Social Distortion

I’ve really struggled this weekend, and the most ridiculous thing about it all is I’ve struggled with things that should be enjoyable, relaxing and not hard work.  But they have been hard work, and now I’m writing it all down and I’m not sure why.  Or what I hope to achieve by writing it down.  Actually, I do know that writing does help, I’ve known it for a long time, and I proved it here.  I’m not doing it for sympathy, or for people to pity me (I loathe pity.  I loathe those that crave pity, the attention-seekers and the victims.  But then I wonder why I dislike them so much and I get to thinking it’s because I see myself in them.  Or is it because I am so opposite to them, that I really have no understanding of them?  This only serves to compound my dilemma and self-loathing, and makes me want to stop analysing.  Really, I could go on like this all night, and I will, but to myself, quietly…), or even offer a shoulder to cry on.  I don’t really like that; it makes me embarrassed and uncomfortable and makes me shake my head and tell myself to pull myself together.  Sometimes, I need to tell myself to pull myself together, but on occasions like this, it’s not good advice.  On occasions like this, I need to delve and probe and analyse, because this one really needs sorting.  So I think, should I decide to publish this, it will be in order to try to do a head count; to try to garner some kind of picture of others who have been here.  Not sympathy, just a yes, I know how you feel, yes I’ve been there, and yes, I know exactly what will help.  That’s what I really need, some good old-fashioned help.  I generally don’t like help either.  It’s a bit like the shoulder to cry on, it makes me want to run the other way, to say, you know what, really I’m fine.  No, no, don’t look at me, don’t ask me questions, don’t make me explain stuff.  Really, I’m OK and I’ll prove it with this fake smile here, and lots and lots of questions about you.  How are you?  How is your day going?

This, these last 4 sentences, this is what’s wrong.  I don’t like attention.  Of any kind.  Anything that causes anyone to focus on me, what I have to say, what I’m doing, wearing, looking like, this all makes me panic.  It makes me nervous, it makes me hot and blushy (a lot), it makes me uncomfortable, it makes me want to run the other way.  But I’m not sure why.  I can’t figure this bit out.  Is it because I really don’t like myself and so why should anyone else?  I’m not sure to what extent this is true, as there are things about me that I like.  I like my courage of my convictions, that I will stand up for things I believe in, that I will have my say (albeit quieter than some), my loyalty and my ability to look out for others.  There is a list of stuff I hate which is about ten times longer than this.  Twenty, probably.  Lots of things that just don’t sit right with me.  So is this it?  That I just don’t like myself? 

Or maybe it’s that I feel a kind of blockage, an obstruction somewhere, preventing me from being the person I want to be.  The person I know I can be.  I can see her, she’s there, she lives in my thoughts, in my daydreams, in my brain, but she rarely appears any more.  I think she was around in the physical a while ago, I’m not really sure.  Maybe I have thought about her so much that I have got confused between what is real and what is a product of my fantastical thoughts.  I really do feel like she did exist though, and I want to know how to get her back.

She was a bit like this: never extrovert, but very sociable.  Always interested in going out, anywhere, with people, and chatting and laughing.  Definitely laughing.  Never missed an opportunity to crack a joke or have a banter, and engage in good-natured piss-taking.  Independent and self-reliant.  Quietly self-confident; never overly enamoured with her appearance, but took pride in it, and didn’t feel the need to dress in layers and layers and put a scarf on even when it’s warm,  in order to set foot out the front door.  A feeling like she had something to contribute to conversations, that her friendship meant something to others, that life was worthwhile.

If she did ever exist outside of my head, she really doesn’t any more.  I was never in love with her, just thought she was OK, but right now, if she made an appearance, I’d give her the biggest bear-hug and beg her never to leave.

