I’ve had a lot of time for thinking and self reflection lately, which has been a mixed bag in terms of mental health recovery, if I’m honest.
I have LOTS of things I use as crutches on an almost daily basis. I drink, I smoke (after a break of almost a year, stupid head that I have), I lean on people online (and not enough on real life actual people). I cook, I decorate, I clean and I cross stitch and I cut my arms and legs. So as you can see I have a fair few maladaptive strategies in my arsenal alongside a couple of reasonable ones.
I’m attending therapy three or four times a week right now and again, it’s been a mixed bag. Mindfulness is the one that I find least helpful. You’re supposed to focus on the now in order to ground yourself but I find the breathing and meditating makes me feel like I’m on the ceiling looking down. They keep telling me it takes time to really get it so I’m looking forward to the day I can accept my thoughts and concentrate on the present moment, and be all zen and shit.
I also do a project group and a recovery skills workshop, and I do find these really useful, it’s more about peer support really and my fellow madzers are wonderful at making me feel less of an anomaly. It’s amazing how helpful it is to hear other people talking about their own depression, I do find that grounding. Plus I like making stuff, and we literally do basket weaving in one of the sessions
But in my real life I forget all the useful recovery skills I’ve learned and I’m still going straight for the booze, food and fags, and yes, occasionally the razor when I feel wobbly. I need to remember that these are bear traps, not crutches. But it’s very hard when your brain is screaming at you.
I’ve pretty much decorated the whole house in the last month or two. I do a room or a project in a day and I find it a useful distraction from the buzz in my head. But I’ll have done it all soon and I’m a wee bit terrified of what I’ll do then. As most of you know, impulsive is my middle name and I am the Queen of life changing decisions on a whim. So if I do happen to mention buying a racehorse or sailing round the world, you must promise to sit on me.
My project for the next week is to use the crutches that are sensible and to remember to avoid the bear traps. I’ve turned into something of a domestic goddess lately (I even IRON for heaven’s sake…) so throwing myself into the housework is a good strategy, although it does lead to impulsive cushion purchases.
I’ve also bought a Fitbit (there goes my impulsivity again) and I’m dutifully totting up my steps and logging my calorie intake, so when the urge to do something silly strikes I am taking myself off for long walks with the dog to clock up the miles.
My challenge is to get through the week without treading on any bear traps (smoking notwithstanding as they have told me not to try giving that up again yet) and to properly identify those things that I can use as crutches without causing harm.
I’m keeping on keeping on and it’s hard but I’ll be back to my usual cheery self soon, I’m sure. I’ll keep blogging because that is a good crutch for me and it’s good to keep a diary of how I’m feeling, and all will be well.
I don’t think I’ve written anything here for about a year. It’s been a year of extreme highs and lows. I won’t bore you with all the details but I do want to talk a bit about how I’ve been feeling. So indulge me.
Last time I updated we had just moved house. It was an incredibly stressful time and I was wound very tightly. I also gave up the demon drink for the best part of the year, which meant moving house was a journey I experienced through the jagged glare of sobriety. The house is wonderful and moving was the best thing we’ve ever done but the stress was obviously building even back then.
I started drinking again before Christmas, after limping miserably through the summer’s holidays and barbecues with a tonic and lime and a rictus grin. I wasn’t a happy soul and I decided it must be the drink that was missing from my life.
Well, you can imagine how well this panned out. I started just drinking on ‘occasions’. But then of course it was Christmas and everything is an occasion. I was finding all of the things a struggle, and having a glass (well, okay, bottle) of wine of an evening was an effective way of drowning out the thoughts in my head.
Between working full time, trying to keep the house at a reasonable level of hygiene, keeping the chums happy, fed and looked after, and all our other commitments, I had nothing left at the end of the day, except usually a bottle of wine. My weeks were blurring together into a smudged grey mess of just holding it together. I’d lost my mojo. I was in a cycle of feeling numb all day, having a drink to feel some emotion, and then suffering crushing guilt and self-loathing at yet another hungover school run in the morning before work.
