I see all these amazing mums, doing all these amazing things, like baking cakes, making chickens out of paper cups using only snot and lipstick, getting their kids to eat vegetables without an epic discussion or fight before every mouthful and I always stop and think… WOW! I should get them to do some stuff for me.
My best friend throws her head back and laughs heartily.
‘You are an amazing mum Lex, look what a happy boy he is! Don’t be ridiculous!’
‘I don’t bake though Jules. We once made Peppa Pig ready-bake cakes and I managed to smash a pan lid to smithereens. He cut his feet, I sliced my hand, and they came out burnt and stinking of death.’
‘And we weren’t even using a pan!’ I interrupt her passionately ‘We were using a baking tray! I’m ridiculous. Also, I’m scared of eggs. What kind of mother is scared of eggs? It’s ridiculous!’
‘You don’t have to be able to bake you know, and so what if you are scared of eggs, I am scared of beans, as long as they feel loved, that’s what kids remember…’ she falls in to silence as she notices I have become instantly distracted.
‘Did you hear that?’ I ask her, my eyes wide, my head up like a deranged Meer cat as I peer through the Cafe crowds at soft play.
I am both hunted and hunting, ‘someone called my name.’
‘No,’ she picks up another chip, and continues to remind me of why although we are both not perfect, we are good enough… but I am lost.
I am haunted.
Someone is calling my name.
An hour before this conversation took place I was in a jam packed, bursting to the rafters H&M trying to purchase my toddler some new jeans.
The Creature that God Sent to Test Me, as I have now taken to calling him (we are potty training) was following me around moaning about wanting to go on the ‘tunnel slide’ and leaving behind him a trail of ice cream and muck so distinct, Hansel and Gretel would have been proud to call it their own.
I was too hot, harassed and tired and I needed a wee. My bag felt like a dead weight on my back and we had been there, traipsing around for far, far, far too long. (6 minutes.)
Nevertheless, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, if I could only find the boy a much needed pair of jeans (ones that grow with him ideally and are made of durable denim, or perhaps tear resistant steel) we could leave and head happily off to the soft play Centre (of doom.)
So on I continued with my courageous battle through the tightly packed rails of H&M children’s wear, trying to gallantly locate a pair of trousers for him that weren’t either 8 inches too long in the leg or had a girth that would fit a midget father Christmas.
I may write a letter to all children clothes shops, actually.
Dear (Stupid, stupid unhelpful) People who Make Kids Clothes,
Just because my son has long legs does not mean he is as fat as a pregnant Umpalumpa. Tall kids are generally not fat waisted, and short kids are generally not super skinny OR fat waisted. Please sort your heads out. Kids come in all different sizes and shapes.
Please consider making some trousers with skinny waists and long legs. OR at the very least offer us a plethora of belts.
Also, Have you any idea how annoying it is that you don’t all use a generic sizing chart when making your clothes?
Asda George, you seem to think a 3 year old is the size of a small widowed Spanish grandma and your Newborn sized Onesie’s could potentially fit the Irish one! You do realise we aren’t a nation of giants, right? How big do you think a birth canal is??
Where as H&M! You seem to think 3 year olds don’t even exist?? You size your clothes age 2-4. THAT IS A BIG YEAR TO MISS OUT UNDER THE MISGUIDED ASSUMPTION THEY STAY THE SAME SIZE!! Think about it H&M, nobody ever mistakes a 2 year old for a four year old do they??? SORT IT OUT!
Eventually, after he had lost patience and started playing up in protest, I had asked him to stand still 26 times, dangled him by his limp arm in an attempt to keep him upright and he, insisting it was time to lie down, had spun from my upheld hand like a Christmas tree decoration, after I had chased him out of the shop and back in 11 times, apologised to a man who had been inadvertently head butted in the scrotum (not by me, by the toddler) in the ensuing kafuffle, he finally gave up, and so did I.
He wanted to lie down on the floor and sing The Wheels on the Bus and I needed to buy jeans, so in the end I decided we should both just do what we needed to do, to get the job done.
So we did.
‘THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO BANG! BANG, BANG BANG BANG POO!’
Eventually I almost euphorically, located some jeans I thought might fit and decided it was probably high time I put a stop to the Wheels on the Bus Remix which was emanating from below the Skinny leggings and Sock shelf.
It was at this exact moment, while turning to wrestle Addison off the ground, with three prim and proper good mothers staring at me with barely hidden judgment from behind their pristine prams, one 16 year old sales assistant tutting about my apparent lack of parenting skills, and the man whose balls were clearly still stinging, singing a high-pitched solo in the corner, it happened.
