The Unmarked Road

Life On The Other Side Of Mental Illness

Category: Knowing Yourself

Are You ‘Just’ A Mum?

When I was pregnant I was determined I wasn’t going to become ‘just a mum’. That having a baby wasn’t going to change me as a person. I didn’t want to be one of those simpering idiots who only talked about her baby and had a Pinterest board full of baby led weaning recipes and creative messy play ideas.  I wasn’t going to show off every picture of bath time or video of my precious bundle eating broccoli for the first time. I didn’t really like children anyway (in fact I believe my ‘about’ page still states I am more excited about having kittens than kids!) so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to become the quintessential earth mother anyway.

Fast forward a year and here I am sitting with my 14 months old hanging off my breast, while I research gentle sleep techniques (because the little shit still wakes every 2 hours, but I won’t let him cry!) and come up with inventive ways to nurture his highly demanding and precious temper tantrums into something positive (call me naive).

You see, the joke of it is that becoming a mother does change you. You can’t help it. Having a child isn’t like having a pet you really really love. Having a child is like ripping out the heart in your chest and letting it go out into the world trying desperately to protect (but not too much!) it from every hurt. Having a child makes you so vulnerable that you can no longer watch or read anything about children that come to harm, because your mind is already a black hole of ‘what ifs’ when it comes to the safety of your child.

So what does that mean for my identity. Who and what am I now?

Identity of self changes over time, of course it does. And with that, so does our voice and the story we’re telling about our lives. Those of you who have been with me since the start, have probably got whiplash from the changes in direction the site has gone under; from business starter, to anxiety sufferer, to mental health survivor, to mother.

To deny that becoming a mother has not only changed me, but also for the better, would be to deny a huge part of me. The part of me that loves to write. Because I can only write what I know, and what I know is that I love being a mum. More than I have ever loved anything.

So what does that mean for the Unmarked Road? Only time will tell whether the site gets a facelift or if I start again completely from scratch. A clean slate (probably the only clean thing for a long time).

But for now I must go and make three different lunches for when the little monster wakes up, because feeding him something other than pickles has become more important than I could have every imagined.

Oh and that Pinterest board? Yes, it has a load of home-sensory ideas. But there are one or two items that hint at an all together different woman. One who still likes to change her hair a few times a year or is a hippy traveller looking for her next adventure.

Because our identity isn’t just one thing, but a puzzle of colourful life experiences that continue to shape who we are.

Gaining Perspective On Our Emotions

We sometimes get so caught up in our own emotions, our own ‘problems’ that we forget that there are real tragedies going on in the world. That’s not to say that our feelings aren’t important but in this video I talk a little bit about how we can all gain a little perspective.

What Do You Love About Yourself?

I’m sure most people can relate to this: when I look in the mirror, I see a mishmash of imperfections. The image staring back at me has big thighs, a crooked nose, small eyes and a pot belly (something resembling Roger the alien from American Dad). But what if we didn’t see those things we dislike? What if we saw the good things? What if instead I focused on my long blonde hair, my slim high waist and my reasonably straight teeth? In fact, if I was to be critic free, I’d say I like my feet and my slim ankles too!

Roger/Dani

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Taking Responsibility For Our Reactions

We often get upset or offended by things other people say to us. Sometimes it’s justified, but sometimes we overreact, which says more about our own insecurities than about the offender’s intentions. In fact if we’re completely honest with ourselves, more often than not do we attach all kinds of hidden meanings and ulterior motives to the thing that has offended us, and rather than take responsibility and ownership of the arising negative emotion, we feel victimised and lash out externally. We project whatever insecurity has been stirred within us, on to the sometimes innocent offender .

I was once someone like that. I felt like bad things and bad people were happening to me. I blamed others for making me feel in a negative way because of things they said or did to me. And it felt like this was happening ALL THE TIME. But it was out of my control right?

Well I got sick of wallowing in self-pity, no matter how justified my feelings were, and so I started to look at the common denominator; and it was me. I decided I no longer wanted to be a victim. I wanted more say over my life and how I was feeling over the things I had no control over. Blaming others for how I felt may have been easier, but it wasn’t making me happy, and I realised I needed to start taking more responsibility for  myself. I knew  I couldn’t control what people said or did to me, so what could I do?

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Never Be A Victim Of Your Circumstances!

For a long time I did not love myself. And it affected EVERY aspect of my life.

It affected the successes (and mostly failures) of all my relationships – romantic and other – it destroyed my confidence and pretty much made me cower back from life. I simply existed; like a ghost not being part of the living.

When you live in fear of everything you do and the consequences of your existence, you do not truly live.

Every chance of happiness, I destroyed for being undeserving.

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Do You Discard Your Own Needs In Order To Please Others?

I’m an enormous people pleaser. And yet I didn’t realise until last week, that I am planning my entire wedding around what will satisfy the tastes of every one of my different guests. As last weeks’ events came to a head, I had to force myself to stop and think, “Is this actually what I want or am I just doing what will make everyone else happy? Do I recognise the difference?” Making people happy makes me happy, so how can I break this pattern and truly know what would satisfy me, away from others’ judgments?

