Go On. Judge Me.

Sometimes I see people at the shops, and I’m like “whoooaaa man. Nice parenting skills. Nice screaming at each other and making a scene skills. Nice that your kids don’t have shoes on their feet. Nice 80’s hair do.”

Then I’m like “Nice judgemental skills Rachael. Sheesh. Like you are so perfect.” And then I’m like “Yeah ok. I’m judging. I shouldn’t….but seriously…NO SHOES. WHAT. IS. THAT?!”

I need to stop, stop, stop it.

The thing is, what we see of other people is a tiny glimpse into their lives. Those mothers screaming at their kids…maybe they have had a really bad day? And by the same token; the perfectly well groomed mothers with their perfectly well behaved seven children…maybe pandemonium breaks out as soon as they get home. Maybe one of them will grow up to be a serial killer. Who is to know?

Regardless, if I had seen myself at the shops this morning I would have judged. Go on. Judge me.

I was wild haired with an expression of steel. Dragging a kid with his pants on backwards through the shops, the kid crying “Mummy! You’re going too fast!” I groaned when he said he needed to go to the toilet. I lost my rag with the young girl in the post office and went on a tirade that involved the phrases “This is ridiculous”, and “You’ve got to be kidding me”. I rolled my eyes at the older couple as they parked next to me. I swore in the car, and when Master D asked what was wrong I shouted at him to be quiet. I then got home, sat my kid in front of the TV, tossed him a bag of Tiny Teddies and popped a Lorazapam.

But ya see, that’s only half the story.

Master D’s pants were on backwards because he has just made the transition to independent toilet go-er, and sometimes, when he is so proud of himself for completing the task, I don’t have the heart to tell him his pants are on the wrong way.

I was dragging him because we were late for my passport appointment at the post office. We were late because my little angel decided to throw a fifteen minute tantrum that can only be described as demonic, five minutes before we were supposed to leave. Like he has been doing every single day since January the 1st, when he decided day naps were for sissies, sleeping in past five am is for the weak, and his new years resolution was to throw a wobbly each time one of his parents ask him to put his shoes on.

I groaned when he told me he needed the toilet because, when we are out, this is almost always a ruse. Whereas for me (and I imagine most people), using public restroom facilities is only something done under necessity and extreme duress, Master D enjoys the thrill and novelty of using a public dunny. When we are out he will always ask to go, sometimes in the most awkward of circumstances. I take him, he sits there pleased as punch, talking about the toilet paper and what the poor sod in the next stall is doing, then informs me that “the wee’s aren’t coming out.” But you just can’t take the chance that he actually DOES need to go, and risk an awkward puddle (or worse) on the floor. So, I took him to the Public Restroom of Wonder. For the record; he didn’t go.

I lost my rag with the young girl at the post office, because for reasons quite baffling to me, it has taken over three months for me to update my Australian passport.  I have been turned away five times for reasons including that I I haven’t got a “proper” marriage certificate (although it has served me just fine for every other purpose for my entire married life). Now I am annoyingly organised. I quadruple check things. I colour code my diary by event type and task urgency. My household chores are completed on certain days of the week. My spice rack is frigging alphabetised. HOW IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO COMPLETE A SIMPLE FORM?  Needless to say I was fairly unimpressed after waiting in line with a whingy toddler, for my fifth interview, proudly brandishing my new marriage certificate purchased at great expense from a courthouse on the other side of the city, only to be turned away because I didn’t have my BRITISH passport with me. Say what?

I rolled my eyes at the older couple because despite the fact that there were at least 100 bays available in the carpark, they chose to park right next to me, extremely close, and on the same side that I was trying to strap Master D in and handle the bags of groceries. I had to practically trap my arse in the car door so they could fit in their spot. Why? Why, I ask you?!

I swore in the car because some jerk pulled out in front of me, and when I get a fright, sometimes I involuntarily say “fuck”. I yelled at Master D to be quiet because I was in the process of slamming my breaks on and having a heart attack. Afterwards, I explained to Master D that I had seen “a duck!”. He didn’t care. He was too busy playing with Thomas the Tank Engine.

I don’t like putting my kid in front of the TV during the day. And I don’t like giving him sugary snacks. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to keep your sanity. Yesterday he helped me make rice and almond milk, tzatziki, broccoli salad, and dairy free/wheat free brioche. Today he gets Tiny Teddies and TV. Knowing him, he probably preferred that latter.

