Walking with the moon

A creative living in the real world…

Courage in the in-between. November 7, 2014

Filed under: Adventures,Survival Guide — hannahoakland @ 10:03 am

Everyone is writing about courage at the moment. Maybe it’s the fallout from the inevitable half-term trauma. Or perhaps it’s the fact that the temperature dropped twenty degrees overnight and we’re all aware that it’s going to be a long cold winter. Whatever the reason, it’s got me thinking.

(Incidentally, of all the recent courage-related writings, my absolute favourite is Glennon’s description of the day she met Cheez-It-Haymitch-Window-Lady. Seriously, check out Momastery. I absolutely dare you to be the same person afterwards.)

We’ve had our fair share of courage recently. In the small things, admittedly. Courage, nonetheless.

On Wednesday Elvie was brave enough to sit in the ‘magic chair’ all by herself for her dental checkup. Without screaming, or crying. Or any drama at all. And she was brave enough to insist that the slightly-embarrassed dentist examine Purple Bear first, so that she knew exactly what that magic chair would entail.

Joel is getting more courageous by the day. Or crazier. One or the other. Either way he’s now brave enough to jump off tables, sofas and walls. Both feet first, always. And, occasionally he’s brave enough to look down, judge the distance and reach out for my hand to keep him safe. Personally, I prefer those times. I sweat a lot less.

I think about courage a lot. In terms of the children, and in terms of myself. There are plenty of opportunities to be brave in the long slow process of coming-to-terms-with-depression. Some days it feels like I deserve a medal for getting out of bed. Apparently that’s not an Olympic sport yet. I’m working on it.

I have, for the longest time, judged courage in terms of action. Being brave enough to say yes, or brave enough to say no. Sitting in the dentists chair, or reaching out a hand for help. Getting out of bed in the morning. Acts of wild and beautiful bravery, right there.

A few weeks ago I made one of the bravest decisions of my life. And, after hours of frantic writing, editing and rewriting, I sent off a book proposal to a publishing company. For this book. Based on this blog. Right here.

The moment of pressing ‘send’ was fifty per cent courage and fifty per cent blind optimism. I held my mug of tea until my hands stopped shaking, and congratulated myself on having fulfilled my bravery quota until early 2015 at least.

Somewhere in the midst of the email conversation with the editor that followed, and the endless delays to the publishers meeting date that are prolonging the agony of not-knowing-what’s-going-on I realised that big gestures and key moments are not the measure of courage. Not for me, anyway.

For me, the bravery is in the waiting. In the quiet and the dull and the mundane. The space between the big moments.

My courage is most tested though the discussions in my head. Through the constant-checking-of-my-emails and having to keep going even when there’s no response. In daring to believe that I’ll actually be able to write a book, if they say yes. In daring to believe that I’ll still be a worthwhile human being if they say no.

It takes less courage to submit a proposal than it does to tell your friends about it, and risk them knowing if it all goes wrong. As evidenced by how few of my own friends have been kept in the loop. I’ve used up all my bravery by not sending desperate ‘have-you-forgotten-about-me-please-love-me’ follow up emails to the editor. There’s not been much left for everyday life.

I’ve asked for a bracelet for christmas. One that I found on Twitter. One that just says ‘courage.’ It’s really cute. And it helps fund clean water projects, so it’s basically an entirely selfless choice…

Image from www.mudlove.com

Image from http://www.mudlove.com


I won’t just wear it on the big days. The days when I host parties, or send life-changing emails, or go for medication reviews. I’ll wear it on all the days. Even the in-between days. When the bravery is in getting up, getting dressed and being honest with my friends. Or plaiting Elvie’s hair again. Or changing another nappy. Especially on those days.

Because most of the time, I can get through the big days on adrenaline. It’s the in-between days when I need courage. The everyday days. The waiting days.

Goodness knows there are plenty of them.


