Signed off Sick

One of David’s friends once said that I sounded happy from my blog: and yet he didn’t think I was.  This was at a time when my marriage was nothing more than parallel lives and I was building up a huge pile of resentment because I felt as if I was doing everything and David was doing nothing (obviously in my mind I was exaggerating things, but that is where we had got to).

I was brought up that to think that I shouldn’t be unhappy about anything – who was I to be unhappy when I had so much – health, money, brains… and more recently three children at an age when many women have given up child-bearing.

But all through my 20s and 30s I suffered from mood swings and at my lowest was conscious of a black hole of loneliness in the pit of my being.  By the time I met David I had gained the self-esteem to have filled in that black hole: even so when I met David I felt truly loved for the first time in my life, and having the children increased that feeling and led to an enormous feeling of fulfillment.  And people kept telling me I was amazing…

It was great.  I felt amazing.  And so I took on more and more.  When David left I still felt amazing, but amazing and single.  And so, ultimately, I got a full-time job (just as Edward started school), even though I knew that in the past that had turned me into a horrible person and that I had always felt vehemently that while the kids were little I only wanted to work part-time: but I wanted the money to be able to take the kids on holiday abroad.  My singing increased: I started my own singing group and accepted almost every offer to sing which I got given.  And I fell in love with a man more whole-heartedly than I had ever fallen in love with anyone before: he made me feel so incredibly and fully feminine and so much that I was my real self.  In addition the job has a long commute over to West Cumbria, which a friend of mine had told me she found hard.  In my pig-headed way I thought I was different from her.  And I also tried to keep up my running…

In September, with the start of term and the sense that autumn was looming, I suddenly began to panic and to feel that everything was about to change.  On some days sheer paranoia set in; I began to feel unhappy about how little I was seeing my children and about the long journey to work and to worry about and question all sorts of things in my life.  I gave myself several kicks up the backside; thought it was perhaps to do with my unsettled past; started checking tarot cards.  Singing still went well and gave me joy and relaxation, but quite often I would get stressed out by my children and end up shouting at them angrily and then feeling guilty.  My daughter said she wanted to go to live with her father.  On a couple of occasions I couldn’t face going to work: one time, driving, I got almost as far as Cockermouth before I pulled into a layby, burst into tears, and then drove home and back to bed.

Last week after a tearful day in the office I finally made an appointment to see my Doctor.  I felt pathetic: why couldn’t I just pull myself together.  She signed me off for two weeks.  The sense of relief was huge but my moods still swing from calm-ish to tearful and even worse.  I have never felt so low in my life before.  The black hole isn’t there: there’s no need for me to be lonely nor to feel I’m doing everything alone, as I am surrounded by good friends, including – perhaps to my surprise – my ex-husband, who has stepped in with understanding and helped with the children, both in terms of having them and in terms of talking about them.  And thank goodness for text messaging and emails which can be of almost instantaneous reassurance (and if they’re not, you just delete them!).

David has lent me a book his girlfriend Rebecca had lent him, called I Had a Black Dog (Matthew Johnstone).  It opens with ‘looking back, Black Dog had been in and out of my life since my early twenties’: how spot on.  My Black Dog hasn’t been around for a few years but he seems to have been gathering a huge amount of strength over the past month or so – and who knows, perhaps for longer – and has leapt out at me and knocked me over.  I’ve been trying to make decisions about major things in my life, and as David says, now is not the time to do that.

I’m only at the beginning of this journey: whilst I feel more optimistic as I write this, I have spent most of today in tears and didn’t even manage to get the kids their breakfast until it was almost lunchtime.  And yes, there are times when I think it would be easier to jump into one of the fast-flowing near flood-level rivers around: except I have three children and I want to see how they turn out, and I also want to see what happens next.  In addition there is a tiny bit of me which never gives up hope that everything will actually turn out OK, one way or another: that dreams can come true.

There is no conclusion to this blogpost as there is no conclusion to this part of my story at the moment.  I just wanted to share it openly as it’s something which has almost taken me by surprise; I always thought you could talk or work yourself out of feeling low but I’m not managing it with this bout.  I’ve always remembered a bit at the beginning of a chapter in Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow where she says she walks into depression and accepts it.  That’s how it is: like an illness which I have to accept and which will pass.   And for now, that’s all I can say.

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