twee, with a touch of cheese…

This year we managed to get away for a whole 3 nights together for a little holiday. And what exotic location do you think we ended up in? Why Co. Clare of course. Our nearest neighbour. Just over there. I can see if from my house. But before you mistake my tone as complaining, I’m going to jump in to say that I absolutely LOVE Clare. Always have. And anytime I’ve gone there (this may have only been the third time in my whole life, for shame) I wonder why I don’t go there more often. And it would be very easy to view a summer break,almost in your own backyard, as not a break at all. But in life, and on holidays it would seem, you get back what you put in. And we threw ourselves completely into being tourists for those three days. Now on the first full day there, my little lady wasn’t well, so the boys went off to the Ailiwee Caves while us girls hung about the hotel and walked around its grounds,followed by a lovely lunch, some time in the indoor play zone and finishing up with a 2 hour nap. This was worth the trip alone – girl time is very precious. But after that, we hit the road and sunk ourselves into the beauty of the Burren. Limestone and Moss, what a combination for the senses…..


The hotel was The Inn at Dromoland, and the places we went to were : Craggaunowen, The Burren Perfumery, The Aillwee Caves, Caherconnell Stone Fort (and sheep dog trials) and The Burren Nature Sanctuary.

I think the photobombing above pretty much sums it all up but I’ve just a little story to finish – At Caherconnell, they have a lovely cafe with a delicious menu, but they also sell their own cheese (beautiful smoked cheese,and a black pepper one, and a garlic and nettle variety) from the sheep that we’d just spent time with outside. I love cheese, so I was stocking up, whilst also getting cappuchino’s, bananas, Ribena and oaty biscuits for the hungry mouths that were waiting for me in the car. In my to-ing and fro-ing, I managed to somehow jump ahead of a man (who had to’d and fro’d back himself to get some cake), so that when the cashier turned to me, she gave a little start, obviously expecting the man she was just serving. I too got a bit of a start, and apologised for skipping ahead. He gave a smile, and said to us ” no worries at all, go ahead, sure you’re much prettier that I am ” I gushed ‘Oh why thank you very much, I think you may have made my day”, and then stopped to check with him “now before I get too delighted with myself” I said laughing, “Are you talking about me or are you talking about her ?” looking in the direction of the the blonde waitress. She started to laugh, and the man was laughing. I told him to go first, as I was feeding the masses and would be there an age and his tea would be cold, so he did, and as he was paying, he commented to me what a nice place it was. And as he was walking off to take a seat, he said “It was lovely to meet you”. “And you” I replied. This whole exchange took all of I’d say two minutes. But in that time a connection was made. Between three strangers. In those two minutes you could see what being kind, being gracious and having a good old laugh could achieve. And I didn’t want to leave it there. I wanted to seal this encounter somehow. So I ran back to the shelf and picked up a little block of cheese. I said to the girl, “you know what, I really feel the need to buy that man some cheese”. She thought it was a lovely thing to do. She also may have thought it was a bit weird, but never said. I walked over to the man’s table as I was leaving and handed him the little brown package – ” Here you go, I got you some of the cheese. It was lovely meeting you, Take care”. He looked at me and was a little surprised (quite possibly thinking I was weird also) but seemed so genuinely happy. And that made me happy. And I left.

Back in the car, as we were setting off, I said to TQM, “I just bought a man some cheese”. He shrugged and said, ‘Of course you did”, as he started to pull away from the verge, as if  I always buy random strangers random shit. But seriously folks, if our little holiday to Clare has thought me anything, it’s never ever shy away from an opportunity to enjoy a bit of Irish twee and to buy somebody a bit of cheese!




the brave face…

At this moment in time, I’m sure that there are not many people left out there that have not heard about the very sad passing of Robin Williams. I would not like to assume anything about his death, or his life for that matter, or the reasons or explanations that could be offered with regards to the why and how, only to say that it has bittersweetly highlighted two very real things in todays society. And that is Depression and Suicide.