Playing on swings. Writing books. And other difficult tasks. September 17, 2014

Filed under: Adventures,Depression,Elvie,Joel,Parenting,Survival Guide — hannahoakland @ 10:42 am

Earlier this month, Joel turned two.

Two years old. Already. Finally. It’s confusing. I think we all deserve medals.

To celebrate, we took both children to the park. Followed by pizza with the family. I know. There ain’t no party like a toddlers party.

In fairness, we took them to a good park. Full of wooden play equipment, natural building materials and opportunities for risk-taking. We even ate marshmallows. It was quite the treat.

Joel had a wonderful time. Running up hills and flinging himself down slides. Bouncing on the trampoline and greeting every new child with a shout of “Hello, friend.” He’s delicious.

Elvie was struggling. Partly because it wasn’t her birthday. So she wasn’t allowed to open the presents. Partly because it hadn’t been her idea to go to the park. And partly because, after the Great Bear Hunt of 2014, she hadn’t been allowed to take her special night-time teddy with her.

All in all, she was less than impressed. Which she made very clear. I would have heard her screams even if I’d stayed at home.

The swings were the final straw. I was pushing her, like the dutiful mother I am. Except that I was pushing her ‘too high’, or ‘too slowly’, or ‘too wonky.’ Continually. For about ten minutes. At which point, considering that I didn’t even want to  push her in the first place, I decided that I’d had enough abuse for one playtime and left her to it.

I muttered something about how she should try to use her legs, and sat down to imagine that I had, in fact, stayed at home and was curled up in bed with a cup of tea.

Oh, how she screamed.

Wes took Joel to play in a tunnel, and I was left with a human tantrum. Of nuclear proportions.

I had a lot of sweet, kind, empathetic smiles from other parents. Whilst I watched their children swinging. By themselves. Using their legs. On reflection, there probably would have been better times to point that out. Suffice to say, the screaming continued.

Eventually, something inside me broke. As it usually does. When I get beyond the point of anger and frustration and annoyance, and remember that actually, Elvie is my daughter. In every possible way.

That underneath the screaming is usually a fear that she can’t quite put her finger on yet. Like I said, she’s my daughter. In every possible way.

It took a long time. A lot of gasping, and snot, and false starts followed by more raging tears. But we got there in the end.

She was scared.

Not of the swings. But of the swinging. The new challenge. The risk.

Scared of getting it wrong.

My sweet four year old was so scared of not being able to swing properly that she had spent half an hour screaming at the top of her lungs. And come perilously close to spending the rest of the afternoon in the buggy.

My wild, crazy little girl. Who, when given the materials to make a bear-ear headband and an outfit for her teddy, created this.


A tiara and a fairy skirt. For herself.

She’s never been one to play exactly by the rules. She’s an incredible negotiator already.

And yet.

She is driven by an insatiable urge for perfection. By a desperate fear of not being good enough. By the preference for self-sabotage over embarrassment.

Just like her mother.

We had a long chat that afternoon. Sitting on the grassy slope, looking at the swings. A chat about being brave. And taking risks. About right-or-wrong not being the most important issue. About trying. And learning. And making mistakes. And trying all over again.

She got on the swing. Eventually. All on her own. She tried to move herself. To use her legs. And when she couldn’t, I pushed her. This time, she didn’t whinge. So much.

We’ve had a lot of these conversations lately. Me and my girl. I’ve tried to praise her for trying. Rather than succeeding. To not jump on her if something goes wrong. To let her help. Even when it makes the process painfully, tooth-pullingly slow.

We’re working on it.

Which makes yesterday even more ironic. When, after a day of painting playhouses, reviewing and renewing prescriptions, and fraught school runs, I found myself weeping into a bowl of Phish Food. Because I wanted to write a book. But I couldn’t bring myself to start.

Because I’m scared. Scared of getting it wrong.

Because of my own insatiable urge for perfection and my own desperate fear of not being good enough. Because of the voices in my head that tell me I’m deluded. Because I’d almost rather end up sad and bitter than try and fail.


