Some days I struggle. I wake with the usual dawn ear-piercing screams from the toddler and wait for a blissful moment of blankness before the wave crashes over me. Then the hours ahead feel like a mountain to climb, counting down until bedtime, when I can give in to it.
Some days stretch out in front of me like an impossible task, an endurance test to be negotiated through a black curtain that hangs off me, sticking like treacle.
On these days I feel the weight upon my shoulders is so heavy that picking up the extra load of my toddler, whinging with pudgy arms outstretched, might just break my back.
Even the giggles and warmth of my beautiful children cannot reach me. They become three heavy loads to be carried, when my legs cannot even stand my own weight.
Inside me is a bubbling well, like indigestion. It has a flimsy lid that doesn’t fit properly, which I spend my day wrestling with in an attempt to keep it in place. And all the while the well boils. Keeping busy and making endless cups of tea helps to keep it in check. But next to nothing can send it out of control. A squabble, a broken plate, little things that would go unnoticed on other days. But these days are not other days.
These days hunt in packs, snapping at my heels, taking it in turns to jump on my back and close their jaws around my neck, trying to pull me down. They are relentless and each morning brings a fresh assault. Sometimes I think they are going to get the better of me and, were it not for my three small dependents, they probably would. I could give in to the pack and sink for a time. It would be such a relief to surrender.
But my own pack of bright-eyed babies won’t allow that. They make it necessary to drag myself out of bed at the start of the day, even when it feels like it is completely beyond me. Their daily rhythms and their needs force me to carry on and face the challenges of the day, even when the fog is so heavy that I can hardly see or hear them.
Some days I can open up and talk about my pain with my small, cherished band of close confidants. But not yet. The well is in overdrive. Once the bubbles die down, I can begin to give it a name. But it is too soon.
These days are not every day. They don’t last and are interspersed with long periods of sunshine. But the roots run deep and they don’t go away. The pack will return.
On better days, when the well is silent, I can reflect and day dream about a life where feelings don’t run so deep, where I could drift along the surface like so many others seem to do, with little waves pleasantly bobbing me up and down. But I wonder if that life really exists. Perhaps everyone has the highs and lows but most simply deal with them better and don’t feel the overwhelming desire to sink with the ship. To lose the highs but be saved the lows feels like a price worth paying right now.
I’ve become pretty good at faking it to the world. I can even put it on hold altogether for a family event or a weekend away, until the public eye has turned away. Perhaps everyone else is doing the same. Just the thought of that makes the well boil violently and I suddenly want to cry.
Perhaps it is just a toxic mix of genes and circumstances. Perhaps knowing why isn’t important.
Today, a double morning cuddle reached me. The sun rise broke through the fog, if only a little. Today I simply feel deeply sad but perhaps a little less in turmoil.
Perhaps tomorrow I will feel a little less sad. Perhaps the next day I will feel better still. The struggle back to ‘normal’ is so much harder than sinking and I don’t have the strength just yet. It’s all I can do to get all four of us through the day, clothed, fed and in one piece – and all with minimum tears from each of us.
Until tomorrow, I will make more tea, plaster on a weak smile and wait for the sun to break through.