Behind the mask

So it's been a while. A considerable while and for that I'm really sorry.

To be honest with you, for a long time now I've not really known how to write, or why I should write, or whether I still have the ability to write; but I have been reminded lately of how much some of you used to enjoy reading my ramblings about my crazy world and so I try this evening to rekindle that love of forming words into sentences and paragraphs!

As I do this, I do so with reticence, as to write with any authenticity or honesty involves sharing with you my struggles, and that is not easy.

Despite my nerves and worries of judgement, I feel this needs to be said and shared; not least because many of you who are my family and friends must feel that my radio silence from Facebook, text and Whatsapp, let alone any precious 'old-school' face-face contact of late, may come from a place of apathy or unfeeling, when actually this couldn't be further from the truth.

I also feel compelled to speak out as all too often in blogs and social media posts we only share the perfect or the filtered view of our lives that we wish the world to see. 
(*raises hand in the air as an acknowledgment of guilt!)
This I fear may perpetuate the very problem that I am sharing with you today.


For a while now I have been battling with a mental illness.
I suffered a breakdown a few months ago and have since been diagnosed with GAD, a post natal anxiety disorder that has brought its buddy depression along for a holiday in my brain too.
I have also been screened for OCD and Social Anxiety Disorder for which I received top marks! The perfectionist in me was thrilled! 

What started as something I could control and hide from the world and put on an over enthusiastic mask to hide at the school gates and social events, has recently bubbled over into something unmanageable and scary to not only me, but also my family.

I'm pleased that after seeking help from my doctor, I was recently referred to a specialist for some intense treatment which has involved unpicking and unpacking the muddled and jumbled contents of my head in order to put me back together again.

Although a positive step towards my recovery, this has been far from an easy task and the intensity of doing this has sparked a bit of a relapse where I became extremely unwell.
For a while I was unable to be alone with my children, the very essence of what keeps me going.

I'm not going to lie, this has been a difficult time.

As I write this I feel sick. Fearful of the response this may get, but underneath that is a passion and a desire to speak openly, because I can't help but wonder whether if I had read of someone sharing my feelings of failure, insecurity and utter desperation, whether I may have felt some comfort that I was not alone.

Aghhhhhhh! Why is it so much easier to write about physical illness?

I've never once feared that sharing with you my struggles wth my spinal surgery or neurological problems or wheelchair calamities would ever receive judgement or condemnation- so why then am I worrying about this?

My incredible husband likes to remind me that my brain is like any other organ in my body and it is not working properly at the moment so is receiving treatment.

After so many years of stubbornly staying off it, I have had to resume medication for my nerve pain and my anxiety and depression.

If truth be told, I am feeling a mixture of failure and disappointment about this, that my regime of diet, alternative therapies and self help techniques could not stave off the inevitable completely in the end; but deep down I know that my stubbornness to keep my body 'clean' from these drugs (after my years of morphine, nerve drug and antidepressant cocktails robbed me of my real personality), had become a problem in itself and I do now accept that refusing to take anything at all was not only harming me but also my loving family who have, and continue to be so patient and supportive by my side. 

My husband needs a medal... and a surfing holiday! 🏄

My children deserve their mummy back, my husband- his wife, and my parents- their daughter and if that means letting the perfectionism go and accepting the medication, then so be it. 
(Another high scorer in the Psycological screening with perfectionism issues- go me!)

The long and the short of it is that going to my doctor and 
finally being honest with people and talking about how I have been feeling has saved me.

At one stage I got so bad I couldn't even speak or interact with my children.
<This is incredibly painful to write.>

By opening up I've even found a friend who outwardly appeared to be 'That Supermum', with the fab kids who were always clean and dressed well and attended numerous clubs whilst she looked like she effortlessly floated by without a care of a baby who won't eat anything but peas or sausages or a three year old who thinks she's a teenager- by God giving me a nudge to be honest and tell her my story I found that actually she was herself a swan- serene and graceful on the surface, but under the water she was peddling like mad and in her case also struggling to stay afloat. 
She was also suffering from an anxiety disorder, she was also talking to a therapist, she was also taking medication and she was also secretly falling apart at the thought of even walking up to those school gates where I would look and admire her perfect appearance and composure.

I'm pretty sure that we are all swans in some way, as everyone is battling with something to some degree and paddling frantically just to stay afloat- with that in mind, maybe we should all just be a little kinder and a little bit more loving in our words and actions to everyone around us. 

'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.' 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6

Like many I had this read at my wedding ceremony. Although it speaks of God's love for us it also speaks of how we can love one another. The bit about keeping no record of wrongs I am so grateful for because living with this intensely high level of anxiety I know has made me very hard to live with at times as I've often lost all sense of what is rational.
As I say, my family and husband in particular need medals! How do I begin to make this up to them?

Back in 2004 my husband met a fun loving Virgin Atlantic hostie, since then he has nursed me through years of complications since my car accident and now held me together through this.
I am an incredibly blessed lady.

Well, that's probably enough baring my soul for one day.

I know some people may not understand why I am sharing with you something so personal and that's fine. Please try not to judge or analyse my choices and just carry on with your day and flick on to the next cute kitten Buzzfeed or Facebook photo compilation of a school friend's holiday piccies: however if you are reading this and you are feeling that despite the great job, lovely home and beautiful family you may passively brag about on your Instagram or Facebook page, you are slowly being sucked into dark scary hole in the ground then PLEASE know you are not alone.

Please take that brave step and tell someone today.

It doesn't have to be a doctor yet and certainly not a public post like this, but make a cuppa, open a pack of biccies, (the more chocolatey the better!) and talk to someone.

It's the knowledge that some of you reading this may also be thinking- "I can't have depression, anxiety, stress, I'm not 'that kind of person'. Look at what I have- the house, the job, the family I've always wanted."- that makes me write this today...
(*As I still hover my finger over the 'post' button with trepidation!)

Mental illness is as indiscriminate as physical illness, but the wonderful thing is that help is there, but as a society we just need to be more open and honest about it and say that it's okay to talk about it.

The stigma needs to bugger off!

My name is Karen Reader and I have a mental illness.