“What I did to get where I am now”

This is a guest post by my wonderful friend, the Silver Fox.


About a week ago I had cause to go the Docs about something and we had a brief chat about my mental health issues over the last two years. It started off with me thanking her for being so supportive and telling her how important it had been for me to know that whenever I needed to speak to her that she was genuinely supportive and listening. I was telling her how good I felt and that things were definitely on the up. She then said something I wasn’t expecting.

“I’m so pleased. You really deserve it. You’ve worked really hard at this……. and I know you really have worked hard at it.”

I was quite stunned by that comment but sat back and thought “Yes I suppose I have.” So, this morning in bed I was mulling this over (not that I ever think a lot about things) and thought I’d write down what I did that worked (NLP Klaxon!).


These aren’t necessarily in sequence because some of them take longer than others and are a process rather than a moment in time.

Can I also make clear that I’m not in any way proclaiming that these will work in the same way for anybody else. It’s just what worked for myself in my situation.


1. I realised I wasn’t being weak.

For someone like me to suddenly feel incapacitated is devastating. You’ve spent your whole life achieving and doing things (Actually part of the problem) and suddenly you can’t. This eats away at your very identity until you have no idea who you are. Was that person you were before a complete bluff? Did you fool everybody and this is the real you? “Come on Neil! You are better than this… be strong!” Then I read a book which I’ve referenced on here often “Depressive Illness: The curse of the strong” and my eyes were opened. Okay, so there is a logical reason why this is happening! I’m not weak… Okay, that’s cool… So what do I do?


2. I opened up to everybody including myself and didn’t hide a thing.

Now I had a few false starts with this one. Especially the honesty with self bit. In the end though, through a few occurrences which made me think hard about myself, I took myself back to the doctors and said I needed help. I was completely honest with them and the psychologists and I decided it was time to be honest with all my friends and family as well. This was partly because I didn’t want to be able to bluff anybody later on with the “Yes I’m Fine!” routine. No I wasn’t… I needed help.


3. I truly wanted to recover.

This is an interesting one. When I went to the Doctors which was in about July 2013 I’d really had enough of feeling like this. I wanted to get better. I wasn’t angry anymore. I didn’t blame anyone. I just wanted to be me again. Or rather a newer improved version… I’d done the angry and upset over the previous two or so years. I add that in because that was part of the process and the last 18 months wouldn’t have been so successful if I hadn’t gone through that stage already. I was ready to move on.


4. I resolved to be open to whatever the psychologists/doctors suggested.

I knew that I had to be prepared to change and to adapt. I’d be challenged about the way I’d lived and have to face up to some uncomfortable truths or even some treatments that might have seemed a bit “whacky’ to the old me. This also meant drugs. I was going to trust the experts and get on with it. I knew this wasn’t an exact science where we could take scans or inspect the wound for progress. I had to trust them and form a partnership with them if this was going to work. We would have ebbs and floes but there had to be trust. I also had to throw myself into all the programmes and suggested treatments. There was to be no holding back.


5. I accepted that I had a “major injury”.

I love a model that I can hang my hat on mentally and work out where I am in the process. The one that worked for me was equating what I had with a major sports injury. There was the immediate first aid, then the immediate after treatment to bring down swelling help the natural healing processes start. Then you have the initial physio to help the muscles reknit etc etc… you get the picture. There’s a process. If you rush the process you risk reinjuring yourself and ending up back at the beginning. Understanding that I was in a very similar situation (and one that I was unfortunately all too familiar with, oh those damn ankles of mine!) meant I knew I had to pace myself and again, trust the team.


6. I made my recovery the most important thing in my life.

I’ve left this till last because I think it was fundamentally the most important thing I did. When I went to the Docs and we did the initial diagnosis etc, I made my recovery and regaining my mental health the most singularly important thing in my life. I knew I wouldn’t, be ale to be the Dad I wanted to be again, be able to do all the projects I wanted to do or anything else until I had regained my health. In August 2013 I said clearly to quite a few people that the only important thing in 2013/14 was my getting healthy again. It didn’t matter if I was a pauper or anything else. I wanted to get well again and that’s where my focus had to be.


