Why is it still a secret?

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the thoroughly bizarre attitude the vast majority of employers seem to have towards mental health disorders. This doesn’t mean that they are lacking in empathy or willingness to help afflicted employees, but I have found that a kind of panic appears to set in when the phrase “suicidally depressed” is mentioned.

It’s not that I don’t understand why; it’s the fact that, truthfully, knowing that this will be the default reaction makes it even harder to pluck up the courage to be honest. It makes it easier to say, “I’m just a bit down at the moment”, even if you were thinking of killing yourself a few hours ago. It’s not the fear that anyone will recoil in horror; it’s the knowledge that because there is still such a stigma and a taboo surrounding mental health, and because many employers are putting a lot of effort into tackling that in the workplace, as soon as you own up to the fact that you’re struggling, it becomes A Big Deal.

I’m very in tune with my mental health. I’ve been ill on and off for almost half my life. I accepted that I needed to ask for help. I’ve been in therapy for nine months. I knew when it was time to start medication and I am confident that I will know when it’s time to stop. I know that saying, “I have depression” is not the same as saying, “I have a cold”, but I don’t want to be treated differently. I just want the fact of my illness to be out there so it’s not stuck in here with me.

And then there’s this:

Why do we have this culture whereby we treat mental health issues like they’re something that needs to be kept quiet? If you call into work and say, “I can’t make it in today because I’ve broken my leg” that’s something that it’s okay for everyone to know about. But if you make the same call and say, “I can’t make it in today because I’m basically catatonic with depression”, suddenly the whole dynamic changes. This is something that needs to be hushed up. Enquiring colleagues will be told, “She’s just not feeling very well” or something similarly vague.

Why? Is it because my body and my brain have nothing to do with each other? I’m pretty sure they do.

Is it because falling down the stairs and breaking my leg would be an accident, whereas depression is what? It’s not exactly something anyone gets bogged down in on purpose.

It just is.

Like a broken leg.

Admittedly, the healing will probably take longer than a fracture. But the fact that I have depression does not fundamentally change who I am, because it’s not something I am; it’s something I have. I’m not ashamed of it and I’m not afraid of people finding out about it.

Why would I be?

I am not broken, although I may sometimes feel that I am. I am not fragile, but perhaps I am a little less robust than usual. And I am not a grenade; I do not need to be handled with care. I don’t require my responsibilities to be stripped away, leaving me feeling useless and incapable. I don’t need praise for getting out of bed in the morning and going on with my life.

I am still me. I have not changed.

We need to stop this. We need to stop separating mental health and physical health from one another. We need to stop making depression, anxiety and the plethora of other mental health disorders feel like dirty little secrets. They are not; they are just illnesses like any other. They are complex and nuanced and vary wildly from person to person, but they are not a source of shame. Or, at least, they wouldn’t be if we threw open the doors and allowed them to become as readily acceptable – both in the workplace and the wider world – as a broken leg.

So where do we start? Well, I’m going to start with talking about the anti-depressants I take daily as though they were antibiotics. Yes, I need them for my brain rather than my body, but aside from that they are no different. I am going to approach this illness as I would any other; with the attitude that I am not well at the moment, but I am going to get better. And, most importantly, I am not going to make this into A Thing by keeping it a jealously guarded secret.

My name is Davina and I have depression.

It’s really not all that hard, is it?


I am not okay

What do you say when someone asks you how you are?

I always respond with “I’m fine”. Every time. The truth – the god awful fucking truth – is that I am not fine. The truth is that this morning I was thinking about killing myself. But who wants to hear that? And, indeed, who wants to put that out into the world? Who wants to be viewed as a time bomb? A liability? A misery? It’s easier to lie, to perpetuate the myth that I am doing okay. But there are times when I wonder, how long? How long can I keep pretending? How long can I hold back the river? And what happens when I can’t anymore? Where will I end up when I inevitably lose the will to keep up the facade?

