I’ve wanted to write this so many times, but have always been afraid to, just in case it was taken the wrong way and there was a backlash. This fear of others misconstruing my words has led to censorship, which is ridiculous. I can’t call myself a pro-blogger and allow myself to be censored at the same time, so I’ll be taking a big deep breath as I press the publish button.
I’d like to credit Alice who writes at The Filling Glass. After reading her brilliant piece The Chicken and Egg of Positive Parenting, these words started swirling around in my head. So here they are, come what may.
A story about mental health
There is no beating around the bush here, when I left home and emerged into adulthood at 15, I was seriously fucked up. How could it have been any other way? Although I had a mother who loved me, she was very much reeling from her own miserable upbringing throughout mine, and made a whole load of terrible decisions that negatively impacted (damaged, destroyed, stole…) my childhood.
Lying to me about who my father was; moving so much I went to eight schools where I was often bullied; inviting randy teenage boys into our home who would take advantage of me… The list could go on and on, but this blog would end up being the length of a book.
I could never have been described as fresh faced and innocent, but I definitely was naive, which led to me making more than a few bad decisions of my own. Especially after drinking, which I did regularly and heavily in those days. All the partying inevitably led to me having very little in the way of respect for myself, and this more than anything else perpetuated the cycle of bad decision making.
In the first decade of me living independently, I attempted suicide, suffered countless bouts of depression and anxiety, and had two full on mental breakdowns.
After the first breakdown I started seeing a counsellor who opened my eyes to how damaged I was. She also made me realise that it wasn’t my fault. This is the thing that us survivors of abuse usually carry with us you see, the guilt. I didn’t even realise until that point that I was as damaged as I was, or that I even felt guilty about my childhood, but believe me I was and I did.
She made me see that I needed to bury those demons of mine once and for all, if I were to move on and lead a happy life.
In order to heal, we must face up to the past
My healing process was long and painful. It involved cutting ties with my entire family, and going through a second mental breakdown, which was triggered by hitting rock bottom and coming exceptionally close to losing everything I cared about.
Counselling was the very start for me, and although it highlighted a lot of my issues and why they existed, it still took me over four years to realise that my own self-destructive behaviour was at the centre of a lot of my current-day problems. Irrespective of why I was fucked up, the point is I was fucked up.
The only way I wasn’t going to be fucked up any more was by digging deep, and changing every aspect of my life that was causing me dramas. Nothing is as important as our mental health well being, but it can be difficult for us to appreciate this.
Taking responsibility for our lives not panning out the way we want them to can be a tough truth to accept, but it’s not about blame. It is about not allowing those demons to destroy our chances of happiness for a minute longer.
Everyone’s demons are different of course, and the changes they will have to make will depend on what is driving those demons. As for me, I quit partying, had a three month booze break, started eating well and doing more exercise. I disassociated myself from negative influences, and created lifelong good habits. During the course of six months, I worked relentlessly to turn my life around. It was the hardest yet most rewarding thing I had ever done at that point.
You’ll never know how messed up someone is, until you try to love them
Exactly halfway between my two breakdowns, I met my husband. He has always been stable, confident in his own abilities and an all round rock solid guy. I still did my best to push him away though, and sabotage the chances of our relationship surviving. We broke up a few times in our earliest years, but ultimately he stuck by me and refused to accept that I was ‘too fucked up to be loved’.
The turning around of my life came after we had been together for almost three years. He proposed on our fourth anniversary, and six months later I fell pregnant with our eldest. To say we’ve faced lots of challenges since becoming a family, would be a huge understatement. From a horribly traumatic first birth (thankfully much nicer experiences second and third time!); to kids that don’t sleep; to having autism to contend with; and most recently, deciding to home educate. Once again the list could go on…
How do you cope?
In the six and a half years that we’ve been parents, we have certainly had our fair share of ups and downs, which is what inspired me to create this blog almost three years ago. I get asked on a regular basis how I cope, considering I have very little in the way of help day to day.
I truly believe the reason I’m able to cope as well as I do, on the small amount of sleep I get most nights, is because I went through the process of dealing with my demons when I did.
I faced up to the past, I changed the necessary and I buried those monsters good and proper. I put coping mechanisms in place that would see me through the toughest of times, and it means I am able to focus on present-day challenges. I have essentially compartmentalised the painful elements of my past, so they can’t hurt me any more.
When I made the decision to turn my life around back in November 2006, I didn’t have a clue that I’d be implementing changes that would directly impact my mothering abilities.
That is exactly what I was doing though.
So what next?
If you’re reading this and know in your heart of hearts that you have demons stemming back to your childhood, then you must acknowledge them.
The next step is to forgive yourself and anyone else you need to for them.
Then you need to let those fuckers go. You hear me?
Work out a plan to rid yourself of them once and for all.
Believe me you will have never felt lighter in your entire life.
Do it for the sake of your kids. Whether they are already here, or they’re a mere thought at the back of your mind.
It’s going to be hard work, make no mistake about that, but it has to be done.
I’ll be cheering from the sidelines, and wishing you all the luck in the world on your journey!