A year in the making
The final sentence of my last post ‘A New Diagnosis’ which unbelievably I published back in November 2016 read…
“And besides, whatever happens, as hard as it may seem at times, I’m absolutely sure we’ll raise the best little girl there EVER was, sticking a massive middle finger up to STXBP1 as we go.“
After I wrote that I genuinely felt some relief, ready to start a new chapter, buoyed by the love and support of those around us. But as Christmas came and went, the energy that allowed me to look on the bright side slowly began to drain away. Anger and sadness crept back in but this time, they were coupled with guilt and a sense of dishonesty. Being a bit of a complicated bugger, the strength and energy I can portray on the outside, doesn’t always reflect what’s really going on inside/upstairs/you get my jist. Truthfully at this point, a lot of the time I was engulfed by these feelings that I chose to internalise, which left me feeling detached. For example, instead of embracing and enjoying the precious time I had with my family, I started to zone out or in contrast became (more!) irritable, often bursting into tears without warning. It’s fair to say, I wasn’t in a brilliant place.
This was the point I should’ve stopped and opened up but I couldn’t and so in a bid to snap myself out of it, I did the thing only thing I’ve ever done when I’m desperate to distract myself from what’s really going on. I filled my life with more of everything and. Just. Went. Harder.
I made myself so busy, I barely had time to think, sleep or pee!
Working 5 days a week and in very demanding job that I love, it was easy to hide in the office, consumed by the day to day. When I wasn’t at work, I buried my emotions in wine and hid it behind nights out and instagram filters. I crammed more into weekends than imaginable; events, gatherings, more work, I literally had no off switch. I was also smoking again, I was tired… Scrap that. Exhausted and those closest to me could see it.
I needed some time off, not just from work but from it all and I knew it. But once I stopped, I immediately succumbed to whatever nastiness was going around and I had way too much time on my hands to think. My body was done in and my thoughts turned back to those of shame, guilt and sadness. I felt like I’d been absent from my family physically and mentally and it all became too much.
I booked an appointment with my GP and literally let it all out. I must’ve cried a river as she barely got a word in edgeways but boy did I need to do it. She was calm and comforting and told me repeatedly that I wasn’t mad every time I asked her mid snotty-sentence if I was. I felt her genuine concern wrap around me like a blanket and for the first time in as long as I can remember I decided to accept that I needed some help.
The concept of counselling wasn’t new to me, I’d taken advantage of a few free sessions back in college and had been a handful of times over the years since. I’d also fully embraced all of the life/career coaching sessions offered up throughout my career which were great ways of dealing with whatever issues had been subconsciously holding me back at the time. Honestly, I dig this kind of stuff, so why didn’t I jump to this conclusion sooner?
I can only think it’s because I knew what a tsunami of emotion was going to come out and the thought of it turned my stomach. Everything I’d tried to deal with over the previous 3 years had been to some extent bottled up and pushed down and I didn’t want to relive any of it. Funny that after my first session and another almighty cry, I realised pretty quickly that my biggest mistake was to think that anything I felt or will feel when it comes to Dotty and our journey, isn’t going to be dealt with in a way that ticks it off a list, never to be experienced again. Sad but true and oh so obvious, right?
Emotions and reactions are bound to resurface; Practising acknowledging them now without beating myself up helps me deal with them without feeling like I’ve been jabbed in the heart and punched in the tear ducts at the same time.
The sessions reminded me how important it was to talk to someone. No matter now f*cked up we think it is, saying that stuff out loud really helps. But most importantly for me, it allowed me to hear some of those things I was saying and realise that I really needed to give myself a break. It gave me back enough composure to understand why I was off kilter, the effect it was having on my health, my marriage and therefore my family. Understanding that a lot of the guilt I was wading through came from the huge amount of pressure I was putting on myself to be strong and all things to all people was ridiculous. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard of or even felt before but it was the moment the penny dropped.
After Dotty’s diagnosis, I realised that we were entering a whole new world that back then I guess I just wasn’t ready for. We had to make big decisions (which we’d both been delaying) around her education, her ongoing care and our future and I hugely underestimated the effect it was having on me and us.
Counselling helped me to see more clearly and by the end of the summer, Dotty had started a new school, I’d died my hair blonde (any excuse) and we all bounced back. I felt different in a really good way. I had much more energy and felt lighter in a sense and more capable of engaging again.
Sitting down to write this after a VERY boozy December, it’s not lost on me that not all of this has gone or will completely go away. I suppose I’m just more aware and focused on giving myself a break when I need it. Counselling isn’t something I think I’ll ever be done with and I’m totally fine with that. In fact I think everyone should do it (at least once!) and it’s something I’ve accepted as a healthy tool that I’ll always turn to BEFORE things get too much again.
I’m eternally grateful for the wonderful people around me that listen to me and look out for me; Family, friends, professionals and random people I meet on public transport, THANK YOU. You know who you are!
2018… Hold tight!