Be a social butterfly...

I’m struggling at the moment.

I wrote those five words and then stared at my computer screen for half an hour before I could work out what else I wanted to say, if anything.

Recently I wrote about my struggles with depression.  I considered the post very carefully and made sure I was ready to share it and yet when I hit publish, I panicked.  I’d decided to share my story because having opened up to a few people I’d noticed an improvement in my mood.  With every person I told, the details became easier to verbalise and the problem less solitary – most people had either experienced themselves or supported a loved one who had grappled with the Black Dog.

I wondered how it would feel to tell everyone and after much debate I’d done it!  I needn’t have panicked – the response was incredible.  I’ve never felt so much love and encouragement from so many people.  Even now, months later, I’m receiving emails from people about my post.   I couldn’t be more grateful.

Writing that post felt like I was taking control – taking the problem out of my head and putting it into words.  This post feels much less triumphant and yet I think it’s important to write, because it’s the reality of the situation.

Vintage Folly winter fireplace

In the weeks that followed ‘Black Dog‘ I felt a marked improvement.  My motivation returned, I could sleep and I began to find space in my head and in my day to enjoy things.   I finally had my roots done(!), I returned every email, I watched my daughters play without overanalysing or doubting my parenting skills.

Betty and dottie

Instead of hiding away, I became a yes person – yes I’ll come to that party, yes I’ll review that product, yes I want to be involved.  I took time to do the things that made me happy.

Rachel and dottieI stayed up late tackling household chores and spent my days enjoying my daughters, I took leisurely walks through the park, I put my arms around my Husband, I wrote, I crafted, I baked.  I curled my hair, wore my best frocks and laughed and smiled like the old me.   I felt like a flamingo!   Candy coloured and fabulous – I could do it all standing on one leg 🙂  But it didn’t last.

Vintage beauty parlour Rachel folly

Having fought an invisible illness for so long, a very visible one struck me down.   I got the flu.  Proper flu.  ‘I can’t get out of bed, eat or even bear to brush my teeth’ flu.   It hit me really hard and just as I was feeling better Phill got poorly, then Beth and then me again.  I was physically and mentally exhausted, but with the Christmas countdown already begun, we pulled it all together as best we could.  But then Dorothy was bitten by our cat Jim and treated with Penicillin which we discovered, she’s allergic to.

Were I not already beating myself up about Jim biting Dottie while they were sat next to me, seeing an angry rash spread across her tiny body, her little lips swelling and her face bright red, was enough to make me completely hate myself.

Poorly dorothy

Dottie bounced back very quickly as children do, but I could not.  I no longer felt like a flamingo but an ostrich.  Gone was the silky pink, replaced by shaggy grey feathers that looked in need of a wash.  I wanted to bury my head until it was all over and yet I couldn’t pin point what ‘it’ was.  I was a mess – my skin was breaking out and despite my best efforts I couldn’t get control of the house – the laundry, the dishes, the garden, the toys, the nappies, the carpet, the cats, the kitchen floor…all felt like they were working against me.  I didn’t want to be at home because home felt like chaos and yet I couldn’t go out because I felt so much guilt for not addressing it.  As my ‘to do’ list got longer, my brain became foggier.  I began to forget things again, appointments, phone calls, deadlines.  Simple things felt impossible like opening mail, checking emails or even answering simple questions.

All that progress, all those times I’d announced how much brighter I was feeling – gone.

I’d like to tell you that this was a blip and that I’m feeling much better but I can’t – I’m not.  I can’t decide whether I’m a flamingo who feels like an ostrich right now or an ostrich who for a time was able to masquerade as a flamingo.  I don’t know which one I am.

I know I’m letting everyone down right now.  Dorothy is one at the end of January and I just feel as though this year has flown by and I’ve missed it or worse, I’ve ruined it. I feel robbed of the time and guilty that for Phill and Beth, our baby’s first year will be tainted with memories of my struggle.

