Breathe

Five days.

I haven’t taken my medication in five days.

I’m not a very good patient, apparently. I need a new prescription, I neglected to make an appointment with my GP, and now I’ve run out of meds. I have an appointment tomorrow morning, but it’s been a tough few days. And I have no one to blame for that but myself.

I have to say though, my feelings about being medicated at all are very conflicted, to say the least. One of the things I found the most difficult to come to terms with and accept is that the medication actually helps. I would even be willing to go as far as to say I need it.

That kind of makes me sad. Which I find perversely funny, because the medication I take is Escitalopram, which treats depression.

Yes. I have depression, and I’m medicated for it.

Very few people actually know this about me. I told both Matt & Nick, it was really no big deal talking to them about it. Matt gets it, he has depression and anxiety and actually was just switched on to Escitalopram as well. Nick was a little more confronting, because I don’t think he’s ever even considered speaking to anyone about any emotional issues he may have, let alone seek medical advice and take pills. Matt’s family might know, I’m not sure. They know he takes medication, I honestly don’t know if he’s mentioned that I do as well, or if I’ve told them.

I haven’t spoken to my family about it at all though, not even my mum. It’s really strange, because my mother is a counsellor, and I know she really worries about my mental health. I’ve always been very cagey with my emotions and have tried to deal with everything myself. I’ve never been one for deep & meaningful, heart to heart discussions over wine & chocolate, or whatever. Not with anyone, even Matt or Nick, or female friends, back when I had them.

Case in point – Matt and I had a massive argument recently. Honestly, it more or less went on for a week. We’d think we had made up, but then something would happen and it all flared up again. At one point, we decided to get a bit of space, and Matt drove down to Sydney and visited Nick. They didn’t bitch about me, or anything like that; Matt just told Nick that we were really struggling, to the point that I was seriously considering moving out.

The next day, Nick called me and asked how I was doing. I knew that he & Matt had spoken, and he said that he just wanted me to know that he was there if I needed someone to talk to as well. He didn’t want me to feel like Matt had ‘gotten to him first’ and therefore he was off-limits to me. It was incredibly thoughtful and supportive of him, but honestly I could not imagine a fate worse than speaking about my personal life to anyone. Even to Nick, who is like a brother, and knows me better than my actual brother.

I think this is why I don’t talk to my mother about my depression. She’d be relieved that I’m taking care of myself, and that I have a psychologist to talk to if I’m not comfortable talking to her. But, somehow, I think I’d still feel weak, and like a failure. Or, alternatively, like I’m being a baby and there are so many people with it so much worse, so I should get over myself. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think in a million years my mother would think those things about me, let alone say them. Still, it remains a conversation I have no interest in having.

Anyway – I am currently unmedicated. I don’t enjoy it. Fortunately (and unfortunately) I don’t really have the kind of depression where you are literally depressed; like a sad helium balloon three days after the party, floating six inches off the floor, looking like a rubber testicle and trailing a ribbon like a lead for a dog that ran away a long time ago. My depression is the (seemingly less well known) PMS variety. I do have my deflated helium balloon days, but they are very very infrequent. No, when I am unmedicated, I seem to be in a perpetual state of irritation and irrational frustration. This still means I have very little energy for activities, but I make the people around me feel like it’s because I can’t stand to be around them, not because I’m ‘depressed’.

This, as I’m sure you can imagine, is especially problematic when you remember that I have a three year old. Children, you might be aware, generally want the adults in their lives to interact with them in some way, almost constantly. To achieve this, they often fall back on nagging. This would become trying for even the most well-adjusted person. When I’m off my meds, it honestly makes me feel like someone is holding a hot blanket (like, just come out of the dryer hot) around my head while sitting on my back and vigorously rubbing a rough towel over my bare skin. I know that sounds like an extreme description, but I swear to you it’s accurate. It feels like my space is being invaded in the most infuriating and slightly panic-inducing of ways. When Thomas actually clings to me, or climbs on me, it becomes even worse. The towel becomes full of needles.

I know, even in my unbalanced brain, that this isn’t right; that I shouldn’t be responding so immediately in such an extreme way. So, I take my medication. I feel normal. Because, you know, I remember what normal feels like. That’s how I knew something was wrong, even though I don’t talk about my emotions. I had no sounding board, no one said ‘gee, sounds like you could be depressed; you should see your doctor.’ I just remember the person I was as a teenager, and I miss her. She had her shit together; and really it’s supposed to be the other way around, isn’t it? Adult me should have it going on way better than 17 year old me. That’s my goal though, to be has happy within myself as I was at 17.