Whenever I think that I might finally have reached breaking point, the guilt rushes in. The guilt of being healthy, of being loved, of having so much in my life that I should be – and *am* – grateful for and still feeling this way. Still wanting to hold my hands up and say, “That’s it; I’m done.” Often I entertain the idea that I would feel less guilty if I could donate my life to somebody else. To a mother battling terminal cancer, or a child with an incurable illness or just anyone who needs, wants and deserves this life more than I do.

Would I feel less guilty?

The short answer, I have found, is no. It resides in the three other people I share my home with who, for reasons I cannot fathom, would prefer for me to be here and sad than not be here at all.

In a post I wrote some time ago, I promised myself that I would not let this thing take me when I next found myself staring into the abyss. But it’s easy to make promises when you’re not trembling and alone on that cliff edge. It’s easy to say that you will find the will and the strength when you are not transfixed by that gaping maw. It is less so when you are already there, with the ocean churning below you and the wind howling around you. When everything is noise and vivid, searing colour and absolutely nothing makes any kind of sense.

I know that I will have to get out of bed tomorrow and plaster my coping face over whatever anxiety and terror I wake up with. I know that I will have to drag myself into the shower, dress, create some visage of normality on my face, take care of my children and ensure that they get where they need to go and then go to work myself. I know that there is no other option. But sometimes I am so tired of pretending. I am so exhausted by just trying to cope and focus and be useful and functional from one minute to the next.

Right now, it is just too much.

But what’s the alternative? What does that look like? Sick notes? Pills? Lying in my bed, catatonic with the creeping sadness while panic claws its way up my throat?

And just like that, I am lost in the endless “what if” scenarios.

I conclude, more often than not, that I am just not cut out for this. That I am flat out fucked and I will never be anything else. That there is absolutely no point in trying to be or do anything more constructive with my life because I will always, always be in the shadow of this oppressive, malignant cloud.

I have no positive parting words to end this post with. I have no message of hope. I can only say that I will try again tomorrow, because what other choice do I have?

Am I a failure?

I don’t often feel compelled to write here anymore. I used to enjoy sharing my parenting failures and having someone else leave a comment or tweet me saying OMG ME TOO, but then the minor failures seemed to get bigger somehow. They became the focal point of my day.

Suddenly forgetting spare clothes on a trip to the beach wasn’t just a laugh-and-facepalm moment but an actual monumental and unfixable error.

Ah, anxiety. Good times.

Anyway, what brings me back to this now somewhat unfamiliar corner of my online world is an event that took place last week.

Parent’s Evening.

Cue menacing music, possibly something akin to the theme from Jaws.

Except I was feeling relatively blasé about the whole thing because, sure, I might not be winning any Mum of the Year awards anytime soon, but I’d never actually had a bad parent’s evening.

You just know how this is going to end, don’t you?

I’ll skip the part where the teacher was pissed because we went to the wrong door – HOW THE FUCK WAS I TO KNOW THAT THE CLASSROOM HAS TWO DOORS? – and N had to leave because we were now running late, but actually I probably should have seen that as a sign of what was to come.

I didn’t, of course, so when I walked into the room and sat down expectantly, I was in for a really nasty surprise.

“Well, academically, he’s doing fine,” Said the teacher. “But he could apply himself a little more.”

“Yes, we’ve been told this before,” I replied, still blissfully unaware that anything was amiss.

“And, to be honest with you, he needs to start listening and doing as he’s told,” She continued, barely pausing for breath. “He thinks he’s in charge. He tells the other children what to do. He tells *me* what to do. Quite frankly, he’s disruptive.”


I have no recollection of my responses after that, although I suspect they could be best described as “monosyllabic”.

So. Here’s the mother who thinks that forgetting spare clothes on a trip to the beach (it happened once, by the way) makes her the epitome of parental failure, and she’s just heard that most loaded of words in the parenting world – “disruptive” – in connection with her own child.

And now you can see where this is going. I reacted badly. I shouted when I got home, which arguably makes me even more of a parenting failure than the fact of the disruptive child or the forgotten beach clothes, but one of my many failings is that I am emotionally driven and impulsive.

After shouting I cried. And after crying I failed to sleep. And after failing to sleep I cried a bit more while I cleaned the kitchen the next morning and then I wrote a letter to O’s teacher.

