2016… I Guess It Was OK.

Ahhh, Christmas, it’s so good that it’s finally fucked off for another year. This summer I’ve been blessed with solitude. Three weeks with an empty house. Tasty-but-intense Flatmate, has moved on and taken Jealous McCuntbeak with him, and the kids have been staying with the Ex. And I’ve been… I don’t really know what I’ve been. Not lonely, just… in a state of limbo. It’s like being suddenly pulled from a busy, noisy train station and sucked into a noiseless vacuum. I miss Jealous McCuntbeak. Not her incessant squawking, but I miss her affectionate play-fighting, and the way she went ape-shit if you gave her a ball or a box to play with.

My immune system has taken a dive again, so I’ve been bombarded with colds and viruses, and a nasty kidney infection. Instead of enjoying my me-time I’ve been run down and my sleep schedule is all over the place. I miss the kids, but I know that their return is going to hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m looking forward to it anyway.

Last year was, frankly, horrific for so many people. For me it was a deep personal struggle, but for others it was more than that. Families torn apart, loved ones lost, and lets not forget Bowie.

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But then, tragedy strikes every year, and there is no such thing as a “bad” year, it’s just a matter of perspective. While 2016 was difficult, there are many things that I’m grateful for.

♥ From hardship comes personal development. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve grown.

♥Help from my community. Huge thanks to Rocky Steer, Gail Golding and Nicky Hughes (and co.) from the Kai Kitchen/Donation Station for saving my arse when I was falling apart. These incredible women and their friends provided me and my family with ready cooked meals, and home baking when I lost the ability to function. The food was a huge help, but what really got me through was the unreserved kindness and caring. I’ve never felt so loved, you kick-started my recovery. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

♥My daughter was awarded an exemption from school so that I can home-school her. It’s not easy, but it’s the best option for her and to see the change it’s made in her makes it all worth it.

♥My parents helped me financially more than they should have, as well as helping out around the property.

♥Love from unexpected places. Someone I would never have expected showed up on my doorstep and gave me a firm “you’re not okay and you need to get your shit together”.  She believed in me enough to give me the strength do make the changes I needed to make to get well. Sometimes we need someone with brass balls to call us on our bullshit.

♥Everyone who bought a tutorial or a piece of jewellery. Thank you all. It’s you who make ends meet.

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Super-mums: Liars or Drug Fiends?

Some days, I love being a mum. I love hanging out with my kids, teaching them things and answering their endless questions. Being a parent is a unique experience, no one does it the same way. Every child is different and watching them grow and evolve in to little members of society is like watching beautiful flowers blossom and blah blah blah………. you know how mummy blogs are meant to go. “I’m a super-mum, I wore my babies until they were big enough to permanently kink my spine; I breastfed my children until they were 13 years old; only organic vegetables plucked from the Earth under a new moon goes into my homemade baby food – which, buy the way, you can purchase from my website at $23 per serve.”

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What you can’t see is that the two girls are in tears, Dad’s about to step in dog shit, and Mum’s wishing she was home alone with a cocktail.

I was a super-mum last week. Last week was an A-grade parenting extravaganza. Today, they’re driving me crazy. They’re no different than usual, but I’m PMSing hard, and everything they do seems to be designed to torture me. Boy-child speaks painfully slow, but what he’s telling me is clearly important to him, so I have to patiently sit and wait and resist the urge to hurry him up. Trying to get him to follow instructions is an exercise in futility. If I tell him to go and get dressed, he’ll disappear for 20 minutes to do various other crucial tasks that are not getting dressed, such as pulling faces in the mirror or reloading his Nerf guns. It takes him 4 trips to his bedroom and back just to retrieve a pair of pants. On the way out the door, he needs to go to the toilet even though he just went, then he’ll ask if he can give the rats a treat, then the cats. Then he needs to tell me something really import that he saw on YouTube about Minecraft.

Girl-child is like a puppy with periodic rabies. She’s overflowing with love and adoration, and would probably be down to play fetch until she collapsed if I were to suggest it. She talks to the animals in an insanely high pitched squeak that seems to be at a frequency that can pass effortlessly through walls and my skull. It’s become such an ingrained habit, that she often doesn’t register that she’s doing it, and seconds after being asked to stop, she’s doing it again. Sometimes, she’s a dragon. She speaks in Dragonesse and starts roaring, hissing, trumpeting and walking on all fours. This is usually a sign that she is  about to lose her ability to regulate her actions, not to be naughty, but just out of sheer unbridled excitement.

Every now and then, without warning , she goes apoplectic. She throws things, tells me she hates me, my house, and everything in it. She stomps around and inevitably,  hurts herself, setting off Screaming Banshee mode. Then she goes to her room, and after a couple of minutes of tearing the linen off her bed and doing her best angry diva impression ,  she starts calling for me, apologizes then tells me why everything is my fault. These tantrums can take a few minutes, or last several hours.