I visited the GP but it was a rushed appointment and I didn’t like the ADs he prescribed so I stopped taking them after a month. I tried several things to sort my own brain out, rather than admitting defeat and seeing the doctor again. I got a cleaner, went part time at work, bought a puppy. I even dabbled in exercise. But I was being sucked down the plug hole and true to previous form it culminated in a dramatic meltdown and being signed off work and put back on (different) ADs. But that was just the start of phase two of the ridiculousness.
Depression is a tricksy wee beastie. For me it manifests in utter self loathing and revulsion. It makes it very very hard to admit my feelings to the people I love, because if they knew how disgusting I was they would hate me the way I deserve to be hated. So I plaster on my best attitude and soldier on through because if I can convince them all I’m worth loving, then maybe I can convince myself. At the same time I fall into the self fulfilling prophecy trap by behaving like an utter lunatic; whether that’s drinking too much or spending money I don’t have, or procrastinating past the point of no return on important deadlines (like paying bills or posting letters) A trite example: I’d watch the washing piling up in the baskets and think, ‘see, if you were a real person you’d have sorted that by now’. And then instead of behaving like a real person and sorting it, I’d put it off until the pile became a towering mess in need of scaffolding. That really typifies the pathetic level of avoidance I’m capable of when I’m under the weather. I can’t work, because I can barely leave the house, I couldn’t (can’t, really, still) deal with real life at all. I had about an hour’s worth of oomph each day and that got me through the school run and back to my nest on the sofa. Tragic and ridiculous.
So time trundled on, as it does, oblivious to my melodramas which all ended up, gradually and then all at once, with a suicide plan. Because everything made sense then. Without me around ruining their lives, everyone would be much happier. Life insurance would mean the mortgage was paid, so Rob could work part time and have lots of time with the kids and his music. They obviously wouldn’t miss me because all I did was make their lives harder, I’m disorganised, chaotic and shouty and awful. So this plan formed over a period of about four months, I suppose. I’d put away a stash of the unused medication from my previous GP visit just in case, and I’d looked up the doses to make sure it would just be a nice calm drifting off and not a horrible drama.
In the meantime I just carried on, and I shouldn’t imagine anyone knew just how dark my brain had gone. I didn’t verbalise it at all. I had huge swings from total sobriety to nightly blackouts from week to week. I dabbled in self harming (in an ill thought out 90’s revival) as a way to remember I’m a real person. And this ended up being a turning point because, fortunately, Rob found out and lovingly but firmly suggested I get help.
Help came in the form of the paramedics at first (not as dramatic as it sounds, it was a bank holiday so I called NHS 111 for advice on what to do about wanting to off myself and they sent them) then the Crisis Team. They are wonderful souls who visit every day and call to check in on me. Oh, I was a proper mess for a few days. The not getting out of bed or eating or showering part of the depression had kicked in. I was safe, I’d come clean about the pills (although hadn’t felt able to give up my stash, just in case), but I was in an utter breakdown.
The psychiatrist told me I have an Emotionally Unstable Personality (I know, shocking, right?) and gave me some different meds, and a referral to group therapy twice a week. Oh and told me not to drink (duh). I’ve been in the new regime for just over a week now and I have most definitely turned a corner. I’m all about the recovery now, fuck depression, what a waste of time that shit is.
It’s been an odd week, as I’m not allowed to drive just yet so I’ve been pretty much housebound. I’m still very very anxious so even walking the dog is a Herculean task, but I’ve been doing lots, and I mean LOTS in the house because although my brain is still working against me, I do have energy (finally!) so I have been keeping as busy as I can. I’ve cross stitched and decluttered and moved furniture and all sorts of improving activities. And having stayed in bed for nearly a week I now find myself only needing a few hours a night. Hence writing this blog at nearly midnight.
