1

I am still alive…

I have been so bogged down with depression that I scarcely have any memory of the past couple of months post birth. I have gone in to hiding, only existing.

Breathing because I have to, looking after the kids because I have to and not doing much else except sleep. That I can manage. Lots and lots of sleep.

So off I went to my GP to get a prescription that is okay to use while breastfeeding, hoping that it will sort of drag me out of this quagmire, only to find that I have lost a month.  Seriously? A whole fecking month. Gone.

So it is back to the drawing board.

I have to decide what is more important.  My mental health or feeding my son?

I am really proud of the fact that I managed to get the breastfeeding thing right this time around.  It is my little life raft that makes me feel like I am not a complete failure as a mother. Call it my mantra if you will.  So now what?

I think I will go sleep on it.

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Heart friends

It has been a very emotional couple of months for me.  There has been drama at work, drama at home and all these little things that keep on piling up that make me want to crawl into a hole and never come out of it.  I have been retreating further and further to lick my wounds.  I try and smile and pretend that everything is okay, when really it couldn’t be further from the truth.

My whole life I have felt like an impostor, like I don’t belong.

I live in fear that I will be unmasked, to be shown to be the social leper that I really am and shunned for it.  It is probably due to some deep-seated self-esteem issues, but for the life of me I cannot think why anyone would want to spend time with me and I am deeply suspicious when they do, because I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. <I sound coo-coo for coco-puffs right?>

I have a hand full of friends that somehow managed break through this layer of worthlessness and doubt that I have built around me, and in truth they were the ones that has kept me standing the past couple of months.  This post is dedicated to them, to thank them for being there, my silent crutches that swooped up and picked me up when I felt I could no longer continue. I truly love you all.

I was amazed that one of these friends, in her quiet manner, seemed to see right into heart of me.

Due to her personal circumstances she was not able to see me for my birthday and only managed to wish me a happy birthday yesterday.  She gave me the best gift I have ever received.  The gift itself was simple, a book on how generosity changes one’s life and a compact mirror, but the message behind it moved me to tears.

The book, she said reminded her of me, of how I care and try to help others.

The mirror was because I needed to be reminded  just how beautiful I am.

I sobbed like a baby.  It wasn’t pretty at all. There were snot bubbles.  It was just what I needed.

I am no good at speaking my mind that is why I write. So, without further ado:

Thank you M for being there, for listening, even though you are going through a trying time yourself and needed me more than I you. You are a true friend and made me realise that no matter how dark it gets out there, there are still people that bring light into our lives and it is on them that we can (and should) count. Thank you for shining and inspiring me to do the same. I ♥ you.

5

Evil is amongst us

Every mother’s nightmare is having to hear that the school her child attends is no longer a place of safety, but has instead become the hunting ground for a predator (for they can no longer be called human).  One that preys on innocent kids for their own perverse pleasures.

There was a recent incident in Melkbos and now parents in Balfour are petitioning against the bail application of a 71 year old man that is the owner of a crèche whom it has been found has sexually assaulted two kids. Every day, more of these kids come forward.

I am heartbroken that a  friend is living this nightmare, her daughter came forward as another victim.  There are no words to convey her pain.

This is one subject that really riles me, and it is really sad that is seen as a taboo discussion topic.

The question that is foremost on everyone’s mind, did his wife, and co-owner of the crèche know about this?  And if she did why did she keep quiet and allow this to go on under her roof, with kids that were entrusted into her care?

I have often wondered about the psychology surrounding this.  Often when kids do come forward with these things they are not believed and that seems to perpetuate the cycle of not telling, as apparently happened in Balfour.

What is shocking is that in this year alone between January and June there has been 95,120 children who reported sexual abuse (Statistic from Children’s Advocacy Centre Statistics)

Of the 116,000 alleged offenders investigated for instances of child abuse

  • 75,829 were 18+ years old
  • 11,973 were ages 13 to 17 years
  • 7,911 were under age 13 years
  • 45,496 were a parent or step-parent of the victim
  • 23,763 were related to the child victim in another way
  • 36,628 were an unrelated person the victim knew

I think our natural defence against something like this is to pretend is doesn’t happen because it is just so terrible to acknowledge that a person that we know and love is capable of inflicting such harm on an innocent.

