This blog is six months old today. I began writing with the objective of helping others, which is still the main purpose, but I had no idea back then how much I would need this space for myself too.
I’ve always loved to write. I filled countless notebooks with stories from the age of ten and obsessively scribbled dramatic, cringe-worthy poetry all through my teens. But when I began my first proper job, and my life became caught up in all the ties that came with being an adult, my creative side took a back seat. Long commutes and long work hours left me exhausted and uninspired, and writing seemed somehow unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
A few years ago my passion became reignited when I began writing fan fiction and I remembered how enjoyable it was to have characters come alive in my mind again. Plus I realised that I did still have a little talent for it. I imagined I would continue to dabble in fiction as a hobby but then Caterpillar was born and everything from my old life lost it’s meaning in a blizzard of anxiety and depression.
I couldn’t think straight long enough to do housework or hold a conversation, let alone find room in my head for stories. I was too busy listening to the growl of anxiety to make room to hear fictional voices. And yet, strangely, I still wrote.
These were not the great words of a fantasy story nor even the angsty poetry of a broken-hearted teen. These were dark, awful, angry statements carved into the page in desperate biro. This was a way to purge the horror of intrusive thoughts out of my head and onto paper that I could tear up and throw away. I have notebooks filled with the words of a very unwell new mum stashed in my bedside table that, even now, I don’t feel ready to look at.
Despite this, paper and pen became a much more positive outlet too. My husband would often find me on the couch, Caterpillar sleeping in his bouncy chair next to me, scribbling the same statements over and over, like a naughty pupil writing lines. You will sleep tonight. You are not crazy. You do not hate your baby. You are a good mum. YOU WILL GET BETTER. Part of me believed that if I wrote these things down often enough, if I said them in the mirror every day, I could convince my anxious mind that they were true. It didn’t work overnight but it was a start.
When I began therapy my notebooks became even more important. They often consisted of two columns – irrational, anxious thoughts vs. true facts. A vital part of CBT. I also began to write during the brief periods of relief from anxiety, as little as 30 minutes later I could be back in it’s clutches but it helped to then have a page in front of me that read “At 3pm, you laughed at a line in Friends. Then Teddy smiled, you smiled back and you felt almost happy.” I began writing my daily Three Things in my diary and this helped immensely in becoming more positive.
During this time I also read a lot. I’d never been particularly interested in non-fiction before, the joy of reading was in stories for me, but I didn’t have the concentration for that at the time. Instead I read blogs, and forums and PND charity websites. I read anything that was written by someone who had once felt as dreadful as me and now had their normal life back.
Slowly but surely, brick by brick, I began to rebuild. Always with my trusty notebook by my side.
I never forgot those desperate hours spent scouring the internet for recovery stories and decided the best way for me to find a positive in this experience was to share my story with others out there. The Butterfly Mother was born.
Little did I know that only a few weeks after I began posting I would experience the worst anxiety setback in my recovery. And that I would need my own words from weeks before more than ever. Instead of a crumpled notebook they were right there on a screen, on the internet for the world to see – undeniable proof that I got better once and I could again. And I have. And it hasn’t taken nearly as long or been nearly as painful.
It is vital for anyone who feels they can speak out about mental health to do so. It is so frightening, as demonstrated by the fact that I still don’t feel brave enough to share this blog as a personal Facebook status, but I’m trying.
I’m proud of this place and these words and I feel blessed to have the inspiration to write them and this platform to share them with the world. I’m so proud too of all the other brave men and women who blog to share their own experiences. And I’m so proud of anyone who doesn’t want to blog or advocate or shout this stuff from the rooftops but instead takes their partner or doctor or health visitor aside and says – “I don’t feel right. Help me.” That is the bravest thing of all.