Making Lemonade?

A question. What defines a good life? Is it wealth? Family? Social standing? Health? Happiness? I am guessing depending on where you are from, everybody's answers would be different. As a sufferer of mental illness, I often ask myself that question and how I answer can vary greatly.

Growing up in a very privileged part of the country, I had two healthy parents, two healthy siblings, a lovely home, a pet dog and a great education. So how does someone, with what would seem like the perfect childhood, end up on antidepressants by the age of 15. The answer is actually very simple. Mental illness is not discriminatory. It doesn't care who you are or what you have. If that big black shadow is going to pay you a visit, there is little you can do to stop it.

So at 15 years of age, my G.P. wrote me out my first prescription for antidepressants. As I walked away from the surgery, I didn't feel relief. I felt shame. I felt I had let my family down. But just how wrong I was took many years to become clear to me. Forward on a considerable number of years, I was faced with being a single parent of three children, all of which inherited my crappy mental health genes, two dogs and a business that Covid-19 took from under me. Life didn't just throw me a few lemons, I got the whole tree. On a seemingly innocuous evening, after a heated row with the kids about what everybody wanted for dinner, my balance tilted and I succumbed to that dark shadow. The knife I was using to prepare dinner became my ticket out of my despair and I drew it down the length of my forearm in a bid to take me away from the pain that was consuming me.

I think what shocked me most was the lack of pain. Although my arm was bleeding, I had barely broken the skin. So I did it again. And again. Getting harder each time. I still did no more damage than I did the first time. My new best friend become the number one enemy. I threw the knife down, sunk to the floor and sobbed. And sobbed. It was at that point that I knew I had to fight to get the help I should have been offered at the age of 15.

The next 18 months were a mix of relief and despair, but even with the highs and lows, for the first time that I could remember I didn't dread tomorrow.

One evening I was in the bath, and I found a lump under my arm. Everything went cold. There was no panic. Just dread. I called my partner and he too could feel it. My dread simply turned to numbness. Two days later my mother was told there was a shadow on her lung. OK. I was still dealing with it all OK. We both did the things we had to do and we plodded on. Four weeks later and my father was called back to see his G.P. after a routine blood test showed up an anomaly. It was only then that my wobble started. The doubt crept in. Me, my mother and now my father had all been served with the possibility of facing cancer. I doubted I was strong enough, not only to handle everything for me, but for my parents and of course my children. My innocent children. Hadn't they seen enough? Somehow, I got up every day and I went to bed every night. And I did cope. It was only a few months ago that I think if this had happened then I think my best friend may have come to see me again. And although each day was hard, something inside kept me going.

Forward on to today. Today I got up earlier than usual, the sky was bright, but the air was crisp. My favourite kind of morning. It was my youngest child's first day at a new college, although to see us both, you'd think it was me going and not the other way round. I didn't have butterflies in my tummy, I had full on earthquakes! On the way there we stopped and got a coffee, and whilst he was getting himself together to go in, I sat there and watched. Time went very slowly, but in fact if a minute went passed I would have been surprised. I was watching this young man. My young man. Full of confidence and life. And in a blink of an eye he turned and walked away. Something then happened, that doesn't happen very often to me. I smiled, and honest and true smile. As he walked away my heart was filled with such pride and admiration. My Boy!

On the drive home I was accompanied by this smile and a warm fuzzy emotion, and the sun filled my car. Today was OK! Tomorrow is going to be OK too. Who knows what the future holds, for any of us, but today? Yep. It's all OK. So, if you ask me my question now? Life right now is good.

Life may throw us some lemons, but hang on to them, cos eventually you will have enough to make lemonade.

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