We had a very modest holiday budget this year so I found a quaint Airbnb to rent near New Quay, Wales. It wasn’t particularly luxurious but that really didn’t matter. I’d done a cheap food shop to take with us, booked a sunset wildlife boat trip, had a new book to read on the beach and genuinely could not wait to go back to basics and get far away from the daily grind for a few days.
I’d been feeling a bit guilty about not spending any time with Lucie during the school holidays so she came with me and Adam for a change of scenery. Megan was working all week and, being 18, I agreed to let her stay home alone (plus I didn’t want to fork out for a cat sitter so she would be taking care of that for us).
We arrived in Wales at tea time on Monday after a long drive. Given that we were all tired, we enjoyed a quick walk around the local village, made food and played a couple of board games before bed. The plan was to get up early, drive to the beach in New Quay and enjoy a picnic before hopefully, spotting some seals and dolphins that evening.
We awoke to find that there had been an incident at home overnight so, after a few phone calls to assess the situation, we reluctantly made the decision to go straight back home again. It was the best way to prevent a repeat occurrence and to make sure that Megan was safe. We simply couldn’t relax knowing there may be more problems ahead if we stayed put.
The mood was sour and Lucie had been moping around from the moment we got there. (In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to the Parenting Gods who were undoubtedly chuckling at the idea of taking a 14-year-old away to a quiet coastal village and hoping there would be no sulking/ignoring us/spending the whole time glued to her phone. ”She really thinks this is all going to end well? LOL! We’ll see about that.”)
Not her fault of course. Lu is pretty brilliant these days and, if my parents had have dragged me away from my friends at that age, I’d have been pulling some right drama queen shit and throwing myself from the car in a
ridiculous defiant act of rebellion. To even coerce her into coming along in the first place was quite an achievement, I’d say.
As we began to pack up – less than 24 hours after arriving – I had a meltdown. The disappointment, the frustration and feeling of being utterly trapped overwhelmed me. I sat on the bed and cried. The black fog arrived and the ability to think rationally had scarpered.
My resources were spent (and I’m physically drained after developing a complicated relationship with food last year but that’s a cheerful blog post for another day) and the stark realisation that our much-needed break was over before it began filled me with despair.
As we drove home, I looked out at the gorgeous surroundings, seeing just what we were missing out on as other families enjoyed the beaches and basked in the sunshine. We’d travelled all that way, wasted a few hundred quid and had seen nothing but the inside of an apartment.
Why us? Everything we plan seems to turn to shit. I scrolled through my phone see other people sharing their amazing holidays via Instagram and felt like a big fat failure. We couldn’t even make it through a few days in Wales without problems. Then I remembered that people don’t share the crappy bits on there, do they?
I did something that I generally avoid and took to social media to vent (this was also before I realised the severity of the situation at home and now feel like a bit of dick about it all #uokhun). I think I needed to feel less alone for a moment or maybe it was a cry for help, screaming into cyberspace to show the whole world and its dog that I was angry and struggling.
Away less than 24 hours and already heading home. I could fly to the other end of the world and never escape. Always drama, always problems. Does it ever end?
— Lisa Valentine (@ThatBritBlog) August 21, 2018
Throw rush hour into the mix and we endured a seven-hour drive home, with me crying for approximately three of them (a delightful trip for Adam, as you can imagine…). I scolded myself for allowing myself to cave, for picking up that tiny violin and throwing my very own pity party – but I simply could not ‘get my shit together’ no matter how much I tried.
My body felt empty and my heart defeated. I also realised that this was not a ‘normal’ reaction to what was an annoying, but not massively life-altering, event. The thing is, sometimes you have to be brave enough to say out loud ‘I’m feeling like shit’. Or ‘I need help’. Or ‘I don’t want to wake up tomorrow’.
In my stubborn state, I didn’t want to be seen as weak so had been keeping all of these thoughts firmly locked away in a place called Denial for the past few months. Ironically, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a pretty resilient human being after going through some dreadful shit over the years and soldiering on; I’ve truly mastered the art of ‘I’m fine’ and that good old British stiff upper lip. The problem with that kind of facade is that there is only so much you can take.
Like a pecking hen. It pecks and pecks the same place on your shin every day. It’s easy to shake off at the beginning; it doesn’t really hurt or do much damage. But when it happens again and again, it causes serious problems. Then your fucking leg falls off…or something. It’s inevitable. And this particular incident was apparently my breaking point.
In hindsight, it was the perfect storm. I had emotionally invested so much into this trip prior to leaving. It was going to be a wonderful break from the tedious routine, a chance to escape from my usual surroundings and get rid of cabin fever that was setting in, to breathe in some sea air, connect with nature and properly switch off. Every bad day I’d had in the past few months was comforted with, ‘Not long now until you get a proper break, just keep it going, Lisa’.
I could go to the doctors and ask for pills to help numb the darker days but I’m reluctant to do so (I’m not disregarding these powerful aids by the way. They are, quite literally, lifesavers for some people but I know that they’re not the right solution for me at this moment in time). I know exactly what the issue is. I need a fucking break, some real time out to allow my mind and body to recoup, to build my waning strength and mental health back up again.
I’m working on putting a strategy in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That might mean a bi-weekly gym trip, locking myself upstairs for a few hours to read a book or meeting up with friends after work. Just something to break up the daily graft and focus on my own needs. Selfish or not, it simply has to be a priority.
So there it is; my raw, honest reality. When you’re so drained, it can also make it near impossible to be there and support loved ones in their own time of need, to be a shoulder to cry on for those who rely on you for strength. Sometimes, you really do need to put yourself first for a while because, sooner or later, you’re going hit breaking point. And let’s face it, no-one wants to see me ugly crying in the car again.