societal pressure

The Great Unease

One thing I have learnt over the past 10 years since being diagnosed with a life-altering illness, is that I am yet to feel at ease with my life. There comes a time in your life, when you hit the big THREE-O and you’re supposed to have your shit together.Β Well, I thought I had my shit together; turns out, I haven’t.

You see, I’ve always been an old soul. I’ve always known I wanted to settle down, get married and have pets (never children) and while it seems I am on track with my life goals, I am still feeling the great unease surrounding who I am and what I bring to the world.

Since I was a young teenager, I’ve always wanted to be famous somehow. I wanted to sing, but stagefright put paid to that dream – likewise with acting (for which I was awarded an ‘exceptional’ from my year 8 Drama teacher) and performance anxiety has shrouded my life in many ways.

I’ve always had the fear of being like everyone else. When I was at school I made it my plan to stick out like a sore thumb – and was bullied because of it. But I was stoic in that I didn’t want to fit in and be like everyone else, so I took it and it made me strong.

Yet here I am at the age of thirty, wanting, in part, to be like everyone else. Not, in the sense of I want to be in a job I dislike, pay rent to a greedy landlord and have children drive me round the bend, but in the sense that I want to be a productive member of society. (You have no idea how much I hate myself for saying that!)

Living with an incurable, oftentimes debilitating illness means I am not a ‘productive’ member of society. I am unable to follow my career goals (of which I have had many, shot down in a blaze of smoke) and now I’m left with a sense of ‘now what?’

I felt so compelled by these feelings of unease that last year I enrolled onto a distance learning Degree in History and surprisingly to me, I’m doing very well on my first module (If I was studying at a brick uni, I would be at distinction level!) and I’m really enjoying spending time wisely, studying. I no longer felt like I was wasting away in my bedroom waiting for the weekend when I get to spend time with my partner of nearly 3 years.

However, I’m now nearing the end of my first module (of which there are 6 – one per year) and I’m finding myself twiddling my thumbs again. I’ve started the audiobook of the set book for my next module yet it doesn’t start until October.

People think being at home and ‘off work’ is a dream lifestyle. I won’t argue that it has its benefits – I can stay up as late as I want and wake up as late as I want, for example, but I’m also trapped inside 4 walls for 90% of my day and two thirds of the week. As an unworking woman, I do not have the funds to be galavanting around in a car (I can’t drive manual and cannot afford an automatic car) nor do I have the energy to do so.

I spend my days lying on my bed in various positions (shifting when the pain becomes too much to bear) and it’s demoralising. Seeing all those people on Instagram going places in life makes me feel uneasy. In the pit of my stomach I feel the longing to have a ‘normal life’ like all these people I watch every day.

But then, I have to remind myself, yet again, that I’m not normal. I do have an incurable illness and I will have it for the rest of my life. It’s really really hard to balance this unending feeling of disquiet in my soul, with the knowledge that I’m doing the best I can. I have an enquiring mind and I want to see the world – this is in complete competition with the fact that my body was not built the same way as my mind. My body is broken, but my mind is sharp.

How does one reconcile a life wanted, with the life given? How does one overcome the odds when they are all stacked against you? This is something my mind continues to wonder, while I lie here, in pain, day after day.

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Sex, Travel and Antiques

This has been a topic of conversation among my peers for a while now. I’m hurtling towards the big 3-0 like nobodies business, whereas most of my friends are in their mid twenties but even though we’re not quite the same age, we all have the same decision to make eventually – to have children or to not have children.

For generations, society has dictated that when girls grow up, they become child bearers, mothers and wives. In more recent years, the ‘you can have it all’ movement gave way toΒ women deciding to shun the typical route of getting married and having children instead to focus on being career women first and mothers second.

I am part of a group of women who have not only shunned society’s labels of wife and mother and career woman. I am simply ME.

At 29 years of age, I am at my childbearing peak. In a few years my eggs will start to dwindle and my chances of becoming pregnant get lower. But, for me, this isn’t an issue because I am consciously CHILD FREE. I do not want to have a baby, ever.

My Mother’s Mother wasn’t a maternal lady. She wasn’t a natural mother, but in the 50s, women had babies, that’s just what they did. My own Mother has said that she too didn’t have a maternal instinct (despite having myself and my elder sister) and if she had her time again, she probably wouldn’t have had children. I don’t blame her for saying that, I know how hard she has toiled bringing up my sister and I.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your stance, mental illness is a family issue for me – it’s in both sides of my family (thanks Mum, thanks Dad!) and I also have a physical (inherited) disability. Knowing that I have inherited these conditions really has made me consider how this may affect my own offspring.

Making the decision to not have children has been an incredibly easy decision for me. Mostly, because like my Mum and Grandma, I seem to have missed the ‘maternal instinct’ gene (if there is one). I see babies and I recoil. The noise they make sounds like nails down a chalk board and I hate bright colours. I hate everything to do with children – the tv shows, the Pixar movies, the nursery rhymes, the toilet training, the school run and most importantly, childbirth.

I have absolutely no interest in carrying a baby in my (poorly designed) body. Having an inheritable connective tissue disorder comes with its own problems so being pregnant whilst having EDS is no mean feat. I can’t run about like I’d need to with a child, I can barely hold my 1 year old Nephew for more than a minute before I’m in excrutiating pain, so physically I know I wouldn’t cope being a mother.

And most importantly for me, I’m too selfish. I love sex, travel and antiques. My partner and I are planning on restoring a Victorian house at some point in our future. You simply can’t do that and afford to pay for a child too. We’re both in our late twenties, I can’t work so we’d be relying on his salary. It’s just too much.

Thankfully, I’m with a man who, like me, has little interest in having his own offspring. He is a Primary School teacher, so loves to come home at the end of the day to peace and quiet. His job as a teacher is extremely fulfilling and he loves imprinting knowledge on the Β young. Thankfully for me, we’re both on the same page when it comes to being child-free.

You may notice I use the term childfree rather than childless, because to me, I am free of children. I am not ‘less’ – if anything, I can be more than just a Mum. I’m not saying there is anything at all wrong with women who want to be Mums. I just know in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t born to bring a child into the world. I want to travel the world while I’m able to (my condition is degenerative), I want to buy luxurious sofas and thick carpets that aren’t going to have paint or pen trodden into them. I want bricks and mortar and to sit by the open fire with my (one day) husband and our cats.

To me, that is the best thing about being a twenty-something; I can choose who I want to be and so can you.

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Maybe one day…. but not yet….Β