It’s been quite useful writing that down because in doing so it helps me define what I’ve got to do to continue forwards. But that’s for another time I think.


Barren nest

This blog is in response to the piece I read by Liz Smith ‘All Grown-Up & No Kids Yet’ in the f-word yesterday, which was itself a response to a piece by Abigail Watson ‘The Mother of Ambitions’, also in the f-word.  Liz mentions that she is 32 and Abigail that she is 16.  I have no issue with either of their pieces; they are absolutely right in their assertion that the expectation that they should want motherhood is sexist and misplaced.  If and when they change their mind, then that is their decision, and their decision only.  (I am also totally at a loss as to why at 16 society is exerting this expectation on Abigail, I have no recollection of this when I was that age).

I am 41 and childless.  Over the last two decades I have swerved between the ‘definitely not yet’ camp, the ‘children are not for me’ camp – and the ‘I absolutely should be a mother’ camp.

When I first got married at 24 I was diagnosed with PCOS (poly-cystic ovary syndrome) which I’d long suspected I had, absence of periods for long periods (ha!) and general hairiness being quite obvious signs.  The consultant my GP had referred me to lectured me for some time on the need to start a family straight away, or rather, start trying straight away, as it could take me some years.  My (now ex) husband and I were not ready for a family; both at the beginning of our careers; both young professionals, parenthood wasn’t high up on our list of to-do’s at the time.  And so we didn’t try.

As my 30s approached, and my 30th passed, we decided it was time.  I came off the pill, we tried.  Now, I know that trying to get pregnant means having lots of sex and I know we didn’t have lots of sex (so many stories behind that) but I didn’t get pregnant and I wanted to be pregnant.  PCOS also meant that anyway I was having maybe three periods a year.  Over time, I became very jealous of people at work who were pregnant.  Walking down the street, I’d be noticing all the prams, all the push-chairs, all the swollen bellies.  My green envy became irrational and I absolutely began to understand what pushes baby-snatchers to snatch babies… I’m not saying I would have done, but I definitely understood why.

And then, divorce at 34.  The marriage had lasted 10 years (although with hindsight, we really should not have stubbornly clung to the institution for so long) and so I decided to stridently believe that children would not be for me; I would never trust another relationship to last, and even if I met another man next week, in 10 years I would be 44 and it would be too late.  So, I made a conscious decision to put motherhood dreams behind me.

I kept wavering though.  Life itself took some more twists into darkness with rape, PTSD, depression.  And I knew even through those despairing years that I was also wasting away my fertility, and that really, if I was actually honest with myself, I didn’t want to be. 

A couple of years back, I was still in a pretty desperate place, but I wanted to turn it around with positive action for what I really wanted in the world.  And I wasn’t going to let the small, minor detail of not being in a relationship with a man who had sperm to give me get in my way.  So, I went for IUI treatment with sperm donation, did a 3 for 2 deal, and started praying for my NoSling to arrive.  [NoSling was my term for my baby, Nate or Scarlett]. 

NoSling didn’t arrive.  Sometimes I find myself talking to my NoSling, and then I remember.  Reading those articles yesterday triggered a deep sadness in me, a grief, if you can grieve for someone that never was, and it’s a grief that I feel very regularly.  Because when you’re 41, like at 32 or even at 16, you will still get asked about motherhood.  And it’s not just annoying.  It hurts.  It hurts like hell.

