When the struggle is brushing unbearable, part 2

Reason to go on: External Pressures

Urged by family and school I applied for a place at Uni and even my psychiatrist thought university would ‘do me good’. One day I was on a hospital ward in Essex, the next I was being driven to the digs in Glasgow someone had arranged for me.
Two more days and I was at Strathclyde Uni getting my student card. I went to lectures, tutorials, the cafeteria, the library – alone. I rarely spoke except to answer direct questions.
By January I was in a Glasgow hospital, being treated with Largactil syrup (given for psychoses like schizophrenia, psychotic depression), and having ECT. University had hurled me into a maelstrom with no safety line and three months on I was back home, and back in our local hospital.

Over the next two and a half years, driven by wanting cash and my family’s belief that I needed help to get a ‘normal life’, I went for a couple of filing clerk jobs and on two blind dates arranged by my sister. It was the only way I was ever going to meet a suitor, and it was how I met my husband.
That did prove a turning point as most of the next ten years was spent raising our two sons and managing our home: I did not have to engage with anyone for most of the time. At first I’d managed a couple of jobs, four months in a college library, six in an insurance company, and hating every moment; then for eight months I worked at the same company as my husband before the freedom of maternity leave. Taking medication on and off and having a long spell of therapy, I did get through these years fairly unscathed.

During a visit from Australia my mother saw an ad for the local college and, knowing I’d always wanted to teach (even my imaginary friend was a teacher!), she urged me to apply. I got a place for the honours degree in education and what followed was probably the worst four years of my existence. I loved the teaching, just me with a class of young pupils, but being with other students, other teachers, was something I grew to dread. So many tears, and hours with a tutor-councillor, got me through, along with the ever-present masks that at college I donned with my clothes. Depending on the challenge ahead, my outfits changed:

  • for extra confidence I’d wear a black, zippered flying suit with a black leather belt and red suede ankle boots
  • or perhaps tight jeans tucked into leather boots, and blue check shirt
  • to be lost under the radar, black skirt and burgundy peasant blouse with a dusky-pink suede belt

So why did I go along with these External Pressures?
Childhood traumas left me with a Complex Attachment Disorder and an almost pathological fear of rejection and abandonment. So I agree to many things that are totally outside my comfort zone or accept situations that I would not have chosen. Eventually I will snap as the pressures build and there may be widespread fall-out, closely followed by self-punishment and withdrawal.

Reason to go on: Money

At the time I began my teaching career my husband was also needing a new career path and to start out on his own. This was a joint commitment and I initially became the breadwinner by choice.
My class was my salvation; being with colleagues led me back onto stronger meds and for weeks at a stretch I would move zombie-like from class to staff-room. Responsibilities at work grew year on year, SATs arrived, and I kept sane through study with the Open University that garnered three more degrees.
After eight years as a class teacher I had another breakdown and was back in hospital. Over the next four years I had admissions lasting six months, five months, and three months and in between I received treatment from the mental health team and resource centre.

Why succumb to Money pressures?
I was in a marriage partnership, and we had a family to raise. I knew that my husband was stifled by his current career and that he needed change. He had carried the burden of financing our home and lifestyle while I was home with our children and now that I was earning a good salary as a well-qualified teacher it was time for me to shoulder some of that load.

Reason to go on: Guilt

My husband’s work now took him away on occasion, and our boys were growing up. By 1998 they were 18 and 15 and I was racked with guilt that I wasn’t there for them. They were cooking the meals and looking after the home when needed, caring for their Mum who was in and out of hospital, engaging in self-harm, and sinking into the despair that led too often to an overdose.
Again, I made the decision to return to the workforce. It would have been so easy to wallow in this quagmire until it won the battle and dragged me under completely.

What brought on such Guilt?
For the first time in my life I had a meaning. As a wife and mother, needed to feed and clothe and educate our boys, keep our home in order – I was of use. That meant a lot to someone who for long stretches of time felt like a waste of space.
Now I couldn’t fulfil my role and that led to self-loathing. And guilt.

I hope you’ve found this post interesting, useful, and thought-provoking. I dealt with the first reason for going on in my previous Blog. I’ll be dealing with the final two reason in my next one.
Please check them out. I’d love to hear of your experience and take on this.