Although I was unable to find the statistic to give the exact numbers, I know that a very large part of the perpetrators were actually abused themselves as kids. I cannot imagine someone inflicting that particular kind of hell on someone else, especially when you have had to live through it yourself.

I am sorry, no matter what you have gone through, that is not reason enough to ruin the life of another, especially a child. No amount of jail time can make up for what has been stolen.

This is one wrong that cannot be righted, you cannot replace innocence.

My thoughts and prayers are with my friend and her family (especially her little girl) I hope that this too, shall pass.

7

Dont wallow

I know it is considered bad form to wallow and one should live in the present, but that being said, I cannot help feeling a bit sad, lonely and nostalgic on this day every year.

Today marks 18 years since my sister’s passing and not a day goes by where I do not wish that I could have one more chance to talk to her or that things did not end the way it did.  I replay our last conversation hairpulling-spitting-catfight and immediately feel my cheeks colour.

If I had known that would be our last conversation would I have told her I hated her?

I try and remember her, and feel panicky when I am unable to.  Another thing to add to my ‘list of things to feel guilty about’ along with every happy memory I have had subsequent, because she was not there.

I think we are our own worst enemies when it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one.  We somehow make everything our fault.  Does this realisation make me feel any less guilty? Not a chance.  It is sage advice if only I can get myself to follow it.

In an effort to get some of this guilt out of my system I decided to write her a letter and tell her all those things I have not been able to.

Dear Janetta,

Although I am very sure that you are happier where you are, we still miss you terribly, even more so every day.

I know that we are all shaped by our pasts and wonder who I would be had you not been taken away. I wonder if our family dynamic would be the same, better or worse.

How I long to be able to tease you about your boyfriends and your crush on Brian Adams, while I secretly also thought he was the hottest thing since sliced bread.  I never told you that, I know, but I am also a fan.  I am sorry for all the times we fought and especially for the last fight.  I never meant those hurtful things I said, and would take them back in an instant if I could.  I will even let you brush my hair, without whining.

It would have been so wonderful to have you at my wedding; it really seemed the whole time that something was missing.  I wanted to mention you as I have wanted to talk about you a thousand times to mom, dad and everyone else, but each time my tongue was stayed because I could remember the pain in her eyes when I had brought you up and I could not bear to rip off the scabs.

I know you would have wanted to be by my side, to dance the Macarena with me and my friends and imagine you going all gung-ho to try and catch the bouquet.

Then I think of the birth of my son and how you would have taken him in your arms and hugged him to you. You would have made such a great aunt. Something tells me you would have spoilt him rotten and I know that he would have just adored you.

And now there is another baby on the way and I find myself panicked because I want to try things another way and I long to have your support and guidance, to tell me that my reasoning is sound and I am not doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. What I would not give to have you hold my hand during the birth.

I know that none of that is possible, but would like you to know that even though you cannot be there, you always are.  You are with me every day and even though at times I find that I cannot remember everything about you, by no means are you forgotten.

All my love

Ellen

 

 

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Good Advice

On Saturday night I went to a good friend’s birthday dinner.  While there, one of the other guests was really down in the dumps as a result of a break up.  He had learnt that day, that his ex, with whom he is still very much in love, has started seeing someone else.  A bitter pill to swallow, he was inconsolable.

We all tried cheering him up, and giving advice<all of which are really useless as only time can temper that particular wound>. One of the things he said, really got me thinking…  He said that he cannot be happy without her.  I am sure everyone has said that at some point and time after experiencing a break up, but to me it really hit home, and suddenly something sort of ‘clicked’ in my mind and I had an “ Ah-hah” moment.