Last night I heard my own words parrotted right back at me. Not by Elvie, thankfully. That would have been a bit too much. Besides, she would have wanted my ice cream.

By Wes. Who sat with me and hugged me, and told me in no uncertain terms to stop fannying around and get on with it.

So here I am. Procrastinating a little, admittedly.

But I’ve looked up publishers. And literary agents. And submission guidelines. I’ve made a reading list. And, so far, stayed off Pinterest.

I am beyond terrified. If you try to talk to me about it, I might throw up on your feet. Sorry. In advance.

It will all be worth it in the end. I hope.

Either way, I’ve heard it’s the trying that counts.

Meet you at the swings?


Woohoo! Or, the day Elvie started school. September 10, 2014

Filed under: Adventures,Depression,Elvie,School — hannahoakland @ 1:53 pm

It’s here. Finally.

The big first day. Of actual, real-life school.

As I write this, Elvie is doing goodness-only-knows-what in her classroom, dressed in her delicious little uniform, surrounded by her friends.

Whilst Wes walks Joel around outside in the buggy, to try and calm the toddler tantrum that ensued when he wasn’t allowed to stay with her.

It’s been a long time coming. For me, anyway.

7 weeks of summer holiday. And 10 days fuming at everyone else’s “first day of school” pictures on Facebook. Seriously. What school in their right mind waits until the 10th of September to open?

We’ve done our very best to make it an occasion. And to conceal at least a little of our bare-faced joy.

She’s had little presents from family members. Special pens. Alphabet charts.

Last night she had a we’re-proud-of-you card, and a free-choice dinner. The opportunity to eat anything in the world, as a special treat. Whatever she wanted. Which, as it turned out, was chicken pie, baked beans and raw carrot. She’s easily pleased.

Today she was up bright and early, asking if it was morning yet? Could she put her uniform on already? Could she wear her special blue hairclips? What bags did she have to take? Could she decorate her water bottle?

Who knows? She’s not the only one that’s new to this.

Several hours, photos, changes of hairstyle and stretches of double-sided sticky tape later, and she was waiting again. This time, in the playground. In a cluster of old friends, new faces and parents trying to get their overexcited offspring to just-stand-still-for-one-picture-please. And the little girl who turned up a few days early for the start of nursery. Oops.

She was nervous, by her own admission. Holding my hand. Not wanting to run off and play just yet. Turns out she is human after all. If you ignore the green skin on her stomach where yesterday’s paint proved a little too stubborn to remove.

And then we went inside.

She is amazing. Just turned 4. In a brand new environment. Albeit one that the nursery staff have prepared her brilliantly for.

Her confidence blows me away.

We found her peg, her drawer, the box for her water bottle. She found her chair, her whiteboard to write her name on. Her own pen and rubber. And she was away. With an absolute gleam in her eye.

A few minutes later, having demonstrated the use of the rubber, I was dismissed, with the traditional “Goodbye, Mummy,” that I’ve come to expect on such occasions. And I watched from the doorway for a moment, as she sat in her chair. Her little blonde head bent over her board. Rubbing. Concentrating. Completely absorbed.

And I smiled. She’s going to be just fine.

As are we all.

This is a big change for everyone. The first day of the next seventeen years of our lives – if you count Joel’s schooling too. Which we probably should.

It’s a change of pace. A change of intensity. More bake sales, more parents evenings, more letters home and endless form-filling. A sabbatical for the Frozen soundtrack. And a gradual letting go of the total influence I’ve had over what she sees, or hears, or learns.

I’m not as scared of that as I thought I’d be. In fact, I’m mostly grateful. Grateful that she has somewhere, just round the corner, to spend her days. With an outdoor classroom in the woods. And a vegetable garden. Not to mention her friends, and the occasional deer.

I’m grateful that she’ll have hours of stimulation, every day. For her mind and her body. Grateful that she’ll have a way to satisfy her desperate thirst for knowledge. That doesn’t involve Google. Or our fridge door.

