I often get a lot of peeps asking about medication. Is it ok? Is it a one way ticket to messing me up? Do they even work? Meds can seem quite daunting and scary. And loaded with stigma.
I have to start this off by saying I’m not a medical doctor, and I never go advising clients on medication. Always go and see your medical professional for that stuff. Buuut, meds and psych are closely related, we’re trained in understanding meds and what they do to you, and why they might be used etc. We just don’t prescribe them.
With Mark Latham being a general douche in the media last year (well, a general douche any year really these days. Let’s not get picky here), talking about taking medication equating to being ‘weak’, people get all cagey and embarrassed to discuss these kind of things. Like how cold sores are a form of herpes, medication for mental health is the ‘seedy underbelly’ that no one wants to talk about, or admit they’re dealing with. Like we talked about with PND, if you had a nasty infection, would you just hide away and hope it disappears? No! You’d be up at the doctors asking for help, and taking antibiotics etc. Well our mental health should be no different.
It’s an all-too familiar pattern. The girls, having asked me for something, then ignore my response and go straight to Dad. Cuddles and kisses and ‘we love you Daddy’ ensues and suddenly they triumphantly walk away with the response they were after. I swear they also flip me the bird as they walk by. Well not really, but I can see they want to do it in their eyes. If they knew what flipping the bird was. Which they don’t. They only know swear words, not gestures. THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT.
We used to joke about it pre-kids, that he would be the pushover doting Dad, and I’d have to lay the smackdown. And like a bad horoscope it’s all come to fruition. He doesn’t bat an eyelid when they go traipsing around with a fistful of sultanas they stole from the cupboard (OK…. fistful of chocolate. Who even am I trying to be all wholesome and stuff?) , he’ll agree to whatever they ask….. when they’ve come directly from No-town via cranky-Mumville, and when they’ve gotten in trouble from me, they’ll run to him for a cuddle. I swear he’s got a glint in his eye when they come over too. A glint of glory, from someone who has secured their spot as favourite parent. It’s like his eyes are flipping the bird.
It’s a funny feeling, isn’t it? We feel yuck when we experience guilt, yet often we keep going back again and again to that familiar old sting. Are we masochists? Why do we do it to ourselves? And then when there’s kids involved, guilt skyrockets in all ways. Inadvertently we can pass it onto our kids and then they too get in the guilt cycle.
Time and time again we are told ‘get rid of the guilt’, ‘guilt is a useless emotion’ and for the most part it is, but what if we need guilt? What if it’s not the evil enemy we’re told that it is?
What even is guilt? It’s often seen as an emotion that crops up when we either feel like we’ve done something we shouldn’t have, or we didn’t do something we think we should have.
Guilt can be useful sometimes. It can alert us to something a bit deeper within ourselves that we’re not happy with. Maybe we snapped at our cherubs in the rush to get them off to school, when it was really the shitty traffic that made us run late (*cough* thatmighthavebeenmethismorning *cough*), maybe we forgot to send that important email, maybe we scoffed that last chocolate down. It’s not guilt that’s the issue here, but rather dissatisfaction in the way we’ve handled something- could be anxiety operating at the core, could be self-esteem, could be almost anything. But guilt is what alerts us to something not being right. It’s that discomfort we need so that we can reassess and make a change.
Guilt can be shit too. That’s when it becomes shame. Shame is that more internalised, personalised crud- where we think we’re bad for doing something, rather than just feeling cruddy for doing or not doing something. Shame can colour our everything, and if we leave it to grow, it can transform into even ickier things like anxiety, depression and other difficulties.
The difference here is function. Guilt often jumps us into action, whereas shame halts our process. It gets us stuck. So we need to stop bagging guilt out, and instead label the healthy stuff guilt, and the unhealthy stuff shame. Makes the world of difference when you’re grappling with the ick.
If you’re feeling guilty about something, don’t beat yourself up about it. You know that the ick feeling is an indicator that something has to change, so review what it is that you want to do/ don’t want to do and then make plans to rectify it. That’s it. Talk it over, allow yourself to feel ick for 13.45 minutes and then take action. The longer you hold onto guilt, the less useful it is and the more it turns into shame. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit.
Are you a guilt hoarder? Or are you all up in that ‘let it go’ zen mode?