The other downside of stopping my medication, is dreams. I don’t know what to call them really – Bad dreams? Nightmares? I don’t wake up from them in a cold sweat, or with a dramatic gasp. I don’t feel the need to snuggle into Matt and seek reassurance that it was just a dream, and that I’m safe and loved.

The thing that makes these dreams ‘bad’ is that I honestly don’t realise they’re dreams, often for hours after I wake up in the morning. They’re always the same – totally everyday location, like my home, doing a totally everyday thing, like housework. Out of nowhere, I can’t breathe. It’s like I’ve been holding my breath, but now my lungs won’t expand to fill up again. I don’t feel panic to begin with. I actually think ‘Oh, this again. I really need to make a doctor’s appointment about this.’ I know that if I ride it out, the air will eventually come back. It does, but not until I get to the point where I actually am starting to panic a little. So, because I’m becoming more and more accustomed to these dreams, it takes me longer and longer before I start to feel the panic, and so when panic does come it’s more intense than last time because this time I’ve been without air for longer, if that makes sense. It’s God damned awful, and my brain takes a really long time to realise it didn’t actually happen. But even then, it feels so real. I know it seems like a very extreme word to use, but it’s getting to the point where the word I’d use to describe the feeling I’m left with is ‘trauma’. My brain is deceiving me, and I don’t like it.

Now, Matt has suggested that these dreams may actually be caused by sleep apnea. I find that very doubtful, because for one I’ve asked him and apparently I don’t snore. Two, I remember having these dreams back before I started my medication, and now I only have them whenever I’ve stopped taking it. I don’t know if it’s a side-effect of the drugs leaving my system, or a symptom of my depression. I plan on talking to my psychologist about them at my next appointment.

Okay then, this has been a really really long post, I am so sorry. Just, that dream last night really put me on edge, I haven’t felt myself all day. Writing about it has really helped; I’ve put the words together to describe what the dream was, and how it’s made me feel. Hey, maybe I won’t even have to talk at my next appointment, I can just show my psychologist my blog! Psychoanalysis without conversation, that would be ideal! 😀

The best is yet to come. Stay you.

The door knocker epiphany

So, the other week, a door knocker, funnily enough, knocked on my door. Even though it happened a while ago and literally anyone else would have completely forgotten about it, I haven’t. And do you know what? Imma tell you why.

This guy was representing an electricity company, and I’m not going to say which one because if anyone does actually read this, I’m not particularly inclined to give them any free advertising. Anyway, I never know how to tell these people to save their energy and stow their spiel because I have a three year old inside getting into God-knows-what and I probably don’t have the money to donate to their charity/a deity-shaped hole in my heart/interest in whatever their selling to spend five minutes waiting for them to get to their point anyway.

So, here I was, stuck at my door, knowing exactly what this guy was building to thirty seconds after he started speaking but feeling obliged to there listening (im)patiently for the next four minutes thirty seconds for him to actually spit it out. Believe it or not, my patience and tolerance (kind of) paid off, because what he was offering was actually pretty good and appealed to me a lot more than what we were currently using, and I agreed to switch to the provider he was representing.

Now, of course this was a whole other process in itself. He’d come armed with an iPad and explained to me that he’d enter all my details into that and submit them online, and then there would be a short phone call just to confirm everything was good. I was fine with that, whatever you need to do, you know. So, all in all he was probably standing at my door for a good twenty minutes, and in that time I mentioned that my husband wasn’t home, and Thomas poked his head round the door probably a million times, and tried to escape through it probably half that often again. The sales gentleman, once I acquiesced to his offer, was also generous enough to inquire as to whether I would need to discuss the decision with the man of the house (ha!). This offer was repeated several times throughout our exchange, and every single damn time, I reiterated that my husband would not give a proverbial about this decision because I manage the bills and he’s quite happy with this arrangement.

Now, I’d like to think, that after all the circumstantial information that has transpired throughout this exchange – alone with a small child, married, renting property, managing finances, and so on; someone objective (and especially a door-to-door electricity salesman whom you would THINK has undergone some form of I-need-to-be-as-pleasant-as-possible-I’m-just-doing-my-job-don’t-hit-me-with-my-stupid-iPad customer service training) would come to the conclusion that I am as independent, capable and fully functioning as it’s possible to be when you’re a slightly unhinged woman in her mid-twenties who spends her days wrangling a three year old boy.

Apparently, I was wrong.

