Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

There are few questions that make me quake as much as a simple “How are you?”. My automatic response is to say that I’m fine, I’m ok, I’m doing well, whether I am or not. It’s like a Pavlovian response and it’s the same no matter who’s asking. I consider myself to be a fairly articulate woman; I have 2 degrees, worked as a forensic scientist and as an analyst for part of the Foreign Office. My blog posts seem to be quite well-received. And yet there are days when I really struggle to communicate with people on even the most basic level.

A dear friend may send me a lovely chatty message via Facebook and I want to reply – but can’t summon the mental energy. The words won’t come out. Another friend may call for a chat and I find myself racking my brains for something to say. Face-to-face encounters can be awkward as I try to maintain a semblance of normality but can constantly feel the panic rising in the back of my mind.

Social media has been a godsend. Facebook helps me keep in touch with friends who live far away, while Twitter and Mumsnet both have very supportive communities. Weirdly I can spend ages on Twitter or Mumsnet, talking with virtual strangers and dipping in and out of conversations. Facebook is a bit trickier as it houses people who know the real me instead of my more confident online persona. Sometimes I can chat to friends for ages on Facebook but sometimes I freeze up for days at a time.

The other question that strikes fear into my heart is “Do you want to meet up?”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a pretty sociable person and I’m fortunate to have some wonderful friends. But no matter how optimistic I am when arranging a social visit, the closer it gets the more nervous I become. Some days I can force myself to just get on with it and go, and I’ll generally have a good time. But some days I just cannot make myself go. It’s so stupid. I can chat superficially with the other preschool parents while we wait to collect our children, but I struggle to meet a friend for coffee.

I need to get this under control so here’s my plan. There are a few playgroups in the area that I can take DS to, it’ll be good for him to socialise with children his own age. Even though the thought of it makes me about as comfortable as jabbing pins in my eyes, I need to screw up my courage and do it. So that’s next week’s task. This week’s is to take DD to a friend’s house after preschool on Friday. She really wants to go and her friend’s mum is a good friend of mine. Yet already I can feel the unease roaming about in the back of my mind, no matter how much I try to squash it.

If you’re a friend who gets exasperated with the constant stalling and excuses as to why I can’t meet up, I’m sorry. I will try harder. But please understand how hard it is for me at the moment; the medication is controlling my cyclothymia but as yet my anxiety remains untreated and at times it is overwhelming. So don’t take it personally if I drop off the radar for a while or cancel on you. As the saying goes: it’s not you it’s me.

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Comments on: "An open letter to my friends" (5)

  1. This is interesting. What is it about meeting up that makes you anxious? Apart from the fact that people are idiots,

    • I honestly have no idea. But I suspect it may be part of the same impulse that leads me to put off important things as long as possible, I bury my head in the sand.

  2. I clam up on phone calls. I simply can’t do it. I often come across as rude as i ignore the phone, or I pass it over quickly to OH, even get the kids to take a message! and if I do have to speak, I get off as quickly as I can having appeared like I don’t want to talk to them. Which, to be fair. I don’t! Not because they aren’t my friends, but the phone makes me go dumb. I actually panic when the phone rings…

    • I struggle to talk to strangers on the phone the most – when we used to have takeaways I had to ask DH to call them. It’s frustrating isn’t it? Must make work tricky for you.

      • For some reason work is fine. I have a ‘work’ me. And a headset. A headset changes it all as I become an actor! And a clear plan of how the conversation will pan out. It’s chat I can’t do. Colleagues are different. I tend to avoid conversations, have a fear of asking questions, going over and ‘interrupting’. I am not good socially at work. ‘Aloof’. That’s me :\

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