The perils of ‘Happy’ Occasions

January brings with it hundreds if not thousands of folk exclaiming “Happy New Year” like it’s a command; like it’s a militant instruction. “It’s a new year – Be happy or else!” And they sure look happy don’t they? All the well dressed, well drunk, groups of comrades linking arms, counting down the clock and screeching “Happy New Year!” whilst I’m staring at my M&S meal deal in my dressing gown wondering what exactly I’m doing wrong to not feel happiness at this landmark at all.

These, of course are the perils of so called “Happy” occasions.

Weddings – I’ve had a couple. We hire a photographer to capture this happiest day of our lives – so you better sure as Hell smile till you can’t feel your face anymore. Everyone – and I mean everyone is watching. This is literally the end of every single Jane Austen novel. You’ve reached peak happiness. Then why do I feel so utterly anxious, paranoid and on edge? Why do I imagine everyone whispering “I give this one a year” under their breath. Why have I never been so aware of my weight? What if he is late? What if everyone is late? And worse still – what if I don’t feel the euphoria I am supposed to? I am happy to be married but as for my wedding day – I felt more happiness at a Carvery.

The birth of a baby. Well – not just any baby: your baby! Sure there can’t be any happier moment could there? After the birth of my first born I distinctly remember putting a status on Facebook “I have literally never been this happy in my entire life!” Wrong – what I was, was higher than I had ever been in my entire life on diamorphine, two epidurals and four days of starvation. The come down was brutal. I have never been so terrified in my life. I was convinced if I took my eyes off my baby for one second he would stop breathing. I pissed in a vase in the bedroom because I didn’t want to walk across the hall to the actual toilet. I was convinced the Health Visitor was going to take him away because I couldn’t get him to latch. And don’t get me started on pregnancy.

Christmas day. There was a moment on Christmas morning when my son was ripping through his gifts and I felt nowt. I shook myself – why don’t you feel happy? This is what Christmas is all about – and this is what you’ve been waiting for for months. So I got a black bin bag for the wrapping paper because that’s what mums do. I felt real joy on Christmas eve – don’t get me wrong – I’m not Scrooge. Maybe the build up is better than the main event.

Birthdays – never quite as happy as they should be. What’s happy about being Thirty Five on a specific date – you’re half way to seventy! Smile!

So we don’t feel happy, even though society tells us we have to be. So we feel like we’re in the wrong or not normal. And of course we feel like we’ve failed.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel happy on the occasions you’re supposed to. Maybe you’re just not like everyone else; and maybe that’s just fine.

I don’t want you to leave me thinking I’m downright miserable so I shall leave you with three moments of pure happiness* and wish you a so-so New Year. Be averagely satisfied one and all.

*  my youngest son dipping his feet in the sea in Scarborough and squealing with delight and happiness. I wept happy tears.

*  Sitting alone in a restaurant in Rome eating Gnocchi with a carafe of wine.

* Walking around Whitby with my first born in a sling getting coos from elderly ladies and feeling utter pride.






Escalating Anxiety

My first and last ever panic attack was at the top of a set of escalators, and I have had a fear of them ever since – never going up you must understand, just the descent.

I was in Singapore at the time on a small break between traveling back from Australia. Quite a glamorous location for me. I was traveling back to the UK after another failed romance about to face the friends and family I had told about moving there – gearing myself up to tell them I had failed. Back to my mummy again. We knew it wouldn’t work out – silly dreamer.

In case you haven’t had a panic attack – it isn’t the feeling of panic you get when you wake up after a drunken night and can’t find your phone, or the panic I had experienced for years as a teacher during an inspection. It’s nothing like the panic you know. It’s a feeling of “I know you’ve pretended to be a functioning human for twenty something years but now the game is up – you’ve been found out. You no longer have any control over your limbs, brain or heart rate. Oh – and you’re going to die.”

I watched the steps in their constant momentum going down and down over and over and went to take my step. Something I had done probably a million times before. Then I realised my feet wouldn’t move even though my brain was telling them to. Do you know how confusing that is? Suddenly your body turning around to your brain and saying “umm, no – not today. I’m done doing as I’m told.”

So I stood there – a queue forming behind me, looking down, watching the steps of doom going over and over and over and then I burst out crying.

A kind lady grabbed me and asked if I was ok before I ran off to a toilet and breathed heavily for God knows how long. The escalator carried on, the normal people got on and off and I was left wondering what on earth was going on.

I still have a moment of panic on escalators. If there is ever a woman in front of you who looks like they’re going to step but then doesn’t and gets on the next step instead, delaying your journey by about two seconds – it’s probably me.

I always think escalators are such a great metaphor for anxiety. Everything is continuing in a constant motion and you know your time is next – and it’s up to you to keep moving, take that leap and carry on. If you mess this up – you mess it up for everybody. Do you know how many people are looking at you? Just be normal – it’s easy. Everyone else is doing it. It’s fight or flight time brain – don’t over think it. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.


Don’t tell me I shouldn’t be proud


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.

Be proud of yourself! You’re worth it.


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