2014-08-11 09.29.20

I’m grateful that even as I write this, I can see her from my bedroom window. Speeding round the playground on a little yellow scooter. And hear the accompanying whoops.

Yes, she’s very young. Yes, she doesn’t always cope brilliantly with authority figures. Yes, she hasn’t tried the school dinners yet.

But, from where I’m sitting, this looks like the start of something beautiful.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have twenty minutes, and an entire cup of still-hot tea before pick-up time.

Honestly. What’s not to love.



Being Alive. June 30, 2014

Filed under: Adventures,Creativity,Depression — hannahoakland @ 8:32 pm

Eighteen months ago, I sat down at my computer and set up a blog. This blog. I agonised over it for hours…what to call it, which theme to use, how to link it to Facebook. Whether I was brave enough to write anything at all.

I decided that I was. Brave enough. And proved it by waiting six months before I wrote a single word.

That was a year ago. Near enough. Strictly speaking, it was a year ago last week but I’ve been collecting shells on a Cornish beach with my children, so this has had to wait. I’m ok with that.

Either way, my beautiful little corner of the internet is now a whole year old. It even had a ‘cake’. Thanks Wes.


A year is a long time.

This year has been full-on. It’s been a year of owning up to depression. And starting medication. The year in which Elvie started nursery. And had her first case of nits. A year in which I learnt to grow vegetables. Conquered my fear of sewing machines. And decided never to go camping again.

It’s been the year when I realised that, in order to be anything remotely approaching sustainable, I need to go slower. Reflect more. Breathe more deeply. Spend more time outside. Watch less telly. She says, with Wimbledon mumbling away in the background. There’s room for improvement.

A year is a long time. And it feels significant. Especially for me.

I’ve always been one of the ok-I-know-how-this-works-now-I’m-bored types. I get tired of most things within a year or so. Itchy feet for new challenges. Greater possibilities. The longest I’ve ever stayed in one job was almost eighteen months.

Which goes some way to explaining why I find parenting so hard. Seriously. Elvie is nearly four already. That’s a lot of consecutive years.

I’ve suffered the same with my blog. Getting a bit bored. Losing the joy of it. Second guessing myself. Obsessing over stats and Twitter followers rather than writing anything half-decent.

I’ve been scared that nobody would read it. And then scared that everybody would. I’ve convinced myself countless times that I should stop. For a month. Or two. Maybe for good.

But I’m still here. Even after the twelve-month-mark-of-doom. Why? Good question.

The simple answer is this. When I write, I come alive.

I know who I am and what I’m about. It wouldn’t matter if nobody ever read a word of it. Amazingly, they do.

Here’s what I think. People read what I write because, somewhere deep inside, we recognise people who are doing what makes them alive. Really, truly Alive. And we’re drawn to them.

Being Alive is dangerous. It’s a vulnerable situation. Being your honest, open self. Throwing yourself into something. All in. Dispensing with the usual socially appropriate levels of cynicism and disinterest.

This year, it’s proved itself to be a risk worth taking. Being Alive has bought a whole new meaning to community. I’ve had the most amazing chats with the most incredible friends. I’ve had messages from people who have related to my posts or been inspired to deal with their own issues. I’ve laughed with people. I’ve cried with people. People I’ve known for years. People I’ve never met.

An unexpected bonus is that I’m starting to notice other people who are Alive. There are lots of them around.

This weekend we stayed at a Cornish B&B for my grandfather’s birthday party. Pendragon Country House. Seriously, stay there. All of you. Just make sure someone else is paying.

The house is beautiful. The garden is lovely. The food is stunning. Everything – jam, bread, pastries, three-course dinners – is home made. The welcome is phenomenal. There’s an actual suit of armour.

Within five minutes of arriving we felt totally at home. Despite the potentially perilous two-small-children-and-antique-china combination.

By the time we left, two days later, the owners felt like family. We swapped Cbeebies parodies and Gigglebiz impressions. There were hugs and kisses and thank you’s all round.

