Dear “Concerned Friend”
When I posted my blog post this week, telling the story of my battle with mental illness, I’ll be honest with you – it took some guts. I did question whether I was ready to share that with so many people, whether it would change peoples opinions of me or have them question my health and my sanity. But I still shared it. Because ultimately, it was important and, as I have subsequently found, it helped a lot of people.
So when you messaged me, with false bravado from behind your computer screen, and asked me, “Are you not embarrassed to share so much of your life on your blog?”, I have to admit, I was feeling a little hurt. Because in all fairness, you aren’t the first person to ask me that, nor the first person to think it I’m sure, but the implication that I should be embarrassed or ashamed was a low blow and a reminder of the ignorance surrounding not only mental illness, but of me as a person.
When I started this blog it wasn’t for you, or for anybody else to read. It was for me, for my own sanity first and foremost, but also a record for the children, of our lives as they grow and the journey we have made together. It was a place to write down every thought in my head, however crazy they may be perceived, and to raise awareness of issues that are dear to my heart. It has taken a lot of bravery to press that share button at times, to put myself out there and lay my soul bare, but it has been hugely therapeutic in doing so. And I appreciate that sometimes it may be difficult for you to read my posts, that it may make you feel uncomfortable or emotional, that there may be times when you question whether I should have even shared those thoughts at all. But that is your problem, not mine.
A few months ago, a new “concerned friend” questioned why I had told her that I have five children. She politely advised me that in future, perhaps it would be for the best if I didn’t tell people about Joseph, if I simply told them that there are just the four children so as not to cause any upset. “It can be quite upsetting”, she had said, “Sometimes people don’t know how to take it”. And later, I had beaten myself up for merely nodding along, my heart pumping out of my chest with pent up anger, for not placing my hands around her neck and telling her, “How dare you!”. How dare you imply that the loss of my son was un-comfortable for you. How dare you make me feel ashamed to mention his name, to tell you that he existed, to share with you that he was just as much a part of my family as the other children.
Likewise, a “concerned friend” casually asked me whether the children were aware of my blog, whether Lewis inparticular was upset that I would share so much of our lives on the Internet? There was the underlying implication, so thinly veiled with a smile, that I was putting the children at risk by sharing their names and photographs with “God knows who”. And I told them, I’m not stupid. I’m an intelligent, well-educated, protective mother who would never put my children at risk, never share something that would put my children in danger and would never deliberately embarrass my children with photos or stories that could come back to haunt them years later. Yes I talk about the children, this is a parenting blog afterall, yes I share photos of them, talk about the highs and the lows, but where’s the harm in that?
For me, knowing that when my children are older, when they are teenagers or parents themselves, the thought that they will have this blog to look back on is priceless. For them to be able to look back on the times we have shared, to laugh at old photos, anecdotes, memories of holidays, birthdays, occasions that they have long forgotten, how is that a bad thing? To read how loved they are, how we longed for them, went to hell and back just to get them here safely, how we never gave up hope of having the family we had dreampt of, tell me how that could ever be an negative? To read about their brother, about the babies we lost, about the struggles that I faced, to see me as not just their “Mum” but as a human being who made mistakes just like they undoubtedly will, tell me how is that something to be ashamed of?
And I know that you may read this, or perhaps not given that my last post was so offensive to you, and think that I should not have shared this so publicly, that yet again I have embarrassed myself with over-sharing, but why not? What is so wrong with being honest and open? What is so wrong with just telling it like it is? What kind of world would it be if we all went around sugar coating our lives, editing out all of the bad stuff, pretending that life was just a bed of roses? Why shouldn’t we talk about the days we are struggling to stay afloat, how parenting is the hardest job in the whole world, how relationships aren’t all romance and flowers? Why shouldn’t we acknowledge that life can be so cruel, the fact that some of us are simply trying our hardest just to survive? Why shouldn’t we talk about mental illness, about stillbirth, miscarriage, marital woes and those days when the baby just won’t stop crying? Heck, that’s half of the problem isn’t it? That everybody is just SO afraid to talk for fear of being judged??
And surely, if these things are embarrassing or shameful to you, if you find these subjects are all still such a taboo, doesn’t that say more about you as a person than it does me…?
So thank you for your concern, it has been duly logged in the “Could not give a tiny rats ass” folder in the back of my mind.
Yours, Laura Dove.
Mummy Blogger Extraordinaire.