As much as I like to think I’m a rebel, lately I’m actually a bit of a people pleaser. A rubbish one as it turns out, but one nonetheless. The growing self-doubt, isolation, and loss of self that seems to have come along since getting married, moving to the Middle East, turning 30, and having children, has made me this way. And whilst it is quite unnatural to me, it’s now a compulsion that’s hard to shake.
A lack of confidence will do that to you. External validation has gradually become more and more important, whether it’s about my parenting choices, my clothes, my hair, my job, or what food I’m eating – it’s like I don’t trust myself anymore, and whenever I do make any decision I sit waiting for judgement that I immediately take as fact.
Seeking help for depression was a big deal in this respect. It took a lot for me to stand up (or, more accurately, lay sobbing) and say: “I do not feel okay and I need to get help.” For the longest time I think I was waiting for somebody to notice and tell me just that, but it never came, and I am so grateful that some vestige of my former self was able to push through and be heard. That version of me knows herself: she knows what she needs and what she likes, she knows what feels right and what feels wrong, she knows who is worth her time and who isn’t, and she knows how to cut the cord when something becomes more of a hindrance than a help. She is a rebel in a world where self-awareness and self-love are the most rebellious acts against conformity and blinkered incuriosity. And she was proud of it.
With the arrival of my daughter just around the corner and a perceptive young son looking to me for guidance, it’s this part of me that I am once again reaching for. She is the kind of woman that I want around my children, she is the kind of woman I want to be. And I know she is not lost.
After a month of regular visits to a psychiatrist and daily medication, my impulse is to say “I’m fine” whenever somebody ask how I’m doing. Self-conscious me almost wants to apologise for all the fuss and inconvenience of the last couple of months, tell everybody that I feel much better now, and carry on doing my usual coping whilst not mentioning this unfortunate episode ever again. Even with my doctor, the small amount of clarity that I now have compared to a few weeks ago makes me want to run and hide, pretend everything is okay and not waste her time anymore. She sees right through this of course (thank goodness) but it’s an ongoing internal battle for me to sit there and talk about my feelings without any shame or fear of judgement.
But the rebel is coming through, bit by bit. I feel her there on certain good days, pushing me forwards and blocking out the doubt. Even on the bad days things feel ever so slightly hopeful now, ever so slightly brighter than before. Perhaps it’s the pills, the new baby, or even the change in weather here, or maybe it’s the distant hope that we are leaving this place altogether soon. Whatever it is, I feel a sea-change is imminent, and I for one can’t bloody wait.