I just don’t know how to go about finding her.  I don’t even feel like a shadow of her, I feel like a long-lost not-even-blood relative.  Life scares me if truth be told.  People scare me.  Everything is such.  Damn.  Hard.  Work.  I would rather stay in my pjs, in my living room, not having to make a drink or cook a meal, just sit and be, than leave the house for any reason whatsoever.  Obviously, having a baby and a job and a family stop me from doing this.  This is good and bad in equal measures.  It’s good, very good, because it forces me to get out of my pjs and at least make a cup of tea for myself, as well as meals and bottles for The Baby, even if I don’t want to, and even if I actually don’t leave the house.  It is bad because it generally appears as if I am fine.  It looks like I am normal and just like everyone else, working, looking after a baby and traipsing around the city visiting family, friends and soft-play centres.  I carry on with these things in spite of myself.  I ignore my feelings and my thoughts and cover them all up with a scarf and just carry on.  And it works a little bit, for a little while.  It makes me tell myself that I am fine, that there’s really nothing much wrong, that I just need to put a face on it, and that I act OK therefore I must be OK.

Well, I’ve tried for a long time, and I just don’t think it’s working.  I just don’t think I am quite me.  I lost myself somewhere and I’m not sure how to get me back, and I so desperately want to.  I hate being this person, this woman who can no longer hold eye-contact during a conversation because it means they are looking at me, they are finding out about me and they won’t like it.  Why would they?  I don’t.  This woman who fears life so much, who finds negative in everything.  This woman who is living a lie, pretending that a day of pampering and family is the perfect day, an enjoyable day, when actually it was a bad, bad day.  It was a day where people focused on me, and it made me squirm and cringe; it made me panic and get hot and flushed and it made me want to run and run and run.  It made me want to empty my phone and emails of all contacts, and to pretend that I can live like a hermit. 

I can’t though.  If I wasn’t a mother, then maybe I could.  If I wasn’t a mother, there are endless possibilities.  But I am.  I am the mother of a beautiful, lively, happy, life-loving, go-getting, bundle of energy and kisses and generosity, and this means I have a responsibility to find myself, to love myself, and to love life.  I owe it to my daughter, if not to myself.

If you must know, here are the things that happened this weekend to turn me into a dithery, emotional, self-loathing… blogger (I was going to say ‘wreck’, but I am not completely ‘wrecked’ as I am here.  Blogging).  The Boyfriend had a rare weekend off, so I decided to make the most of this time and booked my sister and I in for holistic therapies, followed by a haircut (for me only, not my sis).  The Boyfriend and my sister’s boyfriend took The Baby round town while we were having our treatments, and we all met for coffee afterwards.  I was so nervous and desperate not to come across as a total dickhead to the therapist, that I almost definitely came across as a total dickhead to the therapist.  I was so worried about having attention focused on me, that just being in town made me claustrophobic; I wanted to leave the minute I got there.  But at least I had my sister as a little crutch; I could always divert attention away from me and onto her.  And sitting at a table with four of the closest people in my life, yet feeling no less claustrophobic and dithery and anxious, I was so very grateful to have The Baby on hand to deflect any unwanted interest regarding my silly life.  Not so at the hairdresser’s.  All alone, my stomach was tying itself in knots and flitting like butterfly wings from the morning’s events, and by the time I sat down for my consultation, I was a jingly mess.  I didn’t want to answer her questions.  I wanted to empty my handbag and put it over my head, and write down instructions for the hairstyle I wanted, although I’m not sure how successful it would have been, given the aforementioned bag.  By the time the five minute consultation was over, my heart was pounding in my throat, my palms were slick with sweat and my face…. Jeez, my face.  The old cliché of being tomato-red doesn’t even come close.  Get me the fuck out of here now. 

