Generally when I meet people for the first time I’m all awkward and completely forget how to behave when I’m around actual human beings. I start to panic that when they look me in the eye they’ll be able to see all my secrets, steal my superpowers and notice that worst of all, I only managed to get mascara on one eye this morning before leaving the house in a whirlwind of book bags, permission slips and tangled hair. My voice shuts down completely, it’ll get stuck halfway up my throat and surface as a shaky whisper. I’ve started to think it makes me sound profound or mysterious, but truly, I just sound like a have an epic bout of tonsillitis.
It seems that the majority of mums (and dads, obvs, we’re all equal here guv) take to the whole socialising with their children thing like a fish to the proverbial expanse of the wet stuff. You sometimes catch a glimpse of us awkward ones, slinking around the parameter of the playground or baby & toddler group, pretending to be really into what our kids are up to (or the next imaginative way they’re trying to maim themselves or others). We’ll be looking anywhere but directly at the other people. Anywhere. Oh, hang on, I must now look really intently at my phone for the next few minutes, brow furrowed, swiping that finger with purpose, I tell you. You are reading business emails, those deadlines keep whooshing in and dammit the FTSE has just dropped 100 points.
What? They don’t need to know that you’re simply trying to annihilate level 540 on Candy Crush and that you have no idea how to work your 4G.
Don’t forget the dramatic sigh for added effect.
Thing is though, you might see us awkward folk, desperately trying to go unnoticed. Some of us performing the school drop offs and pick ups with the expertise of a ninja, speaking to no one, avoiding even the Glam Mums, straight in and out, and in a puff of smoke – they disappear. Some being less fortunate and run in with the school PA (ya know the one, the mum who makes it her personal business to run everything yet isn’t actually on the payroll), with a homemade cake in her hand, “Excuse me, the rules do state that the children aren’t supposed to ride their scooters or bikes within the school grounds. Just so you know.”
We may be quiet. We may be awkward. We might say the wrong thing or laugh at an inopportune moment. Hell, we might even have leftover tear stains behind the bug-eyed sunglasses or hiding our quivering hands within our pockets. We could have an occasional tick and our hearts stop momentarily as a child screams, a baby cries or once we realise that we really can’t deal with crowds.
You might think we’re mental. You might even say it out loud or via a loaded glance to one another.
And do you know what?
We probably are.
Postnatal depression affects one in eight mothers. Not to mention causes a tidal wave of destruction for their partners, families and friends. Mental illness affects one in four people in the UK.
My name’s Cas, I’m a mum to a nerve jangling five year old. I write a blog. And I’m a bit mental. Various acronyms have been thrown around in my presence – PND, OCD, PPD, PTSD, plus the good old depression, major depression and neurotic depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.
To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in my head and most of the time I’m floating on a rollercoaster of antidepressants.
The quiet ones are all coping, somehow, hanging on by our fingernails. We’re battling stuff we could never say out loud, even if we were able to put it into words coherently.
NB: Previously published in the Southend Echo.