A while ago I told someone I did something I was really proud of.
They replied with “that’s not something I would be proud of”. I got it.
The thing I was proud of was minuscule … something that required minimal effort or brains. But I was proud of myself because, for me – it was a big deal.
It meant me keeping calm, solving a problem by myself without asking a man or my mummy. It also meant a lot because my anxiety and depression can lead to me throwing my arms up in the smallest of problems and call for someone stronger.
I cried all the way home after that comment. I felt so stupid to be proud of something so tiny – that to others was absolutely nothing! Not a blip on their radar.
Today I did a few things. Firstly – I got out of bed for the first time this half term, properly out of bed. I put make up on and I took BOTH kids out (without a pram) to a Dinosaur thing in a park a fucking age away.
I am PROUD of myself. I am proud for going out – alone. I am proud for getting there. I am proud my son didn’t have any accidents in his pants. I am proud we were all able to manoeuvre the portaloos. I am proud I had wipes in my bag for when my youngest fell in the mud. I am proud I found something they would both eat. I am proud I used maps and uber correctly. I am proud we were all just out of the house and clothed appropriately. I am proud of being out of the house.
Yes – there may be many who say “That’s not something you should be proud of.”
But do you know what – I won’t let anyone tell me what to be proud of anymore.
Yes – maybe you ran 10k today, maybe you got a PHD, maybe you won an award… good for you!
I had a wash and took my kids out for a fun day – good for me.
On my way home from work yesterday the news was on in the taxi. The continuing news about the Movie Producer rumbled away in surround sound before the driver angrily switched it off. He announced,
“If these women didn’t want this to carry on then they should have said something at the time! Look at them all now coming out of the woodwork!”
“mmm…” I offered out of politeness. Politeness; sometimes our downfall.
“I think it’s hard when a man is so powerful and intimidating…” I continued.
He continued to disagree with me all the way home and I tried to block most of it out because that very day, at the age of thirty five, a mother of two – I had been intimidated by a man to the point it had made me cry – at work, in front of an even more powerful man.
The man, who was significantly taller and wider than me had been rude, passive aggressive and continued to express his displeasure at me being there. My back was to him, and his colleague (bullies are always better off with an ally) as I heard him talking about me, disgruntled. I daren’t turn around.
In that moment I hated that I was five foot three. I hated that I was wearing flat shoes which made me sink even further into the ground. I hated that I was blonde – I imagined them looking at me like I was some dumb girl. I felt like I had zero status.
Out of God knows where I found myself complaining about him to his manager. There wasn’t any courage in this – it probably came from myself finding more and more truth falling out of my mouth the more stressed and exhausted I get nowadays.
And then I knew they were coming, I felt the heat in my neck. I choked and there they were. Stupid tears. Always letting me down. Always making me look even weaker than I am. The man looked horrified.
What the man in the taxi, another large in stature older man, could never comprehend is how it feels to be intimated like that.
I told the taxi driver a man had made me cry at work to which he replied:
“my daughters wouldn’t let a man do that … they’re strong.”
Unfortunately I am not that strong. I could fight a lion for my children … but myself? On a bad day – I would lie down and let it start at my feet.
The little girl in the photograph was told to say yes, respect her elders, respect her superiors, always be polite. Too polite.
The news over the last few weeks has made me think many things. The most honest and disturbing thing being – I can’t say if that movie producer had asked me to get into his hotel room with the aggression he did to that model on the recording –
I’m not certain I would have had the courage to have said no.
Nothing can be different in reality from this week to the next but the perception of that reality is completely altered. To bring this point home – I can actually take a photograph of myself and keep that photo on my phone. Nothing in that photo has changed, nothing has been edited. But I can look at that photo on a Monday and completely loathe what I see. I can look at the same photo, the exact same photo on a Tuesday and be so astounded at how attractive and slim I look I will post it to Facebook.
Nothing has changed – except on Monday I was depressed and on Tuesday the cloud had lifted. My perspective of my reality had changed.
Part of getting older is slowly learning to accept yourself.
I have depression and anxiety.
I have always had these things. While I used to be afraid of these aspects of myself – I am no longer scared. I am also honestly no longer ashamed of it. I have always ‘suffered’ from this and I say suffered because it really isn’t nice.
I used to blame teaching – I used to spend days asking ‘why?’ Why do I feel this way? My upbringing? My choice of career? Hormones? Something not quite right in my brain? The weather? Then at some point I stopped asking why and just accepted it. I accept these two things as a part of my personality.
A personality by the way that includes being extremely funny, creative, generous, impulsive, and a desperate need to be accepted and/or perfect.
When I have been depressed in the past I have looked around me to see what was causing it.
It must be the man I’m with – I’ll get rid.
It must be my hair colour – I’ll change it. I’ll change it and I’ll be cured.
It must be the job I’m in, my weight, my friends, my lack of success.
And I’ve learned it really isn’t anything external and there’s really not much I can do to change other than wait it out.
It was a surprise that pregnancy didn’t cure my depression and anxiety – it only heightened it. And it was a surprise that having children wasn’t a magical cure either. I don’t know why it should be a surprise – after all, I can’t escape myself can I?
Whether I’m single and free in Rome elbow deep in gnocchi and red wine, or I’m in my house for the seventh consecutive day cleaning and looking after two children not having time to shower or eat a decent meal – I’m still me.