It was a good letter. It asked all the right questions – “Why didn’t I know about this before?” “Why haven’t you followed through with the school’s disciplinary procedure?” – and was delivered to the school reception before lunch time.

Turns out? Well, maybe the teacher was tired. Maybe she was in a bad mood. Maybe she’d just had a shitty day. Who knows? But my kid has actually only displayed this disruptive behaviour over a short period and he now has a “behaviour book” to chart his progress and encourage him to do as he’s told.

I’m going to be honest here; I would rather not have had to deal with this. In the grand scheme of things, it was absolutely the last thing I needed. No mother wants to be told that their kid is getting up to all manner of fuckery at school, especially on parent’s evening when they weren’t expecting it.


Well, I could have buried my head in the sand, couldn’t I? I didn’t; I dealt with it, despite the fact that I spent most of that first night wondering how I’d managed to fuck up so badly and not even realise and if my kids might actually be better off without me in their lives (I don’t mean dead; I just mean “not here”).

So, I guess what I’m really trying to say is that we can all have a shitty parent’s evening, and we can all go home afterwards and examine the minutiae of everything we might ever have done wrong over the course of our parenting journey and *that is okay*. I’d go so far as to say that it is probably perfectly normal to wonder where the fuck it all went wrong and find yourself wondering if you’ve got the beginnings of a juvenile delinquent living in your house.

Or maybe that’s just me.


Ever since I allowed myself to accept the actuality of my mental illness – I realise I haven’t posted expressly about this, but those of you who have been with me for a while could probably see where the cable car that is my mental health was headed – I’ve had to readjust my expectations of myself.

How did I get here?

Well, that’s a loaded question, because the truth is that it was, in all honesty, a whole witches brew of things which eventually led me to the place I find myself in now, but I could probably break it down to a few starting points.

This is not an exhaustive list.

1. How intrinsically bound my self-worth is to what I perceive as my usefulness. For example, did I work hard, parent well and clean at least two rooms of the house today? If the answer is no then I’m just a hopeless shitshow of a human being and I don’t deserve to feel in any way accomplished about anything. Anything short of a full house is a failure. Go directly to jail, etc, etc.

2. The fact that my position in the world compares unfavourably with the positions of pretty much everyone I considered a friend during my teenage years. My former friends are doctors, teachers, lawyers and architects. And I… well, for a long time I was in retail and now I’m a part-time admin bod. The phrase “could do better” was made for people like me. I’m a classic under-achiever, or so I tell myself, repeatedly, as I compare myself to everyone else and come up wanting.

3. I still don’t know what my place is in either society or the world as a whole. It seems unlikely that I’ll ever do anything noteworthy and, despite my knowledge of the fact that the vast majority of us live and die very quietly without ever changing the world, I nonetheless find the fact of it hard to accept.

4. I struggle financially. There. I said it. I don’t need to elaborate on it; it is what it is, and what it is also happens to be irrevocably tied to my self-worth.

There is more, but all of the channels eventually flow into one another to create the turbulent tides of my mental well-being. Or, I suppose, lack thereof.

So where do you start? Once you’ve sat yourself down and objectively identified the key areas of your struggle, where do you begin the process of unpicking the threads?

Well, one of the main things which feeds my negative self-image – and, therefore, my anxiety – is my lack of confidence in my parenting abilities (See 1). This is not all in my head; despite my best efforts I am not often the mother I always hoped to be.

So, this is where I’m starting. For three days now I have not raised my voice at my children. Because what I’ve realised? Is that shouting doesn’t get me anywhere. They still ignore me when they want to; all shouting does is give me a headache and a sore throat.

I’m also determined to stop scolding myself for not being the perfect homemaker. Am I going to die if the shower doesn’t get cleaned today? Are the children going to contract a deadly disease linked inexplicably to the crumbs under the toaster? Is my husband going to walk out on me for not vacuuming the rug today?

No. No. Possibly, but probably not.

If I choose to accept that I’m tired instead of fighting against it and I sit down and I read a book whilst my children play outside, this is not neglect. It is not neglect of my home and it is not neglect of my children. It is simply the recognition that, while sometimes inconvenient, my needs and self-care are also important.

