By now, I’m sure, you’re all aware of my propensity to sit on the beach and take photos of the sea, the sky, the pier, random pebbles… The image above shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, then. I took it a few days ago, about eight in the morning, just after I had dropped Eoin off for one of his mornings out with his very lovely childminder.¹ As you can see, the Pavilion Project is well underway, and the pier is dripping with scaffolding, ladders and netting. If the truth be told, it looks a bit of a state at the moment, but the knowledge that a shiny new Pavilion is around the corner does a great deal to take your mind off the mess of builders’ vans and portacabins which seem to have colonised the seafront in recent months.
As I sat beside the pier and watched the sun come up that day, I couldn’t resist making an analogy between the scene in front of me and my current mental state, trite though I knew that might be. I was on my way to an appointment with the doctor to review my medication, and, later that morning, I found myself well on the way to being pill-free for the first time in two years. This has been a long time coming: I’m not sure if it still counts as post-natal depression when you’re still a shaking, crying, vomiting wreck well after your child’s first birthday, but, whatever label you chose to put on it, it has been very, very tough. Two years down the line, I hope I can say that I am ready to go it alone. Like the Pavilion, there is still a lot of work to do: the metaphorical scaffolding (CBT and mindfulness exercises, a superhumanly supportive and patient husband and parents, good friends who understand and – hopefully – forgive) is very much still in place, but this time it really does feel as if the sun is coming up, and that things are going to be better this time around.
When I look back at the earlier entries I wrote on this blog, I realise that I wrote a great deal more about Eoin then than I do now. Of course, whether I write about him or not, he’s a constant, anarchic presence: mugging me for stories, charging around the kitchen wearing a mixing bowl on his head like a helmet, breaking my spinning wheel, eating all sorts of things he shouldn’t, and generally causing havoc. I think the point is that I don’t need to write about him so much any more. Looking back on those early updates, it now seems pretty obvious that I was trying to make amends in some way for the dissociation I was feeling. I was clinging on to every moment in which I could believe that I wasn’t crazy and detached, that I was a good mother and, however unbelievable I might have found it, that he did actually love me. Now, I still have dark moments, but they seem to be being outweighed more and more by the good times: the nonsense conversations, the unexpected cuddles, the fact that he regularly makes me laugh like a drain at the silliest of things (“The fan is broken: it’s a disaster, Mammy!”). Finally, it’s a relationship, and not an ongoing cycle of blind panic and fruitless self-flagellation.
It’s hard to write about this sort of thing without descending into cliché: good grief, I’ve even gone for the good old “sun breaking through the clouds” metaphor! I do honestly feel hopeful this time. My biggest fear over this whole period of illness is that my depression might somehow have damaged Eoin, that I might not have loved him enough or engaged with him in the right way. The fact that things feel so much better now, and that, for the first time, I feel calm at the prospect for stopping the medication, gives me hope that this is not the case. He is a happy, normal little boy, albeit one who remains slightly fanatical about trains, cars, and anything with a wheel on it. He is empathic, determined, intelligent and he has a lovely sense of humour.
He is fine.
I will be too.
¹They went to Techniquest, he got to press lots of buttons and make coloured lights flash, and she very kindly bought him a Volkswagen Matchbox car as a souvenir. He told me he now wants to live at her house full-time. I am pointedly not letting this bother me.