Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

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Comment is free?

Recently I have been having issues with a couple of people commenting on my blog. One has been posting stupid things that are completely irrelevant to the posts, the other has been aggressive and seemingly spoiling for a fight. I am tired of constantly deleting the first individual and trying to engage with the second. I have permanently deleted their comments and blocked them so hopefully there won’t be any more; if you see anything you think I need to look at please let me know via Twitter (@SamCandour).

I am not doing this because I want to stifle debate. On the contrary I enjoy a good discussion and am happy to concede if I am wrong, misinformed or there is something that I haven’t considered. What I am no longer prepared to do is respond to critical comments, only for the criticism to shift to another angle once the original has been dealt with and dismissed. This is unnecessary and uncivil and I have deleted these comments because frankly I can no longer be bothered to correct the individual concerned.

Some may think this heavy-handed but I have opted for doing it so that I don’t need to moderate every single comment before it appears on the blog. Most people who respond to my posts do so thoughtfully and courteously, even when they are arguing against me, and I don’t want to remove the trust I have that people will continue to comment in this way. So please continue adding your thoughts and comments, they make this blog.

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Reflections

I glance into the mirror and pause. A face stares back at me; a face cleansed of make-up, of pretence. A face that is both familiar and unfamiliar to me.

This face looks tired, drawn, careworn. The faint lines at the corners of the eyes seem more defined now, shorn of their cosmetic camouflage. The eyes look lost and blend into the rest of the face without anything to define them. The skin is blemished and naked.

This woman is plain. She looks vulnerable. She appears to only have a passing acquaintance with sleep but too much familiarity with pain; it shows in the tightness around her eyes, a tightness usually hidden from view. The layers of artifice and disguise have been stripped away and she is but a pale shadow of the mask she wears daily.

This woman is me, and yet she is not. This woman goes unseen, hidden beneath the layers of superficiality. She is protected by the painted mask and now, dragged into the light, she seems reduced somehow. She has less presence, less substance, less reality. She is my shadow self and yet she is also my true self. She is that which is hidden in plain sight.

She is me, the me that I permit few people to glimpse. And now, like a small animal dragged in terror from its burrow, she is exposed. I stare into the eyes so like my own and yet so different and then I turn away from the mirror, already casting aside the memory of that wan, tired, naked face gazing back at me.

Why doesn’t life have an edit function?

When I was a child I loved the Fighting Fantasy books by Ian Livingston. You may have read them yourself: it started like an ordinary book but soon you had to make a choice as to where the plot would go. If you made choice A you turned to one page and the story continued; if you made choice B you turned to a different page and the story would continue from there. And then you’d have to make another choice, and another. Every so often you’d make the wrong choice and have to backtrack, starting again from an earlier point in the story.

Computer games are much the same. You progress through a scenario, saving the game as you go in case you make a fatal error and have to return to an earlier point to try again. Writing is similar; you can draft, redraft, edit and then finally publish. Schoolwork, office work, emails, blogposts, Facebook statuses, tweets – they can all be edited, altered, changed until they are just right.

Life isn’t like that unfortunately. I often wish that I could go back to certain points and start again; say things differently, do things differently, make different choices and take a different path. I’d avoid certain experiences and add in others. But then I might not have my amazing, supportive, loving and wonderfully crazy husband. Or our clever, beautiful, funny and awesome children. My life might have been easier, I might have made more progress in the career that I loved – but I might not have these incredible people.

There are also times that I wish I could jump ahead instead of back. I want to know how my children will grow up, I want to know whether I’m doing the right things for them, whether I’m bringing them up the best way or whether I’m just setting them up for a lifetime of therapy. I want to know that the choices I’m making now are the right ones. I crave reassurance that our lives won’t always be this difficult, that one day DH and I will be able to live the life we want to and give our children the best opportunities they can have.

Of course neither of these options exist. As humans we live a linear existence – we start from the beginning of our lives, pass along a path and finish at the end. There is no going backwards or forwards except mentally, by memory or supposition. We cannot alter what has passed and nor can we, with any reliability, predict what will happen in the future.

It is all too easy to dwell on the past, to wonder the what ifs and maybes. It is also easy to sit back and wait to see what will happen. I don’t want to do this any more. If my life has no edit function then I need to make the most of it – this one life is all I have. I need to stop my relentlessly critical self-scrutiny and accept myself for who and what I am, both physically and mentally. There are some positive changes that might be possible but for the most part I am me, the sum of my experiences up to this point in time, and that’s pretty irrevocable.

I am young yet, only in my early thirties and there is hopefully a lot of life ahead of me. It’s time that I stopped procrastinating and seized life with both hands. As the saying goes, I’d rather regret things that I’ve done that regret the things I didn’t do. I need to start taking steps towards getting back out there and doing things.

Hello. Erm. Well this is a little awkward….

It has been gently pointed out to me that instead of spewing stream of consciousness type¬†posts all over the internet (by which I mean Twitter, Facebook and Mumsnet) I could write a blog. So here I am, with a shiny new blog, typing words in and – well, tbh I’m wondering whether anyone other than me will ever read them! But I guess the most important thing is that they’re written, so here goes.

I’m in my early 30s, married with 2 small children. To save time and confusion with names I’ll just refer to my family with the traditional acronyms – my husband as DH, my 3 year old daughter as DD and my 1 year old son as DS. Imaginative aren’t I? ūüėČ

I have suffered from mental health problems in one form or another¬†since childhood. But it’s only recently that I have come to see that instead of blithely limping striding through life with the occasional course of antidepressants and counselling I might actually need some proper help. So I went to the GP with a bullet-pointed list of symptoms, because I’m that sort of a person (and because while I can communicate relatively well through written text I am shockingly bad at discussing important things face-to-face). Anyway, the GP read through my list and her eyebrows climbed higher and higher – I thought at one point they might actually disappear into her hairline –¬†until at last she took a deep breath and gently told me that in her opinion I have a form of bipolar disorder (specifically bipolar 2) and need proper psychiatric assessment.

Of course as soon as I got home I googled and sat scanning lists of symptoms, treatments and prognoses until my eyesight started to blur. And do you know what? For the first time in my life the chaos inside my head actually began to make sense. I found myself ticking off symptoms and nodding in agreement at accounts written by diagnosed sufferers. I began to think that actually there might be some hope for me, some reason that I am the way that I am Рand most importantly that I might not always have to be this way.

So that’s where things are at the moment. I’m still dutifully taking my anti-depressants every morning and waiting for a letter to land on my doormat with a date to see a psychiatrist. Whether they will confirm the GP’s diagnosis or decide that something else is closer to the mark remains to be seen. But hopefully this is the first step to gaining some stability and sanity in my life.

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