Something else I’ve done is sign out of my Twitter account with the intention of not signing back in again until October. Not because I find that Twitter is particularly detrimental to my mental health – although at times, it certainly can be -, but because I feel that it’s important, at this juncture, to disconnect somewhat from the online world. Just for a while. Of course, part of me – specifically the anxious, perpetually terrified part of me – is afraid that once I log back in, my notifications will be clogged with trolls and negativity and bile, but I’m not in control of that and, as such, can’t do anything about it.

The problematic part of this process is the guilt. People – particularly, but not exclusively, women – feel a lot of guilt. Guilt is toxic. It is poison. And it breeds at an exponential rate inside us if we let it and eventually eclipses everything else. I know this because guilt and I have been on first name terms for quite some time now and we have a very intimate knowledge of one another. We are constant companions. Without my daily self-torture of guilt, I doubt that I’d have any idea who I am, but what I am willing to bet is that I would be happier. Healthier. Less of the individual elements that make up my daily struggle and more of myself.

All of this is not to say that at any point in the future I will ever be fixed. Mental illness requires a constant process of recovery and there is no specific end. It is transient. It goes through dormant periods and it goes through active periods. It has triggers and it has treatments, but it will never be gone. All of that being said, I believe that setting aside our guilt about everything we haven’t done, said or achieved and learning to forgive ourselves for not always being the best version of ourselves, even if we can’t do it all the time, can definitely do a lot to help during the times when our mental health battles feel especially overwhelming.

Today’s boys; tomorrow’s men

I’ve always assumed that raising girls would be hard. Not for one moment have I ever thought that parents of daughters have it easy. Sure, I know there are tonnes of gender stereotypes out there about girls being quieter and more particular about personal hygiene, etc, but I genuinely don’t believe that that can be true of all – if any – of them. I’m fairly certain there are some girls out there who have never heard of an “inside voice” and who have to regularly be reminded to brush their teeth and wash their hands. Hell, maybe their parents have to yell “WIPE!” on a daily basis too. Because they are CHILDREN; not GENDER.

So, no; I have never thought that girls were in any way easy to raise. But I have always believed that the teenage years with a girl would be tougher than with a boy, and that is not only naive, but it’s also kinda sexist.

See, once a girl gets into her teen years I reckon it’s fairly natural for parents to worry about their daughters being mugged or raped if they’re walking home a bit late in the evening from the bus stop one night. It shouldn’t be natural, of course, because nobody should have to worry about that shit. But, nonetheless, this is the messed up world we live in right now and these things do happen. So I’d imagine that all mothers and fathers worry from time to time about such atrocities befalling their daughters and I can’t begin to imagine how terrifying that must be.

But I have the opposite problem. Because I have boys, and boys grow up to be men and men are more often than not the perpetrators of mugging and rape. So I have to raise them in such a way that they know unequivocally that those behaviours are wrong and unacceptable. And how will I know if I’m doing a good job? Should I be worried if one of them slyly thwacks the other when he thinks I’m not watching? Should I be concerned that sometimes they climb on me when I’ve told them no? Should I stress myself about the fact that [every so] often they lie about who ate the last Smartie?

These things sound trivial, but I often catch myself worrying about the bigger picture they could add up to. So when people say to me, “Ah, boys are challenging when they’re little, but so much easier than girls when they’re older” I have to wonder if maybe those people just aren’t worrying quite as much as I am about who their kids are going to grow up to be.

Let’s get one thing straight:

I don’t care about my boys’ sexuality.

I don’t care about how they look.

I don’t care whether they decide to go to university or not.

I don’t care what jobs they do.

But I do care about who they turn out to be inside. Because I want them to be empathetic and compassionate. I want them to stand up for the less fortunate and be the voices of the voiceless. I want them to be good people who do good things. I want them to be in touch with their emotions and know how to express them appropriately whilst also knowing that those emotions do not make them “weak” or “girly”.


