Winston Churchill labelled his mental health issues his “black dog”. I never thought to label my mental health problems but on reflection I think “a pack of dogs” would do it. Anxiety and its irrational thoughts. Depression with its negative thinking. Self loathing. World loathing!
My pack of dogs started circling in my mid teens. Home life was not the most nurturing. I witnessed domestic violence most days and frequently suffered psychological and physical abuse. I won’t go into details…suffice to say I bear physical and emotional scars to this day. I do have some memories that bring a smile but I tend not to visit my childhood often. I sought refuge in going to school each day but just before my 18th birthday mum left us. A year later dad threw me out bringing an abrupt end to my childhood. Abandonment anyone?!
Adulthood began around the time I started training as a mental health nurse. I discovered the link between my broken self and a need to try to fix others better. Understanding myself and helping others became intertwined and a self-help tome in itself.
I began to drink heavily and mourned the frightened little girl who was trapped inside of me. But the monsters she knew had grown. I must be a monster myself – how else could I have attracted such suffering? Do people really like me? Am I loveable? Who am I? How can I become “normal”?
Crashing in downward spiral I hit the self-destruct button, swimming in alcohol to block out the pain. Cheap wine was my best friend. I became the party girl, always up for a laugh but doubted everything and everyone. Mostly myself.
After qualifying as a mental health nurse I bought a wee flat and life staggered on, pretending I was happy with Oscar winning flair. I separated from my first love, hit a rockier bottom and was soon prescribed antidepressants. I became numb and stumbled through life and relationships. My demons whispered rather than roared.
I met my husband and although he seen a glimpse of my Dante’s infernal, he stayed. We became pregnant and I was off the antidepressants and alcohol. Pregnancy hormones lifted me up and life felt good. My son arrived with the gift of motherhood but shortly after came post natal depression. My demons were in full force and I was back on the happy pills. My second son was born two years later. I had to be a grown up. I had to!
I have been prescribed several antidepressants over the years and received counseling on and off. I’ve learned to embrace my weirdness (what is normal anyway?) and now follow an eclectic spiritual path, practicing Reiki and other relaxation techniques. I have two amazing sons, a mostly understanding hubby and an amazing family. I also have my inner self to prop me up during the dark days.
Today the pack of dogs is smaller than it used to be. I coorie the wee girl inside and tell her it’s going to be OK. You’re safe now. And the big girl believes it…most of the time anyway.