I’ve heard it said that it’s the little things that matter. I’d certainly agree. When I look back at the important events of my life to date it’s the small things that stand out. The way my Nanna’s arms felt as she held me. The way she fried a small chunk of her home made nutty brown bread to dunk in my softly fried egg. The way she’d chase me around the lounge with the vacuum cleaner as I whooped with fear and delight. I was three.
I remember when I was first away from Chris for more than a few days and the way we both shed tears of delight when we were reunited at the airport arrivals lounge, When we were apart he’d go to church on his own so he could feel near me. My wonderful atheist husband. The way he still chooses to travel a path that’s not his own just to walk with me. Not so little things.
I couldn’t believe I referred to ‘Nicki’ as ‘Vicky’ in last week’s blog, (Sorry both of you). I did it at Wendy and Nicki’s wedding just over a year ago, You’d think I’d have got it right by now. Vicki says that if I call her ‘Nicki’ at her wedding she’ll kill me. You’d think it was a little thing to get right.
But the little things are often the big things. Not just to the girls but to me. At times my dyslexia can really upset me. It’s not just names, it’s often common words and phrases. Fortunately a spelling and grammar check picks most of them up, but if I’ve used a wrong word that coincidently fits then it gets missed. It means I have to read everything through two or three times, and then might still get it wrong.
When I was at school I got at A+ in Technical drawing, and a ‘U’ (unclassified!) in English. The general opinion was that I didn’t like English, or was simply lazy. Nobody thought to check to see if I was Dyslexic. Over the years I grew so used to it that I didn’t even think to tell the college about it when I was studying Theology at Kings, and it was only later that I realised that my Grammar, spelling, and misuse of words and names dropped me from a First to a 2-1 hons.
It’s usually the most common names or words that my brain twists. Last week I was at work and I could not remember the name of the street I live on, (all I could think was Payton Place ), and had to go to my Amazon account to read my delivery address. For quite a while I got ‘Keith’ and ‘Chris’ names mixed up. Good job my husband loves me and Keith knows me well enough to understand. Good job they both have a sense of humour.
Mental illness comes in many forms and varying shades. Some days I get everything right. Some days I get some things wrong but can see I’ve got something wrong and correct it. Sometimes I get it wrong and no matter how many times I check it nothing seems wrong. It’s not just words, or names, it’s colours too. Usually I have to chew the end on my toothbrush so I know which one is mine. Chris’ toothbrush is one colour, mine another, but my brain can’t work that out. Right now it’s unchewed because his toothbrush is baby blue and mine is baby pink. Not that I remember the colours themselves, I remember that his is ‘the little boy’s toothbrush’ and mine is ‘the little girl’s’. (No comments thank you – and I am aware of the inferred sexism). We all have ‘senior’ moments, but I’ve been like this as long as I can remember.
Some days it doesn’t bother me. The cost of being alive. But other days it upsets me. When someone I’ve known well for years stands before me at communion and I can’t remember their name. When I’m chatting with someone and and have to ask for help because I’ve lost some of the common words I need to use in a sentence. When I think I’m saying or writing one thing, and yet unknowingly something else is coming out. Preaching is always scary, and you can imagine how terrified I was when I testified on behalf of same sex marriage at the Senate Committee hearings in the States.Even with everything written down there was no guarantee I’d read what was really there.
Over the years I’ve learned some coping techniques. If I can’t remember someone’s name I try not to use a sentence where I have to say it. I print my sermons out in red and black paragraphs, which my brain seems to be able to cope with better. I always have a printed version of my communion song in front of me because despite singing it for 15 years I can’t remember the words. I try never to send an email without leaving it an hour and re-reading it a couple of times. Same with newsletters. But I’ve come to realise that I still get it wrong and I have no choice but to live with that.
What advice would I give someone with a similar problem? Try not to beat yourself up, be gentle with yourself. Be public so that those you care about know it’s an illness and not carelessness causing the problem. Get tested and a get a diagnosis so that you can get help where you need it. And even when you’re upset about it try not to be too defensive, because if you blame yourself for your illness your self esteem will fall faster than a stone. Often mental problems go hand in hand with depression and Anxiety, and there are days when I’m not sure which is worse.
And lastly remember that you are not alone! Many mental illnesses are invisible, so you don’t know that many of the people around you have similar problems but have such good coping strategies that you would never know.
If you want someone to talk to about your experiences then I’m always available as a listener. If you want help and advice then Mind Out are great. And on a positive note I’ve always found that the difficulties in my life have maybe made the sweet moments a little sweeter, and it’s those little things I wouldn’t miss for the world