Paddington Bear carries a suitcase with him everywhere he goes and so do I, but you can’t see mine because mine is in my head. What did Paddington carry around in his suitcase I hear you ask, “Paddington is famous for his love of marmalade and he is particularly fond of it in marmalade sandwiches. He always carries a jar of it in his suitcase” I don’t have a jar of marmalade in my head. If I had a jar of anything in my head, it would most likely be Nutella.
My suitcase is jammed full of emotional baggage, experiences, ingrained beliefs and unhelpful thought patterns. I carry it with me everywhere I go and some days its more cumbersome than others. I imagine my head as an old-fashioned Stage Coach, like the ones in the old Wild West and my suitcase is sitting on top of it. Some days are bumpy, and all the shit falls out for everyone to see and other days it stays neatly packed and folded away.
In terms of my mental health, on good days the stagecoach bumps along nicely, during stressful times or when I’m struggling the wheels look like they’re about to come off the coach, the suitcase bursts open and all my shit falls out for everyone to see, including my embarrassing smalls and other unsightly bits and pieces.
At the moment, the stagecoach that is my brain, is going over some really bumpy ground, the suitcase is wide open, and stuff is starting to fall out. People can see it.
Loss, bereavement, betrayal and abuse, all these adverse experiences add up. Each devastating or profound event leaves a crack or a scar that is carried around. Every bad relationship, hurtful experience or wounding words, bounce around inside my head until they find a permanent place to rest inside the suitcase.
When the suitcase is closed, and all the ugly beasties are locked inside, life is safe and flows along gently. When the case is open and on display, it cannot be ignored. Everything comes under close inspection. Am I a terrible wife, friend, mother? Are people distancing themselves from me? Why didn’t she answer my text message straight away? Is he ignoring me? Doesn’t he love me anymore? Am I a selfish person? Why is my head always stuck so firmly up my arse? I become hyper sensitive and take things personally. This becomes a cycle of unhelpful thought patterns as I then berate myself for being so self-absorbed and assuming that everything is about me and so on and so forth until implosion is imminent.
On the really bad days this can change by the hour. A single text message can mean the difference between feeling in control and being crippled by anxiety. On the good days the suitcase is celebrated like a badge of honour. I hold the suitcase up and declare “Behold this suitcase, the spoils of the many battles I have survived! I am a warrior!”.
Today I am not the warrior, today I am the worrier. A middle ground would be nice, but I can’t seem to find it. Yet.