Posted by: eileenandrory | September 2, 2010

Bring Me to Life

It is true, in my life I have been hit by bouts of pretty major depression.  Sometimes I analyse myself to bits, wanting to know exactly which parts of my brain are “faulty” and how to go about fixing them.  Despite all the good work by John Kirwan over the last couple of years mental illness and depression is still a fairly taboo topic.  It’s odd, when asked how you are it’s ok to say, well I’m just getting over a cold, flu, sniffles, *insert physical ailment here* as long as you don’t go too overboard, but it’s definitely not ok to say, well I’m depressed, anxious, stressed and thought about not getting out of bed or even waking up this morning.

So, we run around with our pasted on smiles and only the more observant of us will notice that the cracks around the edges are not laughter lines, they are stress fractures from trying to hard to maintain the status quo.  I know the “black dogs” well, and up until a few months ago I thought I had them well under control.  Depression is a little like alcoholism – not that I know what being an alcoholic is like, but I can imagine – the spectre of the black dogs returning is always there.  Sometimes they’re just sitting quietly in the corner and other times they might howl every now and again, but they are always there.  Anyone who has had a bout of clinical depression will know exactly what I am talking about.  Most of the time I pat myself on the back and think that in my bout of post-natal depression I learnt some pretty cool dog-control techniques.  In fact I would say I thought I had it sussed, had everything figured out.  Every time the dogs would make a noise I would give them that withering look and tell myself that I didn’t need to let them out.

This time things have been different.  For 5 years the dog control has worked, for 5 years I have managed to keep a lid on things.  However a combination of events led to the dogs stealthily digging under the fence and breaking out, and here they are stomping all over my beautiful life.  I hate the people who just tell you to get a grip, and wonder what on earth is wrong with you, because the fact is that at the moment my life is hard, for me.  I don’t care if you wouldn’t find it hard, in fact I couldn’t really give a shit.  At the moment my life is hard for me.  Most if it is self-induced, and let’s face it most depression is, but it doesn’t make it any easier to bear.

What are the dogs that hound me at the moment?  Well, one is “life as a big fat failure”.  See, despite lots of “self-love” comments to the contrary I still don’t feel like I lived up to that “potential” that little girl who wanted the conquer the world and change things.  I wonder what she would think now if she could look into her future and see herself.  Would she be happy?  I know I should say yes, but my gut says no.  Most of the time I magic some kind of wonderful cognitive dissonance and convince myself that it is simply because she would not know how to value what I have now and so would automatically devalue it.  However my cognitive dissonance remedying switch stopped functioning a few weeks back and now all that little girl sees is a HOUSEWIFE.  Not the “first female prime minister” as I proudly wrote at age 10.  Thanks Jenny, you beat me to that one.

I wonder would I have studied what I studied at University had I known then what I know now?  See, I loved my University years, but lets face it, Women’s Studies and English are hardly career making topics unless you go into teaching (considered, but I really do not have the patience) or enter the academic ivory tower (also considered, but realised that wasn’t the real world).  So now I look back and think, shit that was fun, but what was the point of all that?

Which kind of brings me to now.  When I left the UK and left what was a “promising” career in retail I swore black and blue that I did not ever want to have to manage children again unless they were my own.  Retail staff are peculiar, and book trade staff in particular, in that they are often young, arrogant and terribly opinionated.  They also don’t tend to give a rats arse about turning up to work on time or even doing their work.  I hasten to add that that is not all of them, but enough to make my life a living hell.  Add to that the smart little chump who told me I was racist because I asked him to sweep the stock room floor and I rest my case.  Retail management, definitely not for me.  Turned me into a raving monster who worked 50 to 60 hours a week.  I was NOT a nice person.  I might have been earning money, but I was very unhappy with the person I was becoming.

Coming back to NZ pregnant, with no friends left in NZ, a bucket load back in the UK, I guess I was a case of PND waiting to happen.  As part of my recovery from PND I threw myself into volunteer work – which I love and am still doing now.  Yes, it is all based around the needs of mother, child etc, but recently I discovered there’s a big piece of life missing in all this volunteer work.  I don’t have time for me anymore.  Between being a Mum, being a housewife, being a volunteer I have lost sight of me.  Add to that a husband who is in a precarious job situation, my lack of bankable qualifications, a mortgage and so much volunteer work that I no longer have any social life outside that and the dogs dug themselves out while I had my back turned.

