Give the day a chance to start…

It’s been a fairly standard day. I got some writing finished, sorted a little admin & did a food shop. No exciting hijinks. Nothing horrible either. Why then do I find myself feeling so overwhelmingly sad?

An hour ago I was just getting on with the daily grind. I wasn’t jumping for joy, but I was fine. From one moment to the next my equilibrium vanished. For no discernible reason I am flooded with melancholy. It is one of most baffling aspects of my mental illness. It extends beyond feeling miserable. My inability to comprehend what is happening leaves me powerless to combat it.

Control is a big thing for me. I think, because there have been major parts of my like that I have lacked significant sway. That leaves me very uncomfortable with the uncertain components of my mental health. It is very frightening to know that my mood may descend at any moment. It’s even more alarming when I don’t know why. I can’t tackle a problem when I cannot identify the cause.

Moon in cloudy sky

That leaves me just trying to ride out the low. With no clue as how long the trip may last, it is hard not to lose hope. It’s hard to compute how much of a hold these periods take on me. This isn’t deepest, darkest despair. It’s what I think of as everyday depression. More grey than black. A persistent ache rather than unbearable pain. Yet its unpredictability looms large.

So, how do I combat the urge to believe there isn’t any point fighting a battle when I know I’ll lose the war? This is good a starting point. I write about my crazy head in an effort to exert dominion over it. I try to talk about it or at least just label it out loud. Not having to pretend that everything is a ok can help. I remind myself that I can and have exited these dips. There is colour in my life waiting to reappear. Of course I take my meds and then I just hold tight.

Long term mental illness is a slog. It leaves you no option other than to dig in & get dirty. My heart goes out to anyone else who is stuck in the trenches.

Autumn leaves in street lamp

Harder than easy…

I understand the appeal of ‘fake it til you make it’. It is definitely a strategy i’ve employed, but I’m beginning to wonder if maybe there’s a dangerous crossover point. Does acting like you’re ok until you can actually be alright lose it’s usefulness when OK ceases to be a realistic goal?

At the moment I’m wavering between distraction at all costs and crying in the dark. I’m filling the days with as many fun or productive things as I can physically manage. I carry on with the wee ones; go rascalling to farms & libraries & soft play. Have lunches & chats & belly laughs with people I love. They temporarily pull my edges together. I’ve been busying myself with tidying the spare room. Organising my wardrobe. Hanging art that’s been waiting in boxes for months. I keep going until my body screams. When I stop I realise the calendar is still set to my due date & there is just no way I can open the curtains today.

Calendar on pile of books

Some days I can almost fool myself that I’m doing ok. I can keep from asking what’s the point. Push the existential thoughts aside & paint on a smile. It never lasts long. I’m still hollow. I don’t know when the forced productivity becomes a lie. Left to my own devices I am pretty sure I would lock the door & perpetually reopen my wounds. Is this manufactured well being what people mean when they say ‘just keep swimming’? I have to be honest I feel like eventually I’ll probably drown.

Person submerged in blue bath water

I’m holding onto the possibility that it might get better. Time heals and so on. I’m not sure I believe that, though. I think most of the time you probably just get used to pain. Intellectually I can work our what’s happening. I’m grieving. Not just the baby I lost, but the idea of any baby. I’m grieving the entire life I wanted. All the babies I never got to hold and all the theoretical ones that might have made that easier bear. I no longer have hope. That’s what is making it so hard.

I’m worried that this is it. My life will always be waiting for the next life raft. Clinging to a few hours of something good before I wade back into nothing. Emotion aside I don’t even have the energy to keep up this level of diversion. The recovery to doing ratio is creeping up. It is getting harder to put on make up & push my arse out the door. I fear my real mood is leaking out.

How long can I keep this up? Congratulating myself on finally emptying the washing basket feels like a shallow victory when I can’t write anything that doesn’t make me weep. I really don’t know if I’m nailing the life goes on thing or just closing my eyes to reality. There are still pre natal vitamins in a cupboard I no longer open and a box of positive pregnancy tests under my bed. The perfume I wore when my own made me nauseous remains on my dresser. I can’t sleep. I’m struggling to imagine a future that feels fulfilling. I can’t help thinking that avoiding these truths won’t change them.

Moonlit sky

I can logic this out, but that doesn’t change the problem. I can’t afford to get crazy again. I also cannot stop wondering if this is all there is. This keep on keeping on farce is wearing me out, but I don’t see a functional alternative.

