Shame

OK, I’ll admit, I went a bit loopy yesterday morning. And when I say loopy, I mean full-blown crazy with a cheeky side order or neurosis for good measure. I forgot the health visitor was popping round to see us. Totally forgot. First thing I knew of it her car was sitting in my driveway and the doorbell was ringing, mocking me it seemed. In my infinite wisdom, of which I possess none, I darted to the living room window and shut the curtains – IN FULL VIEW OF HER. Smooth moves. Real smooth. Still cringing, I then proceeded to hide in the kitchen with Noah. FOR TWENTY MINUTES. Which I must add, once you factor in the über awkward atmosphere and my ridiculous anxiety bouncing off the walls, in reality felt like HOURS.

Once she was gone and I was satisfied she hadn’t alerted the local loony bin / social services / police and I’d checked several times that the carpet fitter’s van across the road didn’t inhabit a crack team of surveillance experts I then finally felt able to collapse with in a pool of relief / tears / self loathing.

I couldn’t answer the door. It was just a physical impossibility.

Paralysed and rooted to the spot with shame.

I’d had just about enough. I was exhausted, Noah had been up to his usual tricks of mind fuckery and hadn’t slept well at all. Rob is on some new hefty medication for his ME, which is sending him all over the place and I have to make sure he doesn’t have any adverse reactions to it. Add in the usual stresses; money, health, a general lack of any caffeine in my house, having zero energy and I snapped.

What would’ve happened if I’d answered the door?

The poor woman was just popping in quickly to say hello, so I could retake the questionnaire I did a few weeks ago, to see if I magically felt any better. She’d have been faced with me, dressed in three-day old pyjamas, hollow eyed, hair sticking up in scary peaks like a disgruntled lion, unblinking and two seconds away from bursting into tears. All while Noah is smeared with chocolate spread, wearing his pants on his head and humming “Baby Got Back”.

I would’ve crumbled as soon as her sympathetic eyes fell on me. I’d be totally powerless to put on the brave face for another moment and I’d have cried and cried and pleaded and cried.

I would’ve told her that I don’t want to be here anymore.

That I can’t do this.

That I’m not coping well at all.

That all I want to do is hide in bed and cease to be. Switch off entirely. And wake up when all this has blown over and I don’t care how long it takes.

That I cannot deal with Noah.

That I think I’m being an appalling mum.

That I shout at him too much.

That I’m crippled with guilt and worry.

That I’m just so, so tired of this.

And please, please make this stop.

I couldn’t do that though really, could I? We’re just not allowed to say those things out loud. We’re not allowed to feel those desperate, gut wrenching emotions. We’re simply not permitted to cry, or to say that we can’t cope. Not when you have children. Not when people depend on you. Not when you’re supposed to be OK now. Not when that breakdown thing a while ago was just a “little blip”.

But how much longer can this go on for? How much longer can I keep ignoring the door, or the phone or hiding those unopened letters? How can I continue to refuse to face up to this? The fear if I actually do look at it properly, recognise it and study its jagged edges, its poinsonous surface, will I be able to even pretend to function? Will it all fall apart at the seams and unravel completely?

And that’s why I couldn’t answer the door.

I couldn’t bear to face what I knew would be standing on my doorstep, which wasn’t really the kindly health visitor with the soothing voice and the sympathetic manner. It was all my shame and doubt and guilt rolled into one big clusterfuck, and I just couldn’t face it. I hid away, I sobbed and I swallowed back the gasps of air, and I sat in silence as it hammered on the door for an eternity until I could hear it drive away again.

Scars

TRIGGER WARNING.

People say that our scars tell a story. Some scars are funny anecdotes – the time I fell into a barbed wire fence, it WAS funny, honest, or when my pet hamster sank it’s evil little fangs into the fleshy pad of my thumb. Others are accidents; when the knife slipped, the grater grazed your knuckles, a burn from the oven. And then there’s the scars that you’re left with, that you gave yourself.