They were born for hospitality. For cherishing people. For spoiling them. For going above and beyond. For creating the possibility of an idyllic weekend, even with two small children in your luggage. They were Alive. And it made us feel amazing.

Being with people who are Alive rubs off on you. Howard Thurman sums it up better than I ever could.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

For Nigel and Sharon, it’s hospitality that brings them to life. For me it’s writing.

For you, it might be accounting. Or gardening. Making music. Listening to people. Teaching. Painting. Whatever it is, do it. Please. Don’t be afraid.

I need you. We all do.

You won’t regret it. I promise.


Slow. May 12, 2014

Filed under: Adventures,Operation Slow — hannahoakland @ 1:27 pm

Fittingly, this post has taken an age to write. Because life moves so fast.

Elvie is weeks away from starting school. Thank goodness. It’s impossible to keep her sufficiently entertained at home anymore. She gets bored. And restless. Which leads to this…


(Yes, it’s Sudocrem. Yes, it did come out. Yes, it took five washes. And yes, it was almost instantly replaced by Pritt Stick.)

…and also this…


(Yes, it’s lipstick. Yes, it did (just about) come out. Yes, it took an hour of (Wes’) elbow grease. And yes, our bedroom floor really is that filthy. You’re welcome.)

She’s non-stop. All the time. And it seems Joel is determined to follow in her footsteps. He is running, jumping, dancing and talking. All. Day. Long. Not only that, he’s decided to drop his nap. His last precious nap. That tiny pause of childfree time in my day.

All things considered, it’s a little frantic round here at the moment. Even on the good days. It is hard, hard work. And my brain is paying the price.

I just need a rest. All the time. Even I know that’s not feasible.

A few weeks ago I got invited to join a mindfulness course. Three Wednesday nights of peace, quiet and meditation.

To be honest, I would have gone if it was flower pressing, or three intensive weeks of badger spotting. Just the chance of a cup of tea in a calm, dimly lit room on the other side of town from bedtime. Heaven.

I didn’t really know what mindfulness was. I just knew that I needed to do it. Right now.

Within ten minutes I realised that this was my sanctuary. Flickering candles, meditations, prayers, quiet conversation.

No agenda. No to do list. No expectations.

An entire hour in the week when all I needed to do was breathe.

An entire hour in the week when I felt at peace. With myself. With my family. With the world.

An entire hour in the week to be myself. Stripped back, uncomplicated, honest. Without saying a word.

It was, needless to say, a gorgeous experience. I won’t be the only one mourning the end of the course over the next few weeks. Or the only one desperately trying to figure out how to build it into my everyday life.

Because, far from translating seemlessly into a calmer, more peaceful life, those three hours of mindfulness have only served to highlight the stressed-out, manic nature of my day-to-day existence.

The pointless pressures I put on myself. The unrealistic expectations that I live by. That I put on my children.

It’s only during these last three weeks that I’ve become aware of the predominant theme of this blog. Whether it’s been dealing with Christmas, tidying shelves or packing away the things that I ‘should’ be.

It’s all been driven by an unconscious awareness, hidden somewhere in the back of my mind, that life is too fast and too complicated.

That happiness doesn’t come from being busy. That it’s ok to be completely out of touch with the ‘must-watch’ tv series of the moment. That nobody will die as a direct result of me not changing my Facebook status every day. That sometimes, often times, simple is best.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this. Last weekend Wes had an epiphany which, if he agrees, I’ll post here soon.

Turns out we both need slow and simple. He’s a keeper.

I’m still trying to work out what it means. In practical terms. I’m tentatively writing something of a manifesto. It’s a work in progress. But when it’s ready, I’ll share it.

I’m hoping that this blog will be a companion to our snail-pace journey. A tiny record of an attempt at simpler living. With stories about beans on toast. And poo. Obviously.

Slow. Simple. Honest.

It’s a revolution just waiting to happen.

And I think it’s exactly what we need.