There’s a choice to make when it happens.  Sometimes I pretend that I don’t want children.  Sometimes I tell the truth, and say that I desperately do, but it’s too late now.  That will of course always result in the reply, but you’re only 41, so&so had one at 45/46/47 (etc.).  Usually the example given is not for the first child anyhow, but who says I want to be a really old mum?  (I mean, I would, but I know it’s getting harder with each year).  I don’t have a man right now willing to give me sperm anyway.  And I’ve just started my own business so financially it’s not sensible either (not that it ever is, financially).  People say, well, you can always adopt.  I’m single, bisexual, poly and kinky, don’t own my own house and just starting my own business (i.e. no income) and I know these aren’t definite no-no’s for adoption (and definitely not for parenthood), but the process is so intrusive, and the chances slim.  And also, why would any child want to feel second-best?  I would adopt but only if I was sure I would love the child as if it were my own.  People say, you only tried IUI, why don’t you try IVF?  Well, if I could afford to lose £10k a go, then maybe…  And then people say, maybe I don’t want it bad enough.

I don’t know if I didn’t get pregnant with my ex-husband due to the PCOS, because we didn’t try hard enough, or because of other reasons.  I don’t know if I didn’t get pregnant with the IUI because I was too old, because maybe I just can’t, or just bad luck.  I do know that I wish I’d fooled around a lot more when I was younger, and not worried so much about pregnancy.  Life might’ve been different, but I think it would’ve been a good different.

I know that not wanting to be a mother is quite a taboo in society; it’s something that as women we can do, that most men can’t.  We’re expected to fulfil our biological destiny.  Some of us, however, can’t and want to.  And no-one ever seems to know what to say about that. 

Starting Again

This is me, starting again.  Again.  The thing about getting older, that they never tell you when you’re younger, is that you start to realise that you never get ‘there’.  I used to think ‘there’ was studying history at university, it was the only thing I ever ‘wanted’ to do.  Then, when I’d done that, I thought that ‘there’ was buying a flat, getting married, having children, going to garden centres at the weekend.  I never had the children (yet?) but when I divorced I didn’t just let go of the dream house we’d renovated from condemned everything (gas, water, electricity, leaking roof, you name it, it needed fixing), and the Boden outfits, I let go of any stability of knowing what ‘there’ was.  At that time, ‘there’ was just figuring a way to be me, just figuring out who me was.  I was, literally, starting again.

And then, darkness.  The world isn’t the fairytale I believed in as a sheltered middle-class white girl.  What only happens to other people, with other kinds of lives, happened to me.  The world let me down, it hurt me.  Justice didn’t exist.  And I began to live in fear, the panic zone being my constant, bravado getting me through and papering over cracks, sometimes failing, falling, sinking. 

Since then, I have started again, several times.  I moved a lot, looking for somewhere safe.  I re-evaluated some friendships, I re-evaluated my career, my life; I re-evaluated my values.  For a while, I was quite ill, but the miracles of psychiatry mean that I am no longer papering over cracks, coping, I am ‘cured’.  I can do this world.

My approaching 40th birthday last year triggered a lot of deep thinking in me about what I wanted to be doing in my working life for the next 20-30 years.  And it wasn’t what I was doing.  I had one of the most awesome jobs on the planet, having a part in defining the marketing strategy for one of the best brands in the UK, but it wasn’t fulfilling me.  A coaching session helped me to visualise what I wanted to be doing longer term and create a plan for getting there.  I got a secondment, I created opportunities to fill the gaps in my experience.  I was creating the future I wanted.

The opportunity to start my own company probably occurred about 6 months earlier than I’d planned; I wasn’t quite ready, I’d wanted some time to let it settle on me, to build some client & project leads, to get my name ‘out there’.  But you can’t pass-up the opportunity to make your dreams come true when opportunity comes knocking.  And so here I am, starting again.

This time, though, I’m not starting again because I’ve been torn down.  I’m not trying to pick up the pieces of my life post-divorce, or post-trauma, or due to a breakdown.  I’m starting again from a place where this is my conscious, positive decision to create the future I want, to help create a world I want to live in and to always be learning, always be curious, always be starting something new.  Again.