My advice to him was: You cannot make your happiness someone else’s responsibility.  It is simply too much pressure to place on any relationship, whether it be romantic or otherwise.  You are the master of your own happiness.

I then realised that I have been doing the exact same thing.  For long now I have been hovering between utter despair and rage at not having my happy ending, for things not turning out the way I want them too.  Anger at my husband/son/father/mother/friends/whatever not being who I wanted him to be.  When I realised that “hang on” maybe they are not the problem here?  I need to take stock and decide what I need to make me happy and go and get it for myself.

I finally realised what my husband has been trying to tell me for all these years. It is not his responsibility.  Yes, he plays a vital role, but he is not the main character, it is my life after all.

I cannot remember who it was (and Google has failed me) but someone once said that: Fortunate is the man/woman that can learn from another‘s mistakes and does not need to make them for himself/herself.

I have decided to make some changes for the better.  I will no longer be a victim of myself and circumstances.  I am freeing myself from those people in my life that bring me nothing but hurt and anger, and surrounding myself by those that I care for and care for me.  Life is just too short to be at the mercy of those bad elements.  Instead of asking why me/why not me. I am focussing on what I have got and making the most of it.

2

Don’t mind me, I am just being morbid

There I warned you…maybe it is because I have been listening to the news more often now that I have finally given up the fight with Metro Rail and joined the rest of the work force that get to work on time by their own means, but there has been a lot of death going around in the past week alone.

The rhinos (may the person responsible for that get an itch in a hard to reach place and may his fingers be transformed into fish hooks), the fourteen school kids that died when their bus plummeted off a bridge (there is no other word than heart-breaking to describe that) or it may have been something to do with a conversation we had at book club on Tuesday night.

The story is not mine to tell, but the gist was what kids remember and believe about parents that passed while they were very young.

Usually I am outspoken about a lot of things, but this is one subject where I normally prefer to take the back seat and stay quiet.  What is there to say? It hurts, it sucks that there is nothing we can do to make it better (even more so because we cannot prevent it) and unfortunately it is something that all of us have to go through at some point in time.

I come from a staunch Afrikaans “Boere” family and I have always thought that our downfall as a culture (at the lack of a better word) is that we don’t talk.   Sure we speak, we can be very helpful and courteous, make plenty of small talk, but we don’t talk about the things that really matter, the stuff that we need to share with others to help them along their way, it is just not done.  When we fall we are supposed to shake of the dust and move on, talking about it just reminds everyone.  I have always believed that we face certain hardships in our lives so that we may learn something from it either for ourselves or for a friend, family member, sometimes even a stranger.  That being said, sharing is much easier said than done.

I have written and re-written this post, trying to makes sense of it, trying to make it sound less callous (which is difficult seeing as the person this is about acted callous and senselessly).

When I was 7 years old my biological father committed suicide.  He did it in such a grotesque manner that an open casket was not an option.

For a very long time after his death, I was convinced that the grown-ups had made a mistake, why would my father shoot himself, with a shotgun no less?

I had so many questions. How was he able to do it?  Surely that cannot be possible?  I had all these theories worked out in my head.  Of course I now know that none of them were real or could ever be, the cold hard truth of the matter was that he was a coward and took the easy way out.  There is simply no other way to view suicide.

I am not being glib or uncaring.  I understand the ins and outs of depression.  I too have had glimpse down that particular rabbit hole.  I know the feeling of utter helplessness that envelopes you, you truly feel that there is no way out and even if you see the way out, you are just not able to summon the energy to get there.

I often wonder whether he considered us at all during those final moments.  Did he realise that more than 25 years after the fact we would still be seeking answers, trying to make sense of it? Did he know that it would cause his kids to believe that they were not good enough, that perhaps if they had been better he would not have left them? Why weren’t we enough? That it would cause us to seek out relationships where we would perpetually feel unwanted?

