STORIES I DON'T WRITE DOWN
My mental illness journey began a long time before I became a mother, so it's just coincidence that I happen to be both mental and a mutha.
I've always had an active imagination. I started drawing at 4 & wrote a 'novel' at 10. My head runs away with daydreams of careers I don't have the dedication to achieve in real life, but they're good entertainment for walking with music blaring in my ears.
There's a thin line between daydreams and intrusive thoughts. Like the dream that starts off well and goes awry; a romantic date with your celebrity dream crush leaning in for a kiss and then suddenly a wasp is chasing you & you're naked & freaking out.
I've been lucky in that my intrusive thoughts are never about harming the children. Instead, I'll be walking along the river and suddenly start imagining a mugging, and they push the buggy in, and I bravely fight them off with my Buffy-esque moves. I consider the angles and space left if the buggy was upside down and if the gap between child and water would be big enough. I picture wrapping them in my coat after hoping that seeing their mother killing an assailant doesn't damage them.
There's scenes where they've been kidnapped and I burst in, with the power to harness elements, and burn the villains inside out.
Someone once jumped in front of a tube six feet away from me - now every-time a train or tube pulls into a station I see it again, I see myself covering their eyes & turning them away. I don't want them to know the world they live in is a world where people would rather die than live. I have a similar fear in Westfield, a tightness in my chest that someone will jump from one of the floors.
I know these situations are extended from my own illness, and sometimes-thoughts.
I can put it down to a mother assessing threats or hormones but it's almost like some torturous self harm, poking and prodding my anxiety until I spiral & I don't control the thoughts anymore, they are turned toward me, and I'm inside my own head, and it's a scary thing, that.
I think one thing to note about mental illness is that there usually isn't one 'fix'. You can change your diet, do some exercise, have a bath, whatever other advice people give you, but bear in mind I have eaten healthily, exercised and even bathed over the last twenty years. These are helpful at the time, and usually just surface fixers, like cello-taping the skin over a protruding bone and saying 'it's better.' It is a constant work in progress and a journey.
Enjoy the highs of recovery & don't beat yourself up for the relapses; take care of yourself & talk to people you trust. Ask for help.
Written by TERESA LAW
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.