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There I am. Tuesday December 29, 2015

There I am. Smiling and laughing at family get-togethers. I'm the funny one, the arty one, the dramatic one, the unpredictable one. No one would guess there's a cement brick weighing down my tummy. No one would know I have just come from the bathroom where I allowed myself a two-minute cry.

There I am. Entertaining my girlfriends with hilarious stories of my crazy life. Self-deprecating anecdotes that has them all crying with laughter. Little do they know the mental effort it took to even arrive here. And how exhausted I will be when I arrive home.

There I am. At the school gate collecting my kids. Chatting to the mums about the maths homework, heavy bags and head lice! Chitter chatter, normal mummy pitter patter. Keep breathing. Keep calm. Minute at a time.

There I am. Shopping with my kids. Trolley, list and instructions: 'You get the weetabix and juice', 'You get the strawberries and crackers'. Ready steady, go. Inside, I'm counting down the seconds we can get out of this noisy people-populated bad dream.

There I am. In a work meeting. I'm speaking but I don't believe my own voice. Do they? Can I do this job? Is my work good enough? They seem to be nodding and responding. I must be okay. Am I?

There I am. Lost. On the way to a football match. My child worried, will we be late? Will I let my team down? My voice, high pitch with stress, assures him we'll get there. Inside, I feel lost, lost, lost.

I call it 'doing a Meryl'. My acting skills are sparkling. No one would know. No one would guess. My Meryl mask is secure.

Only a few friends know. They see the real me. Sad, vulnerable and raging with anxiety. Amazingly, they still like me! They have seen my Meryl mask slip and they've seen me emotionally naked without my armour. I thank them for not flinching. Or, if they do, for hiding it so well!

But I also thank my Meryl Mask because it gets me through each day. It makes me a stronger mother. A fighter. Meryl in her armour with her sword by her side.

Wounded but very much alive.

There I am.

Salt Water Mum
A Moodscope member.

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

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Hopeful One Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 8:01am

Hi Salt Water Mum- Really brave of you to allow us into the the inner working of your mind.I applaud your courage.By the same token I feel that you will take on board my suggestion. You appear to have a strong inner critical voice which ,I am sure appears thinks it is helpful, but in reality it is sabotaging your effort to reconcile your outside world and your inner world. 'Amazingly, they still like me! is what the outside world thinks of you. Can you swop that inner critical unfriendly voice for a more friendly one which starts accepting that statement as the reality?Give yourself credit for all those amazing things you achieve everyday!

Anonymous Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 8:13am

I recognise similar thought processes in myself - wondering how anyone can be taken in by the cheerful mask use to conceal our inner selves. But I think that, after a while, we have to dare to believe that the "real me" is actually the one that we present to the world. We can switch roles and actually become that person. Possibly, in time, the sad vulnerable aspects of our personalities will dwindle and be replaced?

LillyPet Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 8:32am

What a beautifully written blog SWM! I can really relate to this, except my acting isnt great! I agree with Anonymous, maybe Meryl would be the real you if you didnt have the depression. Maybe the illness is the unwelcome add on that is dragging your true sparkling self down. Hope you have a lovely day with your children. LP :)

Adam Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 8:38am

That was a great post - really resonated. It shows me the enormous strength and courage you must have.

Leah Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 9:15am

Saltwater mum,
Thanks for such a sensitive evocative honest post. As someone who wore a mask for many years as well as emotional armour, I know the price one pays for years of mask wearing. I know how brittle armour really is. I hope you can be as honest as you have been in this post in real life and bit by bit loosen the mask and the armour.

Melanie Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 9:21am

Beautifully written moving post - I had tears running down my face as I recognise myself. Such interesting comments above too - see this from another angle - as I read it I did not see it as evidence of the inner critic. I think of the real me as being the vulnerable one underneath. But of course I am not always feeling vulnerable underneath. Reading a great book at the moment called Conquering Codependency and Shame by Darlene Lancer - which speaks of 5 selves - real self, undervalued self, ideal self, inner critic and I think the other one is inner child. Clarifies some ways of recognising the inner Critic and feelings of shame which are driving us and do not need to be and how to be more and more in the real self - noticing a "shame attack" and overcoming it by focussing on the reality around me - my senses, what am I seeing, hearing feeling right now. Also advice last night in a course I am on to another participant from a coach.The participant was speaking of her need to people please and seek validation from others and the coach said that she herself targeted this with her connection to spirituality, finding love inside herself, those moments of being present perhaps in nature, perhaps holding a newborn baby - not laughing at something her grand daughter says to make her happy and feel good - just laughing because she finds it funny. Random thoughts I know - hope they may be helpful to others as well as to me talking to myself!

