Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Posts tagged ‘socialising’

Decluttering: for the mind as well as the home

It’s been a busy week – DH and I seem to have been possessed by Kim and Aggie. We’ve sorted. We’ve rearranged. We’ve decluttered. We’ve tidied. And although there are still some jobs that need doing and I’ve fallen a little behind with the washing, the flat is looking much better.

The initial prompt for all this uncharacteristic activity was the offer of a new bed. A friend’s parents were replacing theirs and asked if we were interested. As our bed is broken (no it’s not what you think!) and poor DH has had to sleep on the sofa since January we accepted the offer with enthusiasm. Then looked around the bombsite bedroom and thought Oh. Oh dear.

Fast forward a week or so and although we got a bit carried away we have a much more habitable home. Our main problem is still the lack of storage space; we live in a 2 bedroom flat with a 3 year old, a 1 year old and the inevitable mountain of toys (and books – we recently sorted out DD’s bookshelves and discovered that she has over 450 books!). There is no built-in storage so most of the toys live in crates stacked up in the living room and DD’s bedroom. But the layers of clutter have gone.

It’s made a huge difference to both DH and I – it’s almost been like a mental spring-clean as well as a physical one. I no longer dread going home because of the enormous amount of work that needs to be done. I can now sit in the living room in the evening and not cringe at the mess. I wake up in the morning and the tidiness of the bedroom is a welcome surprise. I’m actually looking forward to having friends over for the first time in – actually I don’t know how long. Too long. That’s a huge step for me as I’m struggling with making the effort to socialise at the moment. Solution – people can now come here! 🙂

And best of all, tonight I get to go to sleep in a decent bed with a proper mattress and cuddle up to my husband instead of just my son. To me that will make the biggest difference of all.

An open letter to my friends

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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