Was at my Osteopath’s on Monday, Soma in Edinburgh. See what I did there? Unsubtle product placement. Will it work with Apple Computers? Or Alice Temperely dresses? I really bloody hope so.
Anyway, face down, arse up wearing my lucky pants, which infact have ‘lucky’ emblazoned on one cheek in rhinestones. The epitome of hooker chic or the only clean pair I could find? I was at the bone doctors in agony. Work it out.
My Osteopath and I are sharing ‘bad parent’ stories. I never do this with anyone else because my insecurities are just too rife and pushy and her stories completely outweigh mine. Her child actually flew out of the child seat. I ‘just’ fell over on mine. Most importantly it makes me feel much better because she is an accomplished and loving mother of two. I heard about her friend, the father, who finished a phone call to find his toddler standing in the middle of Ferry Road dodging Festival traffic. And the woman who went to view a house only realising ten minutes into the tour that her toddler was still strapped in the car seat down-stairs.
I’ve come to realise that the most powerful stories are the shocking ones we hear about other people. They make us stop and blink and momentarily take stock. And usually thank [insert deity of choice here] that we have immunity this time.
Two years ago I had a breakdown. Three life stressors; the ones that are supposed to happen independently of each other with at least 20 years in between descended on my life with in a month.
I spent a lot of time in hotel rooms with my baby son. A lot of time shell shocked. A lot of time not coming to terms with anything. A lot of time walking vast distances with the pushchair. And I talked a lot. To strangers. Anybody. Anywhere. I felt compelled to spill the whole sorry tragedy to them. Middle-aged women in service station cafes. Petrol pump attendants. Librarians. Concierges. Kurt Geiger shop assistants. Stewardesses. Donald Sutherland. And I mustn’t neglect the cab drivers. God! Bless each and every one of you. I would narrate my experiences in a calm and chilly voice watching their faces crumble and become ashen and then would walk away without a moments notice.
I spent thousands of pounds on things I’ve never used. The days and weeks running up to a breakdown? Great for retailers.
I would listen to myself listening to myself and it dawned on me that I had become the cautionary tale that society discusses at lunch in hushed whispers over tall glasses of something yummy to make themselves feel better.
This was not the type of fame I had envisaged. I have two versions of my Oscar speech prepared already. I’ve thought about it A LOT. So how had I transformed into this urban legend?
I understand now that by ‘vomiting’ my story over and over to perfect strangers (and I thank you one and all for your overwhelming compassion) I began to come to terms slowly with what had happened. The people closest to me just couldn’t cope with my pain. It was too intense and too overwhelming. But a brief conversation with a stranger (I got my ‘tragic past patter’ down to about 1 minute 25 seconds eventually) offered a useful detachment to the both of us.
We all deal with death, disorder and grief in different ways. That’s what inappropriate crutches are there for. I was breastfeeding so I air-smoked and pretended water was gin. And talked to strangers. It was humanity at its best in the worst of times. Dickens would have been proud.
*If this strikes a chord with anyone. Please read the fiercely brave and beautifully written blog by Oedipus_Lex. He is a former soldier who writes about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from experience with a poignant clarity. www.oedipuslex.co.uk