I have been called lots of things over the years from fragile and meek, to angry and controlling. Recently I have been called two things that I struggle with - Brave and Strong....
It makes me think about what it is to be Brave... what it is to be Strong?
For many many years I always thought I was being brave and being strong by shouldering my problems and getting on with life. Not letting life get on top of me. But throughout those years I never felt strong. I appeared it outwardly but not once felt it.
I feel differently now. I don't know whether that is strength that I feel but for the first time in a very long time I have purpose. I am working towards something, I have goals, I have standards, I have a voice. I am finally starting to worry about myself.
Is it brave to admit that you have a problem and that you need some help? Why is that considered bravery? Is it not just being human to acknowledge that something isn't ok and that you need to change things... Are we not just looking out for ourselves when we speak our minds, voice our concerns and reach out to others?
At my lowest, I felt incredibly weak. Getting out of bed was an effort, dressing, showering, talking, eating... do anything felt like it was too much. On one particular night I drank so much to try and numb pain that I felt sick. Only to realise that it didn't stop the hurt. I got in the car. I was going to end my life. I planned to drive in front of a truck. I hit the freeway, with tears in my eyes waiting for a truck to drive towards me. No truck came. I drove to my doctor instead.
As I sat in her office I cried and couldn't talk. I told her just how bad everything had gotten. She begged me to seek some help and to use antidepressants to cut this vicious cycle of self loathing I had gotten in to. When I left I had promised her I would get help.
I didn't; not for at least six months after. I spent the next six months in a fog. I was operating in auto pilot. I shut myself off from everyone telling myself that it was a failure to admit that I couldn't cope. That I wasn't strong if I needed medication to get by. My kids suffered, Blair suffered. Everyone around me felt the affects of my 'strength' and not in a positive way.
To those outside of my inner circle I appeared to have it all together. I was a high functioning, successful, bubbly person. It was exhausting! Inside I was breaking down. I had no reserves left and it was only a matter of time before I found myself having a complete breakdown.
Eventually I gave in, I went against the voices inside me that told me I was weak and I asked for help. I went on daily medication for my depression and anxiety. I saw a counsellor once a week. I still do.
Initially I hated it. I felt like I should have been able to 'suck it up' and move on.
However, after a few weeks I noticed I was able to laugh without pretending. I was a more present mother, a more patient partner and more driven and focused at work.
Am I strong for doing that? I don't think so. I think there is an element of selfishness and self-love in that. I put myself first because I knew I couldn't be anything to anyone if I had nothing left to give due to the sheer amount of effort it took me to get through an 8 hour day. Am I brave for admitting this? No, I am honest.
I have received messages from people telling me that they find what I am doing in Ruby's name, strong and brave. I thank you, that is an amazing compliment.
What I ask is this... Please don't think of my actions as anything special. I am having an open honest conversation with you all. That's all, nothing more and nothing less. No change can come until we can all do that. There is nothing different about me to anyone else. I am a mother that struggles sometimes to be patient. I'm a partner that struggles sometimes to be affectionate. I'm a friend that struggles sometimes to be present. I'm a mother that loves her children dearly. I am a daughter, partner, friend that would do anything for anyone. I am a career woman.
I am a woman with purpose.
Love to you all, stay safe over Easter xxx
Jess Castree is a mother to two little boys and one angel little girl. She is the General Manager of a Plumbing Company in Melbourne. All round workaholic, perfectionist, over anxious, slightly neurotic woman trying to make it in the big bad world we live in today.