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February


The Perfect Family. Wednesday February 1, 2017

[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please click here: https://soundcloud.com/user-231831520/sets/the-perfect-family-playlist]

I think many of us are guilty of looking at other people and thinking they've got it all worked out.

I'm as guilty of it as anyone. My studio, where I work and see clients is right at the back of the house. While it is possible to direct my clients through the garden to enter by the French Windows, I'm never quite sure they will make it, or if the rampant grapevine and killer roses will get them first. So I take them through my house, apologising all the way for the mess and clutter.

"You call this messy?" They say kindly. "You haven't seen my house!"

But in my mind, everyone else lives in immaculate Ideal Home décor, with never a cushion out of place, and certainly not with wetsuits draped like sad selkie skins over every sofa, precarious piles of paperwork precipitating off the dining room table; the floor scattered with bucolic guinea pig hay...

Some of you may think that my family and I have it all worked out emotionally. After all, how could I dare write for you if I didn't?

Did you hear that? Yes – that was the sound of hollow laughter echoing round the depths of despair.

My husband and I were talking yesterday about the price that is paid by my family when I am ill. He called it a disaster area.

Oh, I'm alright. When I am a jellied lump of misery, clinging to the sofa like some stranded sea anemone, I am not aware of anything except my own suffering. It is my family who have to pick up my jettisoned duties and carry on some semblance of normal life.

It is my husband who has to take on all the taxi work; running the girls to sailing, to trampoline club, to badminton, to swimming. It is he who has to pick up the hoover before the colour of the carpets is a mere memory; he has to sort laundry and do ironing.

My elder daughter takes on my role of mother to all of us. She worries about, encourages and cares for us all. She organises me (I am grateful); She organises her sister (who resents it). At fourteen, this is too much; her stress levels go through the roof.

My younger daughter suffers most. Being highly empathic, she finds it difficult to cope with my depression. For her it is almost infectious. She grieves over it and tries to make me smile. Fake smiles don't fool her and so she feels even worse.

I am well again now, and for now, but the price is still being paid. The family walk on eggshells around me. They are reluctant to cede the roles they have taken on back to me. And so I feel guilty.

There has to be a better way of managing this illness, so my family don't suffer. I hope these new pills work. If they don't, I won't stop looking. I can't.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.


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Comments

Lacey Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 5:14am

Oh Mary
How I feel for you when we suffer like this...I feel exactly the same. My house has been in complete disarray since before Christmas when I finally felt better after crashing after my wedding last August.The months leading up til then I really struggled but the house was tidy and fit for visitors etc yet there was no-one popping in. Except my really close friends who knew how I was feeling behind the mask of okayness I was wearing.
Now I'm 'okay'(never truthfully), I've let things go and gone into the red at the bank. My husband works away and that's part of my problem. The loneliness.
I'm facing up to my mistakes(we all make them) and I'll be fine next week when the cash is building up again and I've sorted out and tidied up the clutter that has accumulated on the floor and every space there is. I can do this...I CAN do this.......;-)
In the meantime I will send a blog to Caroline as she requested yesterday as I have an urge to write.....but maybe the real urgency is in the erasing of my 'mess'; debt and tidying up is the order of the day.
After I've checked the status of my bank account though
I must not be too hard on myself,it's what happens when we not coping well.
And neither must you ;-)
Take care and try to enjoy today
R x

Mary Wednesday Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:15pm

I wish you well with the tidying and the finances. I hate both - although the end result is nice in both cases!

patricia Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 7:07am

Oh Mary I can resonate with you and Lacey. My daughters partner that was, Mother is lovely her flat is like a show house, yes she lives by herself, but I'm sure if you put me in there I'd muck it up in no time, I seem to have acquired so much tosh, rubbish I'm a great hoarder, if I throw things out, put in a black sack, I start taking things out again and don't throw half of it away, of course they say if you declutter you will feel so much better, when I do throw things away, I regret later!!! I had taken the plastic table cloth off (my daughters 3 year old boy comes) put on the Christmas new one, where oh where did I put the old one have searched everywhere, can only think I've thrown it away!!1 Don't feel comfortable with anyone calling I'm not one who feels at ease, because while they are here I'm looking around at the stuff all over the place, my husband says Pat it's a home. I remember passing a ladies house when I was out walking with some friends, she was mowing the lawn, stopped and invited us in for a drink, we said we've got out boots on she said never mind about that, come in I only hoover once a month and it's next week, the kitchen stuff was everywhere dusty etc, she had to wash up mugs to make ours, but she was lovely, made us welcome, why oh why can I not be like her, always worrying what people will think of me!! what the devil does it matter, somehow it does to me, me. that's why I'm like I am, how do I change this stupid thinking which has been for over 70 odd years, it's supposed to get better with age "they say" well surprise, surprise it doesn't.
Hope things improve for you both, we can but try.
Bye for now,
Pat xx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:17pm

My mother tells the story of an old lady who came to visit her when she was a young mum struggling with a big farmhouse and new baby. My mother apologised for the mess. The lady replied, "My dear, it is *you* I have come to see; not your house!" But today I visited a lady with (yes) an immaculate house. She lives however, with OCD and wishes she could relax and live with more clutter and mess than she is able to...

Eva Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 7:47am

Hi Mary, I have been examining my relationship with with my parents whom I have mentioned previously as having had traumatic upbringings. I feel that I stepped in to the emotional gap and tried to fill it. In hindsight although I've gone through a lot of heartache trying to connect and getting frustrated giving and not receiving, I am OK with having supported my family, my brother and my parents and although I eventually had a fatigue break down after losing my dad, I am getting better and looking at how I might go forward without draining myself so completely for other people. If I had it over again with more self knowledge I'd probably do much the same BUT try to protect my resources a bit more, and maybe to do this I might have to have been a bit more direct and brave.