And I have depression and anxiety.
On a bad day things can seem hopeless but after living with these aspects of my personality for thirty three years I am lucky enough to understand that this feeling, though entirely real to me, isn’t permanent and will eventually lift.
On a good day I am overjoyed with the beauty and luck of my life.
So children, mummy might be depressed but there’s nothing to worry about, she knows all about it, she’s been living with it for a very long time and
it’s got absolutely nothing to do with you.
It also means she’s adequately adept at understanding and helping you with any feelings you may have in the future.
If you’re the mummy who just like me last week is sat today crying in your pyjamas, unable to get dressed, the house going to pot around you, just getting through the day feeling utterly hopeless and like you’re failing – it’s really ok. I know how that feels. I know how it feels to feel completely exhausted, done, to feel like you can’t be mummy – that you don’t want to be mummy anymore.
Try not to trust your perspective of the situation right now and know that you won’t always feel like this. Tell someone, you’re not alone.
I know that today the bullies matter. I know that right now you can’t see anything else. I know that you think that all you are is a kid being bullied and all they are – are bullies.
One day your life won’t be about school. One day you’ll venture so much further than the school gates. One day you’ll travel. Because you can! You can do whatever you want.
I want you to imagine you’re up in a plane one day. You take off and start to pass cloud after cloud. You look down and see people. They get smaller and smaller and smaller until you can barely see them. It strikes you that they look a bit like ants. As you pass over the tiny houses and the land it will dawn on you how huge the world is and how tiny people are in contrast.
You will work, you will holiday, you will laugh, you will dance, you will eat delicious meals and listen to beautiful music. You might meet a partner. You will love. You will be loved. You will be confided in.
One day your partner might tell you they were bullied when they were young and you’ll say “me too! I know how you feel.” You will show empathy to each other and shrug your shoulders at the knowledge that sometimes really crappy things happen to really good people.
One day you might even have a family of your own. They might come home from school one day and say they’re being bullied. You will tell them you understand and it happened to you.
You will explain that they are purely tiny ants in the grand scheme of things and the world is so much bigger than they know. You will explain that one day they won’t matter. You will explain that one day things will be so much better for them. You know because you went through it. You survived. You thrived.
And where are they? The bullies? It doesn’t matter. Your life is so much bigger than they ever were.
A lifetime ago I joined a dating site in order to find Mr Right. I don’t mind telling you – I still have nightmares about it now. Where do I start?
There was the man who spent the whole meal only talking about how he had a severe peanut allergy and how he wouldn’t even order anything with pine nuts incase it was a misspelling. That was fun. There was the man who turned up wearing a sort of heavy duty army style back pack, which he didn’t take off and announced he had just “just come from a funeral”. He was terrifying. There was the man who clearly thought I looked fatter in real life than in my profile picture (don’t we all?) and spent the whole time shaking his head in annoyance and grilling me on how much I ate and if I liked exercise … like him? The subtext being “I am never ever going to see you again you lying lard eating pig”. I could go on. Suffice to say – I never met my Mr Right.
But now I’m married to a semi normal man who is rarely seen in a backpack and enjoys the odd peanut M&M.
Much like a bad date can put you off men forever, a bad experience with a Dr can put you off going to a GP ever again. The first time I ever saw a Dr about my depression (2009) he was an elder gentleman. He more or less rolled his eyes at me and I could tell what he was desperate to say was “Pull yourself together woman! Get a grip!” but instead he shook his head, frowned like my dad would if I tried to talk to him about lady problems and threw a prescription for anti depressants at me. I was so upset by the experience that I vowed to never go back to the doctors again and I didn’t take the tablets.
Then I had my baby (2013) so I thought I’d try again because well, I was a bit braver and I no longer had any dignity. I was met with a doctor who said I wasn’t quite depressed ‘enough’ and should come back when I was suicidal.
But this time I was feeling a bit more determined so I tried again. I explained to another Dr that I seemed to suffer from terrific highs and helpless lows. After she had looked at my baby and said “Ooh I love a fat baby” she then asked if I gambled. I said I didn’t – so she said I couldn’t possibly have Bipolar and sent me away with my ‘fat’ child.
Then I got pregnant for the second time (2015) and felt so atrocious I felt I had to go back, there was no choice. I had a doctor this time who was ok about it but said she couldn’t really do anything until I had the baby (just nine months to get through then) and said someone would call me. They never did.
Which brings me to present day. I thought I would give it one more shot and went along to the GP with very low expectations but a sort of fury that I was going to chain myself to the desk until they believed me.
And there she was: my Dr right. We clicked. She got it. She just got it. She believed me. She listened. She cared. She knew. She asked to see me again. She helped me.
We have met three times now and while I am not cured – I am better. I am believed. I am listened to. I am weightless.
Four weeks since our first appointment and I found myself yesterday dancing, really dancing around the kitchen with my three year old to the song below. We were giggling and stamping our feet and mummy was happy. My Dr right has changed my life and the lives of my children.
My message to anyone who is suffering is keep on trying, however hard it is, to find your Dr right. Just like dating – maybe you’ll get lucky your first time and meet the perfect person. Or maybe like me it’ll take a few nightmare meetings before you stumble across the person you were looking for all along.
The important thing is to not give up – there are good eggs out there. Trust me. You might just find your soul mate.