Did I Switch Off The Iron!

Most of my daily life is run on auto pilot. Get up, get dressed, go to work, slay, go home, make sure that kids are fed, go to bed. Rinse. Repeat. This is what a typical day and week looks like. Off course between each comma there are the important things I have to do. Things like snoozing my alarm to get just another few more minutes of sleep, brushing my teeth, washing, discarding the pretty outfit I selected for a given day the night before and opting for a drab one instead. People really should be glad I wear clothes at all. Then there’s poop duty and seeing that my fur baby has food and clean drinking water before I go to work. Brushing my daughter’s hair and asking if she brushed her teeth and reminding her to apply roll on. Satisfied that our morning was a success, we leave home. But did I switch off the iron!

I can never predict how my day at work will go. That’s why I love it so much. No chance of being bored stiff. Though there may be a chance that I’d be scared stiff. As much as I love kids, they scare me too. Not as much as the thought of a snake in close proximity but scared nonetheless. Kids are unpredictable. Teenagers more so. Reasoning with a stubborn kid is like asking a dog not to bite you. Hoping that the dog understands English. Or at the very least, that he takes one sniff of you and decides that you’re not his flavour after all. Or that he has met his match and backs down. I’m in favour of the latter.

It is also all the things between the commas that leaves me frazzled sometimes. If I put too much thought into it, I’d probably lose my mind. Details overwhelm me. Keeping up with schedules for three kids in three different grades at two different schools can be a bit much. Even for me, because I’m such a great mom. Actually, mom-ing has nothing to do with it. The fact that I’m an administration ninja and diary keeping warrior princess definitely does. Multitasking is me. It shouldn’t be too difficult to remember sending in an important reply slip to school or letting #LittleK’s driver know dismissal times have changed. But I do forget and I don’t beat myself up about it. Mom guilt, however real it is, is wasted on me. I guess I’ve been in this game long enough or maybe I realize that I cannot dally in that zone too long in the risk that it may consume me. Mom’s have so much to do and so little time. Where’s the wine?

With all that happens in my life, dropping the ball is a real threat. I cannot drop the ball. I cannot think of my to-do list. I may not succumb to mom guilt. I need to be on auto pilot. I have to remember that the only way to eat an elephant is bit by bit. I can do this. I can win at life. I will not have a mental breakdown. I will not wonder if my husband will inherit the adulterer gene floating around in his gene pool. I will not trip over the fact that I have inherited the psycho gene. I will make a freaking voice note to remind myself that I switched off the iron and the doors are all locked. I will have wine because… Do I need a reason?

You see, I’ve learnt to let go of details. Details that can and will make me trip. Not because I’m obsessive and compulsive. Which I’m totally not but an occupational doctor thinks I am. What does he know? Trips are overrated anyways. So is this stupid chemical imbalance in my brain. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid chemical imbalance, that does not lack anything in the spontaneity department. Convincing me to go a place where I the only way to feel is to experience pain.

I am Celeste, and I have mental health issues. If you know Afrikaans then you’ll know exactly what “My plate skroei” means.

My trips are sporadic and spontaneous. It didn’t show up when my daughter was nearly run over by a bus. It doesn’t show up when I’m under pressure at work trying to make an impossible deadline. I thrive under pressure. Future employers please take note of this. I didn’t lie on my CV. Said trips does not factor when I’m lying on a hospital bed being probed to find the cause of continous kidney infections. Not even when the doctor’s nails are a bit long and I’m dying to remove the dirt from it. Would he be offended if I mentioned it and give me six months to live? Not taking that chance. Did I remember to switch off the iron! Yes let’s focus on that instead.

Even if I didn’t iron that morning. Or for a few mornings. It could easily have been a week ago. And surely a week is ample time to have noticed that there was an unused hot iron. Besides, the house hasn’t burnt down. So my journey in talking myself down from one of my trips begins. “Your brain” I say to myself, ” the same brain that can take four random numbers and calculate it differently each time to get to the number twenty-four, has been hacked. Compromised. This feelings you’re experiencing is not real. Breath dammit. I need you to stay with me. One plus one is two. Two plus two… If two two’s is twenty-two and two three’s is thirty-three, why can two ones not be one-tee-one?” And so I rationalize in the hopes that my brain will catch a wake up. Then slowly it comes back to me. I think of the Musical.ly (oops TiTok) videos, especially the numbers one-tee-one ones and think how I could have made that a thing, but didn’t because I’ve only just discovered the app. And mostly my humour is lost on people. Also, my mental health is not something I often talk about. Not because I’m ashamed of it. Rather because of the misconceptions it still arouses in this day and age. “Dammit brain! I’m not in danger. I don’t need fight or flight today!”, it continues.

During these episodes I often feel like the life is sucked out of me. Breathing takes doing. I am so far removed from myself and the place I am. Hysteria takes over and I couldn’t care less about who is around me. Who bares witness to all this crazy. In fact, I’m not really aware of my surroundings and the people in it. There are slight moments in between when I do notice them and want to run and hide from everyone. I have this insistent need to be alone. In those moments no one can help me. Having people ask me if I’m ok doesn’t help. Noticing them scrambling and offering to help definitely doesn’t help. If anything, it makes it worse. I need to ride this wave and talk myself out of it. I need familiar surroundings to calm the heck down. I need to pop a pill and count until it takes effect. “3×2=6×5=30-4=24 5-2=3+3=6×4=24 …” After all that I need sleep. Lots of sleep.

The thing about mental illness is that you can be right as rain one minute and lose your shit the next. No explanations required. Sometimes it can be triggered by a stressful situation and other times the mere act of breathing does it. Episodes can be swift and recovery time as swift. Then it can go on for an eternity until you find yourself in the abyss called depression. Escaping that hole takes some doing. Doing nothing and going through the motions is often all it takes to get out. There is no quick fix. Except sometimes I have to ask myself, did I remember to switch the iron off?

You see, mental illness happens. How we cope from day to day may differ vastly. There may be months between episodes. You may have figured out the perfect escape route from the dark hole. Like me, you may know how to bite that damn black dog back or dodge him when you can. You may be popping pills or have other coping mechanisms. But, it happens.

My name is Celeste and I run my life on auto pilot. It’s done out of necessity.

What you may see as fickle and bizarre is my reality. Not putting too much thought in the details of my daily life is a coping mechanism. Asking myself questions like “did I switch the iron off!” is one of the ways I claim my sanity sometimes. I keep so busy that there is no time for thinking. It’s too easy for negative thoughts to creep in unawares. Weaving a web of carefully constructed lies trying to make me believe that I’m not good enough. That I’m lacking. That I don’t deserve happiness. Obviously I know this is not true and so far removed from who I am. But, stupid brain, stupid chemical imbalance…

So daily I defy this illness and I will swallow the damn pills. I won’t succumb to mom guilt or wonder about the could’ve, would’ve or should’ve. I will my brain to get a freaking grip because I’m powerful like that. I will think thoughts so positive and run the risk of getting nauseated by the ray of sunshine side of me. I want to stand in her light. Then I want to choose to continue livin in a fantasy world, making up characters who have the world at their fingertips. It’s safe there. They run the world and I allow them. How powerful is that? Take that brain! I live in a world where I choose to see random hearts and notice the rainbows. A world where my nine year old daughter chooses to believe in the tooth fairy even though Google dispelled that myth a few months ago. Most of all, I write. Write about my feelings and experiences. It’s therapeutic. Definitely a therapy I will recommend.

I’d love to hear how everyone else copes with mental illness. Drop me a comment or send me an email.

With love,

CJ

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