My mad fat diary – talking to my teenage daughter about mental health
This post is one of those raw ones, ones that I’m pushing boundaries of my own to share. It’s all about a diary.
Let me start you off with a tune. Ok, I know that isn’t normal etiquette for a blog post, but I want to put you in the mood. Bare with me, humour me but play this song first.
Ok are you ready and sitting comfortably? Then I will begin.
Rights of passage
Teenage girls are rare and precious things. Fragile to the point of breaking. Everything is taken personally, words wound that were meant to be jocular. Friends become the reason for being, parents become the natural enemy. Your heart and your lady bits become entangled in a war of wants. Every boy who hangs with you is a crush waiting to happen. It’s a bloody confusing time!
I’m writing this tonight as my girl turns 14 next week, and at the moment we are both reading Rae Earl’s Mad fat diary together , which you can buy by clicking the link here and at the end of the post, and watching it on More Four. Last week I found my own diary from 1995, and it reminded me of just how similar my teenage years must have been to Rae Earl’s!
I truly believe that keeping a diary as a teenage girl is a right of passage, a way to get out all that angst and pent-up hormonal rage onto black and white. My diary was pretty comprehensive, but I read a bit that stopped me in my tracks last week which prompted me to talk about this with my daughter, hence tonight’s review.
Mad Fat Diary
The book and show are based on the true story of a diary kept by an overweight teenage girl who lived in Lincolnshire in the 1990’s. Music mad Rae returns home after a summer in intensive therapy following a failed suicide attempt. The book follows her journey trying to settle into her life, finding her footing with friends, social life, and readjusting her mental health.
Not only does her story ring bells in my head but it takes me back to a time when I was growing up. The nineties. When the music was fantastic, the clothes left a lot to be desired, and my teenage brain had me loving life and bordering on paranoia constantly. It made me think that a chat with Cara was long overdue.
I don’t normally turn to the TV to help my girl with questions. But she has been talking for a while about friends she has. They’re experimenting. Some of them are using cutting as means of dealing with their internal anger or depression. I remembered this series, as it was just amazing. And she would appreciate reading the book with me – well any chance for down time with my girl!
Voila a diary
As I’ve mentioned previously Cara has dyslexia. But she expresses things so beautifully when she draws them. So I’ve bought her a plain paper journal (with a unicorn on it) for her birthday. I really believe that writing things down, or drawing them helps get everything out. I kept a diary from age 11 to around 18. I think occasionally I still wrote when I got stressed, but as I grew older I found different ways of expressing myself.
I wonder if she will keep it in the way I kept mine. I’ve noticed that she is far more private and values privacy a lot more than she used to. We talk about everything. And having had some issues before with dealing with anger, and knowing her place in our changed and evolved family, I hope she will find it useful. As useful as I did.
So watching the TV series she’s just been opening up about things that she wouldn’t have normally talked to me about. It feels like she has been carrying around the weight of her friends and own emotions for a while now. And I was totally oblivious.
There is a danger of glamorising lifestyle choices with youngsters. I remember back to how much I felt back then. How intense my emotions were. And how I wished the world to just tone down a notch, or give me a break. The world revolved around me. My bubble was full of emotion. It was full of boys rejecting me. My weight was always an issue. The people teasing me because of my weight yadda yadda yadda. And on and on the circle went until the spiral was a dot, ending with me.
I was insignificant though although this was going around and around in the me swirl. I asked her to explain if any of that made any sense to her. She agreed. I never cut. But I did wish myself dead. More than once. What I now recognise as a little more depression than teenage drama allowed. I read her my diary. Feeling terrible for doing it but telling her that it was ok, more than ok to talk about this. How lucky I was that I was here now.
Explaining to her I’m always here. But at some points when I say no, I say no for a reason. Not because I am Lucifer reborn and walking the earth. I’m really still learning. No one has written parenting for dummies yet, and sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing either.
Mental Well being in teenagers
I think we’re living in really strange times. Millennials are really blinking hard to understand! But half of the understanding is listening. Kids are far more vocal about sexuality, far more comfortable with things that were a taboo subject a short generation ago. Half the trick with this parenting lark is actually listening. It scares me how much bullshit comes out of teenagers mouths, what they picked up from YouTube. The fact that they don’t feel the need to read books.
It also scares me how worldly they are so young. I’m generalizing of course. But of course, we as parents need to initiate the conversation on a safe place, where they can feel comfortable.
I can’t put into words how amazing this series is. Have you seen it?
Links to buy:
About the author
Mum to 3, journalist, blogger and passionate Welsh girl. Well travelled and powered by caffine