Thursday, 22 July 2010

School's (nearly) out

Only one more day to the end of term - hurrah! I am so much better in the holidays, because a major source of my anxiety evaporates - in term time the other Mums and their perceptions of me weigh on me heavily. I assume that they don't know about my mental health problems, but I still worry that I am visibly odd or different from the majority of the other mothers. Other people seem to find it easier to bond than I do, especially in groups. Groups of people intimidate me intensely - I have lots of friends but I prefer to see them separately.

I guess this must go back to my childhood - lots of stuff does. I know that the night before my eldest child started school, when I was sewing nametapes into her uniform, I felt the strangest nervous fluttering in my stomach, a feeling that we used to call 'butterflies'. It took me a few minutes to realise that I was having a physical flashback sensation, to the way I used to feel as a child before going back to school for the new term.

The disappointing thing about becoming an adult is that internally you never really grow up - although maybe this only applies to those with trauma in their childhoods, like me. So standing in the playground waiting for my child to come out at the end of her first day, I felt the same things that I did twenty-five years before - Who should I speak to? Will anybody like me?

As the term went on I realised that there was a definite element of competitiveness in the playground - who spoke to who, who wore what, all sorts of undercurrents were apparent. Admittedly, I am one for reading things into situations - it irritates the hell out of my husband, who can never understand what I am winding myself up about, but this was not my imagination.

Before long I ended up seeing a counsellor at the surgery - I felt so ridiculous having issues about school when my four year old was sailing through the experience, and she was the one in the classroom. What the counsellor said surprised me - she claimed to have hordes of female clients with the same issues as me about the playground situation.

I believe her, although I still find it hard to switch off from it all. It is like a tribal cliquey thing - women can be quite hard towards each other, sometimes quite inexplicably. I suppose it is a sort of competitiveness, a Darwin thing. It is a shame though that we can't be more supportive, especially if so many of us do have the same sorts of worries and troubles.

I have a lot of children home to play - I live close to the school and my kids are very sociable, which I encourage. I am grateful that none of them is growing up shy or standoffish. But this means that I have to make an effort to socialise with the other Mums and I do find it hard - I am always trying to fit in, and sometimes I know I try too hard.

This afternoon was a case in point - I was trying to join in a conversation between two other Mums, just to be friendly, but I was slightly off the subject, and I turned suddenly to see the two of them smiling to each other as I was speaking, and I am sure that they were laughing at me. I do have an almost uncanny sixth sense about stuff like this - I am not paranoid, honest - but I could really do without it. I am unduly sensitive - too eager to want others to like me, so I yabber away unecessarily and end up alienating them, then I realise what I have done and feel awful about myself.

It is a repeating pattern. I am regularly invited to the Mums' evenings out in my eldest daughter's year group because one of my close friends is the one who always organises these evenings. I want to go, because I want to be friends with these people, and also to show a good example to my children, because it is a positive thing to socialise. But I dread the occasions, and usually my nerves mean that I end up talking and behaving like a bit of an idiot. And I also get the strong impression that there are a few Mums who would prefer me not to go - I do unnerve people a bit, partly because I talk too much when I am nervous, partly because I tend to scrutinise people. This sounds weird I know, but it is not exactly intentional - I am just so interested in people and in what makes them tick that I do stare a bit, and some people are very conscious of this. Then I get conscious that I am staring and it all becomes even weirder.

Anyway, most of my life is normal and I have hopes that most people I meet think I am just like everybody else. And I know a lot of other people do have anxieties similar to mine. But this blog exists because I am not like everybody else at the end of the day - I do have various unsettling symptoms. But what I battle with mostly is my diagnosis - which I tool on board years ago, and which means that despite my lovely husband telling me that I am just like everybody else, but better (he really does love me) I still have skewed perceptions of myself which make me overly analytic of a lot of average everyday stuff.

Partly I don't have enough of substance happening in my life. When I am writing regularly I am sure I will be happier - all this over-thinking can go down on the page and be healthily expunged. I have been thinking about putting Toddler into nursery in September instead of waiting until January, so that I can move forward with that. Anyway, for now I can blog, which can be done in short bursts, and will hopefully keep me sane in the short term. x .

