I re-visited the mental facility today, as I do every Wednesday at the moment.
I miss Jeff. (Which isn’t why I go, but bear with me.)
Each time I approach the sign, welcoming me back with its green and white calming lettering, I automatically move down a gear. Almost as if by just turning a corner off the busy main road I am instantly shrouded in a cloak of peace and tranquility that the sanctuary provides, and my heartbeat automatically slows in adjustment to the surroundings.
I am astounded and overcome by the memories that this place holds for me now.
It seems a million years ago that I lived here, cried here and wanted to die here, and yet here it is, welcoming me in to it’s open arms, providing me with unconditional protection from the outside world, but more crucially from myself and the guilt, self loathing and anxiety, I am tortured by. Less now that I was, but tortured all the same.
Each time I step out of the car and glance towards the grey and clinical hospital building overlooking the car park, peeping out from between two deep-rooted majestic oak trees, I am proud of what I have achieved.
Albeit for for a very short time.
I am alive, I am well and my son is alive, well and thriving.
I should be proud of myself.
Or so I am told.
But although, I know all of this, I do not really believe it.
(I am an evil horrible person with post natal depression remember? I don’t deserve to be proud of myself!)
I kept my eyes peeled for my favourite magpie today as I was walking towards my dreaded one on one session with James but unfortunately I did not spot him hiding around the dotted nutters and crispy autumnal foliage.
(Dotted nutters would be a great name for a breakfast cereal, don’t you think? I would TOTALLY buy them. I imagine them to be a little like lucky charm’s but less Irish and more marshmallows. They could make them in to tiny nutter shapes! Me, Ozzy Osborne, Kerry Katona… the list is endless.)
So although I searched for him and did spot couple of imposters, and of course performed the obligatory salute to both, (does anyone else do like, an actual army salute, or is that just me? Recently I found out it is only supposed to be a good morning or whatever, as in that kind of salute? News to me. Superstitions are hard work yo!! I will be doing both from now on anyway as I ain’t taking no chances!) but no Jeff.
Jeff and I spent some wonderful times together while I was an inpatient.
He would sit on my window ledge peering in at me from the outside and peck peck peck each and every time I needed him. Letting me know that although he understood I was on my own, incredibly depressed and hugely confused at how I had arrived here, when my pregnancy and subsequent birth was meant to be perfect, that he was there, listening and watching me, supporting me from afar while I sobbed and snotted my way through many a six pack. (Of square crisps.)
Today however, there was no Jeff and that made me gloomy.
He had clearly moved on, found himself a nice bird with long legs and the perfect figure (probably a tit) and was busy getting on with his life.
Where as I, if I am honest, seem to take 2 steps forward and 12 gallops back.
How is your Self Esteem? (I am asking you. So answer me.)
How is your self Esteem?
Because I thought mine was all right thanks, Jack. (I don’t know who Jack is, but I hear people say this a lot and I like the way it sounds.)
I had a great night out on Friday and am honestly still in awe that I came away with an award, especially seen as you know, I am an idiot, and I haven’t stopped grinning since. Not even in my sleep.
So when I was asked the question today,
‘Lexy, how do you think your self esteem is?’ By James the man with the Xray vision.
(As in, he can see in to my soul, not beneath my bra, thank god…as I am sure he would be most disappointed. Although I am pretty sure he is gay, so I am not sure why he would be looking in the first place.)
I told James, while crossing my arms across my boobs, that yes, my self-esteem was ‘grand.’
But at the end of the session, after he had ignored me of course and continued to pester me like he usually does, clearly sensing something I wasn’t, with those eyes that could skin a chicken in seconds, I was seriously starting to question whether this was the case, or like with everything else leading up to the grand event of being admitted in to that place, I was just kidding myself.
Was my self esteem ‘grand?’
‘How is your self esteem Lexy?’ He asked peering so far through my windows to the soul I was pretty sure he could see what I had eaten for lunch.
‘Aright, yeah, all right yeah thanks James, you know. Alright.’ I stuttered trying to break eye contact and failing miserably.
‘Shall we test that theory?’ he asked smiling kindly.
‘Why not?’ I responded shifting in my seat, feeling the discomfort starting in my chest.
Usually when James tests a theory, he is right and I am proved wrong. So you can understand my awkwardness at that point.
I hate being wrong, and being wrong to a man is just damn insulting, no matter how insightful that man actually is. (You get that right?)
I mean yeah, when I get dressed I tend to focus on the things about myself that I dislike, like my arm fat, or my hairy thighs, my huge nose, my flabby drooping arse, my kangaroo pouch, my stretch marks, my sagging boobs and my yellow teeth, but who doesn’t?
And sure, occasionally I will bring myself down a peg or two if I have done something to be proud of, and yeah intermittently I will forget to do something for Addison, for someone special or for an organization (like paying a bill, interestingly this one is the most common) and give myself the living amount of grief over it, but that is normal isn’t it? We all bloody do it. (Don’t we?)
