The Beautiful Darkness

Emerging From The Darkness by Tim Rosier (via DeviantART)

Emerging From The Darkness by Tim Rosier (via DeviantART)

Emerging

In which I will write in the first person, because it feels important.

It’s an odd thing to realise that I have been cocooning myself away from the world without even realising that I was doing so. Slowly winding layers and layers of soft ‘not coping’ around me to protect myself from the rigorous expectations of others and the punishing expectations of my own self. Hiding in the darkness of my PND and using it as a barrier between me and the world ‘out there’, where I am ‘talented’, ‘strong’ and ‘capable’. The ‘out there’ where the bar is set so high in every area of my life, I have no hope of ever getting close to it.

In here, in this beautiful darkness, I am safe. It is quiet and peaceful and manageable. Out there is push and shove and noise and chaos and there is always drama and limits must be met and exceeded. In here, I am slow and sometimes melancholic and often angry but I have been given permission by my illness to simply put one foot in front of the other until the end of the long mothering day. In here, it is tight and restrictive and often uncomfortable, both mentally and emotionally, because it is the safety of failure, of ‘not good enough’ and in this small, tight darkness I have companions like Shame and Guilt and Anger. Yet squashed in here is still so much better than bearing the weight of all that other ‘stuff’ that waits for me, like a hungry wolf, out there.

I have come to realise that I have been cowed under the weight of everyone elses expectations of me. That carrying these expectations around on my shoulders has caused me to feel like I am simply going around and around in circles as I slowly grind myself into the ground. I was raised (unconsciously to be sure) to be ‘better than’. To always pit myself against the best and win. And if i didn’t? Well, there was sadness and guilt and shame. If I did, it was the best feeling in the world. I was loved and accepted by those whose love and acceptance I so desperately craved. Moreover, I was ‘Special’ and that seemed to be the most important thing to be. The problem with this type of early conditioning is that it becomes a part of your DNA without you even being aware of it. It’s not like, at the age of five, I had some kind of bullshit radar which kicked in  with a, ‘Hang on just a damn minute! You don’t have to better than X,Y & Z – or achieve X,Y, Z medals/distinctions, you just have to enjoy what you are doing!’ I only had the quiet urging in my ear to be the best. I am not blaming here. I want to make that absolutely clear. Everything that was said and done was said and done with the best of intentions. I am also aware of the old adage about the ‘road to hell’ being paved with such intentions. We do what we do when we know no better. And let’s face it, I am hardly without ‘sin’ when it comes to this shit. But still, since then I have always carried those expectations of greatness, high achieving and ‘better than’s’ with me and unconsciously tried to live up to them. The problem with this is that they are impossible to attain. Seriously. Equally problematic is the fact that logical argument (especially my own) never made me give up anything, let alone these deeply held beliefs about my own magnificence. I have, quite simply, grown up with the expectation that I will be something extraordinary and with an absolute horror of being ordinary. I am not tooting my own horn. I am stating a plain fact. I have always believed I was meant for something better. Something much more magical than a plain and ordinary life.

My lovely therapist, Kat, thinks this belief stems, not from unbelievable arrogance – as it may first appear, but from being ‘incorrectly mirrored’ as a child. I was a very clever little girl, precociously so. Because of this and the realisation that I was a bit smarter than the average bear, and also because of the many un-lived lives of my mother, I was expected to become something amazing. With all this cleverness, (and later with all the talent for dance and drama and such), I was expected to really excel at something. I was pitted against every other little girl or boy in every area of my life until I became so stressed out and so guilt ridden at the thought of failure, I began to experience severe migraines, vomiting and awful stage fright. I literally became sick of the pressure I was under to achieve. It was never enough to be good at things and I was and still am, naturally pretty good at stuff. I can pick things up very easily. At least, I could.  And I was always pretty capable. But it was never enough. I was never enough.

Slowly I am coming to realise that maybe I was not meant to be extraordinary or to live an extraordinary life. Maybe my talent is simply for enjoying life and enjoying the many and varied things it offers. Maybe my talent is to be a great writer. Maybe it’s to be a mediocre writer (look how well many of them are doing!) or maybe it’s to be no kind of writer at all. All that pressure, all those weighty expectations, all they ever did was make me afraid to fail. Afraid to really try those things to which I was most drawn in case I did badly and lost the love and respect of those I most dearly needed it from. And so. When my beautiful, challenging, heart expanding, anxiety inducing children came along, I again had a bar set so high for parenting that I couldn’t hope to ever attain it and I began the fast and angry descent into PND where I became one with this Beautiful Darkness. And here I have been ever since.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have thought all along that I was trying to climb out of this pit of self-loathing and angry parenting. Trying to escape from the feelings of overwhelm and terrible sadness at my own inability to parent well and with real heart. And I do believe I have. The trouble is that the pay off for being inside this angry little cocoon is that I am not expected to do or be or achieve ANYTHING. I don’t have to strive to be a perfect anything because just getting through an average day is achievement enough. I am not expected to have it all together because I clearly don’t have it all together. My husband comes home earlier, takes a bit more care, gives me more time and parents a bit more than I fear he will when I am well. He doesn’t expect a home cooked meal on the table every night or a perfectly clean house or a sexy little minx in the bedroom. He expects an exasperated, frazzled, chubby little house frau who may or may not be writhing in a puddle of parenting self loathing, when he comes home. And that means I don’t have to try so damn hard all the fucking time. I mean, it’s just so exhausting – all this stuff we are supposed to do/achieve/become. Being broken means never having to carry that heavy burden of other people’s expectations.