I’m my own worst enemy – I’m even neglecting the things that are most likely to help.  ‘Creating’ lifts my spirits and makes me feel in control and yet I hardly commit any time to it.  Despite the fact that it’s probably my best chance to get better, I’ve been struggling to complete anything.  I’m struggling now to bring this post to a close because it’s the opposite of what I usually share.  There’s no happy ending yet, no resolution and right now I can’t see it in the distance however hard I try. But I am trying – I’m trying really hard.

Be a social butterfly...

  • Emma Lander

    Oh my darling you are not letting anyone down. You can’t help being ill or the cat biting Dotty. You are a brilliant mum and a lovely person but you need to give yourself a break. Kids don’t remember how dirty your kitchen floor is or the smell from an errant nappy you’ve lost but know is festering somewhere. Go out. Leave the mess. Concentrate on your well being and, once you begins to feel better, then tackle the small things like the housework. If you need anything I am here. Could you not treat yourself to a cleaner? Just to help you over this bit. Lots of love xxx

  • Claire Thomas

    Let’s have a lunchtime drink this week. Tootle into town and I’ll treat you and D to a massive cuppa. Would be lovely to chat x

  • Rachel Coggin

    Oh Rachel you are most definitely a flamingo who feels like an Ostrich at the moment. You can and will come through this, the Black Dog is horrible he makes you think he’s gone and then he lurks in your happy moments ready to pounce (I know this from experience). But with the help of friends and family you can banish him. You are a huge inspiration to many people, myself included and I really hope you can see the back of the dog soon xxx

  • Hodge Podge Blog

    Oh Rachel, firstly I’m sending you some great big hugs. I’ve trodden this path for about six years now. I feel the same about ruining Ben’s first everything. It is hard, juggling everything in your life is hard. I too swing wildly between flamingo and ostrich and for me and I imagine most people like us, it’s always one step forward and two steps back. That’s probably very little comfort, I don’t think there’s a magic cure, but knowing you’re not alone when you’re feeling these things and thinking those thoughts can be some comfort. I’m always here lovely, always xxx

  • Kelly Anne Dancer

    You are not alone my love. I constantly feel as though I take one step forward & 2 back. Some days I’m on top of the world, others I wonder if I can sink any lower. I know it’s easy to say, but try not to beat yourself up. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other honey, and keep on talking to people. We are here

  • Lucy Gillhespy

    Depression isn’t something you just get out of your system. If you suffer with it its always there. Even when you are feeling your best there’s still that part of you that knows it will return.
    It’s great that people are talking about mental health these days, it doesn’t solve the problem but it makes it easier for people to realise they are not alone and many others they thought ‘had it all together’ were actually fighting the same kind of battle…but also hiding it well.
    There’s far too much pressure on people these days to be perfect, the perfect wife, the perfect mother…when who is to decide? It’s just another way for people to put themselves down when they don’t meet ‘expectations’. Don’t beat yourself up, you are a kind hearted person and that’s something you can’t learn from a YouTube tutorial! Yes times will get hard and the Black Dog will once again return to darken your doorway, but you got this. You are surrounded by people who understand the constant fight inside your own mind and that is because you are open and honest. It’s because of people like you sharing their own experience that people like me feel it’s OK to admit I’m overwhelmed. That I’m not all sunshine and roses 24/7 and the happy go lucky person I portray myself to be on social media. But you know what, that’s OK. Because most people aren’t!
    You are braver than me. You are opening your heart to the world and making people talk about mental health and for that you should feel very proud x x

  • Julia Unwin

    Firstly Ostrich feathers are used to make those big burlesque fans and headdresses and they are the sexiest things on earth. Secondly, I’m sure you have, but you must speak to a professional about your depression. Post natal depression is a serious illness and you wouldn’t blame yourself for having say – malaria! Lastly, cut yourself some slack. No one will remember any of the things you are worried about – dishes etc etc are not important. People remember being loved, nothing else. And go make something – it helps! X