I think you have a wonderful family, who obviously have handling your down times in hand. I think (and this is obviously just my opinion) that they might not change how it is, because although it would be so much preferable if you never had need of them to step in, they are needed and they choose these roles. Knowing that your eldest gets stressed is there a way to cope with that? Is it time management, or another aspect of the responsibility that stresses her out? I looked after my brother a lot and many of the household duties when my parents split up, it was just part of our new life. With your younger daughter is there a way to support her now that you are well to prepare her for your lows? I guess I am asking if there are emotional and educational resources out there to help aid your girls, all 3 of them, which could be looked at when you are well enough to organise so that they don't feel as though they are firefighting when you are ill?

Mary Wednesday Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:28pm

My eldest is good at going to the school nurse for help with her stress, but I think the weight of responsibility weighs her down. she takes on more than she needs to and worries more than she needs to. Thankfully Tom understands her and helps her to cope. Now I am well again we are talking about it too. It all helps. And thank you.

Tutti Frutti Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:24am

Hi Mary
This illness does put a strain on our relationships so I am really pleased that you are committed to explore every avenue to manage your illness. I first ended up in hospital and got diagnosed bipolar after my daughter was born and it took my husband a long time to believe that I was sufficiently better to start treating me like an adult again after that. I am sure it also contributed to some very difficult times with my mother in law which took years to resolve. Both my husband and I ended up seeing counsellors about it which helped a lot. My daughter has only been aware of one manic episode when she was about 9. It certainly shook her up because although she knew I had been very ill when she was born and that was why she didn't have brothers or sisters, she didn't really understand the nature of my illness until then. I think I manage to keep some of my minor wobbles from her but I do find her supporting me sometimes, I which is lovely of her but a shame that it's necessary. I think if I had another major episode now that my daughter is a teenager I would consider whole family counseling. I am also aware that my parents who are now getting on a bit are still having to worry about me. So all in all the family stuff is messy and horrible but I do think counseling can help and I think the main thing we can do for our families is be fully committed to managing our illness. Time will also help. Go gently on yourself and your family. Love and hugs TF xoxo

Mary Wednesday Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:29pm

We need our families to understand and we need to help them understand and help ourselves wherever possible. We're all getting better at this.

Sally Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:46am

Oh Mary, how this resonates! Apologising for the mess, guilt at extra duties faced by partner and family, that feeling of being stuck in a rut not knowing where to start with the decluttering. I haven't wanted to go out for a month now, preferring to stay closeted in my safe haven, not wanting to face the world. I can't break the habit but know I must go out and put a brave face on, and everyone will think I'm good old cheerful Sally, always there with a bit of help and encouragement. It takes its toll, and i feel the guilt. Weight has become an issue again, just when I was starting to take back control. Life is peppered with challenges, isn't it!
Thank Goodness there are also the good times! Bring them on, quick!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:31pm

Oh Sally! The weight. Oh yes - how that resonates with me! At my bipolar group today we were discussing that, when down, we all prefer to hide away - we can't cope with people. Not good for us, of course, but we all do it. Hoping for good times for you again.

Eva Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:48am

Ooo, forgot regarding house keeping... I have a 'fairly' tidyish place it kind of blooms and spills, and then needs a bit of a prune, my creative space doesn't tend to get tidied much at all, just when I can't operate in it any longer. I can't afford the time to keep it pristine and even if I could I would much rather be doing something else, when the dust bunnies forage out onto the open plains of my floors I scoop them up and take them to a better place :)

Mary Wednesday Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:34pm

Oh Eva, I can just see those dust bunnies! My creative space is a mess too. It only gets tidied when the mess begins to frustrate the creative process! And I suppose parts of my house are OK. I particularly like Marie Kondo's approach (The Magic of Tidying) in that she suggests you throw out things that do not bring you joy. This way you jettison a lot of guilty feelings along with the objects.

Jane Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 9:15am

Hi Mary, I read this and listened to your audio today. I understand your worries for you family. I feel guilty when I feel I have burdened my children with my endless worrying and overthinking. I wonder if there is another way of looking at this. Your children are learning independence, recilliance, skills and empathy. All great things for coping with adult life. Take care x

Mary Wednesday Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:34pm

They are indeed. And compassion too. Thank you.

Michael Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 12:24pm

The best way to get your house tidy is to invite relatives around. Then there is a frantic tidying up operation, which only serves to maintain the illusion that we all live in perfectly clean tidy spaces all the time.
Psychiatrist Tim Cantopher' book "Depressive Illness, The Curse of the Strong", has a chapters on recovery and staying well:
He states that the key to recovery is to start doing tasks, but that it is totally OK not to complete them.

He calls this the "Hoover in the middle of the room test".

So you are having a good day, you start to do some hoovering. After 15 mins you are feeling washed out….what do you do? Press on regardless or just leave the Hoover and lie down. Tim says that if he were to visit you at home, he would feel you were getting your recovery right if he looked around and saw a load of half finished tasks with the hoover left in the middle of the room.
Yes this goes against the grain for most of us, but it avoids a crash and burn cycle.

Christine Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 5:04pm

BRILLIANT, Michael...my hoover is currently in the middle of the spare room...as I slowly begin to take up the reins of my life again..xx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 8:35pm

Thank you Michael. I shall no longer look upon uncompleted tasks with guilt!

Molly Wed, Feb 1st 2017 @ 9:17pm

I replied to your post Mary and it seems to have not registered.

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