Sometimes the small things are the big things… October 23, 2013

Filed under: Adventures,Depression — hannahoakland @ 7:20 pm

Last night I went to my first ever Pilates class. Somewhat disappointingly, it did not look like this.

copyright FreeDigitalPhotos.net Ponsuwan

copyright FreeDigitalPhotos.net Ponsuwan

I appreciate that for some of you, turning up at an exercise class is a regular occurrence. Or even your job. Let’s just say that I haven’t exercised for a while. In fact, not for a long time. Had-to-go-out-in-the-morning-to-actually-buy-some-joggers kind of long. Years.

It’s always been part of my recovery plan. Doing more exercise. But one of the sneakiest things about depression is how brilliant it is at making up excuses. They’re always so plausible. The baby isn’t settling properly, I shouldn’t really leave him. We can’t afford it. I’d only look like an idiot. I don’t have the energy. On and on and on.

I can’t count the amount of fun I’ve turned down over the last few years. Birthday parties, hen do’s, dinner invitations, playdates. I desperately wanted to go. I just couldn’t face it. Anything outside of my usual routine was too much for me to cope with. The stress was just too high.

Occasionally I would accept an invitation. Only to pull out at the last minute, using the children or babysitters or exhaustion as an excuse. Because I couldn’t admit the truth. That actually, I was scared. Scared I would fall apart. That everyone would realise I was no fun anymore. That I wouldn’t be able to keep my brave face on for long enough. Honestly, the sofa and the telly are much safer.

In the end, I was ambushed into exercising. Sometimes that’s the only way. A friend at Toddlers on Monday told me about the Pilates class. At the community centre at the end of my road. Which ruined my tried and tested ‘I don’t drive so I won’t be able to get there’ excuse. She said she was going. I expressed an interest, and by the time I got home she’d already picked up a leaflet and dropped it through my door. Efficiency wins.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go. To try and drag up some endorphins. To have an hour to myself with no danger of screaming children. To try and recapture something of the dance classes that I used to love.

The good news was that I only had 36 hours to stay positive, and not pull out. The bad news is that 36 hours gives you more than enough time to think of excuses.

I actually can’t do it. I don’t own a single pair of jogging bottoms.

That’s easily solved by a walk to Matalan. But it’s raining, and the children have colds. I probably shouldn’t put them through a well wrapped-up buggy trip to the shops.

Also, my knee hurts a bit while I’m walking. It might be dangerous to even attempt any exercise.

So even though I have the joggers, I haven’t had time to try them on. They probably won’t fit. I’ll just have to stay at home.

Oh. They do fit. But I don’t have any suitable footwear.

Well, I do have my old ballet shoes. But if I wear them everyone will presume I’m still a dancer and be disappointed by my lack of flexibility, or else they’ll think I’m some kind of pretentious knob.

Sack it, I love them. I’ll wear them. Although I’m not even sure if my friend’s going. I haven’t had a text. Should I call her? What if she’s changed her mind?

I’m a grown woman, I can go by myself. But I haven’t actually double checked if the class is on. What if I get there and it’s shut?

And the children are a bit angsty. Maybe I shouldn’t be leaving Wes to put them to bed by himself. Not when he’s had a hard day at work.

Ooh, it’s the Bake-Off final – I’ll miss the start if I go out now.

Honestly, it’s a wonder I made it out the door. Especially in the rain. But I did.

None of my friends were there, I had no idea what I was doing, my arms are so sore today that picking Joel up is a mission, and I’m definitely going back again. Every week. It was amazing.

I learnt some important things last night. Firstly, that I am more than capable of walking into a strange room, filled with strangers, and having a great time. Nobody even laughed at me once.

Secondly, if you deal with one excuse at a time, it’s much easier to get over them and achieve something. It’s looking at them all at once that makes it tricky.

And thirdly, it is impossible to overstate how comfortable a pair of £10 Matalan jogging bottoms are. I am literally never going to take them off.

