Over the last couple of months I have been going to counselling. It started out as a way to help me cope with the feelings I was having post birth but has now become a real deep dive into how my mind works and how long it has been going on.
When I was a young child, about 8, I was travelling in the car with my mum and I remember saying that when I grew up, I didn’t want to be selfish. I remember that moment so clearly, I remember being in the back seat of the car, I remember the roundabout we were going round and the buildings I was staring at through my window. I felt so strongly that it was really important that I not be selfish, that I always think of others first and that I work to put their needs ahead of mine. Where this desire or mandate came from, I’m not sure. It was probably a result of me feeling like I hadn’t put someone first and that that had caused that person pain. It was also probably stemming from a desire to be liked, something we all want, and if I put people first then surely that had to like me. Whatever was my inspiration, it became such a strong motivator in me that I now struggle to counter it.
Alongside this ‘selfless objective’ I also have a great propensity for guilt. I can feel guilty about anything and everything and this combination is toxic. An example of this is how yesterday I was late picking Rufus up from school. I was late because I had decided to spend the afternoon socialising with a bunch of lovely ladies and their beautiful bumps and babies. This is not something I do often. I don’t really let myself have fun during the day because the kids need me. They need me for the school run, to make lunch, to make dinner, to play games, to engage with them and to make sure that they have clean clothes, a relatively clean house, toys in places that can be easily found and generally a mum who puts them first. However, there I was allowing myself an afternoon that was more for me and then I was late. I was having a great time, chatting, bitching, laughing and suddenly ‘what’s the time?’ ‘three thirty.’ SHIT. I was already 10 minutes late to pick him up. Thankfully the ladies were happy to look after my girls for me while I sprinted to the school. Rufus was fine but he had been taken to the office, phone calls had been made and I had to sign the late book to explain why I was late. Oh the shame. I felt awful. I am never late, I am a punctual person because other people’s time is valuable and I respect that. But yesterday I was late and I was late because I was allowing myself to have fun. The rest of the evening was spent ripping into myself, I literally sat on the kitchen floor an cried because the guilt was eating me up. I was embarrassed to have been so irresponsible and I was ashamed that I had let a ball drop.
My rational brain knows that Rufus was fine, he was safe, he seemed happy and in the two years he has been going to school this is the first time I have been late to collect him. I am sure there are parents who for all sorts of reasons have been late, possibly multiple times. I also know that Rufus has already forgotten it and his teachers will do too. But I also know that my irrational brain will not.
My counsellor has been asking me to really look at this part of my brain. What is it? In fact we have even been able to give it form. My irrational self looks like me. Same face, height, body type but she’s stern. She is always wearing more formal clothing than I ever would. She is tinted in a blue hue and she looks angry. This image we have named Blue. Blue is a bitch and a bully and I live with her inside my brain everyday. She rips me to shreds every time I get something wrong and what she also does, which is wonderful, is that when I am spiralling down, she will hold up examples of things I’ve done wrong in the past and make me relive them. So last night as I was already feeling terrible she reminded me of last Friday when Rufus got hurt at school and I missed the call. Why did I miss it? I was in my counselling session – putting myself first. She also reminded me of the time I insulted a women behind her back but in front of her daughter (I didn’t know they were related). I also relived the times I ghosted ex-boyfriends – I’m not good with confrontation.
Nick has been wonderful, he has been talking all of this through with me and I know that if he were here right now he would say this: ‘Jen, you have spent the last two weeks planning Rufus’s birthday party. You have made Minecraft swords, pin the tail on the Minecraft pig, themed everything including the food as Minecraft and you are in the middle of baking a cake as you write this post. You’re doing all of this while sleep deprived thanks to Martha and still giving Eloise lots of attention and love. You are an amazing mum and just because you were late does not change that.’ I hear him, and a small part of me at least wants to believe him but Blue does not want me to. She wants to keep me down and I need to get my rational brain to shout louder than her if I am ever going to have victory over her.
For now I will keep going to counselling, keep talking through all my darker thoughts and hopefully in time I will find a way to get Blue to calm down and get my general brain noise to quieten down.