I've never lied about my struggles with my mental health - and when I reflect on the periods where things have been the most stressful, it's really no coincidence that for me the biggest challenges to my mental health have come at times of great change - of the kind of change that makes me have to reassess my identity.
For example - those first few months of motherhood, where I didn't know what day of the week it was never mind who I was any more. I had gone from being the career woman who always did everything right to being this zombie who couldn't soothe a colic ridden baby.
Then there was pregnancy number 2 - the hyperemesis months - where I had so longed for a lovely pregnancy but ended up living in perpetual fear of boking my anatomy in public. (Which I did, on several memorable occasions). I could not control my body - and this led my mind to take a little wander all of its own.
Other periods of ill health have come with their challenges but most recently it has been the redefining of who I am that has had me swimming in a pit of anxiety. And that pit is a horrible place to me. It's quite dark. It's too warm. It's clammy and sticky and it makes you smell bad. There are distorted mirrors on the walls - so you never see a true reflection of who you are - just weird, fucked up images which make you wonder if you ever really knew yourself at all.
Kind of. But anxiety is a strange place. It's both overly, horrible melodramatic with lashings of over sensitivity and paranoia but it is also, almost impossibly, numbing. Hours have been spent just staring - at nothing. At everything. Watching the numbers tick over on the clock. Crawling under the duvet and sleeping away 2, 3, 4 hours during the day then sitting awake at night - anxiety firing on all cylinders. (One upshot is that my housework gets done with little interruption in the wee small hours).
The accelerator for this current madness?
It's hard to know. I think not having the identity of Claire who works for the Journal any more has played a part. That was 18 years of my life - that is now gone.
Pushing myself creatively - into darker places - has also played a part because to achieve what I want I have to work harder, have to put myself out there more. Have to be afraid of once again (although metaphorically this time) boking my anatomy in public. Having to stand there - vulnerable, exposed, hoping people like the new you. Hoping they validate your choices.
Or maybe, just maybe, there's a little piece of my brain that's always going to be wired a little differently. It's always going to take notions to act the maggot from time to time.
And through it all I, like so many people out there, just keep going. Because that's what we need to do. Even when it is scary (and I am scared a lot of the time at the moment) and even when it hurts (and I hurt a lot at the moment) and even when we really, really don't want to.
My lovely writing friend Rowan Coleman shared a picture of a Post It Note on which she had written "Keep Showing Up" recently. I know Rowan loves that motto - but for me it has been one that really has kept me afloat these last few weeks. Just Keep Showing Up - push through and do it, because the alternative is unacceptable.
Why Skirting the Issue?
For 14 years I wrote my Skirting the Issue column for the Derry Journal each Friday - I may have moved on, but I still have opinions!