Much as I hate to admit it, It is perhaps true that exercise does, in fact, make you feel better about yourself. It was either that or the cake and ice-cream we had afterwards while we watched the Bake-Off on catchup…

For some people, going to an exercise class is a very small thing. For me, it was a test of all the therapy and drugs and determination that I’ve put in over the last few months. And it made me think.

In the eyes of most people, I didn’t achieve much yesterday. I made it through the day with both children intact and went to an exercise class.  For me, that’s huge. Totally deserving of cake and ice-cream.

Sometimes the small things are the big things. And I think they deserve to be celebrated too.



Not being perfect is actually fine. I think. September 25, 2013

Filed under: Adventures,Creativity — hannahoakland @ 1:11 pm

So here’s the thing. It turns out I’m a perfectionist.

Perhaps this is blindingly obvious to everyone else. But it’s had me fooled. I’m not really a details person, so I assumed that ruled out perfectionism. It just didn’t seem compatible with my life. With children who spend most of the day looking like this…


…or this…


On Monday afternoon I sent Elvie to nursery with hair that hadn’t been brushed. Since Sunday morning. Like I said, details. Not my strong point.

And yet, it would seem that perfectionism has got its crafty little claws into me. Despite my best efforts, and those of my children.

Several people have pointed out that the blog posts have been a lot less regular lately. Well spotted. Mostly, I’ve told them that I’ve been busy. That is at least partly true. It’s hard to do anything in an evening when it takes two and a half hours to get Joel to sleep. It can be hard to find the energy when we’re in the middle of a very silly fortnight where Wes is away substantially more than he’s at home.

It’s not the whole truth though.

The problem is, I’ve been getting a bit freaked out. I have so many ideas that they create chaos in my head that takes hours to untangle. I’ve always wanted to write, and now I’m writing and people are reading it and they like it.  Which should be great. Except that it turns out that succeeding is just as scary as failing. Maybe even more so. After all, if you’ve never succeeded, you’ve got nothing to lose.

This is familiar territory. I was the child at school who would deliberately get the wrong answers in tests, so as not to get full marks. Even in primary school the headteacher had to bribe me with an origami swan so that I would read to him properly, without pretending to struggle.

Back then there was a good reason for blending into the background. Kids are mean, and if you stand out then you’re easier to tread on. I learnt that the hard way.

But now? Now I’m a grown-up. Or at least, I’m 30 and married with two children and a house. Which means that I pass as grown-up pretty easily. I’m not so scared of being trodden on. I’ve given birth to two babies – I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be scared of anything.

So I’ve been wondering. If I’m not scared of what people will think of me, why am I still terrified of succeeding? So terrified that I’ve been scaling down my writing, almost subconsciously. Knowing that eventually I’ll get to the point where it hardly seems worth doing anymore, and I’ll quietly give up. Convince myself that it was nice while it lasted, and move on to something else.

After a lot of soul searching, I’ve come to this conclusion. I don’t think I deserve to succeed.

Why? Because I’m not perfect. And neither is my blog. Because sometimes I’ll have opinions that people don’t agree with. Or I’ll write a post that makes barely any sense. Or one that’s deeply uninteresting to anyone but me. I won’t write often enough to keep people interested. There will be typos and incorrect grammar. And eventually everyone will realise that I’m just a fraud and stop reading.

I know. It’s depressing. And this is with the medication. Just imagine what it was like in here a few weeks ago.

To be honest though, I’ve had enough. I’m so fed up of tying myself in knots trying to be perfect. Of giving up on things that I love, and that I desperately want to succeed at. I want to at least have tried.

So I’m back. I might not write every day, but that’s ok. I’m not perfect and neither is my life, or my children. Sometimes the chaos of the day will get in the way. Sometimes I’ll be exhausted. Sometimes I’ll need a night to untangle a load of ideas, or go out, or just watch a film on the sofa. But I’m determined to stop being so British and undeserving. To open myself up to the idea that actually, sometimes good things might happen.

That actually, sometimes, I can make good things happen.

Not perfect things. But good things. That’s good enough for me.