I popped a Lorazapam because I’m in the process of withdrawal which is *awesome*. I’m trying to get off these meds, but thanks to the doctor who put me on a high dose, at a high frequency, for an extended period of time, when I didn’t have the mental capability to refuse, I’m kind of biologically addicted. I’m working on it. I’ll get there. One day I’ll figure out how to cut these tiny pills into tiny tiny pieces. But for now it’s kind erratic. I’ll take one, then three days later, burned from lack of sleep and panic attacks, I’ll cave and take another. Today was one of those days.

The one thing I cannot excuse was my hair. Unacceptable, obviously.

I’ll always remember a story I was told. A father was on the train with his three kids who were extremely hyperactive and badly behaved. The father sat there. He didn’t try and stop the kids from disturbing other passengers. A woman sitting in the booth near them was getting more and more irritated by the kids. She was just about to say something when, as if he had read her mind, the father leaned over to her and said “I’m sorry about the kids. They are upset. We have just come from the hospital. Their mother died today.”

There is always another side to the story.

Going Back to What I Started

Well, I’m pleased to announce that we emerged from Christmas relatively unscathed.

Of course, Hubster received a Nerf gun from his Secret Santa, then promptly shot my sister in the eye which resulted in a Christmas Eve trip to the doctor. Although this was vaguely traditional. Christmas isn’t Christmas in our household if someone doesn’t end up in the Emergency Room. Master D announced to the table in a rather stern manner that “we don’t eat poo’s, only dinners” (not particularly complimentary of my food, I felt). Mum decided to back her computer up which somehow resulted the kind of chaos only my family can achieve; deep and meaningful discussions on the best method of backing up, accusations of “nephelious” content, and despair when the back up was predicted to take 67 days. And no one seemed to appreciate my helpful renditions of “Back that Thang Up” by Juvenile.

But all in all, it was a good Christmas. I didn’t poison myself. For that matter, I didn’t poison anyone else. No one poisoned me. To get to the point, no vomiting or morphine based drugs were required. And I only had one panic attack. Unscathed.

Now I have to face the fact that in under two weeks I am going back to university. My emotional response to this is variable, but almost always resides sonewhere on a five point scale ranging from “Slightly Dubious” to “Holy Crap”

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE what I do. I love writing. I love researching. I’m passionate about reducing mental illness stigma. I sure as hell want to earn my title of “doctor”. I’ve worked damn hard to get to the point I am at.

But I’m scared.

You see, I started my PhD last year. I was given a scholarship that only nine others were offered. I was told my by supervisors and other academic staff that I was talented and could go far in the industry. I was invited to present at the national conference in my first six months which is HUGE.

And then I got sick, spent five months in hospital, and had to take the rest of the year off. I had to bow out of the conference (although my talk was still presented by my supervisor). While I was having ECT I couldn’t even remember what my thesis was on. Now I have to go back into the office. Say “hi” to all the people I haven’t seen for a year. And somehow pick up where I left of. It is incredibly daunting.

And on top of undertaking a full-time PhD, which is, I’m assuming, challenging at the best of times. I have to do it in half the time due to difficulties in childcare arrangements. I currently have three days a week to achieve what my colleagues do in five or six. This is not even including research assistant work and/or teaching. I also have to factor in, not one, but two chronic illnesses. I also have a three year old. Just to save time here: “yes”I have thought about going part time, “no” it is not possible without forfeiting my scholarship and putting my family into a inferior financial position.

The thing is, I keep worrying. I had terrible side effects from ECT. What if my mind won’t work the way it used to? What if I get sick again? What if I let everyone down? And here is the big one: What if I am unable to achieve what I have wanted to do since I was about 12 years old?

I did, in a particularly rebellious moment, decide to pack in the PhD and become a Fudge Master instead. I like making fudge. People like eating it. And It may or may not be an uncracked industry. I decided my business would be called “MotherFudger” and I would sell my stash at the local markets. Unfortunately my dream was cut short when I realised there was already a “MotherFudger” out there (well, many actually. But we won’t go into that). I also worked out that even if I ripped off the buying community with overpriced product, my fudge profit margin would probably still put me under the poverty line. So that idea, in short, was “fudged” from the get go.

So with Plan B knocked off the list, it is back to Plan A. I’ve thought about and how I will handle it, and all that does is make me incredibly stressed. So I’ve come up with three basic PhD rules:

1) Take each day at a time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself
2) No degree is more important than your physical and mental health
3) No degree is more important than your son and family

I also came up with a reminder:

Do your best, but if it doesn’t work out you are not a failure. You can always go back to the degree in the future.

So I’m getting my laptop in order. Rereading my notes. Boxing up data to take into the office. And after all this time I’m going to go back to what I started.