Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Last night I told DH that if I could have 3 wishes the first would be to get rid of my mental health problems (or “lose the crazy” as I actually put it). DH shook his head and said “But then you wouldn’t be you!” and this has got me thinking. In a way he’s right, my mental health issues are a part of who I am. I’m gradually stumbling along the path to accepting that this is nothing to be ashamed of, that I am not weak but just not as healthy mentally as the majority. I have already accepted that it’s likely I will need some kind of medication for the rest of my life and that’s ok.

But my mental health is far worse now than when DH and I met 11 years ago. Back then I was already anxious and had suffered from bouts of depression for almost a decade, but I was confident. I was good at socialising, I had a wide circle of friends and a bright future ahead of me. I even went to live in a city where I didn’t know a single person in order to study for my Masters degree.

But now? I only have a small circle of friends and have withdrawn from most people from my old life because we have nothing in common these days. They’re successful, confident people while I’m an impoverished failure. I rarely socialise and if I do it’s via the children, taking them to friends’ houses to play. I am not confident in how I look, I care far more deeply about what people think of me than I ever used to and to be honest I barely recognise myself.

I don’t know who I am any more but I’m certainly not the same person that DH fell in love with 11 years ago. I feel like a shadow of that woman, a pale imitation. I’m good at putting on my mask and seeming confident, I’m good at forcing myself to chat to people I don’t know well – but inside I’m curled in a ball, trembling, counting down the moments until I can escape and get home to safety.

11 years ago I knew who I was; today I’m not so sure. I am a mother and a wife, a daughter and a sister, but I have lost my central identity. I exist on the periphery, orbiting my family’s lives like a lonely hydrogen electron. There is nothing in my current life that is interesting or sets me apart from the masses; there is nothing that I can point to and say “Look, this is who I am, what I do, this is what is important about me”.

In fact the only place where I feel even remotely like my former self is online. There I can hide behind a pseudonym, safe in the knowledge that no-one can actually see me and confident because I don’t have to speak to anyone face-to-face. I can chat to anyone about anything and I can be utterly honest in a way that I shrink from in everyday life. Talking to strangers online I begin to hear echoes of my former self. It’s like gazing into a fairground mirror – the reflection may be distorted but it’s still just about recognisable.


Comments on: "Lost: me, myself and I" (9)

  1. Tattooed_mummy said:

    I don’t have as many friends now as I used to. I think some of that is normal. Lives change. Modern life also doesn’t lend itself to irl friendships so much, pace is hectic, everyone is busy, rush rush. We don’t make time. Being yourself online is great, the real me lives there too. Also I didn’t know you were “crazy”, I thought you were you. Keep hold of you. Hugs

  2. Tattooed_mummy said:

    are you “local”? Dm me on twitter if you fancy meeting up. I won’t be offended if you don’t though 😉

  3. I think that some of what you are saying is normal when your children are very young. It’s so easy to get lost in the mire of early childhood. I certainly did. Now that my children are a little older, I feel like I’m emerging from the fog a bit, finding new friends, and looking at different ways of being. Your younger self was, I am sure, a dazzling diamond, but your present self is more of a lustrous pearl, with the wisdom of experience. Less glitter, more glow.

    Hang on in there.

    • Oh what a lovely thing to say, thank you! I think you’re right, it’s all a bit foggy at the moment – that’s a good way of putting it.

      • Have you read Rachel Cusk – A Life’s Work? I think she writes very well about those early years: sitting on a train watching the life you should have lived heading off up a different track.

      • I haven’t but I’ll look out for it, thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Lots of what you’ve written is very familiar to me ~ I’ll read more another day. And by the by, I grew up in West Sussex ~ Crawley.
    Take care

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