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Me & Meldrew

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February 2017

‘Reparo!’

My middle Miss attended her classmates Harry Potter themed birthday party yesterday. She trundled off looking cute in her cobbled together Moaning Myrtle finery and returned a few hours later brimming with excitement. Rifling through the hugest party goodie bag I’ve ever seen she joyfully shared the jellybean filled ornaments, mason jar mug and spellbook along with her self-made snitch and wand. After her excitement dampened a little she sat cross legged on the floor beside my chair and flicked through her spellbook, wand in hand. “REPARO!” She excitedly called out while waggling her gold, bronze and silver wand at me. “It’s a spell for fixing things!” she proclaimed quickly. “Am I broken then?” I asked slightly quizzically. She paused. I ask again with a mashup of emotion welling up into my chest. She paused for a moment more before gesturing to her head. “Is my head broken?” I asked as my eyes start to sting. “A bit Mummy.” she told me quite frankly. I forced a smile while a tear fell down my cheek, closely followed by several more.

I don’t always hide my tears from my girls. I don’t always hide my panic, fears or dull moods from my girls just as I don’t hide excitement or contentment from them either. I used to. I used to try and hide every emotion that I didn’t think was favourable: sadness, guilt, great excitement, nervousness. I wanted to at least feel like I had some control over those emotions even if it was only to mask them and I wanted to protect my family from what I was feeling at the same time. Needless to say I wasn’t especially successful at either plan.
My amazing girls are 11, 10 and 8 years old and they are very observant little people. Lying to them is futile and sends them a clear message that I’m ashamed of having head troubles. I am not ashamed. I may not want to willingly share my state of mind with everyone but if asked about it I won’t lie to anyone. If the girls were struggling themselves with anything I’d want them to feel they can just ‘be’ in their own home and around people who love them. I’d want them to feel they can openly and comfortably say ‘I’m not feeling amazing today’ and know that’s okay. Its only fair that I afford them the same honesty and lead by example. I won’t lie, I don’t share every minute detail – I personally don’t feel its entirely appropriate but I’m open enough to tell them I’m having an off day or to be honest about how I am doing if they ask.

It hasn’t been easy trying to be this honest with my family, in fact it took having a meltdown and sobbing into Miss Middle’s shoulder for twenty minutes straight while bear hugging her for no reason other than feeling overwhelmed to make me revaluate my relationship with my mental health and my family. I’ve taken this approach its lifted a lot of pressure off me. I have to work hard at not regressing as thats my go to reaction but it is definatly worth the effort. I can relax and live moment by moment on an off day and when the girls look at me with caution and knowing concern I can move forward with them rather than forcing a false mood and pushing them away. Most importantly the girls understand enough to know they’ve done nothing wrong and that overall I’m okay. I think its made our relationships a lot stronger.

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This. Is. Meldrew.

Some time ago I stumbled upon a bunch of illustrations by Toby Allen that instantly resonated with me. His quirky, sketchy characters almost seem to jump off their pages and I felt drawn to several of them. 11230857_1005291072836280_8934108026065163676_o1__880

Toby Allen is a talented artist who gave bodies, faces and limbs to mental disorders and set free a bunch of oddly cute characters into the ether. For me, before reaching the height of my own problems these little characters brought some comfort. There’s something about these monsters that I find relatable and logical. They seem to fit perfectly in their ‘roles’ as far as I’m concerned and you know what? Having an image, a physical appearance to give to my own disorder was one of those initial catalysts that ignited something in me and led me to a point where I could admit to myself I wasn’t managing my life quite as smoothly as I probably could have been. A small step forward is always a positive step, maybe not as grandiose as a leap (which actually would have been worse for me than doing nothing a few months ago) and still a huge progression on being stagnant.

Fast forward a few weeks and past some pretty big advances to a therapy session when Katy – the therapist – suggests I name my anxiety. Some of her other patients have named their problems and it can help distinguish between the usual thoughts and feelings and the less familiar ones. I thought about this. Alot actually. My anxiety leads me to literally over-think almost every situation I face, so… I worked through a pile of thoughts and concluded that it was 1) worth a try, 2) probably *not* going leave me living life with two separate personalities and 3) actually maybe not all that different from giving the monster a face. Content with my reasoning I set to spending a further couple of days trying to pick a name.

Katy had suggested ‘Bob’ when she mentioned the idea. Yeah… Bob. Now, I did consider this name for a few seconds because my Trev calls me ‘Bob’ as a pet name when I’m being forgetful (which happens to be all too often by the way!) but for that very same reason I couldn’t use it for my space invading invisible monster that had taken up residence enveloping my brain in its puffy, cottony padding that was threaded with explosive veins of electric charged tinsel. Because of that I allowed my thoughts to lead me onto the likes of ‘Fred’ and ‘Ginger’ plus a multitude of other names I didn’t think worked. I kind of got to a point where I felt that I was playing a fruitless game and started to fail to see any point to this task when it hit me! My anxiety is crotchety, mithering and grumpy not entirely unlike that well known TV character Victor. I hate the name Victor… But Meldrew, now that seemed to work.11807167_1005290749502979_8174654475609344732_o2__880