Along with the sunshine…

Years ago I had a genius idea. I thought it would be lovely if we could have a real life version of those romantic montages you get in films. You know the bit in a romcom where someone thinks back over their relationship and we see all the best bits. Now imagine being able to replay the special moments of your own life. That would be lovely right?

Not just the romantic high spots. A full on motion picture, this if your life best bits to play whenever you need a boost. It’s been a tough year so far. So allow me to wander through the memories that feel dreamy. I give you a snippet of my highlight reel.

This one probably doesn’t seem that special, but it still gives me butterflies every single time I summon it. I was just meeting someone for lunch. He was waiting on the steps of a gallery looking stern. As he saw me approaching his expression relaxed. When I reached him he kissed me in a way I hadn’t experienced before or since. I’ll never be able to explain what made that kiss different from all the others, but it made me feel completely wanted. Safe & desired & understood. Then he half turned, caught my eye over his shoulder and took my hand. I melted. It wasn’t a special day. We didn’t do anything extraordinary. There were no meaningful declarations. We definitely didn’t live happily ever after. Yet it is without a doubt the best kiss of my life. It’s funny the things that leave a mark.

I’ve been been consuming a romanticised version of New York City my whole life. It appears in my favourite books, music, art & films. It’s famous streets were home to idols real & fictional. From my early teens I was desperate to get there. I knew it would be incredible, but I was always a little afraid that the real thing couldn’t live up to the fantasy. NYC is turns out, is one of those rare things in life that never lets you down. It is every bit is as magnificent as I had hoped it would be. Everything looks exactly as you thought it would, but still seems unreal. It is a wonderful surprise to find that the place you’ve been dreaming about actually exists. The Empire State makes you believe Cary Grant might sweep you off your feet. The Dakota looks exactly as John left it. 5th Avenue is just like all those advertising posters from the 40’s. Every corner turned reveals a spot where that other Carrie might have swooned over Big. The skyline is as impressive as you imagined and the lights of the city twinkling from the park will take your breath away. More than that, it feels just like I hoped it would. It’s buzzing with creativity & promise & resilience. Wandering alone in Manhattan made me feel exactly as I had anticipated that it might. That swelling of excitement in my core was magical.

ly h Kerr NYC

During my fourth pregnancy I was offered an early scan. A chance to check everything was going to plan. I was terrified and excited. I can’t remember much of what was said. It’s all just a fear stricken blur until the glorious sound of my unborn child’s heartbeat made everything clear. That steady, seemingly irrepressible beat filled a gaping hole that I had worried was bottomless. Hope, it seems, can breach any gap. I’ll never forget that feeling. Whatever came after, I’ll have those precious minutes & that wonderful sound.

When my niece was a toddler my brother & sister in law took her to visit family in South Africa & Zimbabwe. They were gone for nearly a month and I missed her so much. I couldn’t wait to see her on their return. It turned out the feeling was mutual. When she saw me she screamed. She guided me to sit in the floor and climbed into my lap. The way her little face beamed at me is the closet thing to pure happiness that I’ve ever witnessed. Knowing that this precious little person could love me like that is one of the greatest feeling imaginable.

Muffin

On a girl’s holiday in kavos a huge group of us went out for Mexican food. As happens in places like kavos they gave everyone a free shot of tequila. Of the 14 girls assembled only my bff & I liked tequila. So, with a combination of confidence & stupidity that 21 year olds possess, we drank the lot. With 7 tequila shots in each of our bellies we embarked upon a night of awesomeness. The drinks continued to flow, we danced on bars and beaches. We sang at the top of our lungs. We lost the rest of the gang & met a variety of interesting strangers including a guy we named jiminy cricket (we never worked out why). Pam fell asleep on a giant pounding speaker and I mistook a goat for a dog. Finally we witnessed the sun coming up over the booze soaked island as we stumbled our way home. It was the ridiculously messy kind of night you only have when you’re young & far away from home. It was highly irresponsible and probably pretty dangerous, but I wouldn’t change a second if it. I’ll always be glad I had those party days. I’ll always be grateful I had the best friend possible to share them with.

