Facebook. To every single one of you who has taken the time to talk to me and message me over the years and who has challenged me, supported me, cared about me, turned up for me and made me laugh and cry in equal measure. I love you. You inspire me. Let’s keep this conversation going. Let’s keep connecting, spreading the message, being there for each other, speaking out, speaking up, turning up.

You are the best.

All the Tears

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.