Well, I’m not sure if I’m doing an adequate job. And, of course, that job is not made any easier by the men we regularly see in the media. Donald Trump. Harvey Weinstein. Powerful men in powerful positions who treat women with an appalling lack of decency and, in the case of the former at least, get away with it. When a man can “joke” about “grabbing [women] by the pussy” and go on to become the president of the most powerful country in the world, what hope is there for our children? What hope is there for instilling in them the moral fibre to treat women – or individuals from different cultures who practice different religions, for that matter – with respect and compassion?

It goes without saying that I will not give up. I will always strive to raise my sons to be good people. I will teach them about boundaries, about respecting the word “no” and their right to use it themselves. I will continue to teach them that we all have the right to decide what happens to our bodies and who gets to touch them. But even I must accept that there will come a day when my influence on them is overtaken by the influence of their peers, and when that time comes I can only hope that I have taught them well and that they choose their friends wisely.

An embarrassing pregnancy story

Despite often being associated with such words as “glowing” and “blooming” (and lots of others which also conjure up images of sunshine and flowers), pregnancy is also pretty awful sometimes.

My experiences included:

Constant nausea and unpredictable vomiting.

Being knackered all the time.

Random aches and pains.

Occasionally feeling as though I was being stabbed in the vagina (seriously, what *is* that?!).

Needing to pee every five minutes.

A decreased sense of spatial awareness.

So, basically, I spent nine months staggering around feeling tired and sick, resisting the urge to yelp and clutch my nether regions at impromptu moments, needing to be constantly aware of the location of the nearest toilet and walking into things that didn’t appear to be anywhere near me.

But by far the worst side-effect of pregnancy for me was constipation.

About halfway through my second pregnancy, my body basically decided that the end result of the digestive process was unnecessary. Bowel evacuation? Nope. We need to hang onto *everything*. You never know when it might come in useful!

As you might imagine, this made me kinda touchy. And irrational. But I didn’t say anything about it until one day N and I were arguing about something stupid and he simply said, “You’re so full of shit.” It was at that point that I finally decided to acknowledge my predicament by retaliating, somewhat hysterically, with, “AND THAT IS THE PROBLEM!”

By this stage I had lost hours of my life just weeping on the toilet in frustration, so I booked an appointment to see a doctor. It obviously wasn’t going to get better by itself and all the bran flakes in the world weren’t going to help.

On merit of the fact that life is a dickhead sometimes, the doctor I ended up seeing was both young and ridiculously attractive. I might be married, but I am not blind. He was hot. And not only was I the size of small whale, but I also needed to tell him that I hadn’t actually been able to have a poo for over a week.

The conversation went something like this:

Dr: “So, what can I help you with?”

Me: “I… uh… well, I’m pregnant…”

Dr: *patiently* “Yes, I can see that.”

Me: “Right. Er… the thing is… I… *whispers* I haven’t had a poo for a week.”

Dr: “Are you constipated?”

Me: *dying inside* “Um… I mean, I guess…”

Dr: “I can prescribe you something to help with that.”

Me: “Oh thank God.”

Dr: “Is there anything else you need?”

Me: “Aside from a full body cast for my dignity? No, thank you.”

He told me, of course, that he had seen it all before. They always tell you that, don’t they? But the thing is, I’m pretty sure he hadn’t. I’m pretty sure that at no point in his [relatively new] medical career had he had to sit through the painstaking process of watching a very embarrassed pregnant woman mumble in barely coherent tones about needing a poo. Weirdly enough, that one conversation was far more embarrassing than throwing off all of my clothing in front of a bunch of strangers four months later when I went through the process of actually giving birth. What is it about labour and birth that makes you just not give a shit (if you’ll pardon the expression)?

So, y’know, pregnancy might *look* glamorous sometimes with the stylish maternity wear and cute baby bumps, but underneath that lustrous pregnancy hair and beautifully clear pregnancy skin, there may well be a woman who would give anything to finally just have a bloody poo.

“I don’t want a haircut, mummy!”

Until I became a mother, I never realised how intrinsically linked a child's hair is to their gender identity. I had no idea that a boy wouldn't know he was a boy if he had long hair. It never occurred to me that not forcing a regular haircut on a boy could be somehow fundamentally damaging to him/cause him to grow up to be gay.

