I’ve not been feeling so good recently. There is tension stretching across my shoulders, a sickness in my stomach and fuzz in my head creating a dulling of my brain. The muscles around my mouth are, by the gravity of sadness, being pulled into a downward turn. My shoulders slump into an awkward old person position and my movement is laborious as I deliberate the hurt in my heart created by action. Everyday loves, the children, my husband, my home and my creativity have been transformed into irritating, anxiety heightening torture devices. The exhaustion of living, breathing just being here makes days excruciatingly endless. As the days stretch into eternity I have begun to wonder what is the point of it all. Have you guessed who’s come to stay? Yes my friend depression.
He arrives uninvited and will not say when he’s leaving. To be honest he would come more often but I find ways of distracting him and sending him away, but on this occasion he’s cracked my defences, tunnelled through the barriers and smug as anything set up camp. I blame myself, and oh how he likes that, I didn’t heed the distance sound of his footsteps approaching. Spurred on by my improved self esteem gifted from giving up alcohol and new blogging adventures I branded myself indestructible. How foolish one might say but really one has to have dreams, belief that my friend will tire of battling the fortifications I ardently build and move along. It’s been a while since he’s stayed so long and I am frankly bored of his company now but my plan for expelling depression takes time.
My depression is caused by emotional overloading, when my head can’t work out how to heal the pain in my heart it eventually closes shop. Created some years back by an enormous pain that I errantly tried to hide, much like concealing an elephant under my jumper, the eventual weight of this burden caused my body and mind to go on strike. Shutting me down forced the avoidance of these emotions to stop. Everything stopped. In a bleak and blank space which only my elephant and I shared, I was forced to address his presence. And so it goes for ever more, too much going on not enough time to think, down tools. It sends me into a dark space where I’m incapable of achieving the simplest of things. The super mum with a hint of creative genius ruling the day as glamour personified no longer exist. In her place you will find a mess, a disgusting repulsive snivelling mess. Obviously by the nature of this illness I loathe this “me” and I hate most fervently the intrusion of the visitor who creates her. It makes me so very angry, and at first when I thud heavily to the base of the pit, I want to scream, could murder those who decide that depression would be my thing.
My depression has a name, meet Mr “Not Good Enough”, he likes to drum his name against the inside of my head continuously.
“Sarah, you are not out of bed yet, it’s not good enough”
“Sarah, you haven’t hoover the hallway, cleaned the bathroom, ironed the school shirts, cooked the tea, it’s not good enough”
“Sarah, you can’t catch the escaped guinea pig and your son is very upset, it’s not good enough”
“Sarah, you reacted badly to your son’s behaviour, it’s not good enough”
“Sarah why don’t you know how to get your complex ASD and attachment challenged child to school? It’s not good enough”
“Sarah, you’re crying again, it’s not good enough”
“Sarah what do mean you can’t cope? IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH”
Fear not however I am a seasoned fighter, I refuse to remain its victim for long and I have many tricks up my sleeve. Operation recovery is the small achievement plan. Firstly I don blinkers, I am no longer able to see the piles of washing, the mould growing in the shower or the dirt ingrained carpet, it will all still be there when I am fully recovered. I set myself a small project, getting out of bed, having a shower, getting dressed and reward myself plentifully for my success “Well Done Sarah, you did it”. And so it goes. Tiny steps with plenty of rewards. Nothing too stressful or demanding because as soon as there is a sniff of none achievement the drumming inside my head beats again. The unavoidable responsibility of children sometimes requires assistance from a loving husband or great deal of recovery time after pushing through a sickeningly difficult task, breakfast and the school run. Depression doesn’t like exercise, can’t handle the happy hormones which it awakens, so I try my best to irritate with a walk or a run. Sleep and rest are also met with disapproval as they refresh and empower the mind, respite before school pick up is essential. When I’m kind to myself I slowly begin to nourish my soul and replenish me. In feeding me I starve him. Simple.
I say simple but reality does not always hand out concessions to depressives. A £800 bill to fix the car, a son who threatens to hit a dinner lady and a much stressed blaspheming husband can always push you back into decline. Holding on tightly as the thrust subsides onwards and upwards I continue to go. So today has been a vast improvement on yesterday, I haven’t cried once and I left the house twice. Some days progress is diminutive on others its leaps and bounds, the important thing is to read my capability and not surpass it. This plan is a good one that works well for me, however I know that I am fortunate enough to have a work at home husband who can take the reins on occasions when required and I’m not in full time employment with an inflexible boss. Having suffered with depression for almost half my life and being diagnosed for over ten, this situation is not luck or accident it’s what we do to manage the illness. I understand that I would find working full time in a very rigid job alongside providing the complete care my family requires an almost certain impossibility. This sometimes makes me feel very sad.
My friend has started to pack his bags and will soon be hitting the road; of this I am now more certain than I was yesterday. I’m sure I will see him again but hopefully not for a long time. However I will regard him from a distance and track his activities with interest. My fortifications will be strengthened and my determination resolute, no more uninvited visitors.