I know. It’s faulty logic. I will be so much happier without this black dog stalking me through every day. I know that I will be able to experience more joy if I can just let go of my little black cloud, but I’m scared. I’m scared that when I am well all of those expectations will come crashing back down on me like a comet and I will find myself pushing and pushing and pushing myself uphill, trying to achieve every last one of those golden dreams until I break. Out there, there is always more to want, more to need, more to achieve. In here, it’s just me. For better or worse.

The Boleigh Fogou in Penzance Cornwall

The Boleigh Fogou in Penzance Cornwall by Richard Stocker (richard_stocker via flickr)

Sadly, the cracks in the cocoon are showing and the light is starting to filter in. I know that I can’t stay in here much longer. I honestly don’t want to – not really. I know that I have to try to figure out some kind of middle ground, some bar setting skills that are not so cruel and remorseless. I have to find a way to put one foot in front of the other and see where that takes me, without looking up for the bigger and better dream all the time. Because, and I know this down to my boots, I need to live life at a pace that can be sustained by me without lots of support, because support won’t always be available. I need to find a way to live my life that makes me happy, that allows for more moments of ordinary grace, that gives me room to BE without always trying to be more. I need to find a lower bar and be ok with that.

I am Emerging – slowly – from this safe little hideaway. I am learning to put down the heavy burden of expectation. I am unravelling all the ideas, the beliefs, the un-lived lives – to see what remains at the end.

And that’s the journey my friends.

That is the journey.

Advertisements

Lost

Image

 

I am lost.

I am so totally, utterly and completely lost.

I don’t know which parenting book to read first, which website to visit, which therapist to call. I am struggling with the heavy weight of despair closing around me like a cage. It’s not so much my own depression that I am battling – though that war wages on (and on and on), it’s the added weight of feeling lost in my own family.

My beautiful baby girl – Beanie – I don’t think I could feel further away from her than I do right now. I think I have spent more time crying in the last few weeks than I have in the previous few years. I’m sure not having the buffer of the antidepressants makes things that much rawer but I also feel that it is the cumulative weight of my mothering grief that is really pouring out of me right now. Every day there is a new row, a new argument, a new drama to negotiate. Beanie is not yet 6 and she behaves like a hormonal teenager right down to the ‘”I’m not listening!” and the slamming of her bedroom door.

The hubble and I are struggling to understand what happened to our happy, funny little girl. When did this angry, sullen, overly sensitive teenager slip into our home and take her over? When did she decide that the only way to get our attention was to defy, challenge, ignore, scream, shout and push against us continually? Is this what being 5 is normally like? I keep hoping that it is a phase but I don’t think that it is. I had hoped that starting school would help her settle into a rhythm, help her to learn to listen and act as part of a little team. It has not. Her teacher, a lovely woman very experienced in teaching, has told us that Beanie is very ‘challenging’. Tell me about it. But where does that leave us? If a woman who has over 20 years of teaching calls our daughter challenging and finds her difficult to deal with, then what hope have we? We have a grand total of nearly 6 years experience of having children and most of those have been fraught. At least they have for me.

I can honestly say with my hand over my heart that I do not enjoy parenting. It’s not that I don’t love my children. Of course I do. With my whole conditional, demented heart but I do not enjoy the endlessness of this ‘difficult’ phase in my mothering journey. I have been on this road too long and no matter what help I seek, I am still here, still sitting in the shit and wishing it smelled differently. I cannot seem to move away from the sadness and the grief and the enormous guilt that I am forever saying and doing the wrong thing. I say things in anger that make my cheeks sting with shame afterwards. I try to reason with her like an adult, even though I know that she is still so very little. I lack the ability and the tools to know how to manage my angry child and not make it all worse. Not make my own anger and sadness worse. I’m sitting here, sobbing over my keyboard and trying to empty it all onto a page, so that i can at least find some space inside of me to figure out what to do next. Where to go now with my precious, rebellious, angry daughter.