I am not trying to blame all of my issues on my biological father, sure he was instrumental in my being here, but he was no father- for that, I was fortunate enough to have another very special man come into our lives.

Everyone handles death and tragedies in a different manner and I am not trying to suggest that it makes it easier when a person dies of old age or after a prolonged sick-bed, but it makes more sense to those left behind.  The hurt is still the same, but at least it is not encased in a cocoon of questions.

The point I am trying to make is that it is such a difficult situation…impossible in the best of circumstances, and it becomes even more so because of the secrecy surrounding it.  It is a giant scarlet “S” to be worn by those left behind and something that is not easily outlived, no matter how old you get.

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Honesty is not always nice, but it is needed.

I started blogging because I was living too much in my own head and like my blog title suggested was getting dangerously close to losing a couple marbles.

I lived in my head so much that I would sometimes forget to voice what I am feeling and thinking and that lead to alot of strain between me and my husband.  He would get so upset with me (well still does) when he asks me a question and I wouldn’t answer, of course I would vehemently deny this because I did answer, problem was, in my head.

This is not a good place to be in all the time. I was feeling out of synch, isolated and like I was being a spectator in my own life, problem was, I was being a spectator in my own life.

I don’t know whether this internal retreat was a long time coming, or where it originated, but it got really bad right after the birth of my son and the car accident in Jan 2010.

It is already such a big shock to have a baby, everything you think you know or thought you understood about yourself can pretty much be thrown out of the window.  You will never be the same. You think that you have had nine months to prepare yourself for this, but really ten years would not be enough time to get your head wrapped around the chaos, the sleepless nights, the fear, awe, amazement and the utter horror the first time that baby starts to howl and nothing you do or say gets them to shut the hell up. I saw all of my friends who had their babies and they were totally in love with their little bundles and I was green with envy.  Why couldn’t I feel like that?

Then came the accident. And just when I thought I cannot get more lost, I was proven wrong. I. definitely.could.

I cannot describe the mind altering pain of those first couple of days in the hospital.  I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t do anything but lie on my back and wish I was dead, immediately thereafter to feel engulfed by the rush of guilt that I had just wished to be put out of my misery.  I was not allowed to feel like that, I had to be grateful. I was spared. I was alive. I would walk again. All the while I was screaming in my head, get me the fuck out of here. This pain is fucking excruciating, I want to DIE! Just let me die.  Why won’t you let me die?

Of course my son was also in his own little hell, a hell that he could not articulate in any other way other than crying, violent acne rashes, refusal to breastfeed, refusal to take a feed from a bottle and an inability to sleep for longer than what felt like 3 seconds at a time with hours and hours of screaming to break the tediousness that is sleep.

I hated every moment of it.  I hated my husband, I hated my son, most of all I hated myself for feeling the way I did/being the way I am. I was a perfect breeding ground for postnatal depression. I was the poster child for PND. And I wore my badge with shame.

In front of everyone I wore this façade of the doting mother who was ever so grateful for surviving that which we had. I cooed when it was appropriate to coo, I smiled and gurgled when everyone was watching, but all the while I had this deep dark secret that I kept locked in my head. I retreated in my head because that is where I was safe.  I was allowed to feel what I felt without the judgement. I was allowed to say that I was angry.

Only once in that hell did I try and reach out, I told a friend that I was so tired of everyone telling me I should be grateful, wasn’t a great reception to that observation, so I kept myself in check. I stopped talking apart from exchanging pleasantries.

But I am over that now. This festering feast is no longer going to remain in my head and corrupt everything that I feel and think.

Yes I had PND but for the first time in almost 18 months I can honestly say, I adore my son. He challenges me to be better than what I am, he makes me smile and when I think of him my heart swells.  I think I am finally experiencing that new-motherhood glow. It took me a while but I am finally getting over my anger too.  I actually went to church on Sunday and it felt good.  I did not feel like a hypocrite.

I am taking this in baby steps, but I am getting there. Starting with this post, I am moving a bit out of my head.