I made two of these in the last couple of days, just as a fuck you to my addled brain. Stitching is great for stopping the fizzing and wah wah wah-ing in my head. And I can give them to my friends to buy their affection ;)
So that’s all my stuff lately. Basically I went a bit batshit but I’m on an upswing now, I’m not ready for the world yet but I thought I’d update here as a sort of toe dipping exercise. I’m sorry it is TERRIBLY me me me but fuck it, if I can’t be self indulgent here then where can i?
Plus also, it’s Mental Health awareness week, so check me out being all topical and shit. This isn’t actually the blog I intended to write tonight but it kind of got away from me and now that I’ve written it I think I’ll go with it, I think it’s good to talk about this stuff. If I’d broken my leg I’d have written about it so I don’t think my broken brain problems should be kept hush. I’m sorry if it’s hard to read, and please don’t take it personally that I didn’t confide in you or let on before. I couldn’t. But it’s much easier for me to write things than to say them, sometimes.
Anyway. That’s all for now but I will keep you posted as to how I’m doing and not just shut myself away anymore, it’s not good to keep it all in.
Big huge love xxx
Good morning my lovelies. It’s been nearly two months since my last blog, I’m so sorry. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, it’s just that I’ve been RIDICULOUSLY busy and finding the time to write anything longer than one hundred and forty characters has been a challenge.
But here I am. It’s Saturday morning, everyone else is still asleep and I’m making the most of the opportunity to talk to you all.
So, last time we spoke I was on the cusp of moving. My GOD that was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. I’m never doing it again. I have never been wound as tightly for so long in my whole life. My usual method of believing everything will work out was stretched to its absolute limit, there was so much that could go wrong and it dragged on for so many months that I thought my head was going to fall off with the stress of it all. But it didn’t, and here we are.
We moved in at the end of June and our brand new house is absolutely gorgeous. Every time I come home I get a bit emotional at the sheer beauty of it (I know, I’m a drama queen, but it IS wonderful). I’m writing this from the study, which is the ponciest thing in the world to say, but there we are. We also have a music room, so my lovely Rock God has a whole room to be musically awesome in while I watch True Blood in the living room (SO tempted to call it the drawing room but that might be step too far…) in peace.
All three children have their own huge bedroom and we have three bathrooms. Three! It feels slightly unreal because we have moved from a house that was far too small to one that is bigger than we ever thought we would achieve. And it’s all NEW and SHINY, even after three weeks of living here. I honestly feel like I’ve won a prize. My brain has conveniently blanked out the stress of getting here
and the ginormous mortgage and now I just feel all calm and lucky and full of win.
So that’s where I’m at with all that. And of course the other thing, which I haven’t really told you all much about on here, is that I’ve been sober for three entire months. Today is in fact day ninety. I woke up (with a hangover) one day back in April, decided to stop smoking and drinking, and, er, did. I won’t pretend it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t as hard as I always thought.
I have composed many many blog posts regarding my ‘sobriety story’, and I’m sure I will eventually publish one, but there are so many amazing blogs out there already saying it that I haven’t felt the need to so far. I’ve been following the lovely Allie over at And Everything Afterwards, for example, and she keeps writing exactly what I wish I could.
I will just tell you, briefly, that I’ve had many eureka moments in the past three months. Discovering that hosting a party sober is MORE fun than drinking through it was one. Spreadsheeting the amount of money I haven’t spent on booze and fags was another (that one nearly made me throw up, to be fair). I spent a really long time believing that a glass of wine and a fag were tools I could use to relax me, and I finally understand the lie behind that. So I feel a bit new and shiny myself at the moment.
I’ll come back to this and talk about it in another post another day. My family are up now, and our house is full of activity and noise and buzz which I want to go and be a part of.
Lots of love, chums xx
I met my Lovely Rock God Husband seven years ago today. I can now pinpoint that day as when my life changed completely. I had spent my adult life up until the previous year bouncing around aimlessly, lurching from disaster to chaos, making bad decisions and terrible choices. I wasn’t a complete write-off, thankfully, as I had finally pulled myself out with my two gorgeous toddlers and my sanity almost intact. But it was a close run thing.
