Last year, I was hospitalised for what was formerly described as a 'major depressive disorder'. Most of you would know it as a nervous breakdown.
As my marriage imploded, and the world collapsed around me, I went with it.
It was the worst time of my life.
You can't imagine the shame, confusion and yes, resentment, I felt, that I needed to be admitted to a mental health institution in order to find myself. The guilt that I had to be away from my kids in order to do it.
"You have to do this," the extremely wise and caring nurses would say. "If Mum's not happy, the kids won't be happy."
And they were right.
On my first day in hospital, I didn't even talk to anyone, apart from the staff. I took to my (single, hospital) bed, trying to work out how the hell my life had come to this.
There I was, then 42, with two marriage failures behind me. Through no fault of my own, I was now homeless. And I was in hospital battling anxiety and depression.
I went from being a hands-on Mum; a successful writer and journalist; to what felt like a failure
I spent more than a month in that hospital, basically getting better. Slowly coming out of my shell and sharing truths I had never before revealed. To anyone, least of all myself.
(After I left, the healing continued. Still does. I attend outpatients' groups, study and practise Mindfulness, see my psychiatrist and a counsellor regularly. I take my meds. I do everything I need to do in order to stay well.)
At first, my psychiatrist terrified the crap out of me. But gradually, I warmed to him and learned to trust him with my secrets. The psychologist and psychiatric nurses were awesome. They knew how to ask the hard questions that would lead me to sudden 'a-ha' moments.
"So that's why I do that," I realised. "That's why I made those (often wrong) choices)."
And did I mention the other patients? The people I was too scared to talk to on my first day, because hey, they must be nuts too, right? Those people were among the sanest, most talented, smart and interesting people I've met in my life.
And yet, it was hard work. Especially as my life outside of hospital, was careering out of control. Especially when I was treated with cruelty and contempt by the very people who were supposed to love me. (Note: Not my own family. My family have been nothing but supportive and great).
People often ask me if there were times when I just wanted to give up. To crawl into the foetal position and die.
And I have to say that yes, I felt that way more times than I can say.
But I had two very good reasons not to give up. To hang in there and fight. For me, for them, for us.
You know where I'm going with this, right? My kids, C. and H.
The two constants in my life that even I haven't managed to stuff up (much.) The two people that gave me a role that I (mostly) know how to do, being Mumma. The two people I love and admire most in the world.
They're my heart, my soul, my reasons for being here on this earth. They are my drive.
It was the kids that lit up that dark, difficult period.
It was C. and H. who gave me the impetus, the motivation and the drive to get myself out of that hospital and back into my rightful role. As their Mumma.
What I've learned is that parenting and my pursuit of happiness is a rollercoaster. There are unforgiving lows, heady highs, squeals of joy, and moments of feeling dreadfully sick.
And happily, there are those perfect moments. When the kids are making a 'Mumma Sandwich', when they're giggling infectiously, or coming to me for a cuddle, just because.
And I know I'm right where I'm supposed to be.
Back in the driver's seat.
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Happy 5 year Strokeaversary!
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