In case you were wondering, I'm being sarcastic.

Back story:

I have two children. They are both boys. They both like to get dirty, play with cars, beat seven shades of shit out of each other and watch superhero cartoons. They are both free to choose their own clothing (they usually choose dinosaurs and other such "boy" things) and pick out their own shoes. There is only one proviso to this arrangement: They must be happy and comfortable wearing whatever they choose.

The big one, O, likes to keep his hair short. He asks for a haircut about every six weeks or so. The little one, F, will not entertain the idea of having his hair cut and, as a result, it is quite long. Long enough to tie back.

And that seems to be a massive problem for some people.

We go to the park and something like this happens:

Stranger: "Oh, what a beautiful little girl! What's her name?"
Me: "He's a boy and his name is Finnegan."
Stranger: (to F) "When is your mummy going to get your hair cut?"
F: "No! I don't want a hair cut!"
Me: "He doesn't want to have his hair cut right now. I'm waiting until he tells me he's ready."
Stranger: "Oh… But… But…"
Me: *walks away*

Okay, so I come across as kinda rude here, but just imagine if this happened to you multiple times every week. Imagine how fed up you'd get with having the same conversation and standing under the same cloud of judgement. Can you imagine that? Yeah. You'd probably be pretty rude too.

With the way some strangers have reacted to my son's hair, you'd think they were accusing me of negligence or abuse. But it is not child abuse. I could argue that something pretty close to child abuse might be forcing your child into something they don't want and haven't consented to, to which there is no benefit outside of the cosmetic. But then most parents have this romanticised vision of their child's first haircut and I certainly wouldn't want to accuse them of abusing their children. At worst, they conform to a patented parenting script which many others have read before them, and that's fine. There is no malicious intent to be found in that and I have never suggested otherwise. I've just taken a different approach with my children and I feel like that should be okay too.

There's an alternative version of this conversation, of course, which happens far less frequently:

Stranger: "Oh, what a beautiful little girl! What's her name?"
Me: "He's a boy and his name is Finnegan."
Stranger: (to F) "Oh, I'm so sorry! He has such a pretty face, and I love his little ponytail!"
Me: "Thank you. So does he!"

I like these people. Not because they agree with the way I've chosen to raise my children; because they respect my son's right to make his own decisions.

Of course, I can't bring this up without giving a special mention to the hypocrisy of it all. You see, as boys grow up, they are encouraged to view the likes of footballers as role models (although I can't for the life of me imagine why when you consider how often some of them end up in the news for unpleasant reasons). Have you watched football lately? Have you noticed the growing trend that is the Man Bun? A trend which nobody under the age of 60 sees as being remotely odd in any way. It's just the fashion right now and it looks kinda cool, right?

So, hold on a second… a grown man can shave half his hair off, stick the rest up in a topknot and give it a special little name like "man bun" and that's totally fine, yet my son can't wear his hair in a ponytail without my entire approach to parenting being called into question?

Can somebody please explain this to me? Because I just don't get it.

I shouldn't have to defend my parenting while I stand up for my son and his god given right to have autonomy over what happens to his body. Amidst all this feminist ranting we are surrounded by on social media, it's interesting to me that very few people have looked at the other side of this. I'm not going to argue that there isn't still some gender inequality going on – hello, BBC wage gap -, but what's interesting to me is that a little girl can wear her hair however she chooses. She can have it long or short, braided or loose and nobody gives a shit. But when a little boy walks into the park with his hair tied up in a ponytail, the pointing and the whispering starts up. And it's not the kids; it's the parents. The kids couldn't care less. It doesn't even occur to them that they should see anything odd in a little boy wearing his hair in a ponytail.

There are hashtags such as #letclothesbeclothes and #lettoysbetoys which seek to remove the boy/girl divide when it comes to clothing and toys. Brilliant idea. But it has to go both ways. I see a lot of tweets using these hashtags which point out how uncool it is that apparently girls aren't supposed to like dinosaurs or want to be astronauts, and they are absolutely correct. Totally uncool. However, I see far less bemoaning the fact that none of the T-shirts in the "boy" section have unicorns on them or that all of the princess colouring books are with the "girly" stuff.