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Free Time at Last

Yes, I have a morning off. I dropped Toddler off with his grandparents. We now seem to have a loose arrangement that they will look after him for one morning a week during term time. I still have to call them to arrange it each time, but I have got an acknowledgement out of them that they do like to have him, so that makes it easier for me to ask.

Today I dropped him off straight after I took the others to school, to make the most of my free time. But I spent half an hour of it stuck in traffic, another half an hour having a cup of tea and something to eat (because although I have been up since six thirty I still hadn't eaten by ten o'clock), then the last fifteen minutes getting my laptop up and running. It's four years old now and really slow, and also is starting to mess up a bit.

But I don't feel justified in buying a new one - my other half is pretty grumpy already about me wanting a new camera, as he wants to patch up my old one instead. I just prefer sometimes to buy something new, especially when it is even cheaper than usual in the sales, because technology moves on so fast. In the old days it would have been better to buy quality and keep it going but now older stuff is just not quality. New things are literally better - sad but true. But a laptop is a big purchase, and now is not the time. I don't need one that badly.

Anyway, now I have an hour to get on with something. But I have unexpected visitors for tea this afternoon, so I have to hit the shops soon, with an organised list of what I need. I seem to be on catering duty at the moment - we had guests last weekend, and will have for the next three afternoons and both days this weekend. Still, by the end of that I should have developed into the perfect hostess.

I find if you throw money at the entertaining problem, it is easily solved. Not huge amounts of money, obviously, but if have an idea of what you are going to cook and then go to the shop and buy fresh stuff it is a lot better than trying to conjure up something out of what you have in the fridge and cupboards. So I will go to Co-op with my list in a mo.

I am so glad that I no longer smoke (gave up about fifteen years ago) and that I don't drink much either (I have a glass of something about every six months so I am not quite a teetotaller). We couldn't afford to look after the family properly if we had any vices - but with our sober (some would say boring) lifestyle we can stretch my husband's salary so that everyone has everything they require and most of what they desire.

Puppy is calming down now, although she is still a bit nippy and excitable in the mornings. The children are getting fonder of her, especially Toddler. He likes to be the one to let her out of her crate when we get back from the school run - problem yesterday was that he let her out while I had the front door open and was putting the pushchair into the side entrance, so she ran out into the road. Luckily disaster was averted as I made a successful grab for her while she was running into the road. He has been telling everyone we see solemnly all about it, 'Dod nearny killed. Car come bash her!' There was no car in sight, but I take it as a sign of a vivid imagination.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Where do all the days go?

Time is flying by at the moment. We are getting towards the end of the school term, thank goodness, but before we get there we have to jump through the hoops - Summer Fayres, Sports Days, special assembly-type occasions, commemorative barbeques... Ballet exams, shows, workshops...and so on and so forth. It feels like an endurance test.

The holidays are easier in a way, because the children have each other for company. During the week at the moment I am alone with the toddler, but still far too busy. I am sure I need to learn how to manage my time better and to relax more. But the only way to do this would be to drop some of the stuff that I do - which means the laundry would remain unwashed, and the house would be filthy, or the toddler would be parked in front of the TV more often than is good for him.

Anyway, in just six months time (but that is still half a year away), he will be at nursery and I will have some free time at last. Which is when I hope my writing career will take off. So much of my self-esteem is tied up in my ability to write, I really feel as though I need to prove myself there. I know this blog is a step in the right direction, but I have a whole load more that I want to achieve. I hope the memoir really will get published one day soon, but since I last wrote about that on here I have taken no further steps towards it.

When I read back this blog and notice typos and bits of clumsiness in the text I get desperate to go back and correct it. A bit obsessive, I know, but it is important to be happy with what you publish - so once my memoir is out there I want it to be in the right form, and as good as it can get. I am still dithering at the moment about how much of my real persona I want to expose - and still coming firmly down on the side of not much at all.