Discipline doesn’t work, time-outs don’t work, consequences don’t work, taking things away from her doesn’t work. We have tried time-in’s but they are not working. I am desperately trying to master active listening, so that she feels heard – God knows with me for a mother and my own rage evident much of the time, she probably feels completely unheard – but I am trying so hard. I truly am.  Nothing changes her behaviour. She is rude and disobedient to us in particular, but it has started spreading to other adults too – her grandparents, her aunty, whom she absolutely adores, and to people she barely knows. I’m only surprised that it hasn’t been more evident at school. She isn’t rude there, just disobedient. And she doesn’t listen to anyone. Not ever. And then we will have a week where very little behaviour is evident, where we seem to have turned a corner and then BANG! for no apparent reason, she overflows with brattishness all over again and we are left standing in the debris wondering what the fuck happened. And I sit there feeling like it is ALL my fault. That my anger, my difficulties with mothering, my impossibly high standards for myself (and therefore probably others too), have just fucked up my bright beautiful little girl and I deserve everything I get. And I’m sure everyone feels like this from time to time but I know how bad it gets here when I am way out of control with frustration and resentment and every little thing sets me off. I am on simmer all the time with this PND and yes, I decided to come off the medication anyway. Mainly because it was simply detaching me even more than I do myself, every time things got tough – which is EVERY DAY. I don’t want to be emotionally disconnected from my children. I don’t want to not feel anything or feel through cotton wool. I thought that it would help, but it didn’t and the withdrawal from even the low dose of SSRI’s that I was on, was phenomenally bad. I will not ever take that kind of drug again. Not ever.

She is struggling and I don’t know how to help her because I am struggling too. I can work through some of my difficulties with my therapist, but what can she do? The only person she really has to talk to is me, or the hubble, and obviously we are the last people she wants to talk to right now. So we have made the decision to take her to see a child psychologist/family therapist. This is a major step for me because I feel so horribly responsible for the whole situation. I am terrified that when I explain honestly to the therapist what has been happening, that he will recommend that Lily be immediately taken away from me. Thus realising my absolute worst nightmare – that I am such a shitty excuse for a mother that I am not safe to be around my babies.

What the fuck do I do? How do I turn this horrible heartbreaking situation around and make it into something good before she hits her teens and we find ourselves in every parent’s worst teen nightmare. I am scared for our family and I am scared for her. This much wilfulness needs to find an outlet that is positive and self nourishing or it will destroy her and everything around her. I know. I’m jumping ahead wildly, she is only 5, but I can see it coming the way a rabbit can see the headlights of an oncoming truck and can’t seem to move out of its way. I am a staring down a semi with ‘out of control Wild Child’ written on its grille. And it terrifies me.

Wildling in the Forest

Wildling in the Forest

If you could see her – you would immediately know how wonderful she is. She is so smart, and so capable and she has such perseverance – she will try something over and over again until she masters it. That’s not to say that she does it with any kind of patience – we have many, many tantrums over her inability to do something initially, but she keeps going back. I know that feeling. I am the same. I don’t want her to be like me. I don’t want her to carry my issues as her own. I want her Spirit to remain intact. I just also want her to understand that in finding some way to express herself that is not defiance or downright rudeness, she is giving herself tools to manage her own volatile emotions and that can only be a good thing.

Didgeridooing

Didgeridooing

But if you did meet her, you might be amazed at how often we have to ask her to do something before it gets done. Or you might notice how cheeky she can be, how inappropriately she often behaves – like flashing her bottom at people for no apparent reason, or at us because she knows it incenses us. Or you might notice that she has seemingly boundless energy, which she more often than not uses to get into mischief or to just push buttons until something snaps and we go spiralling into another argument, another weepy tantrum, another round of screaming and door slamming. Even my patient, kind, playful hubble is losing the plot.

Dancing Queen (from the 1980's!)

Dancing Queen (from the 1980’s!)

When she sleeps, I go and sit by her bed and tuck her into her blankets. I kiss her softly on the cheek and stroke her head or hand and I tell her how much I love her. I tell it to her as she sleeps because I keep praying that in that open unconscious state, she will hear me as she can’t seem to when she is awake. My heart is breaking for our relationship. I don’t know how to move forward with her. I don’t know how to mend all that is broken between us and it is torture and pain and so much sadness I can’t contain it all. I think that I have spent most of the time between school drop off and this entry, crying. I am not someone who cries much. But these last few weeks I have made up for that in spades. I have never felt so ineffectual and there is only so much gentle discipline I can try with my exasperating child before I revert back to the disciplinarian and get angry again.

Me & My Girl

Me & My Girl

I am crying for myself and for her – that she feels so wounded that all we have is this fractured connection. I am crying for my wee Bear who is already picking up on her behaviour and copying it – as he does everything else she does. I am crying for the strain it is putting on my relationship with my beautiful, compassionate husband – and though I know he loves me and trusts me and understands how hard I’m trying, I also know that in his heart, he blames me a little too. I am crying for the nurturing mamma in me who can’t seem to catch a break and who would tear herself in half if she thought it would make everyone happier. I am crying for her because I so want to step into the role of mother and I cannot.  I just don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to travel this path with any kind of grace or understanding. I feel as if I am just swinging wildly from one problem to another with no way of making the pendulum stop.

I keep asking the Great Mystery to reach out a hand to help me. I need some guidance to figure out how to do this right. I don’t expect a life filled with roses and sunsets on the beach but it would be nice to know that there is even a chance I can spend one whole day with my child where we love each other and enjoy each other’s company. One day in which there is no drama, no tears, no anger, no pulling away or withdrawing. One day in which I can hold her hand and see the child she is inside and make her laugh again.

For her and for myself I am asking The Powers That Be – please, please help me. Please show me a way to make this right before it gets stuck in wrong, forever.