So other than hating myself, forgetting to buy myself dinner sometimes as I am so busy looking after others and never really accepting compliments without explaining my opinion;
(‘Oh Lexy I love your bag.’
‘What this old thing? I have had it ages, it is actually really dirty and I don’t look after stuff.’
‘Oh Lexy you should write a book, your blog is great.’
‘Nah honest, it is just fluke that I won.’)
My self-esteem is pretty good.
I don’t hate myself all the time.
‘Ok Lexy so let us start.’
‘Actually James I am not sure you need to.’
I had already come to the conclusion that my self esteem was pretty shit actually.
He looked at me and nodded.
‘Thought as much’ the slight nod of his head as the understanding passed across his features, told me.
Damn it I hate it when men are right.
‘So ok,’ I began to ask ‘my self esteem since giving birth has been rock bottom, what can I do about it?’
‘Do you treat yourself?’ he asked.
‘Yes’ I replied instantly, safe in the knowledge that treating myself was something I was great at.
‘How?’ he fired back unconvinced.
‘I buy stuff.’
‘Shoes, clothes, nice food’
I paused and he urged me to go on, the way he always does, with a slight flip of the hand lying in his lap.
‘But I probably shouldn’t as we don’t really have the money.’ I finished as he sat up, barely able to contain his glee.
‘Ah’ he exclaimed, holding a finger in the air before continuing ‘so you treat yourself, but then beat yourself up about it?’
I didn’t respond but looked down at the scarf lying in my lap, smoothing it over my leg again and again, as if to methodically push away the pain slowly beginning to rise to the surface from years of self-abuse.
‘So ok,’ he continued sensing my unease ‘do you relax?’
‘Yes.’ I replied, once again feeling in control of the situation.
‘How?’ He asked.
‘I write, or read a book, or watch television or have a bath.’
‘You watch television?’
‘Do you actually watch though, or do you think about other things, while you just aimlessly stare at the screen?’
I shifted in my seat at this point.
It was all getting a bit too much like that film SCREAM for my liking.
How does he know these things?
Will he ring me tonight when I am in my pajamas staring at something the Irish one is forcing me to watch on discovery channel and say ‘I can see you Leeexxxxxyyyy, what are you thiiinnkkkiinggg abouuut?’
I shuddered and taking this as an affirmative, and not noticing I was now glancing about looking for a stashed freaky scream mask, he continued.
‘Ok, and when you are in the bath what do you think about?’
I will be honest.
I burst out laughing.
‘That is a bit personal James.’ Fnar fnar, smack of the leg.
‘Is it?’ he replied without flinching, ‘because I think that probably the only thing you think about when you are relaxing is what you have to do in the morning, or what Addison needs for dinner, or how much washing up is left in the sink, or oooo I don’t know’ he pauses reaching in to an imaginary suitcase in his mind about to pull out the piece de resistance ‘how many people dislike you, or how fat you think you are, or perhaps, just perhaps, you talk yourself out of every success you have achieved over the day, by telling yourself you could have done better and will do better tomorrow.’
He looked at me looking for signs of recognition, his eyes brimming over with kindness, but saw nothing, as by that point I had put my lovely new scarf over my head and face, and was doing a very bad impression of Darth Vader, against my will.
‘Lexy?’ he asked tentatively ‘what are you doing?’
‘I am hiding’ my muffled voice came from beneath the scarf ‘you know too much and it is pissing me off.’
‘Ok’ he laughed ‘good to know where we stand. I will still be here when you feel you can look me in the eye again and if you can’t I will leave, it is almost time anyway but I am giving you some homework ok?’
‘This week’ he announced ‘I want you to do something nice for you, without beating yourself up and without feeling guilty about all the other things you SHOULD or COULD or NEED to be doing at that time.’
He continued ‘Go to the cinema, watch a film, do some writing for you, not for anyone else, buy yourself something and ENJOY the pleasure of treating yourself without the guilt, the constant need to put yourself down or tell yourself you SHOULDN’T have spent the money on that.
Be kind to yourself, and try to enjoy the moment, guilt free.’
‘What would be the point?’ I had asked a little nonplussed and now sweating from beneath the thick wool scarf.
‘You may start to believe you deserve it and that you are worth it.’ He had replied as I pulled the scarf off my face and decided to rise to the challenge. ‘You may just gain a little bit of pleasure and either way, what harm can it do?’
So this week, I am taking a small step to help my self-esteem.
I am going to find the time to treat myself. Guilt free.
Will you join me?
I think I may give myself a facial.
What about you?
I may also say a little prayer for Jeff’s happiness; he was a great bird.
It is a small step for mammy kind, right?
But an important one.
Go on, treat yourself.