Well now, fancy meeting you here!
Fear not, I’m not about to preach the perils of drink, it’s only 5 days into the month and I’m already weeping as I walk past the spirit aisle at Morrisons. Out of stupidity or solidarity, I agreed to do Dry January to support my sister in her attempts to detox and get her lifestyle back on track. As a carrot to spur her on I’ve said I’ll be Richard Gere to her Pretty Woman and treat her to a shopping trip at the end of the month, but there’s more than an absence of liquor which paints January in a bleak light for me.
January is the Christmas hangover from hell for me. Before you judge I do love Christmas, I love the traditions, I love my kids’ faces, the joy of knowing that even though I’ve had my pants pulled down by the commercial giants, they at least are happy, which is more than can be said for the gaping hole in my overdraft. Once the presents have been opened and I’ve had enough turkey to warrant digging out my eggbert maternity pants, I find myself sinking quietly.
Even before my dad died, I was always like it. I think the festive season can turn even the most hardened into an emotional rollercoaster, but I have so many ups and downs around this time of year I should be an attraction at Alton Towers!
Depression doesn’t help. My mum will pin it on lots of things. She’ll blame my ex, or secondary school, but the truth is, like shopping receipts, I was good at hiding it. It began way back before mental health movements began trending on Twitter, before I’d heard of the term ‘self-care’. It was something I presumed was evidence of my damning nature.
Thankfully counselling has taught me it’s an illness like any other, just one you can’t see, and unlike a common cold, you can’t dose yourself with Sudafed and Beechams and be right as nine pence in under a week. It often hides behind smiles just as easily as tears.
On top of that, it just so happens it’s my dad’s birthday today.
I’d like to be positive and upbeat and say time’s the greatest healer, but that doesn’t ring true for me. It doesn’t heal, it can’t take the pain away, when you love someone you always want more, but it forces you to accept, because there is no other choice. I know, I’ve tried. I went into shutdown mode in my mind for two years. On the outside I dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s but inside I was doing a Sam Beckett/Quantum Leap. I’d replay conversations with doctors and consultants. I’d get him to hospital sooner or even better, I’d spend days replaying moments from my childhood. I just wanted the world to stop and let me off.
But birthdays should be happy not sad, they should be a celebration of a life, not a mourning of its passing. So now, even though Mr Grey and his little spiders will no doubt try to ply me with melancholy, I try to remember him as he was, full of life and mischief and often with a pint in his hand. I think of his smile, how he’d chunter at me for stealing his slippers and would stack books he thought I might like on top of the microwave.
I can’t really blame January for these feelings though, it just happens to fall this way – no matter the month or the date you can’t outrun your mind. It took me a long time to realise that, there was always something I could buy, something I could drink, some way I could hurt myself, which would help me to escape.
But the months, like the truth, aren’t going anywhere, they’ll keep turning as the tide and rolling forward, so my new tactic is to hunker down and wait them out and hopefully emerge unscathed on the other side.
So, if you’re feeling a little blue, don’t scold yourself for it. Don’t haul yourself over the coals if your jeans are a bit snug this month (the struggle is real!). Above all else, on the countdown to payday as we all take a collective breath and pray that we don’t encroach too far into the red, take care of yourself. Because as my old man said to me, you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t look after number one first.
You MOT your car, why not use this post excess period to wind down and give yourself the once over, and if there’s anything troubling you, reach out to someone, even if it’s me, because like the Jacksons….I’ll be there.