In retrospect, I was a little bit fucked up in the latter part of 2017. I didn’t realise at the time. I knew I was crying a lot, and spending a lot of time sitting in carparks (in the car, not just on my arse on the hot bitumen) telling myself to pull myself together, bi-atch, and making weird, stupid mistakes like forgetting to enrol my eldest son into high-school, and sending Alice to school without her lunch but with 32 badly-iced cupcakes, however I didn’t realise I was in the midst of some kind of mental-health – I wouldn’t call it a breakdown – some kind of mental-health overheating. To continue the automobile analogy, I just stalled at the traffic lights. Went right instead of left. Put the headlights on instead of the windscreen wipers. Sideswiped a Ford Territory. Filled up with diesel rather than unleaded. Parked in a disabled bay. Etc etc.
In retrospect, it’s easy to look back and realise precisely why I was in the midst of a mental-health overheating in the latter part of 2017. Quite simply, I was doing too much. The latter part of the year – that period after my birthday, which falls (like clockwork) at the beginning of November – tumbles into chaos, what with the end of the school year, many and varied birthdays, end-of-term bullshit, lost library books and Christmas – fucking Christmas! – lurching into view like some kind of drunk, unwelcome aunt. I crumbled.
Again, I didn’t realise this. Fortunately, the people around me did. I am extraordinarily lucky in that the people around me know and understand when I start to overheat. My boss, for instance. How fucking fortunate am I to have a boss who realises when my brain’s short-wiring, and acknowledges that my eyes have actually filled with tears when she’s asked me to make a phone call, so takes steps to diffuse the chaos? And friends who are, like, woo, lady, you’re short-wiring: here’s an $80 voucher for a one-hour session in a flotation tank; go forth and diffuse, you mad crazy bitch. A husband who’ll pick up the slack, parents who’ll round up small people (my small people, but small people nonetheless) to give me a break, and a gym – thank god for a gym – which lets me pummel the shit out of pads rather than people.
In retrospect, I found it spectacularly difficult to cope in the latter part of 2017. The smallest challenges seemed like THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD (which, if you haven’t watched on Netflix, you really must, if only for the cinematography and the superb soundtrack), when in reality they could be fixed with Google and a ball-point pen. Nothing was THAT BAD, but when you’re overwhelmed and under pressure, even an online canteen order feels like the fucking Spanish inquisition.
In retrospect, all I needed was a break; a period of clear-headed puerility. The 10-day break over Christmas wasn’t just welcome – it was a fucking lifesaver. I can’t really stress that enough. I wrote my book. I read books. I went to Ikea (more therapeutic than it sounds). I sat on the beach. I painted my living room. I drank to excess. I ran. I punched shit (pads, not people). I hung out. I didn’t sweat the small shit. And suddenly, come January the whatever, when we packed our lunchboxes and headed back to work and school, I was OKAY. I was okay! And I’ve been okay ever since!
ALL I NEEDED WAS A BIT OF A FUCKING BREAK.
I didn’t need a five-star holiday (although it would’ve been nice).
I didn’t need an au pair (although it would’ve been nice).
I didn’t need millions of dollars (although it would’ve been nice).
In retrospect, all I needed was a break from the grinding monotony of school lunches and library days and football training and sports day and school pick-up and school drop-off and P&Cs and fundraisers and excursions and incursions and assembly items and reading books.
I was reminded of this as we wound up term 1, and its accompanying burnout. Fuck the kids; I needed the school holidays more than they did. I needed to not concern myself with crunch ‘n’ sip for a whole two weeks. Fuck it, the kids could survive on Arnotts’ Shapes and CBeebies for a fortnight, just as long as I don’t have to fight a bitch for a parking space.