There I am. Smiling and laughing at family get-togethers. I'm the funny one, the arty one, the dramatic one, the unpredictable one. No one would guess there's a cement brick weighing down my tummy. No one would know I have just come from the bathroom where I allowed myself a two-minute cry.
There I am. Entertaining my girlfriends with hilarious stories of my crazy life. Self-deprecating anecdotes that has them all crying with laughter. Little do they know the mental effort it took to even arrive here. And how exhausted I will be when I arrive home.
There I am. At the school gate collecting my kids. Chatting to the mums about the maths homework, heavy bags and head lice! Chitter chatter, normal mummy pitter patter. Keep breathing. Keep calm. Minute at a time.
There I am. Shopping with my kids. Trolley, list and instructions: 'You get the weetabix and juice', 'You get the strawberries and crackers'. Ready steady, go. Inside, I'm counting down the seconds we can get out of this noisy people-populated bad dream.
There I am. In a work meeting. I'm speaking but I don't believe my own voice. Do they? Can I do this job? Is my work good enough? They seem to be nodding and responding. I must be okay. Am I?
There I am. Lost. On the way to a football match. My child worried, will we be late? Will I let my team down? My voice, high pitch with stress, assures him we'll get there. Inside, I feel lost, lost, lost.
I call it 'doing a Meryl'. My acting skills are sparkling. No one would know. No one would guess. My Meryl mask is secure.
Only a few friends know. They see the real me. Sad, vulnerable and raging with anxiety. Amazingly, they still like me! They have seen my Meryl mask slip and they've seen me emotionally naked without my armour. I thank them for not flinching. Or, if they do, for hiding it so well!
But I also thank my Meryl Mask because it gets me through each day. It makes me a stronger mother. A fighter. Meryl in her armour with her sword by her side.
Wounded but very much alive.
There I am.
Salt Water Mum
A Moodscope member.