Salt Water Mum Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 9:49am

Thank you for your comments on my first ever Moodscope blog. I am so glad I wrote it.

Wow! Imagine if Meryl could be the real me underneath all the murkiness - what a positive thought.

I have been reading Moodscope for a long time now - delighted with myself that I have finally made an appearance!


Debs Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 10:38am

Where have you been hiding SWM??!! Your writing is AMAZING!!! I was moved, inspired, captivated and enthralled and can't wait to read more of your beautiful words. As others have said, YOU are Meryl, you are the bright, funny, talented girl. That other voice is just your chimp, your imposter, your sabateur... Try replacing 'Meryl' with your name and giving the imposter a name instead... Come out of hiding and show yourself because you are a shining star ;-) xxx

Salt Water Mum Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 12:10pm

What kind, positive and encouraging words from you all - Meryl will be getting a swelled head ! :-)))

Les Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 12:45pm


Maybe - just maybe - as you see the positive and life affirming comments coming in - you can start to blend Meryl and SWM and find a balanced 'person' in the middle..??

After all.......there is an M in SWM.....!!

Meryl to carry that strength with you....?

It's Mum's head that should take the applause..........not Meryl's.....I think Debs is right above......YOU are the star not Meryl.

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family." Mother Teresa

Mrs Jul A Non Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 3:16pm

I find that my mask betrays who I actually am. I mean it is so false and not genuine that people see through it immediately. It's Ok in some of the situations you describe so well SWM. I can get through chatting to other Mums at the school gate and also passing greetings to people in the street. I can just about survive encounters with customers in the voluntary work I do. What I fail spectacularly at is trying to be cheerful in social situations with good friends. I will start with a mask on, deal with the intros, "Hi How are you/ etc", well, but after a while I notice friends laughing at light hearted comments they have made perfectly naturally..but this makes me feel I am being too serious and somebody has to deliberately lighten the conversation up.
There are times when I am the life and soul of any gathering; no mask is needed. My soul is laid bare. But most of the time, I try to wear a mask but it doesn't help and has to go. It's like getting jaw ache when forcing yourself to smile
I loved your blog today. You are brave SWM and obviously a strong person who is well liked and well thought of at work. As many have said, maybe your mask is not that much different from the real you? You've no need to rage with anxiety, feel vulnerable etc.
I sometimes feel my feelings similar to yours are a habit now after so many years of being like that. It's almost as if those inadequate feelings have been so much a part of my life, embedded in my psyche possibly for good reason, that now even when I am Ok, I tend towards feeling inadequate etc etc. It just feels a more normal behaviour pattern for me.

Hopeful One Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 8:05pm

Hi Mrs Jul A Non- you put it nicely in a nutshell in your last para. These are all learnt habits and ,like most learnt habits ,they can be undone. Obviously they take longer to undo the longer they have flourished. I call them my " old tape" and say so to myself when I hear it starting to play. By simply labelling it on this way I have now managed to make it a tombstone marking a time past not the 'new tape' which I encourage at every opportunity.

Mrs Jul A Non Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 9:02pm

Thank you Hopeful One. It came to me as I was writing. I will use the old tape idea. I think this will be of great help to me! It's nice you picked this up in my too long comment. I hope you are having a nice evening. I am just back from an evening soiree I have been absolutely dreading for weeks but I managed it with no alcohol and it's now behind me and I have come back to your nice comment. Julia

michael Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 4:47pm

SWM you are doing an unbelievably amazing job of dealing with life necessities in spite of how you feel. I am wondering what kind of help - therapy and meds - are you getting? From my understanding and experience, getting a successful mix of the two is the only way to effectively MANAGE my symptoms and allow me to not only function at an acceptable level but return to who I really am and want to be. : ) Hope this helps.

