You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
And I’m angry a lot.
You can call it frustration, irritation, having ‘the shits’ (Australian vernacular), being pissed off but it all amounts to the same thing. Anger. And if that anger is not positively expressed, then it becomes depression, guilt, resentment and self-loathing. I think I’ve experienced them all in varying amounts but the fact remains that I have ridden this frightening roller-coaster of exhausting and self-defeating emotional turmoil for far too long. I’d love to say that I’m coming out of it now. I’d love to say that I can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel but honestly, being in a tunnel suggests forward movement. I feel like I’m at the bottom of a very, very deep pit. And that’s where I’m stuck.
I made the decision to come off my PND medication a couple of months ago. I have gradually been reducing the dosage and it’s been bumpy but bearable. However, I have noticed that the anger is amping up again. Certainly the anger was there even with the anti-depressants, but I guess I wasn’t as connected to it. I wasn’t as connected to anything actually – hence my decision to come off. But I am concerned about what it is happening to me right now. I am yelling so much. I am swearing so much more. I plunge into irritation and frustration at the slightest provocation and, today, the cherry on the cake, my anxiety started to resurface. I had that fear, for the first time in ages, that something was going to happen to my child and that our last exchange was an angry one. I had to fight hard to not give in to the wave of panic that rose. I had to remind myself fiercely that, as Beanie is in school, it is unlikely that anything bad will happen to her and that I am simply feeling much of what has been dampened down by the medication. Honestly? I was quite happy to have this particular feeling dampened. It gives rise to this sense of hopelessness and guilt that is horrible to sit with. Because there is always a chance, isn’t there? Always a chance that this horrible ‘un-wish’ could come true. And then where would I be? How do you live with something like that? I hope that I never have to find out because just scanning that scenario is enough to send me limping for the Nutella and Gin.
It’s funny but nobody ever tells you how very scary your own mind can be. I have had times in my life, though thankfully they were short, where I truly wondered if I was losing my mind. Or if our family is just genetically more pre-disposed to mental, what shall we call it, disturbances? That sounds a little bit too ‘Psycho’. This is more of a mental gloominess. Understandable on many levels and yet, the spirit is strong in almost all of us. These stressful wonderings are made worse by the presence of real mental illness in the form of my older brother. The childhood thing was just too much for this sensitive boy and he turned inwards and became inaccessible with cataonia, and then unreachable with schizophrenia. Suddenly there were just too many ‘other’ voices in his head for him to hear ours and he changed from being a handsome young man with his whole life ahead of him, to a reclusive and increasingly paranoid late middle aged man who looks much older. A visibly shrunken, wizened version of himself, prematurely grey and with his troubles written all over his beautiful face. And there he stays. Taunted by voices from the past who berate him and keep him pinned in such a dark, dark place, very little light or love can reach him. So you can imagine how the thought that I might end up like him crosses my mind from time to time. Because I was there too. Not for as long and thank all the Gods for that sweet mercy, but long enough for just a little of that darkness to stick to my insides and cause these glitches in my otherwise happy existence.
It’s amusing because before I had children, I never thought of myself as a depressive personality. Sure I had been sad before, even experienced some real grief, but I always knew that it was fleeting and that it would pass. Even the depression I suspect I experienced after my relationship with Adam fell apart had an end. But our family don’t get depressed. At least I didn’t think so. Until, that is, I look hard at what feelings where experienced during difficult times. Understandable levels of grief at loss, and sadness where it was appropriate but when my mum’s sister died, she grieved alone and not for anywhere near long enough. She didn’t want to upset anyone else even though she was completely devastated. Our family has this toxic history of never truly expressing our emotions. Of never truly connecting with that big wall of ‘ack!’ that lives inside of each of us and that stems from all of the horrible psychic, emotional and physical beatings we have endured. And why would you want to? Because healing cannot come through such high walls, such well guarded fortresses. And so, with each tiny prick of sadness, each small niggle of grief, each small spark of rage – another brick is added until we are convinced that we are coping beautifully, while everything smokes and slowly burns away at our happiness unnoticed by our brisk, busy and cheerful air.
It’s all so deeply ingrained that we don’t even know it’s there most of the time. We just ‘get on with it’ or, my personal favourite, we ‘grin and bear it,’ as so many people do. As so many people of my mamma’s generation had drummed into them and indeed, there is most definitely a place for that. I don’t want to wallow in a big pool of self-pity, or at least not long enough for my skin to get all pruney. I want to ‘do’ and keep moving, even if I’m going around in circles at the bottom of this fucking pit. At least I’m doing something. I’m not waiting to be rescued, though clearly I would need someone to at least chuck down a ladder in order for me to climb out. Unless depression gives you wings anyway. And I hate feeling lethargic and useless. I am someone used to doing, achieving, action. So when the depression is at its worst and I can see no point in doing anything because it will only be there to tackle again tomorrow, it’s demoralising to my accustomed gusto too. I have been here for far too long now. I am missing so much of my children’s lives, bogged down in regret and self-loathing. I know that I am not a wholly bad mother. I realise that I am simply a loving mamma who has anger issues, but that’s not what I live with daily. I live with the outbursts, the foot-stomping, tantrum throwing, unreasonable, resentful mamma, who just wants everyone to fuck the hell off and let her alone to sew, for fucks sake! And that is who my children live with too. And that is what I find hard to forgive. I am so far from who I imagined I would be that I’m not sure who I am any more, and that’s more worrying than most things right now. I am, once more, in this process of unravelling, or revealing all the scarred and wounded places I would really rather not look at. Thankfully, I have a good woman by my side who can be stern and soft in equal measure (and believe me, I do need both, for I am an artful dodger when it comes to uncomfortable emotions) and who offers me a place to empty out. It’s slow going and I admit I find it frustrating sometimes. WHY do I need to go back to these pockets of darkness in order to feel the sunlight on my face again and be reminded of who I am? Why? Why? Why? (A question i get asked a lot by my nearly two year old!). Surely the past is exactly, exasperatingly that? THE PAST. But know, delve we must. Blah blah fucketty blah.
So this is where I am. Sitting in a big pile of my own emotional shite at the bottom of a very deep well, wanting a ladder and ignoring it when it’s there, in equal measure and trying to negotiate this progressively more unmedicated state with some degree of grace. Most days, it’s broke and I feel like I’ll never fix it. As I think I said to my hubble just the other day, some days my life feels like a Mike Leigh film and he’s not known for his rainbow unicorns. Ho hum.
Anyway – as this has been largely a big pile of emotional doodoo to write and, I’m sure, to read, I will leave you (or is it just myself I’m talking to?), with something cheerier to think about. Just be grateful Mr Leigh never brought out a fabric line…
Stuff I have made (and look, it’s in cheery bright colours too, ooooh: