I missed the first few series of ‘Call the midwife’; so I have been unashamedly been gorging on a few. It’s not particularly the storylines or childbirth that appeals to me! If you have not watched it and you have an interest in British working class history, give it ago!
I LOVE to learn about how people lived years ago. I cannot believe that it was only 60 – 70 years since midwives and nuns cycled through our streets and lived in perfect harmony.
Sadly more people lived in squalor and the national health service was new and eagerly awaited. Communities pulled together, your neighbour would be there for you and kids would be out playing in the street all day.
Many people would work three jobs, eating a lot less and having to deal with medical issues and problems on their own.
Life was tough in many ways, yet people seemed happier. Expectations were lower and happiness was found in the simplest of ways. You knew what was expected of you and that’s what you did. Family, work, marriage, kids and anything else was a bonus.
Working class women worked in factories. Working in a biscuit factory was deemed fortunate. You could expect to work on a line lovingly hand filling chocolate bourbons or mixing up the cream custard for custard creams. Days were 12 hours long and you left the factory smelling sickly sweet. The streets were full of the lingering smells pumping out of each factory chimney.
If you worked in a jam factory you would be hand hulling tonnes of strawberries or blackberries or if you were unlucky you would be working in the boiling room. Large open VATS with bubbling jam would be hand stirred and carefully watched over. Injuries and burns were common, pay was poor and you could expect half a day off a week.
However, you were deemed unlucky if you worked in one of the pickling factories. You were haunted with the sharp smell of vinegar, no amount of scrubbing could remove from the very essence from your skin. Try getting a husband smelling like that?!
Walk down a London street in the late 1920s and you have been faced wth a mixture of smells; biscuits, vinegar, leather, and jam would have filled your nostrils each hour of each day. Fresh air was few and far between and green spaces and parks were yet to be built.
The Sour side of life
There is no denying life would have been harder, much harder than we all have it now.
In the late 1920’s Polio and TB were the biggest killers in infants. Living conditions and lack of vaccinations were accountable for their unfortunate growth. More women died in childbirth and there was little in the way of contraception.
If you were working class you would be working 12 hour days 7 days a week or at least 6 days if you were lucky. You may have had running water and your toilet would have definitely been in the garden. The food was in short supply and your husband may well have been killed in the Great war or drank to drown his memories of fighting in it.
Mental health issues existed, but you dare not admit to suffering or having an issue. If you felt sad, you put out your British stiff upper lip and got on with it. If you were brave enough to tell someone how you felt, you ran the risk of being admitted to a mental health institute with people who were insane or disabled.
You did not seek out a therapist or take medication. When valium was introduced in 1960’s it was deemed the anxiety drug and became the best friend of many a housewife. Valium was misused and addictive. It’s undesirable side effects are only becoming fully understood now.
Life was tough and living with a mental illness was not an option.
Therapy – Sweet or Sour?
As I have learned more about mental illness and how it has been accepted or acknowledged (or not) over the years, it has made me feel like therapy is an indulgence of the modern era.
We have our American and Canadian friends to thank for its introduction in the early 1950’s. As we all started to embrace different cultures and move away from our family towns, we opened our minds to new possibilities. England started to break away from its tough times before the war.
Research into mental illness brought about new treatment options and along came the therapist.
Therapists obtained notoriously bad reputations and they were looked upon as people who simply listened to you and nodded their heads. People assumed they were for the rich and famous or for vain people who needed to be told how wonderful they are ” NO, YOU REALLY ARE AMAZINGLY AWESOME”.
I have to admit I probably felt the same and have been reluctant to see a therapist for a long time.
Why should I indulge myself talking about myself every week?
What makes me so special?
As the BIG promise to recover this year has been made, I have reluctantly started therapy….again! Tea is just not going to do it for me and I don’t take sugar!!
Therapy is no longer the indulgence I judged for me, therapy I hope will show me how to handle negative thoughts. Therapy will really get to the bottom of why I feel like I do. Therapy will deal with Anorexia and kick her ass into another far away dimension. Therapy is my life line. At the moment for me and the people around me, therapy is my last resort.
I have prepared a letter for therapy, sounds weird, I know but keep with me. Writing a letter to a nonexistent person is actually really rewarding. You don’t have to post it or show anyone, but it is such a good tool to get things off your chest. As I have shared many inner feelings on my blog, I may as well share my letter!
Yep – I bet you are all clearly thinking I need to see someone at this point…..whatever!!
I will give you this chance to show me, teach me and lead me to the right path.
I want to be fixed, I no longer want to hate myself or the essence of who I am.
You have my permission to hear thoughts and feelings I have not shared before.
You are the only person who can help me stand up to Anorexia. I want her to know you are more important and valued in my life than she is.
You are my last resort, you are my reluctant hero and now is your chance to shine.
Best Wishes, (This bit actually made me laugh – I wrote ‘Best Wishes’ – so British)
Katie – The girl who has tried.
Let’s take a second to think about how people survived through some pretty sh&t times years ago and still come out the other side smiling.
All else fails, make a cup of tea and dunk a custard cream! She says!!