Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Posts tagged ‘Mumsnet’

Peering through the black cloud

Today is the worst day I’ve had in a long time. There’s no reason why it should be; it’s no different to yesterday or any of the days before. But for some reason today is a black day.

I woke this morning and spent 45 minutes trying to find the energy to move. I don’t just mean that I was physically tired, although I am. I just wanted to sleep, to hide under my covers and shut out the world; I couldn’t find the mental strength to force myself out of bed. Luckily my wonderful husband is more than capable of looking after the children and by the time I eventually made it out of bed DD was almost ready for school. I explained to her that I wasn’t feeling well (how else do you explain a trough like this to a 4 year old?) and she gave me lots of hugs and kisses before cheerfully heading off to school with DH.

It’s now mid-morning and I’m curled up on the sofa in my pyjamas and dressing gown. I don’t want to eat, or watch tv. I’m struggling to play with my chirpy, bouncy toddler – I just can’t muster the enthusiasm. I can do kisses and cuddles, and luckily he’s happy with those, but for all the use I am today he may as well be playing on his own.

It’s hard to explain this kind of mood to someone who’s never experienced it. I’m sure there are people who’ll read this and think I’m just being lazy or wallowing, that I just need to pull myself together and get on with things. But days like this are unbelievably hard. It’s like wading through treacle; everything just takes so much effort, I have to spend ages gathering the energy to do the slightest thing. I feel as though I’m wrapped in a black cloud, only catching the occasional glimpse of normality.

On days like this I’m incredibly grateful for my smartphone and social media. I don’t feel so disconnected when I can dip in and out of conversations on Twitter and Mumsnet, even though leaving the house and talking to people is beyond me. I can sit huddled under my blanket and chat with strangers, acquaintances and good friends I’ve never met. This connection is vital to me, keeping my mind active and penetrating the miasma of lethargy and apathy.

In the past there were occasions when I would be bedridden for days at a time by this kind of misery, the depression weighing me down. I’m fortunate that thanks to a combination of my caring and uncomplaining husband, my cheerful children, medication and online chat, this cloud should pass fairly quickly, hopefully in a day or so.

An analogy that I often use to explain my depression is that it’s like the beginning of the Wizard of Oz film; everything is drab, shades of black and white and grey. It’s only when life bursts into glorious technicolour that I realise quite how gloomy things were. Today I view the world in black and white but at least I know that the technicolour bit is ahead.

Friendship – offline vs online

“Friend” is a word with so many nuances. A friend can be someone you meet for coffee occasionally or someone you’ve known for years; someone you chat to about anything except the important things or someone who knows your deepest darkest secrets. I used to have many friends but these days I have only a few, despite having many acquaintances. My mental health problems seem to get in the way. I struggle with meeting new people, I struggle to meet the people I already know. Even worse my illness surreptitiously destroys friendships like a tree that rots from the inside out; I only see the decay as it collapses and dies.

Over the last decade in addition to my amazing husband I have had 4 wonderfully supportive, close friends with whom I could be utterly honest and lean on when I was struggling. Now I have 2. The others abandoned me, telling me that my mental illness was too much for them to cope with. One told me that she was fed up with giving me advice that I didn’t follow and that she felt I wasn’t trying to fight the depression. She had her own problems and in a way she was right – at that time I was fighting as hard as I could but I was still drowning, still wishing for death every day.

That kind of thing must be hard to deal with. I don’t blame them for leaving me but it does make me sad that I am so difficult to be friends with. And it makes me reluctant to be honest about how I really feel. How can I trust anyone? Why be truthful if it just drives people away?

Ironically some of my best support these days comes from virtual strangers online. These people have never met me, they don’t know my real name and in most cases I don’t know theirs. But they are kind, supportive and non-judgmental, and they have held my hand through some dark times. When I was suicidal with PND and the first friend abandoned me it was posters on Mumsnet who supported me, talked with me and helped me see that there were other choices. It’s no exaggeration to say that they saved my life.

These days most of my social interaction is on Twitter, where there is another amazing community of people who are kind and supportive. There are many that I would call friends despite having never met them. I turn to them when I am struggling and don’t want to burden my husband or family; they have never let me down. And I am so grateful for them.

Here’s to you, online friends. You know who you are and you are amazing. You, DH and my 2 trusted friends are the reason that I’m still here and still fighting.

Thank you.

Mumsnet – the marmite of parenting sites

I’ve been inspired to write this after reading this blogpost by the awesome Kraken. It’s not intended as a response but reading her post clarified some thoughts I’ve had on the subject lately. I’ll be honest here – I’m a Mumsnetter so my approach will be a bit different to Kraken’s. 🙂

For those who live under a rock don’t know, Mumsnet is one of the most prominent parenting forums in the UK. They have more than 50 million page views per month and log over 8 million visits per month. There are posters on Mumsnet of all genders, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality and social background. Most are parents but not all; despite the site’s name being a parent is not a requirement to join and there are many members who have no desire to have children or who are unable to.

Mumsnet is often in the news but usually only when someone’s complaining about it. The part of the site that gets most media attention is the “Am I Being Unreasonable?” board which is known to be argumentative and helps lazy journalists write about the “nest of vipers” as Mumsnet was once labelled. Strangely the site’s detractors never seem to report the advice and support members receive on topics as varied as mental health, bereavement, education, special needs and many more.

One of the accusations frequently levelled at Mumsnet is that posters are mean, nasty, bullies etc. Some are, it’s true. Some are saints. Most of the rest fall in between. 🙂 The problem is that Mumsnet is not pre-moderated and the staff rely on members reporting unpleasant posts. If no-one reports nastiness then it’s unlikely it will be seen and deleted. Mumsnet have a strong anti-bullying policy – sometimes they miss things or get it wrong but I have seen posters deleted, suspended and/or banned on many occasions. But of course it’s the idiots who stand out and give the site a bad name.

I realise that I sound a little defensive and to be honest I am. Mumsnet is a site that has supported me for many years. When I was suicidal with PND it was Mumsnetters who talked me round in the middle of the night, who gave me strength and hope. It was Mumsnetters who sent me clothes for my baby son when I was unexpectedly pregnant and we had no money to buy him anything. It is Mumsnetters who spend time and energy and money fundraising for many charities and campaigning for change in many important areas such as miscarriage care and support for victims of rape and domestic violence. It is Mumsnetters who spend time lovingly crafting Woolly Hugs blankets for children who are terminally ill both in the UK and abroad, for children who are seriously ill, for Mumsnetters who have lost a child or partner.

Mumsnet is a site that divides people more than any other. The trouble is that parenting today is scrutinised and criticised as never before and many parents feel insecure. Infant feeding, weaning techniques, where the baby sleeps, discipline, nappies, buggies, slings – there’s always someone to tell you that you’re doing it wrong, whether it’s a stranger online, a journalist, friend, relative or so-called ‘experts’. And that’s just in the first year or two! Most people have the sense to concentrate on their own children and let other people bring up theirs as they will – but there’s always an idiot somewhere willing to judge. Mumsnet is merely a reflection of society at large.

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