Every year since my wife moved across from the States to start a new chapter in both of our lives together here in England we have been strawberry picking. We usually tie it in with Wimbledon season, Pimms and of course the obligatory strawberry pie. It has become our tradition, first as a couple and since as a family. It's a great excuse to get out into the fresh air and to me it just screams old fashioned British summer.
It's the perfect summers day activity for a toddler too. The ground is soft for gaining confidence on their feet, it promotes independence if they pick their own, imroves hand eye coordination and various motor skills and all whilst encouraging healthy eating. I know the signs say no eating as you go, but it's hard to tell a toddler no when theyre stuffed into his cheeks like a squirrel storing nuts and the juice is covering everything he touches.
Alice unfortunately isn't quite on her feet and walking around yet. As much as she loved strawberries, she couldn't get involved. She came along, took everything in and enjoyed being strapped to Daddy instead. I love my time baby wearing with my little girl. We have had our struggles bonding and holding her close to me on days out like that is good for both of us. It's not the last time we go strawberry picking. It's definitely become a tradition and she'll be running around stuffing fruit into her face this time next year I can assure you. I'm just hoping that by then, Clayton hasn't grown out of fruit and only wants it in the pie. He's already showing signs.
If you want to make the pie for yourself, you won't be disappointed. You can find the strawberry pie recipe on last years blog post.
Do you have family traditions? Do you have them for different times of the year?
I was recently told that it takes so much more energy pretending to be ok than it does to admit that you have a problem and agree to fight it. It take so much more energy to keep a secret than it does to just be open, honest and not care what the world thinks of you. Hearing that made sense to me, and so if anyone else struggling stumbles across this post, then know that I'm about to be open and honest just so you can see it can be done. Let go and take back your life. You deserve it. Here goes...
I'm depressed. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety disorder almost a year ago (though it's almost definitely been around a lot longer) and I wear a mask to cover it up. I live in pain and suffer in silence pretending to be ok. It's hard, hard work! It's hard telling people you're ok when you're not. It's hard to smile and play with your children when you hit a bump in the road and find yourself having the lowest of days. It's hard pulling yourself out of bed when you feel as though you didn't deserve to wake up. It's hard when you find yourself wishing death on yourself and then you look around at what you'd leave behind and get swallowed whole by a wave of guilt. But most of all, it's hard lying about it. I lie about it because of the awful stigma attached to mental illness and the various treatments for them. Being ill makes me feel like a failure. I lie about it because it's impossible to explain - I have no idea why I'm depressed. I don't know what my triggers are, and I'm not unhappy with my life. That probably makes very little sense to most of you, but most of you have no idea about mental illness. It's science. It's no different to a physical illness. My brain is effectively missing the connectors between itself and the nerves and in turn that blocks the majority of happy signals and chemicals from reaching where they're aimed at. That means I don't see, hear or feel most good things the same way that you do. Why that is, I don't know and because I can't explain it, I just pretend that it isn't happening to me. I just write occassional poems to vent small segments of my pent up emotion like this, this or this from time to time.
I lie about it because even the friends, family or colleagues I have dropped hints to have made me feel 10 times worse without even knowing they're doing it.
"But you have nothing to be depressed about. You have it all!"
"Pull yourself together, you'll be ok"
"Why? Whats the matter?"
"You don't need to see a therapist... I'm sure they've got that wrong!"
"Whatever you do, don't go on any tablets. That's the last thing you want"
In fact... the LAST thing I want, is to live out the rest of my life the way I am doing now and feeling the way I'm feeling. The LAST thing I want, is to be half the man, half the husband, half the friend and half the father I could be because I'm so close to exploding every single day. Mental illnesses are real and they should be treated with the respect they deserve, but we're so uneducated that the majority of us can't even begin to relate. If any of my family members fell and broke their leg and wanted to refuse a cast to have it fixed, then I'd be pleading with them to see sense. So why then would anyone go out of their way to tell me not to accept the medication that is being recommended to help fight the illness that's burdening me in every aspect of my life?
Depression. Depression is a bastard! Depression clouds the sun to make sure you live your life in a permanent state of darkness. Depression has me hating myself so much that I hate anyone that thinks any different about me. I actively feel hatred and anger towards people that love me. Depression has me purposefully avoid mirrors because of how ugly I look and how fat that I am. But that same depression has me refusing to eat healthy or exercise because it makes me not actually want to improve or get better. It has me believing that I don't deserve to get better. Depression is why I can sit and not move; feeling weighted down by self hate, unable to see the good in anything in front of me. Depression is why I rarely see my friends, or my family. Noone ever asks me if I'm ok, and although that bothers me, I really don't want them to either. I don't want people to care, because depression has me believing that I don't deserve to be cared about. I don't want to be asked. It only makes me lie again and that leads to guilt, to anger and to hating myself even more. The circles are as vicious as you could ever imagine. Depression is what lives under the mask that I wear for you every day.
But why lie? Is lying about it better than fighting it? When it comes to lying about it, justifying and mastering coping mechanisms; I've realised that they're all for the benefit of other people. All of those things are hard to do and for the wrong reasons. 3 weeks ago I signed an imaginary contract with my therapist because I couldn't convince him with any of my words that I wouldn't kill myself before our next appointment. I came home, I told my wife and we both cried. That was harder than lying, coping of justifying but at least it was for the right reasons! It served a purpose. I'd been counselling for months, but that for me was the first step on the ladder to getting better. That was me openly admitting that I had a problem and I knew it had to be addressed.
6 months ago I published right here in my blog a list of new years resolutions and on that list, I dropped a subtle hint as to what might be going on. I told myself and anyone who was prepared to read that day that I would look to get help, and that I may even write about it. Well here I am. I'm writing about it, I've seeked help and I could not care any less about the stigma attached or the opinion of others. I'm a Husband and a Father, but more importantly I'm a human being. A human being with one shot at life, and I need to make sure I get better, whether I think I deserve to or not (that's a direct quote from my counsellor and not my own words).
I want to congratulate you on coming out about your depression. Depression is nothing to be laughed or joked about. It hits and it hits hard, Affecting everyone around you much more deeply than you ever having a broken leg would. This is where your family really step up. It is always on the media how much women get depression but it's great you have highlighted here that men do get it to... I won't tell you to keep your chin up because I know (as you do) it means nothing. One hour at a time. :)
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Subject: Loved reading your blogs
Hi, I don't remember how I stumbled upon your blog. But the journey has been awesome. I am five months pregnant now. Reading your blogs really makes me laugh. :) the ones where you mentioned the snores of wifey, the fountains of Clayton, the 'life without a father' video - all were simply awesome.. I read them and also discuss them with my hubby and my parents... Good job done by you to put your feelings into words :D God bless your family... :D
Subject: Re: Loved reading your blogs
Thanks for your kind comment Tuli... Good luck with your baby.