Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Confusion in Cymru

I love Wales. I went to university in Cardiff aged 18 and lived in south Wales until I was almost 30 (apart from 8 months in Sheffield while I studied for my MSc, and even then I spent a lot of weekends visiting friends and my now husband in Cardiff!). I met DH in Wales, he proposed in Wales. My daughter was born in Wales.

We moved away extremely reluctantly at the start of 2011 following our bankruptcy and the repossession of our home. DH and I were both desperately unhappy at having to leave but promised ourselves that we would return soon, even if it was only for a visit. Circumstances conspired against us however, and it’s only now that we’ve been able to come back for the first time, having saved up for almost 2 years in order to afford it.

So here we are. I have been unbearably excited for weeks, ever since we booked the cottage we’re staying in. I even cried as I drove across the Severn bridge for the first time in 3 years and in a lot of ways it feels as though we’ve only been away a few weeks. But in other ways there is a yawning gulf between who I was when we left and who I am now. We have an extra child, for a start! DS was conceived and born in England; although this beautiful country was home to DD, DH and I, he’s never seen it before. As well as this I feel like a completely different person, just a shadow of the confident, sociable woman I used to be. My physical appearance, my mental health, my path in life – these have all changed and none of them for the better.

Yesterday we met some old friends, most of whom DH and I have known since university. Although I was really looking forward to seeing them I was also dreading it because I’ve changed so much. I’m ashamed of who I am these days – an obese recluse who only seems able to engage with other people through blogging or on Twitter. In the end it was actually a great afternoon but it brought home to me just how different I am now and how I feel about myself.

This trip, this holiday, our long awaited return to Wales, was supposed to be a joyous occasion. DH and I have both suffered from hiraeth, that heartsick longing for home and Wales for which there isn’t really an equivalent in the English language. I hadn’t foreseen that being here would be so confusing and upsetting, that it would strike at the heart of who I am and how I perceive myself.

I am so unbelievably happy to be here, to have returned home to Wales even if only for a week. I’m enjoying taking the children to places that we used to go and it’s good to meet up with people that DD doesn’t remember and DS has never met. But I’m also sad because already I’m anticipating having to leave again; most of all I’m grieving for the life we used to have and for who I used to be. And I’m feeling all of these things at once.

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Comments on: "Confusion in Cymru" (2)

  1. This post struck so many chords with me that I found it hard to know exactly what to respond.
    That longing for a place, and yet that feeling when you go back that you’ve not changed for the better. I long so badly for the north, and yet I can’t go back without my Gran. I can’t go there. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to. I’m still grieving her loss more deeply than I foresaw.
    And in the later years, when I did go back, I felt so much shame for the person I’d become. The childhood dreams I’d failed to fulfil, of perfect relationships and glittering careers and a life unfettered by mistakes. The north is the place of my childhood, and I grieved sometimes when I was up there for my lost innocence and the emotional wreckage that I had strewn across my adult life.
    I think part of the trouble is that so many people like to project an image of perfection. You feel keenly the things that haven’t gone your way, and so do I. But have you thought that maybe everyone feels like that, and they’re just not brave enough to show it or talk about it? If I scratch the surface with most of my friends, there is stuff they really wish was different.
    And if there isn’t, then I think it’s because they’re a bit more accepting of themselves than we are of ourselves. They know that people change. That a change can feel like it’s for the worse, but that that’s only one way of looking at it. I went through a horrific emotional time in 2012 and 2013 and I could look at that period and say I wish it hadn’t happened. At the time, I wasn’t proud of who I was and felt I’d changed for the worse. But it brought me, in the end, greater strength, greater self awareness and a much greater understanding of and empathy for others. Being open and honest on Twitter allowed me to connect with wonderful friends like you and Lex, and Phil and Alexa and Charli and many others, and has even enabled me to help others. I know it has. It’s about perception You think you’ve turned into ‘an obese recluse only able to connect with people on Twitter': that certainly wasn’t the person I saw when I met you. I saw a beautiful, lovely, warm, fun friendly woman who welcomed me into her home, trusted me around her children, took me out for a lovely afternoon. I came home and remarked to someone else what fantastic, loving parents you were. So there are some people who are more socially confident than you. Some of those people are, from what I’ve seen, appalling with their children. You need to stop being so harsh on yourself because no one else is thinking what you’re thinking. We all have negatives but you have so many positives that in my case at least, they’re all I can see.

    • You just made me cry! Thank you, I know you’re right about so much. I’m feeling more reflective about the whole thing now, it was a good experience to have (and it really *was* lovely to be back!).

      I think I’m just prone to focusing too much on the things I regret, the things that didn’t work out how I wanted them to. I have a lot to be thankful for and I need to focus more on that. :-)

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