One of them. September 4, 2013

Filed under: Adventures,Depression — hannahoakland @ 7:43 pm

Today we celebrated Joel’s first birthday. In the traditional way. Presents? Check. Cards? Check. Ice Cream? Check. First, slightly terrifying, dose of antidepressants? No? Just me then.


These last few weeks have been really hard. The summer holidays have stolen away our carefully crafted routine. Wes has either been away or working crazy hours. And Joel has been scarily ill with what turned out to not be measles after all. It’s been a lot to deal with.

Wes was home for a few hours between jobs at the weekend and we embarked on a conversation that predictably, considering our mutual levels of exhaustion, turned into an argument. About how much work he does and how, although he always runs it by me first, I don’t feel like I have any real decision-making power. If he doesn’t work, we don’t eat. And if he does work, I can’t cope. It’s a tough call to make.

I did make a call, in the end. To the doctor. He thinks the drugs are a very good idea. I wish I could be so sure.

I know with absolute certainty that we can’t carry on as we are. Up until now, Wes has been my antidepressant. When he’s around I can keep my head above water. Things are manageable. When he’s not here, everything is too much. That’s not fair on any of us. Something needs to change. And that something is me.

It’s annoying. Really annoying. I’ve been doing everything right. I’m talking to people. I’m writing. I’m following all my therapy, albeit a little slower than I should. I’ve read some amazing books. I’m getting out of the house.

I was brought up to believe that if you work hard, and do what you’re supposed to, things will turn out right. Not this time, they haven’t.

I don’t actually like taking medicine. I took the pill for a few months and felt as though I’d lost my mind. I have to be persuaded to take nurofen if I have a migraine. Even then I’d rather not. When Joel was born, a year ago today, I made it through to the final pushing stage on a single dose of paracetamol. And now? Now I am ‘one of them.’

One of those people who ticks the “yes, I am on other medications” box. Who turns down alcohol because it’s not a good mix. Part of the ‘Prozac Nation’ that the 90’s held so dear.

I’m scared. Scared of what the side effects might be. Scared of how you stop once you’ve started. Scared of not knowing who I really am anymore. What’s actually me, and what’s the tablets.

In all honesty, I’m also embarrassed. At being one of those people who can’t cope by themselves. ‘One of them.’ I’ve always managed anything I’ve set my hand to. As long as I really wanted to, of course. (And providing there are no over-zealous security guards with buckets of water and threats of police. Letting that one go was very much the sensible option.)

But I can’t manage this. I wasn’t sure whether to even write about it. Whether maybe it would be one confession too far.

I think it’s important. For me, and for all the others who find themselves in the same boat, drifting around with no idea which way the wind is blowing. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride, and your tablets, and admit that you need help. This is one of those times.

I must have looked a little shocked when the doctor agreed so wholeheartedly to my suggestion of medication. He smiled his all-knowing smile and said, “if you’d broken your arm, would you want me to put it in a cast, or leave it dangling around?” It’s a fair point. It’s just that it gets tricky when it’s an illness that nobody can see. And which often gets dismissed as one big self-indulgent grump.

It’s going to take some getting used to. I took my prescription to the biggest pharmacy I could find in an attempt to be anonymous. And as I waited, with the old ladies collecting their osteoporosis tablets, the heroin addicts taking their methodone and the sweet teenage girl who was also picking up antidepressants, I realised something. I can’t get up on my high horse if you judge me for needing pills. Up until yesterday, I would have judged me too.

I don’t know where I stand on the idea that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ But I’m a firm believer in dragging good things out of a crisis. Kicking and screaming, if needs be. Whatever happens over the next few months, or the next few years, I will never be the same. Neither will my view of the world. Or the people in it.

Because in reality, we’re all ‘one of them.’ It’s just that some of us hide it better than others.

Hiding isn’t much of an option anymore. Not now. Not for me. Who knows, this nasty, unexpected little adventure may yet be the making of me.

Let’s hope that’s not just the pills talking.