My Epic Journey to See Hamilton, or How I Took My Anxiety Disorder On A Road Trip And You Totally Can Too*

This is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever written, mostly cause I know it’ll come back to haunt me forevermore, but I know that documenting this stuff online can be v useful for anyone else frantically Googling their own postnatal insanity. Hello, intrepid Googlenaut! How are you? Dig deep! I believe in you!

*Not my disorder, obviously, it’s been through enough. Take your own baggage to London already.

October 2016

They see me rollin’, they ghostin’

Fourteen months postpartum, while I’m still madder than a box of frogs, I am now almost passing as a normal human adult. I can take the baby to the shops (sweating), I can sleep in a roughly horizontal position, only waking (sweatily) once or twice each night to check the room temperature, baby’s temperature, baby’s nappy and which of my favourite celebrities have died.

Some of my 2015 baby cohorts have returned to work, gone on exciting holidays and even, WHAT, got pregnant again, while many of my other non-baby friends have ditched me in alarm or possibly disgust. Turns out everyone has hashtag-time-to-talk about mental illness until it involves a lot of acting weird and dressing like a scarecrow, at which point they want you to shut up and go away. Fair.

But! None of this matters because Jim has exciting news (although this grab suggests Chris swooped in on the act):

Yep, I can’t yet leave my kid in a room alone for 5 minutes while I pee, but SURE I’ll be able to leave her overnight to go and see a show! I’ve got ages! I just need to chunk this task down into steps. Really fucking stupid steps.

November 2016

Like a room with a really low roof

I jitterbug to the GP and explain that the CBT approach of ‘happiness is a choice!’ is the mental health equivalent of ‘amoebic dysentery is a valid lifestyle option!’ I need the drugs.

I score 20/21 on the HADS-A test and come out with a Sertraline prescription and a lot of feels, including shame and hunger. Shunger.

January 2017

The drugs actually do work

My skin is clearing. My hairline marches forward to meet my glorious Gandalf eyebrows. I leave Ada sleeping alone on occasion. She fails to explode or vanish while I eat dinner, so I get bolder and watch TV with Chris sometimes.

I watch the movie Iron Man on my phone a lot, trying to adopt the can-do attitude required to escape an Afghan cave, only instead of an Afghan cave it’s a bungalow in Dundee, and instead of an electromagnetically-powered armour and a vengeful rebel warlord it’s anything-not-pyjamas and one cheerful toddler. Chris gives me a tiny Iron Man to carry around, although Ada keeps trying to eat him.

January 2017

This is the road to well

Next is a big step in two tiny stepettes – Ada needs to first be socialised, then left with Someone Who Isn’t Me. And before I can do that, I need to get to some out-of-the-way places. Which means… driving.

Driving includes everything anxiety sufferers hate – danger, quick decision-making, and unpredictable situations. Also, sometimes people will beep their horns at you if you hesitate for too long at a roundabout. Just typing that makes my eyeballs twitch.

I drive Ada to the nearby supermarket. I drive her to the less-nearby soft play. I drive her to Arbroath! Although that’s accidental – I missed the turning for Dobbies. These traumatic daily outings leave me shaky and with an alarming electrolyte imbalance, but we are free and meeting people. People from Arbroath!

Meanwhile, Hamiltalk has gone military.

April 2017

Grandma, we love you

Ada recognises my parents and will stay with them for an hour at a time. Indeed, she will often favour Grandma over me, if biscuits are involved. She is terrified of literally everyone else, particularly the scary baby at playgroup who hogs the xylophone. I accidentally make an enemy of scary baby’s mum and become a playgroup dropout, shunned from Broughty Ferry church-hall-based society.

August 2017

Blue Monday. Also Fridays.

Nursery. Nursery is brutal. Ada cries all the way there, and for the first few weeks has to be pried from my arms screaming ‘NO MUMMY!’ as I cheerfully wave ‘Bye bye, have fun!’. I spend the sessions waiting in the library across the road, shaking and trying not to throw up. My mind has blanked the following three months, meaning I probably spent them sleeping in my clothes on Ada’s bedroom floor. On the upside, my hair looks GOOD.

Christmas 2017

Looking for a mind at work

I now have a job, it is awesome. In the week leading up to my first day, Ada is ambulanced to hospital for a breathing problem then almost lops a finger off in a freak crafting accident, while I get viral sinusitis and about four hours of sleep. I wash up in the office in much the same way Tom Hanks washed up to that really huge cargo ship; bearded and disbelieving. I am giddy.

Chris experiences his first screaming nursery drop-off and is so traumatised he says it takes him a full morning to recover.

Over in Hamiltalk, Jim has now actually seen Hamilton! He has passed into a another realm; one we cannot truly understand.

January 2018

In the still of the night

Grandma and Grandad stay overnight at ours ‘to see Ada’s bedtime routine.’ Ada is terribly excited and goes down swinging after 90 minutes of stroking my hair and recounting Tinkerbell’s origin story, like Gina Ford’s worst nightmare. Good luck, guys.

February 2018

In the eye of a hurricane there are dumplings

It is time. We dress as if for work, drop Ada at nursery, then drive to Edinburgh airport. I haven’t fully decided if I’m actually going to step on a plane yet – at this point, I’d consider a departure lounge burrito and a tear-streaked drive home a pretty good day out at any rate.

I get on a plane. The plane takes off. I have left a scrappy note granting my parents temporary guardianship in the event of a terrorist incident or aeronautical catastrophe.

We land at Stansted and my Apple Watch notes that my heart rate is that of a hummingbird on a rollercoaster.

I eat 10 gyoza and practice my Instaskillz.

I’m having a low-level out-of-body experience. I wish Iron Man was here.

We sit down. We watch the show. I know it’s only a stupid musical and one stupid night away, but it’s everything. I can’t believe we made it.

Thank you everyone who helped us on our way to Hamilton.

Also? If anyone writes a musical about Tinkerbell’s origin story, I am THERE. After a fashion.

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