For as long as I can remember, and certainly since my parent’s break up around my 18th birthday back in 2003, there’s been a voice in my head. It’s an unkind, cruel little voice that is quite determined to make me feel awful even when all is good in my world and I have nothing to worry about.
It sounds a bit daft, doesn’t it? A voice in my head. It’s not literally a little voice though. It’s not like a separate little person sitting in my brain, pointing and laughing at me when I slip up and telling me to do silly things.
It’s my voice. The voice is me.
I was actually diagnosed as agoraphobic once. I think it was misdiagnosis now. Agoraphobia doesn’t go away. This went away. By itself.
It was certainly something though. I had a long period of being completely unable to leave the house. If I tried I’d find myself shaking and unable to breathe, puking in the bin outside the primary school at the end of the road. A panic attack. I see that now. I see what that was, but at the time it just felt like I was going to die from suffocation every time I ventured outside. I quickly went from not being able to go outside because the world was scary, to just being scared of the panic attack itself. I was having panic attacks because of the fear of panic attacks!
I have no real recollection of how long this went on for or how it ended. I know I was dragged (probably literally kicking and screaming) to the GP by my mother and I know I was prescribed something. I remember that it helped. I don’t remember what it was. The whole time is a hazy blur of family feuds and feeling utterly rejected. I’m not even sure who I felt rejected by. The world?
Anyway, it passed on the whole. But bits of it remained. They still remain.
I have terrible OCD relating to leaving the house. I’ve written about it before. The amount of time I spend checking everything is switched off and the doors are locked is just ridiculous. I watch other people in my street leave home sometimes. I watch Trev do it too. They just lock the door and they go. They don’t even check. I check so many many times. I hate to watch them. I’m jealous of how sensible and normal they are. The envy eats me up and makes me angry.
I’ve broken door handles checking.
It’s better lately. The door thing. Iris has started to notice what I do and to copy me. I don’t want that. For the first time ever I have a real reason to work harder to stop this. I still video myself lock up sometimes, discreetly. I don’t check and check and cry and sweat and walk away only to come back and check some more. What if seeing me do that makes her grow to do that too? I know that’s possible. I lived with my dad for a few months once, and he does this. He drives to work and drives home again to check the door is locked again. I know exactly where this came from and when it all started for me.
I can deal with this.
It’s the voice I can’t deal with. The inner meanie. A stress management course I went on back in Bristol a few years ago taught me these are called Negative Automatic Thoughts. Reading endless books on CBT and NLP have taught me techniques to squash them. Techniques that work, actually. At least some of the time. But then I have days when I’m short on time and the I don’t do them, and then months pass and things get worse and worse and I’ve forgotten how to get a handle on them.
The worst ingredient to add to this pot is parent guilt.
Parent guilt really is a thing. I didn’t believe in it before parenthood. It was just something people blogged about and parents at the nursery I worked at mentioned from time to time. I thought it maybe only applied to going back to work and dropping your kid off in child care, but I’ve never had to do that and I suffer the guilt so badly.
I’m exhausted at the moment, but every day we go to play group and run around the park and dig endless holes in the sandpit. Every day I worry about getting enough fruit and veg and fresh air into my kid. I worry about saying things that will influence her for years to come without me meaning to influence her. I worry she’ll be scarred for life by having me as a mum. I worry about forgetting sun cream and missing nap time and ketchup in her hair. Two weeks ago I shut her finger in a door and I thought the feeling might just kill me, even when 10 minutes later she was happily playing and only had a tiny bruise. I know I’m not the only one. I know this feeling is totally normal.
On and off, over the years, I’ve taken different prescription medicines for anxiety. Sertraline, Prozac, ones with stupidly long names I can’t say. In some way they’ve all helped, but I always end up feeling better and feeling like I don’t need them. I hate being medicated. I hate relying on a drug just to get by. I know how silly that is. I haven’t taken anything in a long while, despite feeling anxious a lot of the time. I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding or both for two years now, and that’s seemed like a good reason to battle on without.
I’m happy. I don’t want anybody to assume I’m not happy.
This isn’t depression. At least I don’t think it is. It’s just an inner me that keeps telling me I’m not good enough. I’m not doing a good enough job. I’m letting people down. I’m spoiling things for everybody else. I get invited out and feel self-conscious because I’m convinced I’m annoying. I get told a new outfit looks great and then I convince myself I look ridiculous. Somebody tells me I’m doing a fab job with Iris and I feel sure that they wouldn’t say that if they could see me at other times. I look around my house at the mess and wonder why we live like this when other people manage to keep things clean. I feel like a failure. I feel like such a let down.
Things are bad, in my brain, just lately. I guess pregnancy hormones and tiredness don’t help, but I feel like I’m flailing around trying to get a grip on just one thing so that I can get hold of the other things too. Nothing ever gets finished, and nothing ever seems done. I can’t relax. I can’t let go. Having no income is making me feel terrible too. I have a credit card bill to pay, and asking Trevor to help is the worst feeling in the world. I’ve never been dependent before. I can’t get used to it. It’s getting to me.
I know just admitting that I’m struggling is a big step. I know that’s a good thing, really. Yet strangely I feel guilty for that too. I just feel like I’ve admitted I’m rubbish at this, that I’m messing everything up.