It just seems to lack… balance.

I'm not saying that all boys should dress up in unicorns and glitter and aspire to be princesses. I'm just saying that it should be perfectly fine if they do. It's not going to damage them or "make them gay" (just DON'T).

And as for long hair? If it bothers you so much that a little boy wants to grow his hair long, well… maybe that says more about you than it does about him or his parents.

While you think about that, I'll be over here playing cars and dollies with my boys.

A case of Mum Guilt

I've come down with a bad case of mum guilt today.

Today is my day off. At the moment, I get two days off a week. This week, today is one of them.

Usually I try to do something fun with the kids when I'm not working. A nature walk. The beach. A playground or two. That kind of thing. Except that this morning I looked around my house and I got this dreadful, twitchy feeling

My house, to put it bluntly, is a fucking shit tip.

There is random crap all over the place. There's probably even actual crap somewhere. Everybody is running out of clean clothes and everything feels just a bit… sticky.

The only trouble is, I can't clean the house AND do something fun with the kids. So today I feel guilty because if I take the kids out I'm neglecting the house, and if I clean the house I'm neglecting the kids.

What I need is the ability to split myself into useful, house-cleaning mum and fun, child-wrangling mum. Or a cleaner.

I probably need a cleaner.

Also on the list of things I feel guilty about today:

Literally shoving N out of the door this morning.

The fact that I've shouted at my kids at least twice to leave each other alone.

Inadvertently thwacking O around the head with the vacuum cleaner nozzle.

Turning on CBeebies.

Feeling secretly glad that it has rained and is therefore too wet to go to a playground right now.

Sitting here writing this and drinking a cup of tea.

Being tired.

I'll probably also feel guilty about whatever I feed the kids for lunch soon because it's unlikely to be either imaginative or particularly nutritionally balanced.

It can't be just me, can it? I mean, I open up Instagram and I see tonnes of posts featuring a day out with the kids or a crafty afternoon at the kitchen table and nobody else's house ever looks a mess. Nobody else ever has that haunted look of a person who knows their home resembles the aftermath of nuclear warfare whilst they sit on a picnic rug and enjoy quality time with their offspring.

Some days I feel like I'm just not cut out for the job of being a Person In The World.

One more light

Suicide and depression never seem to be far from the news bulletins these days. This year more than 6000 suicides have been recorded in the U.K. and ROI collectively. But suicide itself isn't an isolated event as a general rule; it is most often the culmination of a gruelling battle with declining or fluctuating mental health, which is arguably less well-documented than the devastating final act.

Here's the thing about depression: it's not YOU. Depression is selfish, inherently so. It doesn't care about your family or your friends. It certainly doesn't care about you. It's the weight dragging you down every day. It's the sense of failure in everything you do. It's the feeling of panic sitting on your chest as you think to yourself, "I just can't do this anymore". It has no type, no preference and no agenda except to leave you with a pervading sense that there is nothing left worth staying for, or that everyone around you would be better off without you. It will take you to the edge over and over again and leave you standing there, trembling, as you stare into that gaping maw. And it won't give a shit if you fall. It will rage against every small victory, whispering into your beleaguered mind, "But what about tomorrow?" It will keep you up through the night and try to pin you down in your bed when morning comes. Some days, you will let it. Some days, the Herculean effort required to pull yourself from that pit just won't be worth it. But everybody else? They might think that it is you being selfish and not your depression, simply because one belongs to the other, although which of you has ownership of the other at any given point is debatable.

Recent high profile suicides such as those of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington have once again thrust depression into social consciousness. Scathing comments about how those men could be so selfish as to leave behind their children have highlighted how misunderstood an illness depression is, even now. Even as huge efforts are being made to de-stigmatise the condition, this rhetoric remains common. There is little consideration given to the path that leads to the end result and too much emphasis upon that end result itself.

