Blake Morrison, one of my literary idols, wrote a wonderful memoir called And When Did You Last See Your Father? It isn’t my favourite of his books, I prefer the engaging enraging force of exploration behind As If, his account of covering the trial of the two children accused and convicted of murdering James Bulger, which ranges around almost unmanageable into the unimaginable, and probes and pushes and licks the truth to see what it might taste like. But I do love AWDYLSYF, as an elegant and intricate search for the reality of a relationship (Blake’s with his father), and indeed a person (who was his father, does Blake know him? when did he last see him? what does his death mean?). The thundering intent Morrison displays in his search through memory, significant and banal, and his meticulous intrusion on his own thoughts has sifted around in my own self-conscious ponderings since I read it a decade ago.
I’m thinking about it now though because I was looking at some classics of family literature, and I discovered it was described, by Roy Hattersley in The Guardian, as a ‘near-masterpiece’ in which Morrison writes with ‘a reckless respect for the truth’. Such a wonderful phrase, worthy indeed of Morrison himself.
People often ask how much I censor from this blog, how much I tell and whether I check myself. I do, of course, check myself. Both out of personal vanity, and respect for my children, husband, wider friends and families and their own private lives.
I’m interested though, in this dance of show and tell, and the degree to which telling the whole truth, hand on Bible style, and telling part of it with a spin pan out. Which is better for me, as a person, and for those who chose to read what I write? I’m reminded particularly of therapeutic relationships of which I have now had many – some searched out with force and determination others thrust upon me by institutions bigger than myself.
I always thought therapy, and the talking cure was about saying EVERYTHING and holding it out laid bare. Revealing for all to see the mad woman in the attic. But just as when I started using facebook, or twitter, I was briefly overcome by a lack of anything to say so too I am made mute even in a therapy room sitting by a bunch of tissues, or worse, for me at least and my sense of overriding parental failure, kneeling on the floor with one of my sons. I find myself lost in a sea of thoughts unable to find the beginning, to know where to start my story – did post-natal depression begin in the labour ward, the first nights of motherhood, in my pregnancy, in my dreams and expectations as a child playing with dollies (playing mummy even when I was probably a little too old)?
I have to see a psychologist at the moment, as part of a programme for supporting parents with very difficult non-sleepers, but also I fantasise and suspect, partly because I am being checked up upon this time after floundering around a lot last time. I say have to, of course I could not engage but I feel I should because I don’t want to appear someone not interested in getting help for their baby and because it is starting to give me hope that we may be able to calm him down one day and all get enough sleep to not be thatfamily, all wobbly and sleepy and at the end of our collective tethers.
In talking about my son’s lack of sleep many things come up, things which may or may not have a lot to do with why he screams and rails all night and behaves like he is new, just born and desperate to feed and responds with fury when he isn’t being held all night (all at almost a year old).
Ideas about whether my behaviour is reflecting anxieties about my poor abilities at a mother, my fears of depression returning and the possibly terrible effects of my previous depression on Spider-boy. Thoughts about whether Newborn is still traumatised by being so very ill when he was tiny, unable to breath, fed through a tube, stuck in a cot because of his tubes and monitors unable to be cuddled by me? Interest in why I feel resistant to help (both in terms of sabotaging it and like a flame retardent blanket, repelling help). Talk of why still, I’m so shamefully, furious and easily rocked by my first labour, why I feel hatred and anger about my treatment, what it was about that night which still makes me, if I’m feeling sad or vulnerable enough, throw up with the force of my rage (and then just feel like I am lying in the cool thickness of the diving pool about to exhale and plunge down).
And more curiously, how the woman I was before I was crazy might have something fundamental to do with how I became the woman I was when I was crazy. What it is about me, not in a catastrophizing or narcissistic way, that lead me to that point, and what I might do to stop it all being so easily stirred up, and move to new ways of thinking so I have the courage to hold my own at night time and try and find a new pattern.
These are hypotheses, talking points, suggestions. Others may simply think I should let my baby cry or put up and shut up that he doesn’t sleep. In the therapy room it is all incredibly calm and increasingly helpful, but Holy fuck is it depressing too. And like all therapy it is more helpful but sometimes tougher when you have to get down to brass tacks and give straight answers about yourself, thoughts which have been niggling around all along. I use this blog sometimes as a sounding out board, a place to muse and think and reflect and often come back to the ideas which prompt me to post when I’m in a therapy setting.
But blogging and therapy are similar for me, in the powerful pull they have towards wanting to TELL EVERYTHING ABOUT YOURSELF and, of course, the desire, sometimes too strong, others not strong enough, to protect yourself from thinking about things you don’t want to, or portraying yourself in a particular way or offering a window for insight you don’t want to hear or know will be wrong.
I hate pat theories – x is like this because y happened to him/her, and hate having to rehash the history of me to sift for reasons and answers in memories good and bad. For all my naval gazing I prefer to stick to my current existence, the me now and fairly recent me. But I wonder sometimes if in my fear of overstepping by telling too much, and my vanity, I underplay by not telling crucial bits of the puzzle.