I always say that the first year of my real life was that year alone with my babies. I felt in control, without anyone else’s toxic input. For the first time in my adult life I was neither co-dependent nor cowed. I was able to put my own needs, and those of my babies, above anyone else’s. I had a job, and a flat, and we had enough money to not only have a good life but to service the debt my bad choices had left me with. I was at college in the evenings, I had my family nearby and I was finally in a good place. I honestly didn’t think life could get any better.
And then I met Rob, and it did.
You know that feeling when you wake up disoriented from a bad dream that you thought was real, and then you realise that not only was it a dream but that it’s Sunday and you don’t have to get up yet? That floaty relief like being enveloped in a warm hug? That’s the feeling I wake up with every single morning since I met him.
In seven years we have never had an argument. Now, I’m not telling you this in an, ‘Oh we simply agree on everything, aren’t we wonderful’ way. We don’t always agree, but we are on the same side. We both had past relationships built on drama and shouting and conflict and it was a revelation to meet each other and discover that trust and kindness and support leads to MORE passion, not less. We deal with our disagreements by discussing our issues and coming up with resolutions that suit us both. I don’t want to shout him into submission or throw a tantrum until he gives in, because what would be the point of that? We are reading from the same book most of the time anyway, so disagreements are rare, but we’ve never raised our voices or stormed out or slammed doors because, well, why would we?
We were a family from very early on, he has been Daddy to the Chums since about a year after we met. We bought a house, got married, had a baby, went to court to make our family safe and strong, built up our savings, paid off our debts, and are about to move into our ‘forever home’.
Along the way we’ve weathered redundancy, severe drops in income, bereavements, career changes, illnesses, behavioural issues, an assault, spiraling debt and the unmitigated stress of selling and buying houses. Just in case anyone thinks we’ve had a nice easy ride of it. We’ve had our moments of depression and despair, but the low points are far outweighed by the sheer joy of our everyday life.
I wake up every morning feeling like I can take on the world, and that’s in no small part down to the support and love I have from Rob. He believes I’m amazing, and tells me every day that I am. He supports my dreams and gives me the space and the tools I need to follow them. When I was made redundant and lost my rented flat within days of each other, he insisted we move in with him and supported us all while I was a stay at home parent for nearly a year. When his flat proved too small, he sold it and we bought a house. When I decided I was starting my own Childminding business he didn’t flinch, and he never complained about coming home to a house full of other people’s children and toys. When I announced I’d had enough of Childminding and started working out of the house, he changed his hours to be at home for school pick up, learned to cook properly, took over with the bulk of the laundry and housework and takes time off work when the kids are ill.
I often think I have the better deal, here, but Rob is insistent that he does. He is my favourite person in the world, and I’d rather spend time with him than anybody. He is the cleverest and most talented person I know. Nobody else can make me laugh the way he does, and I still get that delicious tummy-flip sensation when I see him. We hold hands walking along the street because touching him makes me feel grounded and safe and happy. After seven years we still do small things to make each other happy. I come home at lunchtime to hang the washing out so he doesn’t have to do it when he gets home. He brings me coffee in bed and wakes me gently in the mornings before he leaves for work. I cook his favourite meals and he cooks mine. He gets up at the weekends so I can lounge in bed. I let him watch the football sometimes.
And although we strive to make each other equally happy, nothing ever feels like a compromise. I am mindful every day of how lucky we are to have each other, we don’t take each other for granted and we put time and energy into making our marriage and our family a happy one. And I think we do a pretty good job.
So, there’s no seven year itch here. Just a post to pause and reflect back on the last seven years and remind myself of how fortunate I am. I am generally winning at the game of life, and Rob is my coach, my cheerleader and my winner’s trophy.
Big huge love to everybody reading xxx
Molly asked for a night in a hotel for her birthday treat. As far as we’re concerned, ten is a special one. So we went all out and booked dinner and a night’s stay at The South Lodge, a five star hotel near to home, with Michelin star dining. Just because we do like to do things properly, and with aplomb.