I was prompted to write this post after I read Ricky Gervais’ post on Facebook, quoted –
“I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Robin’s death. He was a lovely man. Even when he wasn’t feeling good he would still be doing his thing and keeping everyone laughing. There will never be another quite like him. RIP”
And there is was. Staring right out at me. Can’t you see it? Its the Brave Face.
“even when he wasn’t feeling good he would still be doing his thing and keeping everyone laughing” – that’s it right there. The Brave Face.
This Brave Face is worn by thousands of people every day. I might even venture to say millions of people, although I’m not statistically informed. It’s the face that says, ‘sure I’m grand’, or ‘ I’m not worried about money’, ‘I don’t care what people think of me, I know I’m a good person’, ‘nobody wants to hear my problems anyway’, ‘ if I say anything they’ll think I’m mad’, ‘ I don’t want everyone knowing I’m on happy tablets’, ‘this mothering thing is easy’. It’s the face that says ‘I’m not depressed”. And it’s time to remove the mask.
In 2005 I went through an extraordinarily stressful time in my job. In hindsight, a lot could have been avoided by just facing up to some issues instead of trying to be everything to everyone. But hindsight is twenty twenty as they say. I’d come home from work and go into my bedroom and collapse onto my bed. I was staying in my mam and dads at that stage. I’d fall asleep. Then I’d get woken by my sister, telling me to get up and have something to eat because it was 8 o’clock in the evening. I’d get up, annoyed usually, because I was so tired, eat something then sit and watch television until it seemed a reasonable time to go to bed.I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and would rudely answer any attempt at polite chit chat. And then I would lie awake in bed, the pit of my stomach raw with worry and pain, my brain feeling like it was going to explode, churning over sequences of events, mostly work related and money related, until eventually my body would overcome my brain and fall into a deep sleep at around 4am, only to be woken abruptly by the alarm a few hours later to get me up for work. I’d go back into work and act like everything was fine, I was going to be grand, I’d work it all out before anyone could notice. The fear of getting into trouble, or of people thinking I couldn’t cope or that I was incompetent was enough to get me through the day until I came home and repeated the cycle all over again.
I went to the doctor. I told her I wasn’t sleeping, I was getting anxiety attacks, crying a lot, couldn’t catch my breath, tired and moody all the time and that I was getting rapid blackouts across my eyes and spells of brain ‘jumping’ that made me suspect and almost fully convince myself that I had a brain tumour. She was lovely. She said that It seemed I was suffering with anxiety related depression. ‘I’m sure I absolutely am not’ – I thought to myself at the time. She explained it all. Serotonin inhibitors and the like. She gave me different options, but maintained that the best was a combination of tablets and counselling.
All of a sudden, I was a person with depression, and on tablets. Did that make me broken? Was I less of a person because of it? Would people think I was mental, and never trust my judgement again? Well I thought I was all of the above, so explained to people close to me that I was taking tablets to alleviate stress and anxiety – it just sounded better to me. But I did what the doctor ordered. I spoke to a counsellor through work, I took my tablets and over a short space of time I was able to look at my work situation for what it was – a situation….at work… not a life or death scenario, just a shit time, and I dealt with the fallout of that, hard as it was, I stuck it out, I stood my ground, I took responsibility and I slept at night. I have to add that it was in this period that I met TQM, so the weekends we spent together on Inis Oirr were incredibly healing – nothing like stepping away from something to see what it truly is. Inis Oirr has my heart.  After about nine months (I hasten to add that I was reviewed by my doctor every three months) I started to actually forget to take my tablets. I took that as my body not needing to remind me to take them, that I’d actually come out the other side. The doctor concurred and I came off them slowly over a couple of weeks. It was done I was no longer ‘depressed”.
Roll on four years ago, and six months after I had my second little man, I went to my doctor in Dublin, (same one as before thankfully – I have to note at this point, it will always be in your best interests to find yourself a good doctor and a good dentist!) I told her that I my brain was working overtime, I was snapping all the time, I was roaring at my toddler out of frustration, then falling into a heap crying afterwards because I was bursting with so much love for my boys, and so much guilt for not being perfect.I was breastfeeding and I was sleep deprived. She said that I was being too hard on myself, that I had an almost 3 year old and a breastfeeding 6 month old, and I was living on an island away from family and friends – without any support, if you would. She said I was superwoman. I laughed. She said I had post natal depression. I gasped slightly, because I was sure whatever it was I was feeling had nothing to do with my boys. I adored them. She said my stores of my happy hormone were depleted. It was tablet time again. I stopped breastfeeding, started taking my tablets, and started writing EVERYTHING down along the lines of ‘The Morning Pages’ from Julia Camerons book, The Artists Way. It was my alternative to counselling when you live on an island. After six months, I started forgetting the tablets again, and slowly and surelyI was off them and I was not depressed anymore.
Last year, I was not pleasant to live with. I was on tablets for 4 months.
A few special people know all this. But I wonder did anyone else guess that I was going through something, or was my Brave Face really that good.
So here is the point to all of this. I’m not ashamed of who I am. I know who I am. People I love, and who love me know who I am. I am not broken. I cannot be fixed. I adore my children, and my family and friends. I need help sometimes. I yell quite a lot, but don’t need tablets. I know my body and I know my mind. I’m lucky. I can read my own signals, even when putting on my brave face. I am the same as anyone else out there that suffers with mental health – whether it’s mild, chronic, post-natal, bi-polar. I will never not be free of depression, it’s in my make-up, but I’m blessed to be supported in my life that I never have to deal with things alone, even if sometimes I bring out the mask.
You are never alone. Reach out and you will find your light.
Hope you all have a bright tomorrow!
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