In June 2006 I appeared to all the world to have everything all sewn-up. I’d been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 3 years. Within that time we’d had a son, quickly followed by a daughter, we’d taken out a mortgage and bought our first home. To all the world we must have appeared the perfect young couple. Closed doors can hide a lot.
As you can imagine, with two very young children and a new home money was tight. I went back to work full time and knew that my husbands first priority was to me and the children… well so I thought. After my daughter was born in the previous January he had been spending more and more time away from home, out with friends. At first I tried to be understanding, thinking that the pressure of family life was a lot and he probably just needed some ‘me’ time. As time went on it got beyond a joke. I’d walk in from work and he’d walk out, off to meet his friends. I was scrimping over the food and clothes shopping, he was spending his wages in the pub. I tried to organise a weekend away at the sea-side, nothing big, just some time together, but apparently he ‘had to work’. I went anyway, with my parents to help with the kids. I called from the B&B to let him know we’d gotten there safe and sound, you could hear him shushing someone in the background before he said hello. A quick call to the office confirmed he wasn’t actually working at all.
Did I confront him? No.
Why? I was 23, I had two babies, you do the maths.
A few weeks later things came to a head. I don’t remember exactly what started that argument, but I remember what finished it. 'I can’t go on with you going on at me all the time’ he whinged. ’Drop the kids at day -care in the morning. I’ll pick them up, then we’re going to my parents.’ I said in a frighteningly calm voice. That was at about 2am, I sat drinking cups of tea until 6am, then headed to work, it didn’t quite feel real.
I sat at my desk waiting for my manager to come in so I could ask for some emergency leave, she of course told me to go home on sick leave immediately. Then I made that dreaded call to my Mum. I don’t think I’ve ever heard swearing that venomous. It was lucky for my husband she couldn’t drive and had no way of getting her hands on him.
The following months flew by. I had to set-up a new home, arrange a divorce, start to re-build a life. I’d been back at work a few weeks, after being on the sick with ’stress’ for a few months, it was mid-September. Then the call came, “…yes, that’s right. We’ll be going ahead with re-possession in a few days.” I had agreed that he could keep the home we had together, we hadn’t owned it long and there was no equity there. What I forgot was my name was still on the mortgage. He hadn’t paid the mortgage for 10 months, as all the letters were addressed to Mr & Mrs, I left them for him to take care of. Unless they sold it for a fair bit more than we paid for it, there would still be debt outstanding, debt I was jointly responsible for. I fell apart at my desk, but quickly pulled myself together, made my excuses and headed to the house as I still had a few belongings there.
I let myself in, luckily I still had a key. I remember I was going through a pile of papers trying to find the kids birth certificates when I found it. A hotel receipt, for a double room, booked in his name… for the weekend I was away with the kids at the sea-side. And the really sad part, I didn’t have enough fight left in me to react. I got what I needed, got out of there and went home.
I can imagine your reaction at this tale so far, but here’s the thing. We haven’t got to the bad part yet.
Several months later and I still hadn’t stopped still long enough to really think about what had happened, really sit myself down and accept it, until one fateful day. The divorce was being sorted, I had my new home set-up. I happily walked into work and clicked on the computer, my inbox calendar opened, displaying the date. It was my wedding anniversary. That was it, in the middle of a large customer service department, I lost it. After half an hour of uncontrollable sobbing, my fantastically understanding manager got me in a taxi to my doctors. I left an hour later with anti-depressants, tranquilisers, an appointment with a therapist, a sick note for a month and a diagnosis of major depression with bouts of severe nervous anxiety.
From this point on things went down hill fast, I never did return to that office. I never went out, I just went more and more inside myself. I went through all the motions to stop people worrying. I went to the doctors, I went to the therapist , I took my 'happy pills'. But when no-one was looking my behaviour became more and more erratic. More and more unpredictable. I was rebelling against the whole situation, who wanted to be a twenty-something single mother, with no job, no friends and no way out of it? There were incidents along the way that flashed warning signs to my family, but what could they do, apart from offer help they knew I wouldn’t accept. It still kills me to wonder how much of it the kids picked up on.
It all came to a head one weekend when the kids were with their Dad. I lined up 3 months worth of anti-depressants along with a few packets of various pain killers and a bottle of vodka. I sat and tearfully wrote a note addressed to my Mum. Then there was a knock at the door, my ex, dropping the kids off early. I hurriedly took them inside and said goodbye to him. I took them upstairs and tucked them into bed and kissed them goodnight, then went back downstairs and came face to face with the decision I was about to make.
I couldn’t… not with my babies upstairs blissfully asleep, totally unaware of what a horrible place to world could be, totally unaware that their mother was losing it. So I phoned my Mum.
I won’t go into detail about the level of drama that followed, but you can imagine the fall out. The thing is when circumstance drags you that far down, the only way you can go is up. And the first step was coming to terms with the fact I had a mental illness, I’d had one for some time… and I’d probably always have it.
The past few years have been a long road. I’m happy to say I’m now controlling my illness myself without medication. My life is now back on track, I’m in a new home, the divorce is over and I’ve found a way to balance my work life so it doesn’t get too much and I can make time for doing those things I love which allow me to deal with things and be happy. I’ve also discovered a few truths along the way. Firstly, you won’t ever be the best mother in the world, but if you try to be, your kids will swear you are! Secondly, thing’s rarely work out the way you planned, so take every day as it comes and enjoy what it brings. Lastly, most of the things you stay awake at night worrying about don’t matter a damn. Next time you find yourself in this situation ask yourself this ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ usually nothing major. And, if the worst does happen have a little faith in your friends/family/the universe/whatever gods you worship, that they will catch you if you fall.
No matter how dark things get… everything works out in the end. Trust me