I call them my zebra stripes. All along my left arm, and down my thighs. I barely notice them anymore, but I know they’re there.

Self harm is never something I set out to do, it wasn’t a decision I made or planned. Y’know, “Right, I feel like cutting and gauging myself. I’ll do a bit of that after I’ve made dinner.” Nah. None of that. A good ten years ago or so, I’d find myself in so much pain, such a degree of completely blinding pain, which all seemed to be resonating somewhere deep within my chest. Nothing seemed real at that point, everything felt like a sickening monochrome nightmare in slow motion. The hurt was too unbearable, the tears so violent that without realising what I was doing, I’d claw at my arms, sink my nails into the backs of my hands and scour them desperately, maybe subconsciously trying to release whatever it was inside that I genuinely thought was killing me. I’d awake the next day, to discover these horribly crude scratches carved all over my hand and forearm, almost as if for the first time, as I was completely unaware of doing it at the night before. And they bloody hurt. Like, really bloody hurt. I’d find myself cradling my arm with the other, to protect it, I’d wince when I’d use it, my skin taut and paper-thin.

But I felt better.

Sounds awful. I know. But focusing on that physical pain and concentrating on my tender flesh, averted my thoughts from the stuff inside that was really fucking hurting.

And that’s where it began. I self-harmed for about 5 years, to varying degrees. From several times a day, to only occasionally. It wasn’t ever planned, but I knew when I had to do it. Under the cover of my phone, I’d carry a razor-sharp blade, just so I knew it was there. When I was still living at home with my family, all offending items were hidden from me; razors, scissors, knives, nail trimmers, whatever you can think of, was confiscated. The unadulterated panic that this brought, was unlike anything I’ve ever known, the fear that the dark, numbing pain would soon grasp its unbreakable hold around me and I’d never be able to be free of it again was horrifying.

So I’d smash lightbulbs, and use the glass. And when they too were taken I’d break mirrors and picture frames, I no longer cared, I just needed to feel that relief once more.

The need to self-harm seemed to die out by itself. It wasn’t ever a status symbol, to be in with the cool kids. The angry red lines were always hidden, I’d wear long sleeves and jeans on the hottest days of the year to disguise them.

But there were times, when someone caught a glimpse. When a flippant “Oh, my cat did it,” just wasn’t enough. I didn’t even HAVE a cat then FFS. And the anger and total bewilderment I’d see written all over my loved ones faces simply made me want to lock myself in the bathroom and do it again.

When your agony is beyond the point of comprehension, you’ll turn to anything to ease it somewhat, even if it’s just for a moment of peace. Drinking, drugs, screwing around, gambling, eating, not eating and indeed cutting yourself are all harmful in one way or another. Self-harm seems to carry a taboo as it’s seen as barbaric and even inhuman to want to hurt yourself, but it shouldn’t. It’s not always a “cry for help” as it’s often described, or attention seeking. It’s a need. A simple desperate need just to switch off that pain that’s numbing you within, with something more tangible and easier to understand.

I haven’t self-harmed for over 5 years. But the desire to do it remains with me every single day. Really and truly I hope that self-harm is soon recognised for what it’s for, and is no longer met with anger and disgust, or cast aside as a childish want for attention. In the majority of cases, it really isn’t. And like drinking to excess, drug abuse and eating disorders, the only way to stop it is to treat the catalyst; the mental illnesses, the depression and stress disorders, not keeping the scissors hidden from sight and keeping your fingers crossed that it won’t happen again.

Alone

The alarm goes off in the morning, or in my case, my son jumps on my face, it’s time to get up. New day and all that. Let’s get going! But alas, no, it’s not that simple. The thought of being awake, the thought of being up and aware of the black thoughts in my head and the utter numbness of my body, the sheer lack of any trace of energy, makes my stomach drop and the day in my eyes is already ruined before my feet have even touched the carpet beside my bed.