I envy the mothers who can just sit back and smile serenely as the chaos washes over them. They must be on some hella good drugs. Why aren’t those bitches sharing?

As Desperate As An Ice-Cube In Hell

I thought about turning on the TV tonight, but I can’t get my head around watching it alone. Since my separation, I’ve hardly really watched TV at all. Which is weird, because it’s not like me and Ex really watched anything together toward the end anyway, mostly because we couldn’t be in the same room as each other. I vaguely recall spending most evenings either beading with my headphones on or laying in the bath for hours with a bottle or two of wine, while he either slept on the couch in front of the TV or skulked off into his shed to pretend he was busy.

Before it got like that, back when we did watch shows together, it was always what he wanted to watch. Typical male king-of-the-remote-control stuff. He would fall asleep and I would gently pry the remote out from between him and the cushion. I would slowly turn the volume down before changing the channel, hoping that the sudden shift from one show to another wouldn’t startle him awake. There’s an art to it, but I never mastered the skill. I invariably failed and would receive a glare and a, “I was watching that.” He would reclaim his precious prize, switch the channel back and nod off again.

Now days, if I’m faced with the challenge of deciding what to watch, I’m like a crippled little lamb. So mostly, I don’t watch anything except for The Walking Dead. If I’m with someone, I can watch, but I can’t make the choice. Even if there’s something that I want to watch, I’ll concede to someone else’s preference. It’s part lack of confidence in speaking up, and part being so desperate for company that I don’t want to risk them deciding not to join me on the couch.

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You see, I’m stunningly needy. I’ve only just come to realise this. I’m fairly certain that everyone who has ever dealt with me has been long aware it, while I’ve been existing as a shapeless mass of oblivious desperation. I’m horribly lonely, even when I’m not alone. I require constant reassurance that I’m a good person, a good mother, that I exist, that I’m not losing my mind, not a burden, not a hellish mash-up between The Blob and Freddy Kruger.

When someone doesn’t want to spend time with me, I “know” that it’s because of who I am as a person, or how I look. If someone rejects me, I feel like hideous monster who should be shunned from society. Conversely, if someone chooses to spent time with me, I feel like maybe I matter. If I’m lucky enough to spend the night with someone or be shown affection of any sort, I start to think maybe I’m not so bad. So I crave touch; a hug, a hand resting on mine, any kind of gesture. It’s not romance or love that I want, it’s just the feeling of being worth…. something. Hell, some days, I would be happy to be punched me in the face just for the sake of human contact, some kind of acknowledgement that I’m here and I matter. And that’s not a healthy way to be.

I’m learning a lot about myself as I work through this process, and most of it isn’t great and it hurts like Hell. But all the same, I’m glad that I’m figuring myself out, so that I can work on fixing it. Three steps forward and two steps back is still progress. Eventually, I’ll have found all the little pieces of me, I’ll cut back the rot and I’ll be content to be me. I’m not going to get any younger or prettier, so best I start learning to accept myself now before I’m a lonely old hag preying on handsome young Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on my door, insisting that they have one more cup of tea.

Catharsis

My head isn’t in the best of places today, but it’s probably just necessary to work out the kinks (although, some kinks I’m happy to keep ). It’s 1.30pm, and I’ve only just gotten out of bed, but today isn’t for pressure, today is for catharsis and for planning. My house is a mess, but fuck it. I don’t need to impress anyone today.

Today my plans include, sitting and crying; laying on the couch playing games on my phone; writing a list of small goals and a plan on how to achieve them; drinking lots of water; cat and rat cuddles (not at the same time); mindless drawing; walk on the beach.

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I need to stop trying to be what other people want me to be. I was me for a little while there, and I’m going to get that back. I need to stop feeling guilty for not being good enough, strong enough, generous enough, pretty enough. Changes are coming.

A Public Service Announcement For My Fellow Mentals

I have changed anti-depressant medications, and it was an awful experience. I have since found out that the standard New Zealand practice for changing SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor) medications is different from that of the rest of the world.  Australia advises a withdrawing period of 4-7 days, waiting 3 days before starting the new medication. America is on the most cautious side of the scale, reducing Zoloft over a period of 4+ weeks, waiting 7 days then introducing Escitalopram.

In New Zealand we just switch straight to the new one immediately. Going cold-turkey from Zoloft is risky and difficult, particularly if the dose is high and has been taken long term. Withdrawal can take several painful weeks. I thought it was unusual, so I made a point of asking the doctor if that was correct. She told me that because they’re both “short-acting” drugs an immediate change is suitable. This is so unique to New Zealand, that it is even mentioned as a side-note in the official UK GP Guidebook.   I have my suspicions that it is likely to be about money. In New Zealand we have a heavily subsidised healthcare system. In my area, I can see a GP for $17 and get prescriptions for $10, and three months worth of meds for $5, the government foots the rest of the bill. It’s pretty sweet. But it’s not perfect.

