For my Mum: Mother’s Day

On 3 May, it will be 20 years since my wonderful mother died.

How this is possible is still beyond me. How I have survived, let alone become a (mostly) functioning adult is still a mystery to me. I am pretty sure that it is largely testament to my mum’s child-raising skills that somehow she managed to shower me with a lifetime of love, support and emotional intelligence in 17 short years.

Of course, if I think about it for more than a second, my heart breaks at what we have both missed out on. My wedding day would have been the best day of her life; she would have been the life and soul of the party, as usual. She would be simply the perfect grandma to my boys and I am sure in them she would have found the only people she loved and adored more than me.

I know many people would feel this way about their mothers. But mine was not just this special to me, but to virtually everyone that had the privilege of knowing her well. I remember sometimes feeling a little bit jealous that my friends and boyfriends seemed to enjoy her company just as much, if not more than mine! At times I lamented the partying, having a mum that everyone thought was brilliant because she was liberal, unshockable; the cool mum. She was a surrogate mother and best friend to many people and had an amazing ability to talk to people about anything and everything. She was a great listener and sorted out many a teenage drama or more serious problem of people that she had no actual responsibility for, but really cared about.

I have yet to meet anyone else whose upbringing was quite like mine. There were times when I thought I wanted it to be more conventional, but for the last two decades I’ve desperately wanted to recapture just a small part of it. Not least because it was the most loved and cherished I am ever likely to feel, without me having to pretend to be anything other than who I really am.

Words will never be sufficient to express how I feel about my Mum, and the fact that she’s not here. She was unfailingly generous, caring, fiercely loyal, forgiving, vivacious, gregarious, demonstrative, dramatic, fun and ridiculously silly. I do know she was an extraordinary person. She was also my best friend, the person I loved and cared about most in the world, and I am genuinely lucky to have her as my mother.

Thank you Mum. Happy Mother’s Day. Xxxx

P.S. I know Princess Diana is getting a statue and I know that objectively you really ought to have the same. I’ll see what I can do……

The Unwanted Christmas Guest

The Booktrotting Blog

December’s got off to a weird start this year. It’s usually my favourite month of the year – not just because it starts with my birthday and ends with Christmas, but also because of that feeling of carefree finality that comes with the end of the year. Because it’s a time to recharge, take stock, and, however briefly and shamelessly, be merry for merriment’s sake.

But for some reason, I’m just not feeling that this time. Traditionally for me, December starts with a sudden lurch into festivity. The tinsel comes down from the loft and is draped over every surface, the kitchen gets snowed under with stollen and biscotti, every cup of tea is festooned with cinnamon sticks. Love Actually and a festive Scotch is a staple of the first night of the month. But whilst none of that has been forgotten this year, I’m feeling a bit like it’s…

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Don’t ask a depressed person to try and think of a title

Dearest friends

I hope you are very well and that 2016 has treated you kindly.

I am writing to you to say sorry for not being as touch as much as I should. I know I have missed birthdays and other special occasions and I wanted you to know that it’s not because I don’t care or that I’m not bothered or interested. Far from it. I do think about you all often and wish it was easier to see each other and stay in touch more. There are new babies that I would like to meet and it would be nice to have even a vague idea of how you all are and what you are up to.

Anyway, I have been depressed for a large part of this year and while I am being treated and feeling much better than I was, I am still struggling. Consequently I am trying to ignore Christmas as much as possible and am not going to send any cards this year. I’m sadly not even doing anything valiant in its place like climbing a mountain for charity, or sponsoring a goat. But who knows what 2017 will bring….

This particular episode of depression has also brought with it a shopping addiction (that’s my excuse anyway). Apparently that’s not unusual. You see, I can’t even do depressed exceptionally. I just have the bog-standard ‘classic’ version. I have wasted a small fortune on cheap clothes that I don’t need, or even want that much. Yes, said item may have only been £25, but once you have purchased 40 other similarly-priced items, you are broke. Just before Christmas. Well done me.

I am not telling you this because I want sympathy. In fact any acknowledgement of this whatsoever will probably make me feel firstly embarrassed (like I need to put a paper bag on my head), and secondly make me agonise incessantly over the ‘real’ meaning of what people have said.

I know I am far from the only person who suffers with this and many of you will recognise this only too well. This episode hasn’t even been the worst I have had, although I’m usually more anxious than depressed. However, much of the last 10 years (diagnosed and probably 20 or more undiagnosed) have been plagued by severe anxiety and – thankfully less regularly – depression; a symptom of which for me at least is that minor-decision-making, social activities, talking to people, or even sending or replying to a text message feels impossible and creates unbelievable stress (both not replying and replying!!) So when I go quiet and unresponsive, please don’t think it’s anything other than just that. Given that I have, bizarrely and somewhat irresponsibly chosen a career essentially in communications(!) one can see how much of a challenge I have created for myself.

There have been times when it feels like my soul has been sucked out. I am aware of what having feelings, good or bad, feels like, I just can’t actually feel any at all. It’s like an out of body experience, which strangely makes it easier in some ways to carefully plan my reaction to things, conversations etc so as to appear (almost!) completely normal and jolly.

I do feel more than slightly ridiculous writing this. I instinctively feel like I should just get over it all and that perhaps I am not really depressed, I just like the drama. I am reliably informed though that this is just another one of the many negative thought spirals caused by actually being depressed.

I am also so exhausted from trying to hide this or make light of it and to have a sunny disposition in public (yes, I know, I am doing a fairly terrible job of that anyway!) I feel like I’ve been acting on and off for most of my life. If I had any other type of illness I expect I’d tell people and have a good moan about it. “I can’t go out today because I’m so anxious that I’m paralysed by fear and have had a complete meltdown just trying to leave the house” is the truth, but it just makes me want to cry thinking about how much of my life I’ve wasted feeling like that.

I don’t even know what I am worried about a lot of the time, although there’s usually the same big issue at the heart of it all.

Mostly I seem to veer between abject terror and sadness over the state of the world, homelessness, war, terrorism, Brexit, Trump, the health of my friends and family (and some people I’ve never even met) and whether Tesco has sold out of satsumas.

And then I find myself with something potentially real and devastating to deal with and I can hardly breathe and I realise (not for the first time) that everyone was right; worrying doesn’t and hasn’t stopped bad stuff happening, or make you any more able to deal with it when it does. While I am completely aware of this, I am still largely powerless to change my instinctive response (CBT, counselling etc. or not).

I could have just pretended I was too busy to send Christmas cards etc. I suppose, and send a cheery text to everyone, possibly with a whimsical snowman emoji, but I am hoping that by doing this it might be a step towards worrying slightly less obsessively about what some people think of me.

Thank you so much for your help and support, whether you have done this knowingly or not.

This has been surprisingly easy to write, sharing it on the other hand….

I hope you all have a happy Christmas and that next year brings good things.

Much love. X