I hear all this talk on the news, in magazines, on radio, about Mental Health Awareness - something that more people need to be talking about - and I thought about the past week I have just had and I thought I would share with you.
I am lucky, I don't really struggle with depression (I know so many people who do and I see the struggles they go through). I try to be a "positive Penelope" instead of a "negative Nelly" purely because I believe there is something in the the power of positivity but also because there are billions of people in this world who don't have one tenth of the things I have, which therefore means I have nothing to complain about. However, I am also a human being and as humans we can't be chipper and chirpy all the time (not that I am as those of you who know me will know all too well - I may not always share my emotions and feelings if I'm having a sad/emotional time, but I am more than happy to share my anger and hassles with anyone who will listen). I consider myself to be blessed and a very lucky person on a daily basis (and I really am) but sometimes life can get on top of the best of us; this week I have found it to be a struggle.
After spending a week away where I relaxed (to a point - there were of course "moments" when it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows - or snow :) ) I came back home re-charged and ready to crack on. I also came back with a bout of chicken pox (that's what happens when I relax). I don't get the spots but as a carrier of the disease I do get all the before symptoms. These can leave me feeling a little emotional. In fact I normally know chicken pox is doing the rounds before kids start to go sick with it. I cried once when I had it because I dropped a boiled egg.
Don't get me wrong I have always been a sensitive soul. I believe most Disney films should be banned for they are horrendous films that children should not have to watch (Bambi when her Mum dies, Dumbo, Fox and Hounds, The Lion King - child abusive films if you ask me - Don't even get me started on The Incredible Journey and who in their right mind would make a film like Marley and Me?). I avoid films that I know will make me cry (hence why I've never watched ET or Watership Down) so when it comes to real life and the animals I love and care for I do tend to be a little more emotional than I possibly should be.
I am also a woman in the throes of menopause - unless you are going through it or have been through it I could never put into words the range of emotions you can go through on an hourly basis. I am so envious of these women who just get a hot flush now and again. I get those, along with a number of other things; one of which is tearfulness. I could cry at watching an ant cross the road, or someone sharing some happy news with me. I've always had an emotional streak to me but the menopause seems to exacerbate those feelings and emotions, ten fold. Because of issues I've had regarding hormones I am unable to take HRT so my doctor suggested I go down the herbal route and so for about a year I have been taking St Johns Wort. I wasn't sure it was working if I'm honest and thought that I was only feeling a little less emotional because I was believing them to be working (the power of suggestion and all that) however, there may well be something to it because I forgot to take them when I was on holiday and it wasn't until Tuesday of this week I realised that maybe they are actually doing something. I'd not even thought about it to be honest until I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. Up until that point I thought the way I was feeling was just down to the pox and my cat.
Sadly, I also came home to a poorly cat. I've always been a soft touch when it comes to animals. They're not just animals to me though; they are part of my family. I've had the cat since she was 3 weeks old - she was 20 the week before I went on holiday. I know her time on this planet is shorter now than it was (and I think she's most likely not going to be here by this time next week). I can accept that (it will make me sad, of course). I can accept it if she curls up and goes to sleep and doesn't wake up again. I will cry, I will be distraught, but I will be able to accept it. What's got me so upset is the thought I may have to take her to the vets to have her PTS. I know if it's what's right for her then I will do it (I'd never let her suffer just because I don't want her to die) but I really do not want her last half an hour of life to be her getting stressed in her cat box (she hates to be cooped up) and then having a stranger lay her on a cold, sterile table before putting a needle in her to end her life. I want her to go naturally. I am aware I probably won't get a choice in the matter but I still hold on to hope (see, positive Penelope is still in there somewhere). I also have guilt. Guilt that maybe I should have taken her to the vet's (even though I know at the moment there is not the need). Guilt also that my cousins are over from America this weekend and I've had to cancel going to visit with them, as have my family for I've shared my germs around them too and while I am on the upside of the pox, they are just entering the worst part of it. Once a year we get to see the cousins and now because of me it will be another year before any of us get the chance. I also feel bad that I've made other people cry this week - they did so because of how upset I was and because they are kind people who were feeling for me, but it doesn't make me feel good about myself to know I've made someone else sad.