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I believe the reason that the method for switching SSRI’s is an over night change, is because weaning means more doctors visits, more prescriptions as each week is a different dosage, and therefore more cost to the Ministry of Heath. So people are suffering unnecessarily, because it’s cheaper. And I mean really suffering.

I was unable to function. It felt like I was moving through treacle, my head was spinning. I couldn’t make sense of anything. The simplest things were baffling. I was profoundly sad, and tired. At first, I couldn’t do much more than lay down and cry. There were times when I was detached from reality that I felt like I was an observer, watching the world from the outside. My responsibilities as a mother became monumental hurdles.

It’s been six days now, and I’m still feeling pretty run-down, but it’s getting better every day. I have learned a valuable lesson and I will never, EVER make a cold switch again. Always insist on tapering off SSRI’s

Good Times.

My last 7 days have been like this:

Thursday: Anxiety says,”Who needs cuticles? Let’s gnaw those fuckers off!”
Friday: You know what goes well together? Depression AND anxiety!
Saturday: Let mix things up a bit. How about we completely lose our shit, and throw in some massive panic attacks with hyperventilating?
Sunday: Panic attack hangover, ugh. Still got housework done, yay me!
Monday: Profoundly miserable.
Tuesday: Pretty damn good actually.
Wednesday:  Lots of aimless wandering. Why am I holding this box of cereal? No, this doesn’t belong in the bathroom.

Yesterday I went to my doctor. I’d been putting it off for a while because I didn’t want to accept that I couldn’t get my mental health under control by myself. However, it’s become increasingly obvious that I can’t so I had to do something. The end result is I have changed my medication from Zoloft to Escitalopram. Changing meds is very rarely a fun experience and my memories of starting Citalopram (slightly different version of the same drug) years ago are unpleasant. Two weeks of feeling like I was on an icky, muddy high. But once the side effects wore off, I found them quite effective, so fingers crossed.

I took my first one before bed because they’re suppose to make you drowsy and the doctor says they should improve my insomnia. But, first I have to deal with the unpleasantness. So I’m here again in the wee hours, I’ve had two hours sleep. I’m crazy tired but can’t drift off, and I have a hazy disconnection to reality like I’m viewing life though a camera’s lens. So my apologies if this post reads like jumbled up nonsense. Starting to feel kinda nauseous from the spinning sensation, so I’m going to lie down for a bit and hopefully get some sleep.

 

The Ocean Is Pretty, But It Will Fuck You Up.

I’m a crier. I cry a lot. It’s not that I cry at the slightest hint of emotion, I don’t cry unless I’m genuinely, deeply upset. But there’s the problem: I feel too much.  It’s like I’m standing on a shore and my emotions are waves rushing towards me and over me. The bigger the waves are, the harder it is to stay standing. Sometimes it’s a torrent and I’m pulled under, I can’t breathe, I can’t speak. I don’t have the words at that time to communicate or ask for help. I try, but the words don’t come. I want to show someone how I feel, I want to transfer a snippet of my experience to another person’s mind just for a moment, because then someone would understand what it is really like. For them to experience that helplessness, the feeling of being trapped, that suffocating pressure on their chest.

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And here we have a representation of the inner turmoil I feel while waiting to find out who Negan beats to death with Lucille on The Walking Dead. It’s gotta be Glenn, right?             Photo credit: Luis Ascenso

To say that I’m ‘over-emotional’ or ‘too sensitive’, is misleading, as it is often said as a synonym for ‘weak’.  Such expressions are often hurled, when what is really meant is “Your emotional response makes me uncomfortable and I don’t know how to react, so you must be faulty,”.

I am not weak, if I was weak I would have broken long ago. I’d be a drooling mess in a funny farm or worse. But I’m not, I’m still here. I’m fractured, but I’m still holding all the pieces in place. I am what Psychotherapist Joy Malik, calls a Deep Feeler. I am easily overwhelmed by my own feelings and the feelings of others.  My feelings are real and valid, they are not something that is enhanced intentionally. It is as much physiological as it is mental. Malik said, “For those with high sensitivity, strong emotional responses are natural and need to be processed in order to metabolize them.” And so I cry, and I write.

I write my most honest thoughts privately, and share publicly some of my struggles. I do this in writing because talking about them out loud is difficult. Being upfront about your emotional and mental health is not easy. It’s mistaken as self-pity. Some think I’m an over-sharer and should keep things to myself; have some class and dignity.  But the fact is, it’s taken me years to get to the point where I can be open about it, where I can say .”I’m not okay today” . I’m not ashamed of it anymore, nor should I be. I want to show my children that it’s safe to speak up when they’re not OK. The world is changing and the stigma is gradually lifting, but there’s still a fog of taboo that needs to be burned off. It’s time to clear the air.