I have heard this word so many times this week, from so many different people in so many different forms.
A word with one meaning but that can be used in so many different ways.
The Northern One, my mum and the numerous healthcare professionals I’ve seen and spoken to this week have used it in a positive way.
My usage has been rather less so.
I can’t help it.
You need to think about yourself.
I think about myself all the time, that’s part of the problem.
Don’t be so hard on yourself.
But I have to be because no one else will.
You need make sure you have some time for yourself.
I need to be dedicating my time to Squidge, to make sure that he doesn’t grow up to be like me.
Give yourself some time to relax.
I can’t relax, there are so many things to worry about, most of which I’ve caused.
Be kind to yourself.
But I’m not deserving of kindness from myself or anyone else.
Look after yourself.
I can’t, I need punishment not care.
All positive things intended to help me help myself and to move forward, making plans for the future.
My use of the word has been rather different.
I don’t really think this was what my GP, the mental health nurse and my health visitor had in mind when they said that I needed to focus on me.
But this is what I honestly think about myself.
They tried to tell me that I hadn’t bought my illness upon myself.
But I have.
To help me to believe that I wasn’t to blame.
But I have to be.
That I was giving Squidge everything that he needed; how could I look at my happy, bouncy, giggling little boy and think that I wasn’t a good mother?
I don’t know how but I do.
The very fact that I worried that I wasn’t a good mother meant that I was; that I was clearly showing that I wanted the best for Squidge even though I didn’t think I was providing what he needed beyond making sure that he was warm. clothed and fed.
But I’m not a good mother.
I tell myself I’m not because I know it’s true.
What kind of mother locks herself in the bathroom and cuts her legs with a razor blade when her baby is crying because she just can’t cope?
Who wakes up in the morning to the sound of her baby babbling and her stomach sinks because it means that she’s got to face another day?
Who sometimes thinks how easy it would be to save up all of her different medications, curl up in bed under the duvet and go to sleep for the last time?
This is truly the way that I see myself.
I think about myself all the time and none of the time.
Constantly thinking about how I can have five more minutes sleep, two hours a week for my riding lesson, one evening not interrupted by Squidge, time to write so that my thoughts and feelings and life in general don’t overwhelm me to the point that I can no longer function..
Constantly thinking about how my depression must affect Squidge; that I should play with him more, interact with him more, sing to him and read to him more but at the same time wanting to run away from the responsibility of trying to raise a child.
Constantly worrying whether he will grow up damaged because I am damaged, trying to protect him and shield him from the times when I’m not able to make everything alright again because everything is not alright and I’m not alright and I don’t think I ever will be again.
Trying to hide the person that depression turns me into but at the same time needing someone, anyone to see so that they might help me.
Even if it means seeing me at my absolute worst and to hell with how it affects them.
This is why sometimes I hate myself.
Not all the time; that would be too exhausting even for me.
There are some days when I actually think I’m not too bad.
I look at Squidge babbling and exploring and I realise that, in some way I have helped him to become the inquisitive and sociable little boy that he is.
I go to work and I look after the babies and the parents and by the end of some of the shifts the babies are more well than when I started and the parents are happier and more confident than when they first arrived that day.
The Northern One comes home having had a difficult day at work or something bothering him and after having discussed it, sometimes for hours until we’ve reached the heart of the matter and he exhales with relief at having at least reached a solution to whatever it is that was preying on his mind.
On days I feel like a worthwhile person.
I can see a point to my existence.
These days are far less frequent than people think they should be.
People may think that I keep up this level of self-depreciation on purpose; a perverse and long-winded way of attention seeking and fishing for compliments.
That I put myself down so that other people will take pity me and my almost terminally poor view of myself and try to build me up with praise and compliments.
That actually I think that I’m a perfectly good mother and a decent person but that I need constant validation and that’s why I insist that I’m failing.
An extreme version of ‘Does my bum look big in this’ if you like.
I’ve certainly come across people like this.
I’m not one of them.
I say these things about myself, to myself or out loud if someone asks me because I believe them implicitly.
I don’t say them to gain attention or garner sympathy.
I don’t feel like I deserve any.
I say them because this is my view of myself.
The one that I see in the mirror every morning and night, in the reflection of shop windows and in the darkness of the laptop screen when I’ve turned it off because I want to write but the words won’t come.
The reflection of myself that looks back at me with disgust and derision and downright loathing.
Reflecting backwards and forwards between the two of us, the real me and the mirror me until I can’t look at myself any longer.
This is what I see.
What I feel.
What I know to be true.