Oh, and if this wasn’t ridiculous enough, get this.  There was a convention being held this weekend in London, involving mummy bloggers.  A chance to meet fellow bloggers, those people whose musings and confessions I read and admire and react to daily, as well as a chance to learn more about the world of blogging from experts in different fields.  An amazing opportunity and one not to be missed if you love to write and blog.  Except I chose to miss out, I deliberately ignored any reminders that were sent out via blogs or Twitter or Facebook about the tickets being on sale.  I ignored those Tweets that mentioned there was a competition to win a ticket, or that someone had a ticket going spare.  I was relieved when it was finally all sold out.  I couldn’t possibly go now, there were no tickets left.  This isn’t the ridiculous part, by the way.  From Friday afternoon onwards, attendees of Cybermummy were Tweeting about outfits and contents of suitcases and train times; I read these Tweets and got nervous.  When people had arrived and were meeting up with others, Tweeting about which bars they were in / headed to and who they were with / about to meet, it made me feel very anxious.  I was imagining I was there.  I was imagining being there, unable to meet up with anyone, unable to travel with anyone, unable to talk to anyone, unable to contribute anything remotely useful or amusing or anything at all.  This is really what made me metaphorically sit up this weekend and take note of my neurotic state.  I wasn’t anywhere near this convention, yet the whole social framework of it was causing a nigh-on panic attack.  This, surely, cannot be normal, right? 

Today, just to top it all off, I began to read an article in The Times magazine about sleep deprivation in the early days of motherhood.  When I got to the part where she was contemplating suicide, I had to stop reading.  Too close to the bone, and I sometimes think that even if I read stuff like that, even though they’re not my thoughts, they could become my thoughts, and I know those thoughts are there, in my head, all the time really, but I keep them down, very low down.  It bothered me, to say the least.

So how do I do this?  How do I sort myself out?  I have had counselling.  CBT to be precise.  It really didn’t work.  Maybe it was the counsellor, rather than the counselling.  Maybe it was both, I don’t know.  I didn’t get much from it. 

I have had medication in the past.  It worked for a while, in the sense that when I was so very wretchedly depressed and unable to get dressed without spilling mugfuls of tears, the tablets helped these tears to stop.  They helped me to function, but not to enjoy. 

I have had bog-standard counselling-for-NHS-staff-type-counselling, which really only worked on a very shallow level, for a very brief time, and with unintentional reverse psychology; she tried to get me to pin blame on my (excellent and supportive) parents and my (balanced and happy) upbringing for my state of mind, which ensured that I didn’t make it past two sessions, and made me count my blessings for having had a happy childhood.  Sometimes, counting ones blessings works.  For instance, upon the demise of one’s marriage, it occasionally helped to remember that had we bought a property together or had children together, things would be a whole lot worse.  In instances such as these, a bit of perspective-providing counting of the blessings does work.  Sometimes, it is a total waste of fucking time, as what can you be more thankful for when you don’t even really fully understand why you feel quite so shitty in the first place??  Blessings?  Shove em.

So really, how do I do this?  Does any of this sound even vaguely familiar to anyone?  Anyone??  And if anyone has seen my former self, could you please give her a nudge in my direction?  Or at least tell me how I could possibly go about finding her?  I miss her.

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Filed under The (Dummy) Mummy

19 Responses to Social Distortion

  1. KatieB

    I was just about to go to bed when I saw this and it’s possible you’d rather I didn’t comment, because you might just not believe it, but I’m going to anyway! That is not the way you came across at all, I knew you were a little nervous but most people who visit are. I really don’t know why, but then they don’t know that I’m also nervous too!! I haven’t suffered depression or a traumatic birth but I do know that motherhood changes you, after having not worked for so long you lose your confidence, you spend ages having another person to hide behind and take the attention away from you, makes it very hard when they’re not there all of a sudden. Quite a few people have asked recently whether I’d go back to my old job, part of the reason I wouldn’t now is that the thought of standing up in Court absolutely terrifies me. It was bad enough before, although I tried not to let on! Anyway, I’ll give you a break from my waffling now, please don’t think that’s how you came across you really didn’t xx

    • Thanks Katie, this means a lot. And I do think not being at work for a while must have something to do with it, and even now I’m back, I work alone, so conversations are few and far between. It really was lovely to meet you at the weekend. I’ll be back to see you soon, hopefully with a brighter smile!x

