Saturday, 28 May 2016

When Motherhood and Mental Health Collide

** Trigger warning: self harm and anxiety **

"But you're better now, right? Happy now? Grown up?"

I nod. I smile. I lie.

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week. I was in the grip of my long-held demons and I thought that maybe writing down the truth about my mental health would be cathartic; that it would help me to drag myself out the other side. As it happens, writing about those feelings while I had them was therapeutic in its way, but did nothing to portray the cold, hard truth about living with mental health problems as a mother. Instead, it came out too raw, too heartfelt and too much like a cry for help. I don't want help - I've had plenty in my lifetime and know where to turn when I want more - I just don't want to keep nodding, smiling and lying. So, here's the truth. I'm just sorry that it won't necessarily be what everyone wants to hear.

Hi. I'm Dani and I'm a self harmer. 

The scars on my arms and legs are not products of a misspent youth, leftover relics of past issues or any of the other bollocks I spout whenever I'm questioned about them. They are an enormous part of who I still am; testament to a demon that I carry around with me every day, sometimes only just managing to keep a lid on its hellbent anger. I am still a self harmer - I will always be a self harmer - I'm just resisting.

Of course there have been long periods when the urge to hurt myself has been dormant - when I've been settled and in control in almost every other aspect of my life and haven't felt the need to claw some back at the expense of my skin - but then I became a parent and suddenly I wasn't in control of very much any more. Then I had a second baby and I was no longer in control of anything. Here's the ironic thing: I crave control and order, but I get so overwhelmed by life's little (and sometimes quite big) curveballs that I can never seem to get a grip on any of that stuff. I'm shit with money so I don't open my post. I struggle to keep on top of the housework so I close the door on the worst of it and pretend it doesn't exist. I worry that I'm not doing enough to make my children happy so I let them watch TV while I cry in the kitchen.

These problems sound so trivial, but they add up to a tangle of anxiety that feels like white noise in my head and holy shit I miss having a coping mechanism for that. I don't give in to the temptation to cut myself because I don't want to let my children or my family down, and because I know it's dangerous at its worst, but I miss it so fucking much. I've never admitted this to anyone before but sometimes I even dream about it and I'm not talking cold-sweat nightmares; these are dreams filled with longing.

I'm sorry to everyone that thought I was better. Take comfort from the fact that I will go on resisting for the sake of my children; self harm is so insular that I can't afford to get back into my own head like that. The thought of how much of my babies' childhoods I might miss should I give into this demon keeps me out of its embrace.

So I will just go on missing it, because that's the lesser of my two evils.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

A Letter to My Saviour

Holy shit, we've done it. Again. We've survived the first six months with a new child - twice - and on this, our seventh 'unofficial' anniversary (of the day we became an item; now eclipsed by our 'proper' anniversary), I want to write you a love letter. Again.

Let's face it, I've written you a lot of love letters: some public, some not, all very gushy. This one is going to be a bit more real, if you like. By now, everyone knows the story of the two friends that fell in love and finally admitted it to each other. They all know that 'Halo' by Beyonce is our song because you were the one person that got me to let my guard down. They know that I think you look a lot like Shayne Ward and that it's part of the reason I married you. What they probably don't know is how hard we have to work for our marriage sometimes.

Being married is tricky. Being married with a young child is challenging. Being married with two is unspeakably difficult. They say that seven years is when you get the 'itch', and I'd love to sit here and say that neither of us have ever had a wobble but I'd be lying, and those wobbles are never more keenly felt than when there's a small baby around the house and your wife feels like her body belongs to someone else. There have been times that I thought I'd be better off doing things on my own, and there were times that I was certain you'd have been better off without me, but thankfully neither of us gave up.

This being our second time around, we knew that the difficult bit was temporary but, in the midst of our sleep deprived and sex starved fog, that wasn't always easy to see. There were times when I wondered if our marriage was failing and I'm sure you have felt it too on occasions, and there were times when I wondered if there was enough of me to share between three whole people who needed me. Well, as it turns out, there really is. Things have started to balance out and I finally feel a bit like my old self; a bit more like a wife as well as a mother.

Thank you for being so patient with me through the early months - twice. In fact, thank you for being my rock and saviour for the last seven years (and before that, if I'm honest). You took a broken shell and you made it whole and full and you are, without doubt, still the most handsome man I've ever met. Above all else, you are my best friend.

I love you more now than ever, because now I know that, with you on my team, I can take on the world.

To us.