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We watched Lego Batman at the cinema yesterday – a family Valentine’s treat.
I do love seeing children’s films, especially the ones with multiple layers of meaning, but (‘and this is a BIG BUT’, as my unfortunate colleague once said in front of her class) I don’t enjoy sharing the theatre with hundreds of tiny, wriggly, wailing, sugar-hyped, crisp packet-rustling kiddies whose parents have no clue about the attention span of a 2 year old.
If Hubby and I had to sacrifice cinema visits for 7 or 8 years until we could trust our kids not to spoil anyone else’s viewing experience, then those parents surely can too. Grump, grump.
Anyway – complaining aside – I rather liked the film’s message today.
Batman was afraid of becoming close to anyone because he couldn’t cope with the pain of losing his family.
He trusted no one except himself, and therefore lived in a pitiful state of isolation.
Batman’s worst enemy was not The Joker, Penguin, Bane or any other comic book villain – the real enemy was HIMSELF.
Now, I totally relate to that.
After having children, I suffered from PTSD. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but the births were both pretty traumatic and I was NOT prepared for how our lives would change. I stopped being able to sleep, and I had horrendous nightmares when I did sleep – nightmares where members of my family were in peril, or even died.
Then this terrible phenomenon started following me into my waking moments. I could be chopping an onion and thinking of nothing in particular, when I would suddenly be assaulted with a slow-motion film in my head of my little daughter running up to me, putting her hand on the chopping board, and I’d watch in sweaty horror as my knife descended and sliced off her finger.
Or I’d be descending the stairs and a bloody image would flash before my eyes, of my young son teetering at the top of the stairs because I’d forgotten to close the stairgate, and then crashing to the bottom in a broken heap. Or it’d be ME who fell and died, whilst Hubby was away on tour for 5 days, and the kids would starve. Or I’d run them over by accident. Or neglect to cut up a grape, which they’d then choke on.
Morbid, haunting and appalling. But I couldn’t make it stop.
When the situation became intolerable, I sought help from a wonderful counsellor, and I’ve never forgotten what she said.
She said that pain is the darker face of love. It is an inextricable part of the experience of loving someone or something. If you love nothing, you have nothing to lose. She said I should embrace the fear – in fact, trust the fear – because it was all part of the same complicated but beautiful phenomenon we call love. She said that the future was obviously unknowable, and that terrible things do happen, BUT that I should concentrate on the now, convert the nervous energy I was wasting on my anxiety into positivity, and love my family with every fibre of my being.
Easier said than done, but it did help.
I still get mild attacks of this kind of anxiety – a common symptom of a vivid imagination and moderate intelligence – but it is manageable. No doubt, it may intensify again as my children grow older, I give them more independence, and hand them over the responsibility for their own safety.
But the alternative – building a wall so strong and so high that no one could get close to me; forming a tough carapace around my heart to prevent love from infecting me; isolating myself on an island of arrested development and oblivion – does not appeal to me.
So yes. Having a family or well-loved friends IS sometimes upsetting and frustrating, but this specific pain is a privilege denied to so many, and I ought to remember that every day.
Like Batman, I am my own worst enemy.
I sabotage my attempts to stay healthy and fit; I put myself down and I criticise myself harshly; I overthink situations until I feel trapped in a thorny cage of my own making; I cling on to the past, allowing good memories to become inundated with melancholy, and bad memories to continue controlling my current behaviour. I set goals that are too high, and forget to appreciate the little triumphs and joys along the way. I stay up too late at night, and then feel like crap in the morning. I forget to celebrate any of my achievements*.
However, Batman has also reminded me that knowing your weaknesses is the first step to dealing with them… and that it’s OK to ask for help.
Pretty astute teachings for a plastic lego figure.
*So can I just say, I got up at 6.30am this morning to attend a Crossfit class at 7am EVEN THOUGH IT’S HALF TERM. The WOD (workout of the day) was Fight Gone Bad – and it’s as brutal as it sounds. Go me! Batman would be proud...