Behind every smile…..

This has been quite a hard blog to consider writing. To put down in words all that I’ve been feeling for all to see.  Guess it’s an easier way to explain, rather than getting upset trying to explain.  I’ve lost count over the years how many times I’ve heard people say “I’m so depressed”, the reality of that statement is you probably aren’t. As in my experience people who are suffering don’t say. It is very much a silent occurrence, not because they are being a martyr but because they are scared, embarrassed or think that’s not happening to me.

Depression creeps up on you, a few days of low mood or not feeling right turns into weeks, into months. Not quite knowing what is going on. Not sleeping and despite appearances feel as if you are falling apart inside. Then the moment comes where you have to admit something needs to be done. It is easy to think I shouldn’t be feeling like this because there are people with it worse than you, I’m not dying or fighting a terrible disease.  But I saw a quote and it said “saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse, is just like saying someone can’t be happy because someone might have it better”.  In my opinion never a truer word spoken.

Someone said a few weeks ago  “you’re fake” I guess we all are to a point in the age of social media. For me when I’m feeling low I don’t want to post on social media for all to judge. Believe me, there are plenty of “online needy” who flood your timeline with cryptic messages looking for attention.  In my job, it is very customer facing and no one wants to see a sad sales rep, so its lippy, smile and face the world even when I don’t want to.  

A doctors visit and a teary one at that but thankfully he didn’t try to fix with tablets. Not that I’m saying there is anything wrong with using tablets. He said I think you may be suffering with chronic stress and depression. I’m going to refer you to First steps which is a NHS counselling service.

A very nice lady rang me from the service, I remember crying as she did a questionnaire over the phone, rating my feelings out of 10.  She suggested a group CBT (cognitive, behaviour therapy) session, I was a bit reticent about going as would be embarrassed of bumping into someone I knew.  I went and it wasn’t how I imagined, no standing up saying your name and why you were there.  Just a group of like minded people all having a tough time for whatever reason.  Some aspects were helpful but didn’t find it really got to the bottom of my problems.  So a few weeks ago, I started with a 1-1 councillor, he was one of the councillors who ran the group session so I felt comfortable with him.  It is a long road to recover and with not being very patient it is very difficult at times.  My life at the moment is trying to understand my thought processes and filling out questionnaires to ascertain that I don’t want to kill myself.

It is easy for people to look at my life and judge and think what has she got to be depressed about, If I asked a friend to describe me or had to write a description of myself it would say “blonde, bubbly, fun to be around, loud”  and yes for a majority of the time I am those things, but I have a “Gina” rule that is how I must be at all times.  Even when feeling depressed, I feel this expectation of others, so I put on a façade so I don’t feel weak or I have let people down by having to deal with the less than perfect me.  I have this overwhelming auto pilot that I have to behave in a certain way to protect others.

I do have a lovely life but great loss throughout my life has finally caught up with me.  The most powerful one is the fact that I am unable to have children.  Even writing the words makes me stop in my tracks, I can feel tears welling up as I type. Part of me is annoyed with myself, not starting trying earlier, the failing IVF happened 4 years ago, I should be over this now.  Come on time the cliché why is it not better??  The days vary.  Two of my closest friends had children at the same time if my IVF had worked I would’ve too.  Whilst I adore their children and are so happy for them, as they grow and have milestones, it the constant reminder of the loss of my future events, which I find hard to deal with. The multiple losses hitting me time and again.  What would my child be like? , what/who would they look like? What kind of mother would’ve I have been.  I can’t help but feel angry, jealous, sad, resentful, such powerful negative emotions that I bury because it feels wrong and scary.  As I’ve found out, that doesn’t help, it just makes it rebound and comes back even more powerful.  Then I feel bad for having those feelings and it just perpetuates the sadness.  All the time putting on the brave “Gina” face.  My councillor has said I need to be more authentic with my feelings, this is work in progress.

My heart sinks when yet another friend announces she’s pregnant.  How dare everyone’s life carry on as if nothing has happened to me?  I’m so happy for them, it’s not their faults but it’s bittersweet.  Seeing how wonderful motherhood is plastered over social media, in person just makes me sad, angry, jealous and I just want to say I can’t cope, I am gutted that is never going to happen for me.  But I don’t, I smile and then when alone sit and have a good cry.  In recent times when people ask the inevitable question “have you got children?”  I’ve said no I can’t and usually one of the following replies ensues as they feel the need to fix me: have you thought about adoption/fostering – I smile but inside I’m shouting no! I have been lucky to have my 2 bright wonderful loving stepsons who I am their second mum, I love them as my own.  A step  parent chooses to love not because they have to.  I wanted the experience of being pregnant, feeling life inside me.  You don’t know how lucky you are not having them, if I had my time again I don’t think I would bother – my internal response is it’s easy to say when you’ve got them.  People are jealous of my apparent freedom but I would swap in a heartbeat.

Death is one of those certain things in life and in my life I have experienced plenty. My dad died when I was 10 and though over 30 years ago I still remember the waxy feel of his skin as I said my goodbyes before he died. Death at a young age makes you grow up fast and from that moment on I became the parent.  I remember on the morning of my dads funeral comforting my mum whilst Shakin Stevens “you drive me crazy” played on the radio, when really it should have been the other way round.  That’s why I find it so hard to be comforted by anyone, because as a child if was upset I just had to get on with it because there was no alternative. I thought that was normal.  It’s only when you grow up and experience life that you realise that parents shouldn’t act like that.  Being strong and a coper is a good skill to possess but you can only wear a protective shell for so long before cracks appear.  That’s why I am constantly striving, because I think if I act in this way people will like me and they won’t reject me.  I don’t apply my compassionate rules to myself as I do others.

When you read about depression they say exercise helps but in my case it doesn’t.  When I am running, I am not distracting myself and all the thoughts I’ve suppressed come flooding out and can be overwhelming at times.  Despite my outwardly confidence, I’m constantly comparing myself to others.  Thinking I am not as pretty, thin, can’t run as fast etc and it’s crippling and self destructive.  I am trying to believe in myself.  When you are feeling down it makes everything else in your life so much harder to deal with.

With the counselling comes relief that it’s ok not to cope, learning how to recognise my warning signs and reacting differently.  It is a long road ahead and sometimes at the moment feels as if there’s a lot of speed bumps.  You get asked what does happiness look like?  For me I would like to go back to before I started the IVF, when I felt hopeful and more like me.  But you can’t go back and have to find a different kind of happiness.  If you feel as if life is getting you down, get help.  There’s lots out there.


    1. Gina says:

      Thank you for reading, been writing it on/off since June. Life is sometimes a curveball x

  1. James Banks says:

    It’s funny how similar your story is to mine. I’ve recently started with First Step…I’m finding it really helpful, you should stick with it too. There are no easy answers, I think the key is to always live your life to the fullest, whatever that means for you personally.

    1. Gina says:

      Thank you for your kind words, hope you find peace too x

  2. Ruth Gill says:

    Reading your blog made me so sad yet full of admiration that you can share this and help others whilst feeling so lost yourself. I want to come and hold you tight in a huge hug. Xx

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