Mary Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 5:06pm

Hi there SWM. So true. so true. So very true.

the room above the garage Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 6:21pm

Beautiful post SWM! I once confided in someone that I could be Oscar-worthy because nobody would know... I can sometimes recognise other mask wearers. You're right, it's a shield and a mask but also a strength. Loved your writing, thank you x.

Hopeful One Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 8:13pm

Hi RATG- just a joke - I have nothing against mother - in- laws I hasten to add. Two cannibals are talking to each other before settling down to eat. The first cannibal says to the other" I don't really like my mother -in-law at all '" the second cannibal says to the first " Well then why don't you just have the vegetables?"

The Gardener Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 9:50pm

What a brilliant blog. Like SWM my mask has always been in place - even this morning, skirt and tights instead of yesterday's dirty slacks - nice people to see house - a bit of gardening in the sun, pure white camellia covered in flowers. I could NEVER convince anybody that a scared rabbit existed behind the mask. Then, one day, after reading the lesson from the chancel steps, a friend said 'I thought I saw your knees trembling. But you're never scared'. Oh no? Tonight I'm scared - though I've been trying Lex's Mind Training? Forgotten. I think that Mr G's Alzheimer is probably heading for dementia - definite behaviour change. Evenings are always 'difficult' though managed well last night. He is obsessed with heat and light. I know he can't help it - has lost use in one eye in one of his falls which landed him in hospital, Now, I have the tiniest pool of light over what I am doing, in a very big room. Four times tonight he says it's my fault he's blind (he can see very well with the left eye, but does not want to accept it.) I know I ought to ignore it, but I get hurt that he should say such a thing at all. I have to rise above it all - focus on what is best for us both - but I am 'lashing out' against my lot - not as though I've not been warned that there is only so much 'carers' can take before they are ill themselves (awful statistics back this up) or you admit defeat and it's a home. I shall cling to the 23rd psalm and see if the local antique shop has a scold's bridle, I need one. SWM saying the mask makes her a 'stronger' mother is interesting. Looking back on my children when young, and what they say and do now to help me, I don't think they are fooled by bravado - they accept and learn to cope with mood changes very early on. My father was bi-polar - scary, but I learned to cope. But not with my mother's incessant tears. I think my 'mask' went on at about thirteen, and has just slipped.

Leah Tue, Dec 29th 2015 @ 11:45pm

I always read your replies with interest as it is a special insight into a time gone by as well as a very real present that many are facing.
I hope that moodscope provides for you( and for many) a chance to let the mask down and be real even for a few paragraphs.
Your trials and courage bring back memories of when my mum had dementia.
I think "lashing out " against your lot is very healthy.

Sending kind thoughts and big hugs across the seas.

BunnyBurns Thu, Dec 31st 2015 @ 7:18pm

This is my second day on Moodscope and my first day on the Blog. I could relate to everything you said in your own poignant words. I have worn a Mask for most of my 51 years. I was troubled as a child for no particular reason and diagnosed with OCD/ Depression as an adult . My mask slipped recently and very dramatically . I'm now in hospital and on the road to a proper diagnosis and treatment. I've most probably been suffering with Bipolar and the antidepressants have more than likely been fuelling the bipolar in a negative way. I am so relieved to have been recommended this site by one of the team involved in my care. Thank you so much for sharing this xxx

David Sat, Jan 9th 2016 @ 1:36am

Many of those commenting have complimented your writing, SWM. It strikes me that being able to write so powerfully about your feelings is a great strength, indeed a triumph, because we can't express well what we're overcome by, what we're sinking in.

To write about your dark feelings, you have to be detached from them, which suggests that you have the power to also detach from them when you're not writing. So maybe, just as some people have suggested that you can identify with your Meryl mask, you can also identify with that power of detachment and control in you. Focusing day after day on your strengths might well become a habit, so that the anxious part of you progressively weakens.

And maybe more writing like that will also empower you in another way. There's an old Irish proverb 'Deabhail a ra, sin deabhail a chlai', meaning 'To name a devil is to exorcise that devil'. So perhaps you might exorcise your little devils with more great writing, whether in private or, better, right here in this blog.

Whatever you do, though,, you're not SINKing, you're SWMing!


Salt Water Mum Mon, Jan 11th 2016 @ 1:12pm

I'm not SINKing, I'm SWMing :-)))

Thank you,


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