Towards the end of the ordeal, I was required to take his infernal iPad to electronically sign the form he’d taken an age filling in for me. I managed to watch him struggle with the concept of a damn QWERTY keyboard, which has been in common use for like 100 years, without questioning his mental or physical acuity, but (God help me), I had an involuntary muscle spasm (I call them twitches and they are infuriatingly common-place for me, especially when I’m trying desperately to be still…but that’s a post for another time) while I was taking his iPad, and another while I was signing with my finger, which I really believe would be a weird experience for anyone. It’s surprisingly difficult to remember your signature without the conduit of some sort of writing implement.

Anyway, *twitch* *mental cringe* *damnit, here we go*

Electricity man (EM) – (looking weirded out rather than sympathetic or concerned) “Are you okay?”

Me – “Oh, yeah. *awkward smile* I have mild cerebral palsy, it’s a physical disability, it’s not mental, it’s fine.” *hahaha I’m dying inside I just want this to be over I think I hear Thomas opening that wormhole that H.P. Lovecraft messed around with*

EM – *completely at a loss, clearly uncomfortable and out of his depth, floundering and obviously totally self-focused* (I love the feelings I can inspire in complete strangers just by being myself) “Oh, um, should I be speaking to you husband?”

Now, what I wanted to say was something along the lines of ‘well, you can if you like, but he’s a paralysed deaf-mute who’s out having his prosthetic arm fitted while they service his iron lung’ because even then he would still be just as capable of making this decision as I am; but what I actually said (rather pathetically, in my opinion) was – “No, I told you, stuff like this is up to me. I mean, I’m here by myself with a small child…” As you can see from the above, I could have done so much better.

Huh, I didn’t actually realise how much I had to say about this until I started typing.

Long story (not really) short, when he made his phone call he felt the need to specify that I did have cerebral palsy, but that I was of sound mind and had not been coerced or taken advantage of, which I of course had to corroborate.

Look, I really don’t have a problem with the circumstances on the face of it. I’ve encountered ignorance so many times I couldn’t even be bothered to put a number to it, and nine times out of ten people are more than open to education and a broader understanding. I know that he was just covering himself because he can’t be seen to be taking advantage of anyone just to get his commission.

If I have a problem with anything it’s that this ignorance is still so commonplace. Cerebral palsy is NOT an uncommon thing. I went to school with a half-dozen people who had it, with varying severity. Matt’s cousin has it. How am I still confronted with people, so damn often, who hear ‘cerebral palsy’ and take a step back like I might suddenly combust before their eyes?

I’ve had the question (thankfully not from strangers, but from my mother and Matt) ‘Would I change it if I could? If there was a cure or treatment or something?’ And, do you know, I wouldn’t. I know some, if not all, of the people I went to school with probably would, and I think Matt’s cousin definitely would; she’s had so many surgeries in her short life that she’s probably more scar tissue than skin and muscle at this point, and she’s been braver than I’ll ever have to be through it all.

But, I’ve never known life without it. Cerebral palsy, for those who don’t know, is unequivocally from birth. It’s not like a know a ‘better’ life, before ‘disability’ struck. This is just how things are for me. Sometimes I twitch, sometimes I have to repeat myself, sometimes I bump into walls (which is funny more than anything), and sometimes I spill stuff. Sure, it’s frustrating, and sometimes other people’s attitudes and/or ignorance make me doubt all of society and my place in it, but it is also the reason for my immense patience, and determination, and self assurance. I know I’m different, and I know I face challenges a lot of people will never know.

How awesome does that make me?

The best is yet to come. Stay you.

I know I will.

Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten…?

Well, hello again world.

I have some family issues. Doesn’t everyone? I know, I really know, that it doesn’t make me special, or different, and I am positive that so many people out there have it so much worse than I do.

But this is my blog, and my stories, so deal with it or go home.

I’ve always felt like a bit of a black sheep in my family. I know that this has more to do with my perception of myself than anything my family have done, or not done. Looking at it objectively, especially now that I’m an adult with a family of my own, I know how lucky I was, and am, to have the family I do. I have seen first hand what my life could have been, in so many different regards.

I have mild cerebral palsy. I was diagnosed when I was about two. From then on, my parents and my paternal grandparents did absolutely everything that could be done to ensure this disability would have as limited an impact on my life as possible. My parents both worked full time to ensure I received the best possible specialist and private healthcare, and while they were working my grandparents took me to doctors, specialist and physiotherapist appointments. Because they (and these appointments) were in Sydney, and my family lived on the Central Coast, my mother also had to drive out of her way before and after work to drop me off and pick me up from my grandparents’ house on these occasions.

