I haven’t written for a while. To be honest, I couldn’t have, even if I’d wanted to. You see, I’ve been unwell.
You might say I’d been burning the candle at both ends, but not in a hedonistic party-type fashion, more of a juggling all the plates all the time type way. And then the plates fell. They fell and crashed to the floor, shattering and taking everything I thought I knew with me.
After the crash, I got in to bed and didn’t get up again. My body and mind literally shut down as the cortisol raced around my system, sending warning signals that rest was immediately needed; to close my eyes and sleep and repair from the neglect of recent months. That was late December and, I confess, I don’t really remember much about Christmas. I wrapped presents, cooked a turkey and pulled crackers, but inside I was dead, the fight to simply get dressed and function becoming increasingly hard. On getting in to bed each night, a part of me wished that I could just go to sleep forever.
Writing that now, a couple of months later, it shocks me that I felt that bad. Whilst I’m nowhere near back to full health, looking back, I barely recognise myself and to those that know me, you wouldn’t have either. I’m usually so full of energy, positivity and go-get-’em vim but trust me, a smile can hide a thousand ills. And so I suppose that’s why I’m writing this. After the news this week of Caroline Flack’s suicide and the general #bekind movement, I want to be open about this period in the hope that others might not feel quite so alone if they ever experience similar. Not feeling able to talk about it is harmful and having to keep up a pretence is draining. But talking honestly about these things is a real challenge: the fear of whether it’ll cause people to look at me differently or it’ll harm my career is huge. Will people empathise or criticise? Will they use this against me? Will I be ridiculed or written-off? But I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been through on my worst enemy and so all those risks are worth it if I can counter any such negative judgement and garner even a little bit of conversation and understanding.
I’m one of the lucky ones as I now have a fabulous support network: family, doctors and therapist, but I know that many people don’t. And so admitting that you’re a bit broken must be doubly-hard.
Because let’s face it: we’re all a bit broken.
And if you’re reading this and thinking, ‘pah! Not me, I’m A-okay. No issues here love’, I’m either super-pleased for you, or super-sorry that you feel you have to convince yourself of that. Because, let’s stop peddling the bullshit – no one is fine all the time. Everyone has self-doubt, worries, fears, stress and anxiety. And if you’re not able to admit that to yourself and others, ask yourself why. What’s to be gained in the pretence of infallibility? Why is it perceived as a weakness to show vulnerability? After all, we’re wonderfully flawed human beings, not robots.
The road to recovery is frustratingly slow, but each day I feel a little more physical and mental strength returning. I can read and write for extended periods again. I’ve started a little yoga and exercise. I’ve taken up sewing (I made the dungarees I’m wearing in the picture below. Woo, go me!). But I’m not trying to get back to full health just so I can unthinkingly throw myself back in to the hamster wheel. No, life is going to be (and in fact, has to be) different. I’m on a new journey. And a giant first step on that journey is being self-aware and honest enough with myself and the wider world about these things. It’s time to build a life that feels good, instead of looks good. Some of that might involve conventional changes, some might be a bit more wacky (yes, I now meditate daily…), but I’ve promised myself that I’m going to stop following the herd and start doing things that really fulfil me: family, exercise, work, hobbies, creativity, community and being outdoors more often. It probably means I won’t have the latest car or the luxury holidays, but what I’ll lose in show-offy Instagram-worthy ‘stuff’, I hope I’ll gain in peace and genuine, sustainable contentment. At least that’s the plan…
That isn’t to say I’m going to jack everything in and join a kibbutz. I’m still a mother, a wife, a lawyer and an outspoken forty-something woman. But from now on, I’m going to be all those things – just more authentically. Less super-mum and more good-enough mum. Less Mitch McDeere and more Elle Woods. Less ragged George and more don’t-sweat-the-small-stuff George. I’m going to try my damn-dest not to feel judged, worry what others think of me or that I’m competing with everyone else out there. I’ll do my path, you do yours. And if our paths allow us to walk side-by-side for a while, even better.
It’s trite to say, but life is short, it can be over in the blink of an eye. So don’t kill yourself pursuing someone else’s dream. Plough your own furrow and if it meanders and wiggles and sometimes goes round and round in circles, don’t fret. It’s a journey that should be enjoyed, not endured. Pause, look up and enjoy the view. Because believe me, when you can’t see that view, very little else matters.