If you haven’t read the sequel to Julia Donaldson’s best-selling book ‘The Gruffalo’ with your children, then why not? Do it.
The story focuses on the Gruffalo’s daughter who, despite her father’s warnings, sets off in to the woods to discover the ‘big bad mouse’, which is the only thing her father is afraid of. During her journey she meets the snake, owl and fox who tell her where she can find the ‘big bad’ mouse. She eventually gives up her search, thinking she has been deceived and that there is no such thing as the big bad mouse. However, a little mouse does appear. In order to avoid being eaten, the mouse invites the Gruffalo’s child to meet the big bad mouse. The mouse tricks her by standing on a tree branch to use the moonlight to enlarge his shadow. The Gruffalo’s daughter flees, believing the shadow to be that of the real ‘big bad mouse’.
Like the Gruffalo and his daughter, I enjoy the safety of my ‘cave’. Due to having depression and anxiety, I could happily spend all day, every day in the little bubble that is my home. However, this is clearly not practical. My children poop often, so I need to go out and buy nappies. They also like to eat food, so I need to venture to the supermarket. These necessities force me to journey in to the outside world, just as the Gruffalo’s daughter is forced in to the deep, dark wood by her own curiosity.
The black cloud inside my head means that I get very anxious when I have to leave my house. My mind turns the non-event of nappy buying in to a major ordeal. My hands turn clammy and my heart races. I don’t know why. I don’t know what I’m scared of. I think, maybe though, that it is the big bad mouse. My depression is like the Gruffalo, snake, owl, fox and mouse, trying desperately to convince me that there really is a big bad mouse out there trying to get me. It tricks me in to thinking that there is something to be anxious about … like the shadow of the big mad mouse appearing to the Gruffalo’s child, a dark shadow looms over my life too. Both shadows are the products of our minds, and the anxiety that they cause is also ‘imagined’, in that there is nothing really to be scared of. The big bad mouse is just a shadow of the little mouse. And my depression and anxiety is just a shadow covering my mind at the moment. I know this, yet I just can’t shake the terrible spectre causing my anxiety.
However, there is hope! The Gruffalo’s child was courageous and actually sought out her father’s biggest fear and confronted it. Every time I face up to my anxiety and venture outside, I feel a little bit stronger. I feel a little bit proud of myself, like I should give myself a pat on the back. As much as I dread leaving my house, I still force myself to go out. It would be so easy to become a recluse, but that’s just not me. I like going shopping really, I love meeting up with friends for a gossip, I enjoy going on days out with my boys. I’ve not changed who I am, I just have a mental illness. So long as I keep forcing myself to do these things I don’t want to right now, I know I will eventually start to enjoy them again. I know I will eventually become ‘me’ again.