Besides these practicalities, I always knew I was loved, and special, and amazing. My parents loved me, and never ceased to be impressed by the strides I would make, or by my fiery, independent and determined personality. My grandparents doted on me, my teachers marvelled at my drive to fit in and my intelligence. I had a small but tightly-knit circle of friends and I always knew that I was the ring-leader, the head of the group. I inherited my mother’s empathy and compassion and my father’s charisma and intelligence.

I (thankfully) don’t know what kind of person I would be without this upbringing. I don’t know how independent I would be capable of being, and I don’t know if the little family I have built for myself would exist without everything my family did for me when I was young.

However, like any family, we have problems.

The biggest chasm is between myself and my father, and as a result, his parents as well. This is really difficult for me, because I was brought up in such a close family environment, and was taught almost on a subconscious level that keeping the family together and happy is paramount. Plus, I love my father and my grandparents, they make up an intrinsic part of who I am.

My father’s family is Greek. My grandparents immigrated with their families when they were children, but have continued to visit Greece very regularly, and have owned property over there (which they rent out) their entire married life. Anyone who knows anything about the Greek culture can tell you how important family is to them, and also how fraught their families generally are with drama. And so, my childhood was full of massive family get-togethers, with avalanches of food and lots of uncomfortable hugs from people I was told were somehow related to me.

I loved it, and I want it so much for my son.

I want it so badly for him, that even though my husband and I are not religious, we had our son baptised Greek Orthodox (like I was) because it was so important to me that he be included in the Greek culture and it seemed like a good way to welcome him into it.

My father hasn’t seen or spoken to any of us since Thomas was three months old, and my grandparents have laid eyes on him three times in his short little life.

They are missing so much.

Even though I maintain that this distance doesn’t bother me too much, my psychologist thinks it’s important, for some reason. I think I’m used to it; my father and I have had a very on-off relationship since I was 13. I have said that he was charismatic and intelligent, and he absolutely is. He also has his bad points: he is incredibly opinionated and really seems to struggle with empathy. I think my mother balanced him out in that way, and when they separated (when I was 9) I think I was old enough to understand how to navigate him, most of the time.

However, when he met and eventually moved in with and married my step mother, I (and my younger brother and sister) really began to struggle.

My father and step mother are an excellent couple, and I’ve always been happy that he found someone who makes him happy after my mother. She has her good points too, she has been an wonderful provider for us and always strived to ensure we never felt inferior to her own son, who is a year older than my sister. But, and this is just my opinion, everything that my mother balanced in my father, my step mother exacerbates, sometimes to the extreme.

I’m not blaming her, not at all. This is not a step parent bashing blogpost. I will always believe that all my parents loved us infinitely, and did the absolute best that they were capable of. Really, I don’t think I can blame anyone. Yes, since I was a teenager my relationship with my father and his family has been very rocky, but especially as I’ve gotten older, could there be more that I should have done to fix things? I just don’t know.

I think it comes down to how many sacrifices I (and my husband, now) am willing to make in order to keep the peace. My brother and sister, despite also having falling-outs with my father and step mother, have always forgone boundaries more than I have ever been willing to in order to maintain the status quo. When he is a part of you life, my father generally improves that life significantly; with good humour, conversation, money, a car, a place to live, a job, whatever anyone could possibly need. But, I have learnt over the course of the past 15 years or so that these advantages are never given, but come with a price, whether that be a curfew for my 21 year old brother, or autonomy over who my 17 year old sister dates, or first choice for activities on significant days, like Christmas and birthdays. My siblings have found a way to navigate these demands and boundaries in a way my husband and I were never comfortable with, and they reap all the benefits of that. If they’re happy, then I’m happy for them.

The last time my father and step mother did something for me, it was incredibly significant, and my husband and I will never forget it. They heard we were expecting, got back in touch and offered to pay for private healthcare for my pregnancy and birth, furnished us with a car which they would maintain, and allowed us to move into their investment property with substantially reduced rent.

We accepted, in the perhaps naive attempt to do what was best for our new addition, and also because I really did miss my father and grandparents and loved the idea of having my complete family take part in the pregnancy and birth of my child. However, as perhaps I should have known, we proved once again that we couldn’t exist in close quarters, and again, I asked for space.

This time, however, I maintained that I had no wish to sever contact, I just wanted the independence of my own house and car, and that I felt this distance would be imperative for my husband and myself to maintain a positive and healthy relationship with my father and step mother. This was rebuffed in no uncertain terms, and unfortunately we have not spoken since.

