The first 5 days are really hot and fraught with shopping trips and trying to sort the silly car out. Thankfully my husband has a french work colleague who does some phoning around for us and gets our car booked into a garage. What I often forget is that when I spend a reasonably long time with a group of people, I have to get used to being around them. Its an emotional form of exposure therapy. Family dynamics can be difficult to interpret, whether it's passive body language, or outright war. Some people just shout at each other a lot and for them that's normal. For me that would be quite scary and I'd probably want to hide. To paraphrase, what this means is that for the first 5 days I feel absolutely terrible in my mind. Thankfully, I have my mobile phone and can text people about the carnage in my head, get some perspective and survive. It's hideous when you realise that everyone else seems fine and you want to throw yourself under the nearest croissant making machine.
When the madness in my head slows down I begin to relax and get into the groove. My extended family are happy, clean, food centred and terribly indecisive. They'll laugh when reading this as their faffing drives me to distraction and I'm always telling them to get a bloody move on before we all die of frustration or starvation! Going to the supermarket can be a trial. My mother-in-law dawdles and loves all of the food, cooking pots and produce shelves. I just want to grab it and go. I'm damn impatient really and am a shopping spoil sport.
We barbecue, splash about in the pool, bath the kids in the laundry sink and play cards at night. Granddad tries to teach the kids cricket, but my youngest keeps running off with the ball which makes it nigh on impossible. We share the preparation of meals out, with one family doing lunch, and the other doing BBQ. It all works well and washing up is done on a natural rota where noone is requested to do it, it all just happens together. I feels good.
After about 5 days, the heavens open and it rains and rains and rains! We still go out places and have fun, but its difficult when you only have a caravan to come back too. It's at this point I start to feel a little bit of cabin fever, and depression wise, I feel erratic. My mood is all over the place and I'm certain that it can only be bad news. The amount of people that said to me before I came on holiday, "You'll feel much better after a break". Those people obviously have no children and a serious mental health condition. Holidays with family for me are not a break. Going on my own to Majorca for a week on holiday would be a proper break, and no that isn't going to happen in the near future. I think my husband would divorce me if I left him on his own for a week with our two kids.
The rain abates and the last few days are sunny, peaceful and good fun. We have a "Twilight zone" moment down by the sea front the day before we come home. We meet some people who, it turns out, live in the house that my mother-in-law was born in in England. It was very queer to say the least. We wistfully pack up our gear and make it to the ferry with no breakdowns (Well, not of the car variety at least) and when we come up on deck and sight land, we all feel slightly reflective but pleased to be back.
Depression is a nasty creature as it infects what ought to be good and honest with cynicism and fear. A 2 week holiday, spent in a peacceful part of France with loving family, should be a happy and joyful time. I did have a good time, but my constant companion tries to drag it back to gloom the whole time. It fills you with guilt, as really, you have no reason to be terribly miserable. Depression is a thief. Its a distraction burglar that tears you're eye away from the sunshine and when you look back to see it, you missed it. It's a life of "if only's" and my biggest fear is soon to be realised. I'm on the greasy hill down into madness.