As a result of the chicken pox and cat I have found myself to be completely and utterly emotionally drained. I've not slept more than 2 hours per night; I've cried more in the past 6 days than I have in the past 20 years - I even said to my Mum on Thursday that I didn't cry this much when my Dad died and I loved my Dad so very much. Maybe it's because I feel so helpless with the cat. My Dad could tell me how he was feeling and while I was helpless to do anything for him as well it was different (bound to be as he was a man and the cat is a cat).
The worst thing about feeling how I have this week is that it's also brought forth all the other things which have made me sad, so maybe in one way it's been a good thing for it has made me face up and deal with other things I may have just kept pushing to the back of my mind. I do think some of it is also caused by other people. I spend my days being there for other people - whether that be a friend or customer. It doesn't matter what is going on in my life or how I may be feeling I am still always there for friends if they need me (not that I have many of those left these days) and of course I have to be professional at all times with customers. On Thursday (the worst day of last week for me) I had just taken a call from my number 2 who had taken her Mum's dog to be put down (I cried quite hard while talking to her; not just because of how sad she was but because I knew how much the dog meant to her as she was the last remaining thing she has of her Mum's so it was as if she was having to say goodbye to her again as well). As I put the phone down a customer came in so I had to dry my tears, pretend I'd got oasis in my eye which is why they were all red and then listen to this customer as she waffled to me about all her problems (which in the grand scheme of things are not problems at all - to me at least, but to her in her life they are totally relevant (that's another thing about emotions and problems; what may seem trivial to me is a big deal to them what may seem trivial to anyone reading this, could be a big issue to me). I wanted to scream at the customer that I was struggling to even get through the next minute but instead I did what I have to do at work (and what I do for friends when they need me) and I listened. She went away feeling better about herself and her life, while I ended up feeling even worse than I already had been. That then reminded me that while I am there for everyone else I have nobody there for me. I have friends who tell me they are "always there" if I need them but they don't mean it for I have tried to chat to a couple of them at different times for them to then stop me in my tracks and twist any conversations back to them and their woe's. That's why I normally just get on with (and deal with) it. I have no choice. My blogs do give me some release but it's not quite the same. However, there's nothing I can do about that and so like everything else I have to accept it and get on with things. I'm sure once the pills get working again, the pox virus leaves me and the cat perks up (I still have hope she will) I'll be back to my normal ranting self complaining about anything and everything.
A downside to it (other than the constant sobbing and feeling as though my head is about to explode) is that I also realised how angry I am about other things. Mind you I'd rather feel anger than sadness any day, although it's not good in the shop. I have this customer who pisses me off the second they walk through the door. I want to tell them to "fuck off" but that is obviously the last thing I can do - if I want to keep myself business running. Then there is an older lady who I had on the phone for nearly an hour yesterday (she never gave me an order) who I appreciate is probably just lonely and wants someone to talk to that forgets I am trying to run a business and deal with my own issues. I spend my days dealing with people who are vulnerable and often at the lowest point of their life; I'm there for them, listen to them, help to guide them when sometimes I just want to tell them to leave me alone. I've found it extra hard this week being nice to people when I've been feeling so low myself.
I know what I am feeling will pass. I know once the pox germs have gone I will be able to deal with things a bit better. I know how blessed I am that it will get better - for people with mental health issues are not blessed with such luck. I know I just have to ride it out until it gets easier but I guess I'd also like to remind you that some of the strongest people you will encounter in your lives, maybe the very people you always go to if you're feeling down or having a bad day, the ones who will always greet you with a smile and try to lift your spirits when they can see you are having a tough time, are the very people who may well be battling with their own demons. Just because they appear strong, doesn't mean that they are. The person who is always laughing is most likely the one who cries themselves to sleep. The one who is always there with an ear to listen is probably desperate for someone to listen to them. The person who is always angry is probably just trying to cover up how very sad they are. Next time you want to chew someones ear off, ask yourself if you've ever actually asked them how they are feeling? No matter how much we like to think it does, the world really doesn't revolve around us.