When I was in the middle of having my breakdown, I went to the beach several times. I think I thought the sun, sea and sand would make me feel happy and at peace, but it never really did.
Every time I went, I would look up at the balloon that goes up from the Gardens, and think, "you could just get in that, wait for it to go up, and jump..."
One time I went as far as joining the queue, but I didn't have enough cash on me.
The next time I was there, I was with a friend. I told her about my plan with the balloon. She looked at it and said, "you can't jump off that; there's a cage all the way round to keep people in!"
Fast forward three years.
Today I went to the beach with S and two of my sisters. It was S's first trip to the beach, and I kind of expected her to not really enjoy it. Imagine my surprise when I took her down to the sea for a paddle, and she just kept on walking. I lifted her over the waves as they came, but I missed a few and they got her full in the face! No tears though - she just giggled and kept on kicking her legs and jibbering away to herself.
In the end, I walked up to Primark to buy a cheap bikini so that I could take S into the sea properly. I left her with my sisters (with a list of instructions as long as both their arms), and set off up to the shops. That involved walking through the gardens for the first time since that time three years ago.
As I walked past the balloon, I looked up and thought, imagine if I'd done it.
My life now is far from easy. I'm constantly behind on my studying, the housework, blog posts, emails, Twitter. S is not sleeping brilliantly, I'm constantly knackered, am too tired and short of time to buy and prepare proper food for myself. But I'm the happiest, most contented I've ever been in my life. Instead of going to the beach in a vague attempt to pull myself out of the pit of despair, I was there to enjoy the sea and the sand with my beautiful daughter, who enjoyed the whole experience a lot more than any of us expected.
As I passed the balloon, I texted my friend saying, "hey, remember that time you told me I couldn't jump out of the balloon..." Her response?
Who would have thought you'd be where you are now?
Certainly not me.