50 Shades of Inadequacy

I am going to have a wee rant while sitting here with my (carefully measured) glass of low alcohol wine.

Do join me.

Yes drinking alone; I’m just 3 steps away from AA’s own 12 steps.

Today I’m not going to give myself a hard time about hitting wine o’clock at 5 pm on a Tuesday.  After all, there are so many more shades of inadequacy that the information age is throwing t me and you.  It is these 50 shades of inadequacy I would like to rant about.

But first, let me ask you; Did you floss today? Meditate? What is your fruit and veg intake like? How many steps have you done? Did you sit?

WTF?

Are you telling me, you don’t have a standing desk?

How about super-foods? Ancient grains?

Why are you eating grains didn’t you know beef was the new Quinoa? (FYI it’s not true, but there you go). 

Did you try my recommendations about pacing your breathing?

Parents, how are your school volunteering hours? Is your homework done? Screen time?

How many old resentments have you let go of today? 

Gratitude, now you must have shown at least some gratitude today? Patience?  What about charity?

Is it just me feeling the pressure?  It used to just be beautiful woman on bus stops and TV adds making me feel not-quite-worthy.  Today every manner of pressure is beaming into every area of my life, via multiple channels and devices.

10 easy steps to this

5 steps to that

50 things to never say to your children

13 things to always say to your children

3 weeks to flat belly

Isn’t motherhood a chance to hate yourself even more?

As I try and hide in my office enjoying my wee rant my child screams at me “THE. INTERNET. IS. NOT. WORKING!!”.

What is my response? 

Guilt. 

It must be my fault.  My inability to set boundaries. My inability to consistently honour the 6-steps-to-awesome-parenting. My strong desire for a quiet time and glass of wine ahead of a meltdown. When did I become responsible for so much? For my chances of early death by any cause? The vibe in my office? The Syrian crisis?

It’s a fact that reading woman’s magazines leaves us feel worse about ourselves. I had thought that not all woman magazines were created equal, that ‘my’ magazines were different, motivating … packed-full of useful health information and tips and stories of real woman.

Increasingly I notice the same celebrity focus as the ‘trashy’ mags.   The difference is the celebrities must be self-made, super healthy and perky and usually selling their own book or advice or magic elixir.  

Sure, they throw in a few uplifting articles about positive ageing but don’t seem to notice the “10 steps to younger skin” on the facing page.  The last health magazine I read left me with the same slightly guilty, cheap and unworthy feelings I always associated with the trashy mags and nights out on the booze chasing boys in my 20s.

I am a woman (in truth a middle-aged one), I am interested in my physical and mental health and I want to be motivated and supported in those goals. The key subtlety that seems to be missing from my media just now is … I want to feel those goals are achievable. I want a gentle nudge forward. I don’t want to come away feeling my goals are further away.  Feeling that somehow only the beautifully presented, perfectly coifed, naturally slim are allowed these joys.

In case you think my rant on pressure and judgement is unjustified, consider for a moment what the media did to Renee Zellweger a few years back, when she dared to get cosmetic surgery (maybe). This is tough for Renee because if she was not aging well and dared to step out – what would have happened to her then?

It is actually ironic (in an Alanis Morrissette way at least) that she is most famous for a role that made us feel OK as we were. She was everyone’s girl.  She was ‘our’ Bridget.  All our young women neuroses plastered on the big screen and still loveable, oh so loveable, and she got the man. Wow.

Around the time I entered my only midle-age I was thrilled to see Renee back again in ‘Bridget Jones Baby’.  Renee/Bridget reminded me that we are human first and foremost, we sometimes get drunk and fall down, sometimes we care too much about the wrong things, and don’t follow the 12 steps to anything much…. and that we are perfect in our imperfectness. 

Wouldn’t you sooner a day with ‘our’ imperfect Bridget than any number of perfectly coiffed and 12 step following gurus? I know I would.

Of course, don’t get me wrong I, like Bridget, will continue the self-improvement journey, I will even post my own 30 steps to an evidence-based life well lived.  And, like Bridget I will blunder my way through. Like Renee, I’ll get plastic surgery (maybe) if the world starts telling me I can’t earn a living in my industry if I don’t. 

Go well (or should I say ‘blunder on’) in the direction of your dreams,

Yours as Ever,

Dr Rach x 

The Devil Within.

This post is based on my experience reading the wonderful book ‘The Devil Within” by Stephanie Merrit (2008). Published by Vermillion.  If you are anyone you know has ever battled with mental illness – read it.

I do not have bipolar disorder (once called manic depression), yet I recognize so much of myself in Merrit’s terrifyingly honest memoir.

A part of me kept thinking – ‘how can you write this? … all this shame and humiliation. The irony is Merrit; before her bare-all book, was locking the truth away from her friends and family, and in a way – even herself.  She tells hilarious (in a laugh or you’ll throw yourself under the next bus kinda way) stories of faking it with therapists, and health workers sent to check on her.  What kind of lunatic tries to look good with a therapist?  Oh me, that is what kind of lunatic.  I am her, without the snappy intellect, awesome writing skills, or celebrity father to my illegitimate child.  I am also one year older.

The devil within is part autobiography, part research and awesome information on bipolar disorder, depression and postnatal depression.  To me, it still felt like a glorious novel.  I finished the book teary-eyed, wondering desperately – what happened next?  Only to realize with glee she exists, Merrit is flesh and blood.  I can go and see what happened to her in the intervening nine years.  Of course, she is one of those paradoxes, who shares everything while keeping herself private.  So I am stalking following her online and hoping to learn evermore. Was there more love? Did it undo her? Did she move to sea? how is her wee man, (an almost gown one by now I guess)?

I was so taken aback with finding so much in this story. I could almost touch the image of myself young, wine in hand, glistening eyes, a look dangerously on the sexy/carefree – unhinged borderline.  Throwing myself at whatever adventure the night held, dragging whomever and whatever was around with me.  Oh so young and free-spirited and spontaneous … until the trauma of the dawn, full with its self-loathing and regret, fuzzy mouthed and fuzzy memory to match.

Oh but I was fun?

I identify too with the part of her that misses the highs (if not the lows).  There is something about mental illness – sometimes it’s like living in 3D while the rest of the world lives in black and white. Other times it is like living in black and grey when the rest of the world is in technicolour.

It’s as if there is a very small fence, or maybe thin piece of glass –  where my behaviors were just on one side of ‘normal’ and hers just on the other side.  But life had to draw a fence somewhere and label her and not me.  Of course, my mental health is bang outside the normal range in terms of anxiety – so maybe there is something common to different mental illnesses that makes us still part of some ‘club’.  It’s a club where sometimes by joining you get pleased with the hand you were dealt.  There are others there with some better cards and some worse ones, but yours are yours and you’ve kinda got used to the shiters and its nice to think you might not get others.

Reading the Devil Within was more a deep journey for me personally than simply a book to read and share.  It took me into my own Devil, with dazzling glorious company that is Stephanie Merrit – even on a bad day.  I was sad to finish it.  I was sad to finish it and return to the world.  But pleased too, to realize another thing we have in common: the Devil within is quieter, more subdued, not yet left the party, but not dancing naked on the coffee table either.

I strongly recommend this book, not just for those of us battling the Devil within but also for those whose loved ones are, because it might just help you have a wee peek into a world they can’t or won’t explain to you.
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With love

Dr Rach x

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