My volunteer work should have helped me.  And, to be fair it did for a long time.  However no-one truly volunteers for nothing at all – and if they say they do they are lying.  The things I thought I was going to get from the volunteer work, the bankable qualifications, and the camaraderie didn’t necessarily materialise.  New Zealand still has a long way to go to truly value the work of the volunteer, in fact one could say the ultimate in volunteering is the ‘Mum’, so I was doing triple shifts, Mum, Volunteer and Housewife.  As I was reminded the other week, when you’re a Mum no-one sits you down and has a nice chat to you about how your performance in these KPI areas are doing great, these are perfect, and these ones could do better.  Sure, I get hugs, sure I get wet sloppy kisses.  BUT, I also get, “I don’t like you”, I get hit, I have to clean up shit, and I don’t just mean metaphorical shit, and I have to do all of this and maintain an even temper, and that’s just the Mum side of things.  When we move to the housework side all of the same applies, and sadly in the volunteer world it does too.  Very rarely is the performance review concept applied in the volunteer world – it should.  And here I digress and think, ho-hum, maybe I should walk the talk and do this with the volunteers that “report to me” and then one of the more belligerent dogs snarls and says yes, you just feed me, because I’m the dog that goes my the moniker of “Toomuchtodo”.  So, back to that volunteer world, very little thanks and a lot of well, they are volunteers, of course they do it for the love so they don’t really need anything else.  I’m not saying that is the actual thought process, more like the end result.  Are you ever going to get sued by a volunteer for a shitty work place environment? No, I don’t think so.  I rest my case.  Love of the cause only goes so much, sometimes the volunteers need more.

Ah, you might think, “woe is me” get over yourself.  Well, at the moment actually I would tell you I don’t give a flying you know what about you.  Because I am so wrapped up in my little world that really I can’t think straight.  The things that I have described might well look like molehills to you, but your molehill is my mountain and if you were a true friend you would simply be there.

If the truth be known, the last week or so things have gotten slightly better, I say only slightly because I have at least told the dogs to sit down, and some of them might be listening.  I have come to realise that I am NOT superwoman and I don’t have to be.  I AM allowed to make mistakes and I am allowed to say no, I am even allowed to give up on some things.  More than that, I am trying to let little comments made by well meaning people not hit me like well aimed missiles.  They mean to “help” in that nice way where they tell you all about “their solutions”.  Guess what, your clothes don’t fit me, I would never ask to borrow them, I don’t like them, so what makes you think I will like your solutions too?  Solutions, like clothes are not a one size fits all approach.

What have I figured out, what has made the last week or so more bearable??  Well, I am trying to give out the sort of stuff that I want back to the nearest and dearest to me.  I am actually trying to live up to the whole “Live With Purpose” idea that drove Rory and I to this blog in the first place.  I am trying to make every action a considered one, but that is tiring given my energy levels are at an all time low.  It does seem to be working a little, so that is good.  Other plans??  Well, I will be stopping a lot, but not all, of what I do for “others” in the next 12 months.  There is, only so much of me to give around and now I have to focus on taking much of it back to start again.  I admire those people who do it time and time again year and year out, but I have to face the fact that perhaps I am not that person, not yet.  Maybe one day, but not just yet.

More about my plans later, as right now they’re mine.  And I’m not prepared to share them.  Just yet.

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Responses

  1. Eileen you’re an amazing writter! I feel like I know you and understand you so much better now. You would be amazed at just how many women feel like you do. There is a small group of us “Monty Mums” who get together often who understand all about those pesky dogs!! I know all too well about PND, feeling trapped in a life that people expect of you or you just didn’t expect to be yours. Look forward to your future plans – hopefully you get loads of rest 🙂

    • Thanks Deanna, I have to admit part of me felt really silly after posting it. A bit like going to the toilet and then realising half an hour later that you tucked your skirt into your “lace falling apart”, “I’m not having sex tonight” knickers. However another part of me felt quite relieved to get the mess out there. It’s funny, once you put something like this out there people walk on egg shells around you when they talk to you, or they say wonderfully ignorant things about depression and self confidence that simply make you feel embarassed for them. Your comments are valued, and I have to say more so because too many other people have been too afraid to say anything to me. Yet again, the spectre of the “kooky” mentally unstable person running around the room and doing unexpected things. Said in a most British tone “Keep Calm and Carry On” and pretend she does not exist.

      Anyway, I digress. Unfortunately for me I can only write like this when the shit hits the fan, somehow the writing spark doesn’t fire when I’m happy. I do have to admit that the “dogs” is not my idea. Winston Churchill famously coined the expression the “Black Dogs” of depression. I just happen to think it’s perfectly apt.

      As for those plans – yes they are coming along quite nicely. Just have to fire up the bottom rocket every now and again and make sure that I do something for me instead of everyone else to ensure that they happen.

      Thanks again – words mean a lot 🙂 more than people realise.


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