This is our photo diary of our great adventure. Molly pronounced it ‘the best birthday ever’, so no pressure for next year then ;)
When we arrived, Zoe at reception greeted us by name and made a huge fuss of Molly. While I checked in, Molly was given a little tour of the lobby and shown where the toys and dvds were for later. Then our bags were carried down the corridors for us and we were shown around the hotel on the way to our room. Our room was competely breathtaking, I have lived in flats that were smaller and I plan to borrow some of the design elements in the new house, all the bold patterns and chunky frames for example.
After unpacking, we dived into the biggest, bubbliest bath in the whole world. I need more baths like this in my life. It was divine. It was deep enough to swim in and had lights and jets. We were in heaven.
After dressing for dinner we went to the bar for some delicious fruit cocktails. We sat at our table and the staff brought us drinks, and olives, and special birthday chocolate brownies as well! Then we were given menus and made our choices from the amazing food on offer before being invited through to the restaurant.
We enjoyed an amuse bouche before our starter, to tickle our tastebuds before the meal.
I had pork belly…
Molly chose melon…
My main course was salmon…
Molly’s was cod and mash…
With of course more chocolate brownies for pudding! Every single person who came to our table wished Molly a Happy Birthday and made sure we were having the most special time possible.
After dinner we went to reception to choose a couple of dvds and went back to the room to get our pj’s on. Zoe knocked on the door to bring us some popcorn, because you can’t have film night without it. We stayed up until nearly midnight watching Despicable Me 2 and chatting and cuddling.
The next morning, despite deciding we’d have an extra long lie in, we were both awake early. It must have been partly due to the excitement and partly due to the deep and comfortable night’s sleep. So we got up, had a luxurious shower (it had five jets. FIVE!) and went down to breakfast.
It was the most wonderful breakfast in the world. Molly chose lots of fruit and smoked salmon and a croissant. And had a posh hot chocolate to wash it down.
I ordered a full English with poached eggs. It was the best fry up ever.
Then we spent our morning exploring the hotel and its grounds. We discovered a secret rockery, ran up and down winding staircases, hid round corners and explored the cellar. It was a bit like living in a Disney film.
But in the end it was time to leave. Our bags were taken to reception and my car was brought round (just like in a film), we said our goodbyes and came home, utterly pampered and probably spoilt for staying anywhere else ever again.
I think we’ll make this a yearly treat for me and my Pie. She deserves it, and frankly so do I! It was one of the best experiences we’ve had and will be a memory we’ll treasure forever.
I’m starting it today, properly. I have been clearing odds and sods for a while, but the sun is shining and I’m off work so I’m psyching myself up for a Grand Purge.
The Pie is well on board, I have given her a box and a bag with instructions to fill both (bag for the bin and box for charity). I am going to start small, with the bedroom cupboard of doom, and work my way up until I’m brave enough to tackle the loft. Rob is going to attack the garage when he gets in.
I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to order a skip or whether we can do it all in runs to the tip and the charity shop. But honestly, the mammoth task is keeping me up at night. I know it’s going to be one of those jobs that is nowhere near as bad as my brain is telling me, but I am a bit wobbly about starting it.
The loft is mainly full of stuff I planned to take to the charity shop. My routine decluttering of clothes etc usually goes as follows: clear through clothes, stuff unwanted clothes into a bag for charity, walk past the bag every time I leave the house, eventually get the arse and throw the bag in the loft. Rinse and repeat.
I intend to be ruthless with the rest of the house. If I haven’t used it or thought of it in a year, it’s gone. I need to convince the Chums to do the same. My sticking point will be Rob who is much more attached to his things than I am and who will find a potential use for every manky old bit of carpet and broken camera unless I put my foot firmly down. I have a garage full of stuff as testament to that. But we are both in agreement that our new house will be a haven of calm and no clutter, so it must be done.
Right, less talk, more action. Wish me luck, Amigos.