So after yesterday’s debacle, where I bared my soul and my chubby sequin-clad thighs by re-telling the horrendous memory that I’ve been tortured by for nearly 30 years… only to find out that something entirely different happened to what my brain told me, I figured maybe we could use it to our advantage and look at how we can mess with support our kid’s brains and get some more factual memories cracking.
My inner nerd is coming out here when I say the whole memory storage and retrieval stuff is pretty fascinating. The brain is this big mushy blob that does some freaky shit. The way it can encode information, chunk it, store it away for eons and then pop it back out when we’re triggered- it’s amazing when you think about it.
For a long time we had this assumption that kids don’t remember much. I mean heck, I’m lucky to remember my name most days, so recalling stuff when I was a little kid? Well that’s like asking me to go 9 months without wine. Oh wait…. I think I’ve repressed the last 9 months. That’s my brain trying to cope with another harrowing memory.
It’s the stuff of legends. Heavily made up cherubs, being preened by even more heavily made up Mothers, sequins, feathers, lycra. Sweaty shoes and jazz hands.
I am now there. Hold me.
Once I’ve sussed out the types of dance Moms on offer, I’ll gladly note them down in a post. For now, everyone seems relatively sane and glitter free. For now…..
Miss DP has her first dance concert on the weekend. And it’s an all hands on deck affair. Rehearsals at the crack of dawn, costume try outs, hair being sorted, bloody skin coloured tights needing to be sourced (truly, a pain in the ass to find).
A bunch of five year olds, whipped into a frenzied excitement, all in a contained space. Dancing to “Let it Go”. I’ll let you sit with that thought…..
Here, I’ll share my wine with you. It’s scary, isn’t it?
In between all the excitement and sweaty feet smell (my god, it’s horrend), the reality can be a bit scary. Stage fright is real.
I remember when I was a wee lass, dancing in the state championships (oh yes. Yes I did. Just call me twinkle toes). My dance routine had been changed at the last minute and I was madly backstage practicing again and again, riiiiiight up until my turn on stage.
I jumped up there, beaming smile (well actually I had no idea how to smile at 6. I kind of just bared my teeth. It was awks) and got myself into position. Sequins were a-glowin’. Taffeta was a-flowin’. The music began. I started dancing, taking steps across the stage… and then?
BLANK. TOTAL FUCKING BLANK.
I’d forgotten the steps. I’d practiced it so much, that when I was up there, I completely blanked out on the new part of the routine. All I can remember is staring out into the crowd, seeing a crowd of hushed faces, all staring up at me. I was doing a lame step-tap from side to side while my brain packed its bags and left the building. You would’ve seen tumbleweeds blowing through my head.
Honestly I can’t remember what else happened. My brain froze to that part and then the next thing I know the music stopped, people were pity clapping me, I bared my teeth once more, my chubby little sequined frame skipped off stage and I proceeded to heave tears. Red hot tapper tears streaming down my heavily made-up face. This is the stuff therapy is made of. I still cringe now at the thought of it.
Apparently though it wasn’t as horrendous as I remember. According to my Mum, during the great blank out of ’88 I actually reverted back to an old routine almost seamlessly, and barely a person noticed me falter. What the hell, brain?! What.the.hell. Why would you torture a kid like that? And why did it take my mum like nearly 30 years to tell me that?? She’s in on the stitch up with my brain.
Isn’t the brain amazingly f’ed up?? Here in my memory, I blanked and stood there step-tapping like a dick. Humiliating. Soul crushing. It’s haunted me for years and years. But I’d actually continued on dancing, and finished well. Why would my brain not remember that shit?? I’m now convinced my brain is designed to send me insane. The kids are just the icing on the already messed up cake really.
So when it comes to our cherubs, that stage fright or mind blanking is real, and can last a loooong time if they let it. Something we think isn’t a big deal, can be a huge deal to them. And with my sensitive little petal, no doubt she’ll hold onto something really minute and it will become a mountain for her.
I’m going to whip up a post on memories and how to help kids deal with particularly shitty ones, but one thing to remember is that we aren’t fully responsible for messing our kids memories up. Their own brains are pretty good at doing that by themselves. Isn’t that a relief?! Finally, one less thing to feel guilty about (which will surely be replaced by a million other things. But still. One less thing!). We can at least support them and help fill in the blanks when they need us to. And then also fill in our own blanks about shitty parenting moments that we beat ourselves up about.
Have you had any particularly horrend memories from childhood that have stuck? How accurate were they from what really happened? Is your brain as messed up as mine? Actually, don’t answer that.