Giving my anxiety a name alongside a body has believe it or not proven to be such a big relief for me. I spent alot of time over the next couple of weeks reiterating this new found being and giving it a life (as such) which was hard work at times I won’t deny it but was worth my effort because at some point along the way my head clogging cloud became a character on my shoulder. Now this might sound crazy (it has already been established I’m a little bit nuts after all and it shouldn’t come as too much surprise) but these days I now have this defiant character riding about on my shoulder (in my mind’s eye) like a pirates companion, muttering those familiar insecurities into my ear rather than completely engulfing my mind. It’s not fool proof, it takes effort to keep Meldrew there and not allow him to become that brain duvet once again and those mutterings aren’t always ignorable but small steps, right? *Wink*

 

 

“As long as you are being fair”

I can’t win for losing. Work is a simple job where I have no authority yet am working overnight in an empty office, in an empty building for the most part. I arrive ten minutes late with permission and stick around well past my finishing time for free almost every night. My job is alright, I enjoy it for the most part but I find it very stressful at times and I’m not really sure why. Today I tried to do the right thing and compensate a driver for a mess yesterday. I thought I was doing the right thing, yet within no time at I get call from the second in command. They seemed appeased by my logic and reminded me to continue toward being ‘fair’. Okay, great… I’ve always thought myself fair in my job, always thought I was balancing things as best I can so to continue is easy. Maybe I didn’t seem to take his words serious enough. Or maybe those words weren’t forceful enough because a very short time later I get a call from the top boss. Joy. Sometimes I feel as though I may as well just not be here. But the problem then lies in finding a job where I am wanted, or at the least needed. The social anxiety mean that the chance of me making it to the end of an interview whilst keeping my shit together is slim, then there’s the actual job. While I may be competent within a new position I worry about the people and if I could cope with them and the stress my fear would inflict? When I stop to think about it I am relatively happy in my job, my boss has kept me despite the obvious need and he’s not a bad person. I do really struggle with my feelings of inadequacy, my feelings of being disposable and my fear of failure though. 

I’m Vanessa and I’m crazy

Hi! So my chosen title of this post is a little more ambiguous than I guess it could first seem. Yes, I’m Vanessa; Ness to most people I meet in life. And much of the time just recently I do feel crazy. Crazy about my family, crazy for pralines and cream ice cream and not quite so crazy about my job. To top off my cupcake of craziness I have mental health issues. I’m fortunate, I don’t have issues as severe or challenging as some people, but I do need medicating from time to time. This is one of those times.

I have such a good life. I should say that to start with, to remind myself more than anything really. It’s this fact that makes my tiny yet gargantuan problems seem so pathetic to me, I mean life is genuinely good. I have three girls with beautiful souls and cute faces. I have a supportive, kind and generous partner who truly loves me and who has stood by my side for over 13 years. We rent a fairly okay house in a location considered ‘Prime’ with food in the cupboards and we both recently learned to drive. We even have a cheap old car. We both work part time, earning enough to tread water and still have equal time with our girls whilst not needing to rely on childcare. Throw the pets into the mix and I’ve got it made, right?

Why then, have I suffered several relapses of depression over the years? Why the ‘stressed’ diagnosis I’ve had in the past? ( I hate that one.. everyone is stressed from time to time, aren’t they?). Why am I currently being treated for anxiety disorders? I cant make sense of it all in my head and the more I try, the more everything jumbles up. It could be said that I’m searching for perfection and struggling with my mediocre achievements, but I don’t see it myself. I’m not an especially material person, I don’t need ‘things’ to be happy. Maybe it’s because my Mum died in 2010? Hmmm…. that was a catalyst for an episode it’s true, but I moved on from that period. I miss her and it hurts but in a good way (if there ever was one), in a normal ‘pang’ of emotion that evokes joy as much as sadness. I’d struggled periodically for years before then so I can’t say that’s the whole problem. Periodically…. like SAD? I’m not convinced. I’ve had harder times over winter and my mood has frequently been notably lower over the winters but I wouldnt say that I behave out of the ordinary there either. My dark childhood? OK, that wasn’t peachy but nothing like some children endure. No where near. So where does it come from? Genetics maybe? There have been a few cases of mental health issues in my family – ranging from mild depressions to schizophrenia amongst other problems. I can’t really say much about that. I’ve very little knowledge about the science in it. Maybe my physical poor health has marred me? This I could see as being a reason. With UAT and PCOS hormone imbalances are common – with symptoms often mistaken for mental health issues and vice versa. This could be a plausible explanation. Could enviromental conditioning be a catalyst too? Seeing issues around me and having them ‘rub off’. Seems unlikely to me, I’m not that kind of person, I don’t consider myself impressionable – not to that degree anyhow. I like logic. Logic and answers and proofs give me comfort; calms my mind and means I’ve spent so many wasted hours trying to understand my mental health and how to get control of myself.

It’s time for me to focus on the good in life, learn to drift over the bad and learn from myself. Time to become my own therapist and hopefully move forward from this period in my life with the tools to live the rest of my life calm, content and fear free.

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