Pam & I

My Gran died young. She had cancer that recurred & spread. I was too young to understand the ins and outs at the time. In fact, I didn’t even know she was ill until close to end. I was the first granddaughter and she basically spoilt me rotten. She called me The Queen. She took me everywhere with her & made it her business to satisfy my whims. From my eagerness to ride horses to my heartfelt opposition to Mum’s chewing gum ban; Gran fixed it. What I’m saying is there are countless highlight worthy times to pick from. The one I always come back to is an uneventful Saturday. We were at Gran’s house & she was debuting what she described as her new look. She had started putting her hair in a tiny ponytail & wearing track suits. In my head it’s pale blue and pretty smart for a track suit, but my memory may be wrong. In any case it was a departure from her usual put together style. She was making jokes and asking how I liked the new image. I didn’t know at the time, but in hindsight it was a change prompted my necessity not fashion. She was getting sicker. She needed more ease and comfort. She must have been in pain. She had to have been scared. I never knew. I do know now how hard it is to be sore & sick all the time. I’m not facing what she did. I’m not dying. She never wavered. She took her narrowing horizons and made it something fun for the grandkids. When I think of her in that sweatsuit she’s laughing & living. That feels like real love.

When I went to Brisbane I was just getting into body positivity. The idea that my body wasn’t wrong was very new. Finding myself in a tropical climate with most days reaching at least 35 Celsius shunted my body acceptance journey into a faster gear. The heat was too intense to cover all the bits I thought needed to be hidden. I was compelled to wear things that would normally have scared me. Guess what happened? Absolutely nothing. I explored the city with my flabby arms & thunder thighs on show and no one cared. After a few days I stopped thinking about if I could wear certain things & just put things on my body. I began to notice that I actually liked how I looked in these items that I’d never usually have dared to wear. I felt comfortable. The day we went to an animal sanctuary was crazy hot. I wore a tiny little flippy blue vest dress. As I wandered amongst kangaroos I realised that I felt completely at ease. The animals were beautiful, the sun felt good on my skin. I was happy & free. It was one of those perfect days when I not only felt amazing in the moment, but I knew I was experiencing a breakthrough. If I could bottle up that feeling, I’d put weight watchers out of business.

Brisbane sunset

I was lucky enough to have a fairly delightful childhood. There were a lot of happy times. One of my stand out memories is the time I spent with my siblings after dinner & before dessert. My parents would send us into living room to let our tummies settle. Looking back I suspect they just wanted 15mins of quiet adult conversation. In any case, no settling of any kind went on. We took advantage of that unsupervised period to behave like mini maniacs. We played a variety of very rough & tumble games of our own devising. To be honest I’m surprised that both the room & all four children survived gems like ‘crocodiles’ & ‘pile on’. We did & those times were golden. This was before the boys got too cool to want to actually play with their little sisters. Back when my baby sister was still an adorably chubby cheeked little monster. It was long before any of us had any worries beyond how good pudding would be. We were securely encased in the family unit. We always had someone to talk to, someone to carry on with & someone to tease. We never doubted that our parents could handle any difficulty we encountered. Life was good.

Young Kerrs

It occurs to me that some of my happiest life snap shots are bittersweet. I’m not sure if it’s that just the way of life or a testament to what happens when the universe beats you up a bit. Either way, I’m glad I’ve mastered the art of counting my blessings. I suppose sometimes the cliches are true; you can’t have the rainbow without the rain.

Month by month…

There is a particular torture in waiting for your period to arrive when you wish it wouldn’t. Analysing every sensation in the run up to your due date. Trying to decide if your sore back is a period sore back. Being almost certain you kind of smell a menstrual type aroma, but also thinking maybe last week’s nausea was morning sickness. Counting the days. Marking the calendar. Trying not to hope & trying not to lose hope.

Each month is just a microcosm of life. Watching, waiting & knowing time isn’t on your side. Doing your very best not let this desire take over. Working hard to ensure not realising the dream won’t break you. Constantly weighing up how much more you can take.

I’m lying here kidding myself that the hot ache in my thighs doesn’t mean the blood is on its way. I’m reminding myself of all the wonderful things I have. Attempting to hang onto how grateful I am. I know how much worse life can be. You can be happy with the consolation prize. Almost is better than nothing. We don’t always get everything we want, right?

I am ready now to fall…

Dear Baby,

I still write baby even though you’d be almost grown now. You’d be pretty much a man, which is very scary. I bet you’d be amazing, though. I picture you as tall & sensitive & just a tiny bit reckless. I know we’d have butted heads, but I’d love your fire. 

 I’m feeling pretty raw this year. You have another sibling who didn’t make it to life. I have another reason to cry. I have reasons to smile too. I’m doing ok. 

I’d be better if I was buying cake & wrapping presents, but life had other plans for us. I had to learn to be strong & you were destined for somewhere more beautiful than this world. 

I’m ready now. Love, loss, life, I can take it all in my stride. I am ready to to mother a child I can hold in my arms as well as my heart. I have wonderful new little people to cherish, I have hope & I will always carry you with me. That’s enough for now.

Love always,

Mum.

Xxx