I have started this post probably 50 times and that damn blinking curser on the blank page just stares back at me. Blink, blink, and blink. It has been quite easy to just press the, as my son says “x marks the spot” and shut it all down, but I continue to be drawn to open this blank page and the nudge to start pressing the buttons on the keyboard has finally allowed the fingers to start pressing.
The human condition can suck balls. Most of the time.
I have, ever since I can remember, had an intense feeling of inadequacy. I have, ever since I can remember felt truly alone in the world. I have, ever since I can remember had a looming sadness – a sadness that you feel in the deep, down depths of your stomach.
When it comes to the “flight or fight” mode, there has always been the fight in me. I have struggled my entire life to ever be told what to do, how to think, who to be. This has served me well though throughout my life, but it has also, not served me well.
I have been trodden on, abused, spat on, told that I am worthless, rejected, used and cast aside.
I have felt so cornered in my own mind that there was a time where the prospects of the endless sleep somehow provided comfort. To not feel. Because the feelings that I had been feeling were so overwhelmingly painful that all I wanted was to not feel them anymore.
So I medicated.
I medicated myself to get numb, and my choice of medication was alcohol, drugs and prescription medication. They were my go to whenever my inside started to churn, my hands started to tremble, the feeling of nausea would be coming over me and when the “fight” mode had been totally exhausted and I wanted to fly.
To fly out of the body and make all those feelings stop. Or slow down. Or provide a slight cloud so that there was a barrier created, that I would not need to deal with it. It was an endless cycle. And a dangerous cycle had become a normality in my life.
Feel, fight, numb, fly.
But my anger towards the world never diminished.
And then, on a glorious summer afternoon, I was sitting on the toilet, peeing on a pregnancy test kit in my rental house that I had no idea on how I was going to pay next months rent. Staring at the wall in front of me, contemplating at the ripe age of 19 as to what I would do whether those two lines did come up on this test.
Those two lines came up immediately. And without knowing it, this baby, my son who will be 13 this year was my saving grace. If it weren’t for those two lines I most likely would have ended up 6 feet under many years ago by my own hands continuing the cycle of finding that “numbness”
But this baby, this beautiful boy that came into the world and the minute he was born, was rested on my stomach – he looked up at me. I was his Mother. Mother. In that moment, everything changed. I was now a child responsible for a child and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
Ethan has Autism. He also has an intellectual disability that means that he struggles daily with learning, comprehending and retaining information. I knew from very early on in his life that there was something different about him. And when his diagnosis came – I grieved. I grieved for a very long time for the baby, the child that I was never going to have. I also grieved for the unknown. For the life that was bestowed upon me to lead which I wasn’t sure I was up to.
I was a very young single mum, who would have to listen to her child scream at the top of his lungs for hours, upon hours. My child, didn’t look me in the eye, didn’t turn his head towards me if I said his name, did not want to engage with me – his mother. Didn’t speak. He would spend his days – staring at a train that he had turned upside down and turn the wheels, constantly with the movie The Lion King on repeat.
No one, NO ONE, I don’t care if you are an Aunt, Grandmother Grandfather , Uncle, Sister, Brother or friend, who knows of a second cousins brother who knows of a child with a disability, you will NEVER truly understand the pain and struggle that we have been through. The grief, the feeling of helplessness, the feeling of pain that a MOTHER will go through for the rest of her life knowing that her child is not like most children. That he will for the rest of his life have struggles that you may not be able to help him with. The CONSTANT action plan on a daily basis that needs to be in place to ensure that you are providing the best for your child in the hope that he will be able to grow, flourish and become an amazing young adult.
It’s fucking hard. I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say – yes, I struggle at times.
Even though Ethan was truly my saving grace, my internal struggle with those ingrained feelings never healed. My self-medication had at least dropped off drugs – but the rest was there to whenever the wave came over. Especially, the bottle.
And life went on. You just get on with stuff hey? And if you had of run into me during those times, I would have had a smile on my face, there would have been laughs – but inside, I was crumbling. Anxiety and depression can be masked extremely well by people that do not want it to be seen.
I had always been an over-thinker. I enjoyed to analyse peoples actions – what made them the way they were. I am and always will be fascinated by the human condition. This, in retrospect has been also my biggest downfall as I took a lot on, from the people around me, their words, their actions and their opinions of me, personally, when in hindsight their actions really had nothing to do with me, but was part of their own story and they had to live with. I just had a choice as to what do to with it.
I chose the cycle. My comfort zone. My numbness. Feel, fight, numb, and fly
Two major events happened in my life in the last few years.
One was a wake up call with my health. If you want to read more about that press here. I am still no total health nut. But Cancer, made me realise that my mental health had to be addressed. I had to confront this as part of my path with healing and moving forward.
The other was the death and loss of my friends. Grief has had a profound impact on my life. I am still so sad and they say grief doesn’t go away. I agree.
But as Oprah says – you get those “aha” moments. These two MADE me take a step out of my own life and reflect.
I HAD THE CHOICE TO DECIDE HOW I WOULD LIVE MY LIFE.
I chose what is acceptable and what is not.
Recently, my integrity had been questioned – it came as a shock. Me, pre three years ago would have gone straight to the bottle, found the closest packet of Valium and downed them with some Gin.
I amazingly wasn’t affected. It actually felt like I was having an out of body experience where was I was the observer of the events around me but because I knew that it was definitely not a truth and for the first time in my life, my instinct was not to numb myself.
I cannot tell you how freeing this has been for me. In the past – I would fight for my right to be “heard”, fight for the injustice that I felt was bestowed upon me. Internalise the pain and allow their impact to affect me – to the point of me not functioning.
I am absolutely not perfect at it. It has been a 3-year process thus far. But in those 3 years I have slowly but surely learnt how to let go.
I have forgiven people in my life. I have released the anger. I have actually realised that inside all this internal turmoil, there is a person here that would give you her last $5. There is a person here that is empathetic, that is not dumb, that does have value, is beautiful. The things that have happened in the past, I have made some peace with them. Life is a process hey?
These are not my things; they are not my crosses to carry and bear.
But they also cannot be un-heard, un-seen, un-done. That is on them.
I recently came back from Bali and got my latest Tattoo.
It is a Unalome, which is a Buddhist image/ symbol that marks ones path through life to enlightenment. The spiral means our struggle with life, while the straight-line shows that we have found harmony. I had some water- colour free hand put in the back- ground to remind me of fun, laughter and happiness. Every time I look at it now, it makes me smile.
My name is Cheryl. I am a complicated person. I have struggled with mental illness. When I love you, I will love you to the ends of the earth. I am an addict learning to not choose a cycle. I am full of life and fiercely loyal.
And I have learnt, at nearly 33 years of age to:
Know when to hold them
Know when to fold them
Know when to walk away
Know when to run