  2. Your old self is there – she’ll be back soon enough. I think you should try being a bit kinder to yourself, you’re amazing!! If you have those thoughts, just switch your brain off from thinking them (it’s not a fantastic solution, but it will help, as you’re not focusing on the negative). I tried that approach and it does work!! And the people who love you will never judge you (i know, I’m one of them). xx

  3. Becoming a mother is the most wonderful amazing thing that will ever happen to us but it is also overwhelming and bewildering and exhausting and you definitely lose a part of your old identity. I don’t have any professional advice or life-changing words of wisdom to offer you but I will say to please don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Over time, you will start to get your confidence back and although you will probably never find the girl you used to be, you will start to love the woman you have become. Great post, thank you for sharing

    • It’s so true, motherhood is wonderful and lovely and awful and draining all at the same time! I really wouldn’t change it for the world, though, just need to figure this part out. Thank you so much for reading this x

  4. I think a lot of people, especially mums, will be able to relate to this. You are definitely not alone, honey. I suffer from anxiety and confidence issues mainly because of my epilepsy but also because I’m terribly unsociable. I bought a ticket for CM and even booked the Hoxton for 2 nights but I ended up selling it because I realised it just didn’t have the confidence to meet all those people. I would go so far as to say you need to find a good therapist to help you love yourself again and give you the power to embrace your life. We mums find it so easy to bury our problems in the sand and change the subject, it’s a natural instinct. Most women are born worriers, particularly after childbirth. But if we allow ourselves to sink into the pit of not acknowledging the issues we desperately need to face, we start to lose confidence very quickly indeed.

    As this post is very much something I think many people go through, I’m going to include it in my Blog Promotions on my blog. Take care and get yourself an appointment. Therapy has to be better than medication. Remember, it’s good to be addicted to talking but it isn’t good to be addicted to drugs.

    CJ xx

    • Thank you so much for your lovely words, and yes you’re right I need to make an appointment soon. I hadn’t realised you had sold your CM ticket. Maybe next year we will both be able to go?x

  5. Your writing is amazing – and so honest it can be overwhelming. I think maybe there are more people living their lives as you describe than any of us realize. I can certainly relate to your descriptions. I know you probabaly don’t want to compare yourself to other people, you just want to get your own life back on track. However – if this life is a journey, then maybe we should all acknowledge that we don’t head back to where we came from, but we keep going and growing and changing in relation to the experiences we receive in life. So maybe you should be celebrating the person you are right now, even if you feel like you are in limbo – or hell – or wherever. But given that we all keep on going, you are probably heading towards a beautiful destination, enriched by your experiences – and by your deep, deep appreciation of them. Love and hugs and admirations xxxx

  6. While I can’t say I feel the way you do now, there have been times over the past 12 months where I’ve felt a bit “lost”. Motherhood is such a hugely massive change that the “old” you and things you used to do before feel very far away sometimes, or at least that was the way I felt. I remember feeling incredibly nervous the day before I went in to do some training in my old job while I was on Mat leave. I couldn’t understand why I was nervous, I’m really not a nervous person and it was a job I did for 3 years. But still it was there. Then on my first night out recently I felt nervous again. But I still went and when I got there I really enjoyed it. I think it’s easy to not take up opportunities sometimes because they can seem overwhelming or too much hassle, but isn’t life about living? So I force myself, like you, to go out and have these experiences. And when I get there I enjoy them. I think in my long and rambling way I’m trying to say don’t give up. It will get easier. One of my best friends was in a very dark place a while ago and she found herself again. If she can, you can too. In the meantime – hugs and wine being sent your way. x

  7. So sorry, it’s taken me day and day to find this. I’ve been so wrapped up in all my crap.
    There is so much I wanted to say – I ended up emailing you. So check your junk mail!
    Hang in there and invest in the comments above.
    Big hugs, lots of love XXX

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