I really dislike that I have this need to appeal to everyone’s expectations of me. It feeds my anxiety like miracle grow to a weed. Usually this habit is self-contained purely due to the small number of people coming together at one time. Keeping just one or two people happy is easy.

But Plan a wedding and you either have to learn that there is no way of organising something that appeals to everyone’s tastes; that inevitably there’ll be disappointments, raised eyebrows and the ‘well I wouldn’t have done it that way’ comments, or you will make yourself ill in trying to achieve the impossible ‘perfect’ wedding.

Like with all my emotions, I wanted to try to understand why I feel or behave in this way.

I have spoken before about my constant need for perfection in order to feel successful, and I think this links up in big way to my people pleasing nature. People’s reactions to me reflect the success or failure of whatever it is I have presented. It is feedback, and I use it as a barometer to how I am doing. If my wedding is perfect, if I am perfect, then that means there can be nothing to criticise. And surely it then follows that I have achieved perfection i.e. success.

If I am completely honest with myself, the thought of people being dissatisfied, or that I will be thought of in a negative way, heightens my anxiety. It is the worst thing about myself because my rational brain knows, that those who matter don’t care, and those who care don’t matter. 

But I don’t think it is as simple as that.

It seems that I strongly identify with how I make others feel, not with how they make me feel. When I make the people around me happy, I give myself permission to be happy also – I have succeeded. If they are disappointed, then I see that as failure and a need to try harder. But is there more to this than first thought?

From the day we are born, we are told by our parents that our successes, be it walking, talking or using the potty for the first time, ‘makes them feel happy’. We learn very early on that making our parents and others happy is what we should strive for.

I wonder; is there room in our society for imperfection and for that to be good enough so long as we’re happy? Do our parents, our teachers and our peers, somehow put pressure on us to satisfy their expectations of us, instead of looking at just achieving the goals we have set for ourselves?

How can we stop a lifetime of conditioning?

Are You Smarter Than You Were Ten Years Ago?

When approaching a new decade, in my case the big 3-0, you start to look back at your journey over the past 10 years.

My 20s have been an insane mix of highs, lows and everything in between. I would go as far as saying I will always remember my 20s as the decade I lost, and subsequently found myself. A bit of a blip in the tapestry of my existence that I am glad to leave behind, whilst incredible grateful to have come out the other side of, half as sane as I did!

So what would I tell the young, angst ridden 20 year old full of anxiety and fear about the future? The one who felt cursed and like a freak with no chance of leading a normal and happy life? (apart from how to dress and do her hair obviously).

I would tell her to stop worrying so much; that it will all work out as and when it needs to.

Doesn’t that then follow that I should follow my own advice now, so that I don’t look back in another 10 years and tell myself the same? Do I want to look back when I’m approaching 40, wishing I’d spent less time worrying and more time enjoying the awesomeness of every moment?

Because the here and now is all we have. Worrying about the future is completely pointless, because most of the time, the things that we are anxious about, don’t exist or don’t happen. It’s a lot of wasted energy that could be put into something that serves us in a much more positive and beneficial way. One that will make us look at the last 10 years and go ‘hell yeah, I owned that decade!’

What would you tell your younger self? Have you learnt from it, or are you still making the same mistakes, still worried about the same thing? Let me know 🙂

Young me

Me 10 Years Ago!

Do You Know What Will Make You Happy?

We all have out own personal goals, things we would like to achieve by a certain point in our lives. Inevitably there’s a huge sense of failure when we don’t get to where we believe we would have, at the ‘right’ age or time we should have.

Ask anyone around you, and the life objectives are almost all identical. Marriage, career and children. We usually want all these things before we even know ourselves sufficiently enough to think about whether this is our own dream, or that of our parents, our friends, or even that of society. We don’t even understand what these things really mean to us, only that we somehow know this will make us happy.

In the midst of our continuous and desperate efforts to become a well-oiled cog in our culture’s machine, we rarely stop to think if we even want to be part of it in the first place.

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Do You Take Things Personally?

How people behave reflect their issues. How you react reflect yours.

I can have quite a temper and sometimes I get reactive when I feel unfairly criticised or judged. But I also recognise that this is my problem, my responsibility, because it is my insecurity that makes me take something personally. It’s as though what someone has said just amplifies what I already fear to be true. I’m not fighting their criticism, but my own. But when you react negatively to what someone has said, you are projecting your own fears on to them. And that isn’t fair.

When I was little I was so shy, and not like anyone else, so I got bullied. Right up until a few years ago, if anyone tried to boss me about or tell me what to do, I’d overreact quite violently because of the lasting impact of constantly being put down had on me. I took a lot of stuff personally and would fight to defend myself in the way no one else ever had.

It’s taken a long time, and I still don’t always manage it, but I have learned that the best way to react to negative comments is to just ignore them. One persons opinion is just that – an opinion. To take it personally or view at as fact, is to give it power. And when that happens you risk turning the lie into your own truth.

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