Editors Picks,  Life,  Mental Matters

Far From The Tree?

My name is Jemma. I am 35 and I am crazy.

Not in like a “Wurrr! Mad for it! Drink 10 pints on a night out and streak down the high street” kind of crazy (although maybe in 2002 that would have been the case). I mean like neurosis, paranoia, depression, over thinking, anxiety kind of crazy.

I have no memory of being anything other than bonkers, feeling different, out of place, even as a very small child. I have questioned who I am, why I am, my sexuality, my intelligence and, more often than not, my own sanity. I have made two attempts on my own life. Neither of which I wish to talk about or revisit. Both are in the distant past. I have been off and on medication since I was in my late teens and in and out of counselling.  There have been full on break downs and messy, messy break ups in which I could have given Glenn Close a run for her money.

Drama. Drama. Drama. As Stevie Nicks once sang “I’ve never ever been a blue calm sea/ I have always been a storm.”

That is not to say there haven’t been happy times, when I have succeeded academically or in work; when I have fallen in love and got married; when my children were born; when I have laughed so hard with friends that I have cried or suffered momentary incontinence! When I was a child, Christmas with my family was about as good as life could possibly get.

The dark blues have been punctured by beautiful golden times.

In truth, I am my own saboteur. I have acted desperately and irrationally, made unwise, impulsive choices and allowed the screaming self-doubt to drown out any songs of actual genuine ability. Ultimately, I have been the architect of my own misery. I don’t know if my mental instability has been the result of biology: is my depression chemical? I don’t know if my anxiety and crippling self-doubt is who I am as a person. Or is it all just a choice? Have I chosen to be this way? Has it just been easier for this to be my default setting, because there is comfort in being a victim?

Is it just attention seeking?

I do not have the answers to those questions and I am not sure I ever will. But here I am, aged 35, a married mother of two and I no longer want to be a victim. I am trying to make better choices because I don’t have the luxury of being a self-absorbed arse now. There are two little people relying on me to protect and guide them.

Given my often fragile mental health, how this impacts my children is a massive worry. Being responsible for someone else’s mental health when yours is a complete fucking car crash is daunting. There are already signs there that I am ballsing this up quite royally. My boys are two and four. They are also chalk and cheese. James is a serious, sensitive soul. He can be moody and stroppy. He is a whinge. He is clingy. But he is also so caring and loving, full of hugs and fiercely bright. Joseph is the joker. There is not one fuck given. He is mischievous and boisterous. He climbs, he runs, bites. He likes his own space. Affection doesn’t come naturally and he has a vicious temper. But he is hilariously funny and spirited. A character. I’m not sure who is more like me, but I see flickers of myself in both.

As a parent, my main concern is, obviously, their happiness and if I am totally honest I am not sure I have happy kids. James bothers me most. He shows signs of anxiety already. He gets hugely frustrated with himself. I have read a book with him, “Don’t Get Angry Annie” which teaches control techniques. He knows all the answers but does he practice them? Nope.

His rage comes from nowhere; pictures torn up when he doesn’t like them, pens thrown across the room. When he is not happy, the world knows about it. Blistering screams, crying. He doesn’t listen. He answers back. He doesn’t take the slightest bit of notice of me. Being in the house can feel like a chore because the boys fight and whinge. Days out can feel like a chore because there are strops and tantrums. Is this him just being 4? It feels like he has been hard work since he was born. Is this because he is an anxiety ridden mess like me or is it because I am failing at parenting? I was thrilled that his school report was glowing. His behaviour is good, he is bright. He can get upset with himself but school were happy to work through that with us.

Joseph does worry me too. His violent rage, flagrant disregard for authority and stubbornness terrifies me. He is scrappy – he flies at his brother. He can fly at me too. He is defiant and angry. Is he just being two? Am I failing to make a secure environment that commands respect? Or is it because, like me, his emotions are wild and unruly?

I am in no doubt that I have ruined James’ life by giving him a sibling. His neediness and jealousy is evident. I feel like I could give and give and give and give but it would never be enough for him. Joseph is determined to come out on top though. He will fight for alpha male and no one will get in his way. He takes no real comfort in me. Sometimes I feel like he hates me. The leap from one child to two has been cataclysmic.

Where all this leads terrifies me; trouble with the police? Drugs? Stealing?  Hurting people? My over thinking has even worried that one of them might turn out to be a murderer. I wonder if they pick up on my anxiety and that is why I have no control.

There are some people who think I am ridiculous, being concerned about the mental health of two children under 5. There are people who will think that this is just children being children. You always think your own child is the most badly behaved, right?  But what if this is because they have been born with poor mental health, just like me? If I can’t control my own emotions, how on earth do I make a 2 year old responsible for their mental health?

Fighting for the mental health of your children whilst fighting for your own feels like an impossible task. Is this just the challenge all parents face and I find it harder because of my own problems. Do I just expect too much from my babies? Or is this because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Am I making my children crazy like me?

There are so many questions, so many variables. The only answer I have is that the struggle is real and this parenting shiz is ALL about the guilt.

photo credit: PeterThoeny Mama, are we there yet? via photopin (license)
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