It’s time to eat, to clothe and to clean. To engage, and teach and play. What shall it be today? Letters or numbers? Shall we go to the park? Can we bake a cake? Alas no, I won’t do any of these things, I’ll stay in my pyjamas, I won’t get dressed, I won’t get Noah dressed. We’re not going anywhere. We won’t see anyone, because I don’t want to see anyone. When the postman rings the doorbell, or the window cleaner knocks, I’ll tell him to be quiet, like a game.

Noah will ask for jam on his toast, and when I give him the plate of little triangles, he’ll say he now wants peanut butter. I won’t say anything, I’ll return to the kitchen and cry quietly while I stick the fresh slices of bread in the toaster, and the worst part is I don’t know why. I don’t why everything is so difficult. No one else finds it this hard, do they?

A little later, Noah will ask for me to play with him, or say he wants to paint. But there’s always an excuse up my sleeve, there’s something else more important I must do right now. A phone call, an email, putting out the rubbish. Anything. And I’ll feel horrendous that I can’t just sit and be with my son, that I’m denying him well, me. I’m used to blocking everyone else out, but my son?

I’ll promise myself that I’ll save the day by making a family dinner, so we can all sit down together, Noah likes it when we do that. But I won’t. The good intentions will fly out of the window, and he’ll eat what he always does, at the table with his toys.

I’ll give him his bath, and put him to bed, and he falls asleep while I read to him quietly, I’ll watch him sleeping. My beautiful boy, my beautiful beautiful boy. My boy that deserves so much more than I can give him. My boy that I love more than I can ever put into words, hasn’t got a proper mum. A mum to play with and teach him, to run around with and give him everything he wants. I’ll sit and watch him sleep, and the tears will prick my eyes and I’ll promise myself – promise him that tomorrow will be better.

But will it? Will it? I’m not in control here, something much more powerful is. Something I have no control over. My family, my friends will say what a good mum I am, but I’ll know different deep down, swimming amongst the darkness and all consuming nothingness, that I’m not. I’m really not. I’m everything I told myself I wouldn’t be. My baby is sleeping upstairs, alone, and when he wakes up, I’ll be with him and watch him and make sure he’s safe and fed. But I won’t be here, not really, I’ll be lost in my own selfish thoughts, pointlessly fighting against the blackness that engulfs me, and my baby will still be alone.

What Not to Say

….to someone with depression.

Smile!

What’s wrong with you?

What crawled up your arse and died?

Chin up.

You’ll be alright.

Take some Rescue Remedy.

What’s up, now?

You have nothing to be depressed about.

Get over yourself.

Why are you being such a bitch?

Stop being so selfish.

What have you got to be so unhappy about?

Oh, I read an interesting article in the Daily Mail about depression, it said….

Tell me what’s wrong.

Just tell me what’s wrong.

FUCKING TELL ME WHAT’S WRONG.

Cheer up!

Get a grip.

You never know, it might never happen!

Happy mums have happy babies.

Oh my daaays, I was so depressed last night when the fit one got kicked off X Factor!

Have a drink, you’ll feel better.

Have another drink, you’ll feel much better.

Have a line, that’ll help.

Have another line, that’ll really help.

Oh I bought you this self help book that –

Stop being so negative.

Do you want to be unhappy?

Listen to this Radiohead song!

You emo.

I found these supplements for you, they’re supposed to help with –

You miserable cow.

Let’s go SHOPPING! That’ll take your mind off of it!

You’re so fucked up.

Ugh, I can’t win can I?

A problem shared is a problem halved!

I had depression one time, I –

WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?

Why don’t you just go and kill yourself?

 

What To Say To Someone With Depression:

It’s OK.

Same here.

I’m here if you want to talk.

I understand.

Write it down.

Do you need anything?

I know.

Do you need some help?

I’m not going anywhere.

I’m listening.