“Lexy? OH MY GOD!”
I whipped my head around to see whom it was, and rather frighteningly was met, by nobody.
Have you ever met a person who freely admits to hearing voices?
Like real voices in their head?
Not thought voices.
Not the ones I assume we all experience, those that whisper to us from inside our mind, sometimes telling us we are useless, or maybe sometimes amazing, or perhaps we will win but maybe we won’t. The thought voices, reminding us of things, that sometimes we speak out loud. (Right? we all hear those right? RIGHT?)
Not those voices.
They are just our thoughts aren’t they?
I mean actual voices.
You probably don’t think you have ever met anyone who is that shit on the bed mental crazy before.
I am not sure we are supposed to talk about it.
Us bat shit poorly crazy ones.
I think we are meant to be ashamed, embarrassed, too frightened to share.
But I want to.
I am not weird. (Well, I may be a bit bonkers, but according to the Mad Hatter, all the best people are.)
I am normal, I laugh, I joke, I cry, I am a mum, I change nappies, I eat, I watch telly, I let the dog out, I eat cake, I do a weekly shop, I get on with my life, I am planning a wedding, I am looking forward to this year.
I hear voices.
Maybe if I talk about them, the voices, maybe if I explain them, explain what it is like to hear them, I will feel less alone, less frightened.
‘Radio Chorley!! Coming in your ears.’
That is what it is like.
They are in my ears, not in my head.
‘Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!’
His shouting wakes me with a shot of electricity straight to my heart.
I jump out of bed, stub my toe and sprint, hop and curse to his bedroom, where I expect to find him in the throes of a terrible nightmare.
The house is in darkness, nobody has stirred, not even the dog.
As I lean over his little body, physically shaking from the shock of the noise, the urgency in his voice, poised and ready to pick him up, hug him to me and soothe him from his bad dreams, I pause.
His breathing is long and measured.
He is fast asleep.
I have a great sense of unease as I crawl back in to bed and try and get my toe in my mouth to suck it better. (Don’t tell me you never considered trying to suck your toe when you’ve stubbed it, even the mere thought of sucking it eases the pain, right? RIGHT?)
‘What’s up with you?’ The Irish one turns over and dumps his arm over me, in an attempt at sleepy Irish tenderness, that instead nearly knocks me out cold.
‘I heard Addison shouting.’
I am bent over, clinging to my toe, rocking back and forth.
(So don’t look mental at all.)
‘I didn’t hear a thing.’ He snuffles and falls back in to a comfortable and cosy sleep.
I lie there staring at the ceiling terrified to my core, for a long time before I succumb again to peace.
I am in that beautiful place between awake and sleep.
I am floating peacefully about to drop off, I am a literary genius, I have just thought of an amazing blog post I can write (which I blatantly won’t remember tomorrow) and I am as light as a feather, I am almost asleep.
‘LEXY IT’S GONE, IT’S GONE!’ the shriek is right next to my head, down deep in to my ear canal.
I physically jump four feet in the air.
I switch the light on and start to shake.
‘Huh? What is gone?’
I am frightened.
It’s hard enough being a half decent mother who plays trains but doesn’t cook, reads books but doesn’t sing lullabies, eats dinner with him but not vegetables, stares miserably at an empty potty while changing another nappy, soothes her baby’s tears and fixes bumps and bruises but doesn’t know how to make cupcakes, without the added worry of hearing voices.
They have started laughing too.
Sometimes I just hear laughter.
They are happy.
I smile with them sometimes before I remember nobody is in the house except me and nothing is funny.
It’s coming in my ears.
I hear someone calling my name a lot, but no one is there.
I am perfecting the deranged Meer cat look. Someone must have called my name! Who said that?
I hear dogs barking, right next to me, in the office. (I do not work in a veterinary surgery either, just to be clear.)
It isn’t a conversation.
It’s not like I can blame them for making me eat cake.
They don’t tell me to eat cake.
Lord knows I don’t need to hear voices to do that.
I hear words.
I hear made up conversations.
And it isn’t all of the time.
It’s enough though.
I don’t answer them.
Then I would be crazy, right?
I need to focus on what is real.
On the voices that aren’t part of my mental illness.
My illness that started innocently enough, by just having a baby.
‘You are an amazing mummy.’
My best friends voice is the one I am trying to hold on to now.
I am doing my best.
The jeans I bought him don’t fit.
But I love him so much it hurts.
Is it ok to tie your son’s jeans around his waist with rope?
Please don’t make fun of me.
Or treat me any different.
I am frightened, and I am trying to break the stigma.
But I am normal.
Did you just hear that?
Of course you didn’t.
Nobody is there.