The house is booming with anxiety. Booming I tell you. Finley is about to jet off to Paris and he is having absolute horrors about the entire matter. There is much to worry about. His first trip on an aeroplane after a lifetime of panic attacks at the very idea. The fright of the noise at take-off. His Dad’s imaginary lack of organisational skills (though Mark has the entire trip planned with military detail: even down to the number of pairs socks I am to insist Finn pack and NOT A SOCK MORE!), French trains, French policeman with guns, French food secretly stuffed with gluten. The possibility that the plane will crash, that his Dad will be too excitable (he is a very excitable man) and display his ludicrousity to the French public, and that worst of all, French McDonalds might be too French altogether!
On and on it goes. Worry alternating with the kind of rage that screeches “I don’t even want to go!” when in reality he knows that this is destined to be the loveliest of adventures he alone will share with his Dad. That it is the very stuff that memories will be made of. That together we have done all that we can to make it as calm and as wonderful as can be. But that we have to keep inviting him to expand his horizons even when we know how terribly scared he is, or else we would be failing him as his parents.
And then there is Ste. Tunnelling his way through withdrawal from all medication with a sharp, occasionally biting tongue and stoic determination. A decision supported by his doctor and therapists because a combination of injected testosterone and ever higher doses of Fluoxetine have only brought him to his knees. While the benefits of anti-depressants are so endlessly debated, for Ste they have been nothing more than a mask that slips away too soon and leaves in its wake, debilitating aches, anhedonia more destructive than any tantrum could be, and a kind of exhausted vitality that could send even the strongest of us, totally off our heads.
Life within the walls of Chez Brocante, then has become an endless round of managing moods and worries. An endurance test in the kind of swampy territory stretching out into the middle distance. While the drama of a teenager spooked by the new, will be quickly soothed by the wonder that is Paris, (just as we have over the years soothed similar anxiety with proof that worry that rarely comes to pass, and creates instead, memories to be treasured), managing the peaks and troughs of mental illness is more exhausting than it has the right to be.
So I have built walls made of hope and truths. I have stacked books up in front of drama and turned my attention away from the examination of poor mental health’s ever more convoluted beliefs and outrageous lies. Not in itself the withdrawal of support, but a refusal now to allow it to consume us the way it had done. A shift towards normality that insists on routine and the kind of commitment to holistic well-being that encourages depression to loosen her spiky nailed grip on him, and fills the bloody puncture holes she leaves behind not with synthetic hormones, nor the dubious replacement of chemicals we cannot be sure any of us are actually missing, but with the truth of what is. Not what was, or what might be. A reality check of sorts that says endless discussion about what has been lost or whether we will be what we want to be tomorrow is about as helpful as a needle in the flesh of a heroin addict.
Because if I don’t I too will drown. Because if I don’t Ste will believe more in the depression than he does in his own strength to learn to live in spite of it. I have no illusions that tomorrow he will wake up healed: that all the supplements or therapists in the world will mend childhood trauma, low testosterone AND PTSD. Neither of us do. But I do believe that we better stack the odds up against allowing it to destroy us, if we view it not as a wall between us, nor a monster looming over us, but simply as a companion on our journey we neither welcome, nor resent. A fact. a truth. A reality.
Today then: the panic of a lost pair of jeans my almost sixteen year old baby cannot leave the country without. A new commitment to a simple diet and supplement protocol designed to support better mental health. Four days ahead of us while both children are on holiday to remember who we are and why we are together. A cinema date. The finishing of a book that describes too closely one of my own experiences and has the tears tripping me with its truths. The worry of my boy being out of the country for the very first time! Spring onion omelettes, eucalyptus showers and early nights reading by the pink light of the salt lamp.
This then is life. Raw and real and broken and lovely. No more time to waste talking ourselves into corners, but time to put a leash of the black dog and walk these green hills regardless.