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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.