Consider, for example, what it must take to arrive at the conclusion that you are better off dead. Imagine how catastrophic the thoughts must be, how the fear of living must outgrow the fear of dying. How long does a person have to battle before their personal war becomes insurmountable? And if they had reached out, if you had known what was coming, would you have been there? Or would you have sighed, rolled your eyes and told them to "man up"? How many times have you accused a family member or friend of being dramatic over a seemingly minor thing, without considering that that minor thing might be just one component in a long list of things that have left that person flailing in the dark with nothing to hold onto?

I'm not accusing you of being insensitive, nor am I trying to express the very particular path of your journey through this illness. These are my experiences of my own mental health battles. The fact that I ascribe depression an identity of its own is how I live with – and outside of – it; how I remind myself that who I am when I am struggling and who I am the rest of the time are not the same person. And those are the times when depression takes ownership of me, rather than the other way around. Sometimes it's a temporary dip, a short period of low mood and internalised catastrophising. Other times, bad days bleed into bad months. Depression does not conform to a specific formula; it is nuanced, which is probably why treating it is so difficult. But for me, my lock-ins with this so-called black dog are almost always triggered by a series of small events, stacking up on one another like tumbling dominoes. Dominoes which must all be picked up and set right before I can go on again as normal.

I'll stand on that lonely cliff edge again. I'll look down into that angry, churning water and I'll force myself to back away. I'll talk. Cry. Scream. Do anything not to let it take me over. I'll hold my children tight and remember my promise to them. I'll allow the people I love to reach out and accept their efforts and their comfort. I won't let this crouching thing inside of me take me away from myself.

But does this personal determination mean that I don't understand how it must feel to finally grow tired of the fight?

No. And honestly? We should all try a little harder to find our empathy sometimes.

This is a true story

It’s been a long time since I talked about this. For so long, my recollection of these events has felt like someone else’s life. But the truth is that for about a year between the ages of 16 and 18, I was in an abusive relationship. I was pushed into walls, door frames and, once, the side of a bus. I was held so tightly by my wrists that they were bruised. I was thrown to the floor in the middle of screaming arguments. And one August morning, I was shoved so hard against my bedroom wall that my left collarbone snapped clean in two.

Still, I didn’t see it for what it was until one night when he pushed me in front of a room full of people. Only when I saw the looks on their faces as he was dragged away from me did I realise what was really going on here. Only on that night, when I felt so ashamed of those looks, did I have the guts and conviction to finally walk away.

11 years later, my memories are blurred. Perhaps with subconscious intent. I’ll ask myself some days, “Did it really happen?” Yes. Yes, it really happened. I have the badly healed bone to prove it. But the point is that I have recovered and I have forgiven. I have accepted that sometimes people just bring out the worst in each other. I am not making excuses for him – he and I both know very well what he did. But I cannot be angry about it anymore. I cannot say that I am still a victim, or that I have let those experiences colour my perceptions of men in general.

What do I hope for him now, so many years later? I hope that he has healed from the experiences that led him to be that person in the first place. I hope that he has grabbed hold of the good inside him and made himself out of that. I hope that he is well.

I will not lie to you; it has taken me a long, long time to feel that way. But I have healed. I have forgotten that I was ever afraid, that I ever had a reason to be scared of hearing the front door slam.

N is much bigger than I am. Much stronger too. Easily capable of hurting me if he wanted to. But have I ever for one moment been afraid of him? No. Not for a second. I know who he is. For me to look at him with the same eyes I once looked at that other man would do him a gross injustice. No matter what I say or do – and I can be a long way from innocent myself – I know with absolute certainty that I never, ever have to be afraid of my husband.

There have been times in my life when I have been afraid of men as a whole. When I have had to remind myself that there are only a few bad apples on the tree. But that’s the point; I have trained my brain to self-correct. I refuse to live my life under the misapprehension that all men are bastards.

I don’t know if I will tell my sons about my experiences when they are older. I don’t know if I want them to think of me that way. I do know that I don’t ever want them to feel sorry for me, even retrospectively.

What I will do is raise them to respect other people. To understand the notion of consent. To never, ever intentionally harm another person. And to always speak up if they find themselves in the position of being abused.

It’s not our job as parents to teach our children to be afraid of each other; it’s our job to teach them how to look after one another.

This is what I will teach my children. And I hope that they never, ever find themselves in the same position that I once did.