What you see and what you don’t

What you see:

A mum taking her kids to the school Christmas fair.

What you don’t see

The ride home after where I scream and scream and scream because it’s the only safe place I can do this without someone calling the police. How hoarse and sore I am afterwards.

What you see:

Me going from stall to stall like any other mum, buying child-made Christmas tat.

What you don’t see:

Me, later, curled up on the floor in the foetal position, shaking.

What you see:

A busy school hall with lots of people enjoying themselves

What you don’t see:

Sensory hell: the echoing of voices in the hall, all the individual voices and noises that come together in a great cacophony. The searing heat which makes me feel like I’m actually on fire. The smells, all the terrible conflicting smells that assault me. The terror of not recognising a face in time or not being able to process someone’s words above all the background noise. The flu-like symptoms that linger for days afterwards.

What you see:

Me exchanging pleasantries with other parents and teachers.

What you don’t see:

The conviction that I am doing something wrong, that people must be angry with me or judging me in some way. The post meltdown period of being non-verbal where I have to sign or write things down for my daughter to read because I just cannot speak verbally for hours afterwards.

What you see:

Me queueing for drink and a festive cupcake.

What you don’t see:

Me sobbing as meeting the basic needs of the kids afterwards feels impossibly hard.

What you see:

Me sharing a joke with another mum

What you don’t see:

The self-harm later which I desperately try to steer so that I don’t do any permanent damage.

What you see:

A naughty child, wildly out of control and wilfully ignoring her mum’s pleas to enjoy herself in ways other people are more comfortable with.

What you don’t see:

A kind girl who accepts that sometimes Mummy can’t cope. A girl who tries her best to comfort me by bringing me items that would soothe her. A girl whose most frequent communication (verbal and signed) is “I’m so sorry” and “I love you”.

What you see:

Me leaving a little early, perhaps looking a little frazzled as the mask starts to slip.

What you don’t see:

The days it takes me to recover from this event, the exhaustion, how we live on microwavable food and things like taking a shower become a huge achievement if they happen at all.

What you see:

Me joining in, pretending to be part of a community.

What you don’t see:

How badly this makes me want to die, how my real community are the only ones who I can allow to see the truth because it is also their truth.

What you see:

A mask

What you don’t see:

Me.

What you think:

There’s a mum doing a typical mum thing, no big deal.

What I think:

Why do I do this? Why do I try so very hard? Why can’t I just accept that doing typical mum things is too difficult and usually not worth the effort?

(Because I love my daughter and I don’t want her to miss out on things her peers get to do).

What you think:

I’m not a bad person, I wouldn’t judge someone for being disabled or having dodgy mental health. I am approachable and would try to support them, they could totally tell me if they were struggling.

What I know:

It is not safe for me to admit how bad things often are. I cannot afford to drop the mask and be perceived as not coping. Asking for help only makes me more vulnerable. Being stuck in this situation makes me unspeakably angry at the injustice of it all but I have to suck it up and just carry on letting you believe what you see because the alternatives are unthinkable.

A photo of a tacky child made Christmas bauble with glitter and starts stuck to it

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