In case you missed the story of the escaped guinea pig at the weekend. Rebellious and adventure seeking guinea pig called Cotton managed to perform a dramatic dive from my arms into a very thick hedgerow, Saturday lunch time. Various rescue attempts were made throughout the day, best one being by a very drunk husband after returning from afternoon in the pub (head wetting, not common Saturday activity). This involved demanding the children get down from the dinner table mid eating their tea and marching the whole family outside to poke sticks in hedge and make noise. Didn’t work, anyway I’d already tried it but the effort of trying to tell inebriated other half wasn’t worth it. So the little fella spent a night in the wilderness. Youngest son very concerned especially since it’s not long since the death of Cotton’s predecessor (see A Death in the Family). My stress levels rocketing, because of the trauma my son might yet again be exposed to, the guilt that this was indeed my fault and husband being a complete handful.
Sunday morning after little sleep and husband with headache and little recollection, we manage to rescue the guinea pig. Relief all round. Here are the pictures of a reunited rodent and his adoring owner.
One of my great parenting dilemmas is how much independence to give my children and are the boundaries set for them or to ensure I feel in control? Today I allowed my son a little bit of independence with which he proverbially hung himself and then I shot him, proverbially, through the heart for doing so.
Know that saying “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile”, well that’s Stig. This is a child who has constantly kicked at the boundaries with defiance, and in moments of anger he openly flaunts his disregard for the rules. To be fair in recent times and through our firm resolution to the consequences laid out for such rebelliousness, Stig has learnt, often the very hardest way, that by break rules he loses out. So we come to a more mature young man, nine years old, trying his very hardest to walk away from trouble and keep towing the line. In an act of appreciation for these signs of maturity I have entrusted certain jobs to him which involve a level of independence. I allow him to take the post to the post box. It’s just along the road we live on; he crosses a small side road to get there and is there and back in three to four minutes. Again, recently I sent him into the Co-op for some milk whilst I stayed outside in the car with his brother. He’s desperate to be entrusted with these acts of independence and his eye glint with disbelief when you ask him to carry them out. So imagine the sparkle there in his eyes when I informed him he could walk home from a party he was attending today, a bit further than the post box but manageable. I gave the full speech on how important it was he didn’t abuse this privilege and a full low down on what that would mean to him in the future and to the impression it gave of his capability, if he did. I was stern, probably too stern but I was feeling a little uncertain of my, sorry hubby was consulted, our decision.
So how did we reach this momentous decision? Knowing my son I often watch him like a hawk and ensure he is aware that I can read him like a book and know his every move. At times the constant lying, pushing of boundaries and trying to get away with things has left me feeling very little trust in him. I think he is aware of this. But as I said, there has been a change in him and I’ve started seeing a big boy before me. Some of his peers have also been allowed small acts of independence, walking home from school and calling on friends. I must point out that we live in what I would consider a very safe small town community where people know each other and know whose kids are whose. This in mind I started to question the intensity of control I was levelling at him and decided I need to show him that I was learning to trust him. Also I wanted to demonstrate some appreciation for the effort he has put into his behaviour at home and at school.
So off to the party he goes, with a parting “and don’t forget to bring your coat home”. Hubby dropped him off, making sure he was safely there and that the parents were aware he was walking home. Fast forward two hours and my phone rings, a mum I don’t know that well. “Hi, Stig has got himself upset, is hiding in a bush and won’t come out. He says he’s walking home on his own but I’m not sure that’s right”. Instantly I’m annoyed, I know, horrid mother. I march round and order him out of hiding and home with threats of never seeing his DS again. Things only get worse once we are within our own four walls. There is shouting, screaming, physical retaliation, unpleasant language and not all from my son. I end up having to restrain him or he will put his foot through his bedroom door and he’s already slammed it in my husband face, physical contact made. After I’ve held him, he sits on one side of his door and me on the other. We start to make amends. I apologise for not being more understanding and for some of the unpleasantness which has gone on. I eventually ask if he would like a hug and he crawls into my lap, gently rocking him I kiss the back of his neck and nuzzle my face in his hair.
The story goes, another child was showing off to him, provoking him, Stig retaliated verbally, eventually an argument started and a tussled ensued. Once an adult had intervened Stig walked outside and hid in the bush, flight. I could have written the scenario given the starting point and the other child involved. Once outside Stig knew that people were watching him out of the window, mum who called was standing with him, and the more the situation grew the harder it was for him to claw it back. Hence the phone call.
I’m angry with myself on so many plains it’s unbelievable. First the obvious one, I allowed my own feelings of annoyance to be the emotion I led with when dealing with him. Not sympathy and understanding which was required, he was already angry with his actions he didn’t need my criticism as well. Secondly, I didn’t think through all the possibilities of the situation. I didn’t contemplate the complex interactions he would be dealing with at a large party in a different environment. Why didn’t I think about these text book considerations for my adopted child? If I had considered this I would never have thought this was the ideal time to show him my trust. I would have realised that the heightened sense of having this independence would not help him deal with an altercation. Also if I’d been going to collect him I would probably have arrived before the situation inflamed and my expectations on arrival would have been different. Thirdly, this impacts on Tink, he finds it distressing for his brother to be so angry and dealt with unfairly. Seeing his brothers display of emotions met with such negativity, feeds his belief that displays of emotions create hurt and hardship and should therefore not be encouraged.
Someone please tell me they have a time machine which will allow me to go back and rectify this awful day. No, well then I’ll have to do what we always do when things don’t go to plan. Piece the broken bits back together with plenty of love, honesty, patience and understanding, learn from our mistakes and move forward. As far as cutting those apron strings, faith will be restored and I’m sure we’ll soon find an opportunity to try again.