I walked into the room, heart pounding and mouth dry. The bright lights hurting my eyes as I walked down the corridor. I turned right down another long hallway. Each step becoming harder than the one before. My legs felt like jelly. My head was buzzing and I felt dizzy and sick. Eventually I saw Ward 9, I turned right and pulled open the heavy wooden door. I squirted on some antibacterial hand gel and rubbed it into my hands whilst walking towards the nurses desk. I cleared my throat and asked her where she was. I was directed down towards the end of the ward into the last room. There she lay in the bed, looking so tiny. Much smaller than usual. Her curly grey hair still looking perfect. She knew someone was there but she did nt know who it was as her eyes were severely affected by cataracts. I walked over to the bed, took her hand and said “Hello Grandma”. “Hello love” she managed. She knew who I was. My grandma and I had a close relationship. I sat next to her and stroked her hair. I tried to speak to her without letting her know how upset I was. The nurse came in and I asked her how she had been over night. “She has been quite stable” she said. “She looks much better today” I said, trying to be optimistic. The nurse smiled at me but said nothing, and then carried about her business. I kissed my grandma on the cheek and said “I will see you later grandma, I will be back later, I promise.” “OK” she croaked whilst managing a smile and nodding slowly.
“The capacity to become depressed, to have a reactive depression, to mourn loss, is something that is not inborn nor is it an illness; it comes as an achievement of healthy emotional growth … the fact is that life itself is difﬁcult … probably the greatest suffering in the human world is the suffering of normal or healthy or mature persons … this is not generally recognized.” Donald Winnicott
I had my first child at 17, needless to say I was nt married and the relationship did not last. By 28 I had given birth to my second and third children. I still was not married, nor did the fella ever intend to propose, mainly as he knew he had some sort of control in this matter, and all I ever wanted was the happily ever after. So I planned the wedding, and when our third child was 6 months old, we got married. I was never proposed to, and he never said he wanted to marry me, but he did. I am now divorced. Single again and have been for two years. I am dating, for the first time in my life. I meet men, go on dates and if I want to see them again I do, if I don’t then I don’t. For the first time in my life, I realised I actually had a choice in relationships. My children are older now. I go out with friends, I go on holiday with them, weekends away to festivals and allow myself that time to let my hair down. I am truly living a single life. With three older children in tow. They of course also get my time, but as I am sole carer, with not much of a break I allow myself some freedom now and again. I benefit, but so do they.
I had a career at 21, working in a law firm, receiving a large pay check at the end of each month and a decent annual bonus to boot. At 30, I left, I’d had enough of the rat race and returned to university. I am a student. I also work, part time.
I had a house at 21, albeit with a mortgage but it was mine. After a failed engagement and then a failed marriage and all the financial implications that came with that (thanks ex-husband for eternally lumbering me with your debt) I now live in rented. Although it is not all bad, as in actual fact this is the first house that actually feels like home to me, since leaving my parents home some 15 years ago.
At 21, despite having a child, I had savings. Maybe this was because it was before the recession hit us, I do not know. But I now no longer have savings. Another way I have gone backwards…..?
I felt at one point I had it all. Husband, children, career, money. But I did not. I did not have my freedom, nor my happiness. I was sad, and despite being surrounded by my husband and children I felt lonely. Nothing fulfilled me. I felt like a shell, an outline of a person with nothing inside. Empty.
I used to be very creative, but all of this had fallen by the way side to make time for my career and my children. I was desperately trying to hold everything together and it worked for a couple of years, but once the cracks began to show, no matter how much I tried to plaster of them, it was just a temporary fix. I had to strip back to basics, and reassess my life. At first I thought I had thrown everything away, until I realised I had in fact just began to clear everything away. The things which I no longer needed in my life as they served no purpose, and in fact made me very unhappy. However, I am happier now than I have ever been. I still have problems in my life I have to deal with, but I do not ‘struggle’ to deal with them. I am not constantly stressed out and have managed to develop a ‘whatever will be, will be’ attitude. I believe sometimes we are so conditioned by society that we believe the house, car, husband, children, career blahdy blah is what is going to keep us happy. Having lived that live, it did not work for me, and I know plenty others that it has not worked for either.
If you feel unhappy, it is time to assess your life. Do not be frightened, as you have to do this, for yourself. You have a duty to live life in the most happiest, fulfilling way that you can.
I had difficulty allowing myself time. I felt guilty, feeling as though I had to be there for my children 24/7. So I not only felt guilty when I went out for dinner with friends, or for a weekend away at a spa, I felt guilty when I went to work! Working 10 hours a day in a law firm, meant most days I did not see my children for more than an hour a day-combined from before and after work. It made it more difficult for me to accept as when I tried to explain it to my husband, he was so money driven (mainly as I paid his bills) that he failed to even consider a reduction in my hours. So when I was finally brave enough to take a look at my life, and after my now ex-husband had left, I know the next thing on my list was my work. I had always been interested in people and what made them tick, so I chose to do Psychology. I left my work, which had always served as a security blanket and I took the giant step of becoming a student. This freed up a lot of my time, and now I can take my children to school every morning and collect them from school three days a week. The guilt of not being a ‘proper’ mother (this way my ideal of the type of mother I wanted to be) to my children has gone. Which now means I can also take time out some weekends, guilt-free.
Your steps do not have to be as life changing as mine, I am in no way advocating that every one packs in their jobs and gets divorced. This worked for me, and I am still in transition after two years, but every day I am a step closer to where I want to be. So even though I looked as though I was going backwards, (and believe me, many people questioned me, and some thought I was in mid-life crisis) I actually just cleared the decks so I could move forwards. I AM HAPPY.