I really miss them all. More to the point though, I don’t think they know what they’re missing.

My family was a beautiful one, for all its flaws, and my little family now is even more so. I don’t know if they’ve left me behind, or I them, but I wish things could be different.

Hey, there’s always tomorrow, right?

Hello. It’s me.

Hey there.

I know it’s been a while, maybe you’ve forgotten us, as we are unable to forget you. It’s taken me a lot of time, thought and consideration to write this, and even if you never read it, believe me – that’s not the point.

I don’t want you to think I credit you with single-handedly almost bringing about the destruction of my marriage. We had been walking a very fine line between happiness and despair for a very long time before you came along. Maybe, with time and effort, we would have learnt to stay on the happiness side, and been stronger for it. But, because of the choices you made (along with my stupid husband), things got a whole lot harder, and have only just now started to get better again.

Yeah, I don’t hold you solely accountable. I’m not stupid, or naive. I know that if it wasn’t you, it probably would’ve just been someone else.

But, it was you, and you were more than okay with that.

My husband is an adult, and he knew what he was doing. But, as we all know, you played your part. Because you made those decisions and allowed my husband to make his, with no regard for his family, that family was almost altered forever, in possibly one of the most drastic ways. I was hurt, and will bear those scars probably for the rest of my life. But, and this is infinitely more important, our son was hurt. And, he will continue to be hurt, in countless new and different ways, for a very, very long time.

That is why I am writing this. I think he deserves a voice. This is for him.

Because of your choices, my son was almost left with a broken home. He spent his first birthday with his parents in separate houses, and he had two parties, with one of us at each. He spent the entirety of his second year between two homes, missing one of us constantly. He was witness to his parents’ pain, and stress, and anguish, and he bore it like no toddler should be expected to. He is stronger than the three selfish adults who caused this could ever hope to be.

For that year, he didn’t know security, he didn’t know family, and he didn’t know home.

Again, this isn’t all on you. We all (yes, even me) could have, and should have, handled ourselves much better, both before the fact and after. However, I am doing everything I can to repair my relationships with my husband and son, and fix our family. My husband is doing the same. What are you doing? Do you even know what you’ve done?

Well, maybe now you are starting to get some vague idea.

Because of you, my son lost the family I had always dreamed for him, since I was a child myself and imagining my future, for over a year. More than half his young little life so far. And it was almost gone forever.

But, just over two years on, we are coming to a place where we are happy. I am happy, mostly. I don’t, and never did, place the burden of my marriage solely on your shoulders. You were just the straw that broke the camel’s back. While it is true that we will never be able to forget you, I have to say I don’t think of you often. When I do, it’s with the honest hope that you find the happiness you almost destroyed in my family, and that we have worked so hard to restore, leaving you far behind.

And, I hope if you do find this happiness, that you endeavour to deserve it.

Sitting in her living room, looking through the MacBook screen out into the whole entire world…and she speaks.

Well, this is it.

This. Is. IT.

I don’t really expect many people to read this blog. Actually, a big part of me hopes no one does. It’s the reason I’m doing this with no attempt at fanfare; I’m going to be totally upfront in these (web) pages and things will come up that I’ve never told anyone. What if my family ever read it? Awkward…

Why, then, write things and post them on the internet? I guess I have a lot to say, and not a lot of people to say things to. I don’t have many friends; really it’s just Matt (he’s definitely my best friend, and if there’s anyone out there who won’t be surprised by anything that finds its way onto these pages, it’ll be him), and my best friend from school – Nick. And when I say school, I mean PRE-school. Yup, 23 years stuck with me and he’s still hanging around. He’s obviously just as crazy as I am.

I guess I’d just like people to relate to. In my real world, face to face experience, not many people have had the experiences I have, and some of them are the kind of experiences that, if people did have them, they’re not really going to want to talk about them anyway. There’s a lot of people out there, and while I never entered into this expecting or hoping to go viral, if I can reach just one person who relates to something about me…I just think that’s be pretty cool.

Also, and least importantly to me, I see a psychologist, and she’s always getting me to write hypothetical lists and letters and thoughts. Why not put those things out there and see what the world thinks of who I really am? I know I’ll probably get a lot of hate (unfortunately, and wrongly, it’s impossible to avoid that sort of thing nowadays) but if I get a little bit of love too, maybe it’ll help. And who knows, maybe I’ll help someone too.

So stay tuned, world. As I say to myself everyday (sometimes as an affirmation, sometimes as a desperate wish)…

The best is yet to come. Stay you.