I have been a bit more relaxed recently. I think this may be to do with getting older - it brings a certain amount of self-assurance and ease. My sister visited yesterday, but was off again in less than an hour, declaring herself bored. When I was younger I would have found this hurtful - one of the worst insults in my book was to be called boring, and to avoid this label I indulged in all sorts of damaging behaviour. But yesterday I was unmoved - I do not exist for anyone's entertainment, I thought to myself and in my opinion my kids are the most interesting and captivating little people ever - so if she is bored it must be that there is a problem with her attention span.

I have been observing my family recently, and it seems to me that we all have a need for an audience, and that we are only really contented if we are being avidly listened to while we talk about ourselves at length. Maybe this applies to everyone, not just my family. But it is amazing how many people are really quite unaware of how self centred they are.

I read something today in the paper about shyness - how it is just an excuse for being self-centred, and I agree with the argument. Although of course when you are in the grips of extreme shyness it is terrifying and the last thing you are thinking is, 'It's all about me'. It is much more unconscious than that. Shyness is a very common and natural human trait, so I suppose self-obsession comes with the territory too. But recently I have been thinking - actually we have a duty to try to be entertaining - doesn't everybody like to spend time with those who interest and engage them, and shouldn't we all try our best to be that sort of person? So I am going to try to put myself in the spotlight from now on; because in the words of Nelson Mandela 'We are all meant to shine, as children do'.

Does this read as lucid, or as totally contradictory? I know what I mean anyway - I want to be free from anxiety, nerves and shyness, while not being completely full of myself. Free to converse. I think this is what is important about having a career - a longing I was trying to express to a group of friends the other day, all of whom were envious of the fact that I don't work and can concentrate on the kids. I feel that I am missing something which they gain from being out of the home at least some of the time - a sense of persective maybe, and a sense of self.

Because if you have a role in the workplace you have a need to communicate and a need to do this in the best way possible. Whereas I have no real need to speak to anyone except my children, so when I do talk to people it is a kind of indulgence and I am often thrashing about trying to find stuff to say. Then I question as to whether it needed to be said at all. I find it especially hard to make conversation in the mornings at school - all the 'Have you had a nice weekend?' and so on feels kind of superfluous. I get stuck for subject matter and fall back on what time the kids woke me up and guff like that.

Life. What's it all about, Alfie? I dunno, but trying to work it out never fails to make me feel better. Bye for now. x.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

What next?

I have found myself dithering over this blog again. I tried to write an entry the other day, but it sounded so banal that I stopped. Puppy news is all very well, but it's not going to help anyone in the throes of mental illness, or in the process of recuperation. I want this blog to mean something, and when I don't get any feedback I get disheartened.

Of course, I could easily widen my audience, by going public and sending all my friends and acquaintances links to this blog by email, but I am not prepared to go that far. My privacy, or the illusion of it, remains important to me.

I am thinking of digging up my memior though, and re-writing it. Getting it out there in all its awful detail, but changing any bits that might too obviously identify me. Although I accept that it wouldn't be too terrible if people did know who I am - I have no exalted position to fall from.

There is one particular member of my family who feels very strongly on the matter, but I think his issue is more with me spilling the beans on my father's business background than any gory details I might divulge on the subject of my personal history.

Anyway, this is about me - my story. My health. Because I am fast coming to the conclusion that to be really well I must stop hiding from my past. Unless I accept myself now as the product of my background and all that I have been through, instead of trying to pretend that I am now a completely new person, I will never be properly whole.

If anyone reads my book, I think I will feel freed in some way. If it helps anybody else in their quest, then I will feel it was worthwhile. I am not under the delusion that I have had the most terrible life ever recorded - other people have been sectioned, and a lot of them have never recovered to lead the kind of happy and fulfilled life that I now enjoy. But I do feel that some of my experiences will be useful to others - that the same reasons that led me to write this blog, in which a lot has been left unsaid, justify the publication of my memoir.

I intend to self-publish, probably on the net, and this may take some time as I do want to re-write and edit the story first. When it is done I will publish the link to the book here. And meanwhile, I intend to keep blogging, so please watch this space!