Mummy, why are you sad?
The topic I would like to discuss today is around motherhood and mental health.
As a mum in today’s society we are very much expected to be superwoman, I mean all mums are! However, in the older days it was normal to have neighbours, friends, family help you. Now, if you ask for help there is something wrong, people wonder why you cannot manage alone.
Being a mum is tough, there are many positives (I won’t go into), but it is very hard work.
What makes this harder is poor mental health.
I do believe there is a “normal” level of mum guilt to be expected in any relationship with mother and child. The first time you leave them, when you return to work etc.
Having a mental health problem on top of that just escalates the guilt a million times.
As noted in my last post I have depression and anxiety. I am using medication currently which seems to be taking the edge off, but for a long time I was untreated. Being a mum with these problems does not mean what people think it means.
It’s not that I don’t love my child.
An example of a day with combined mum guilt, depression and anxiety would go like this:
7am Daughter wakes up, she is happy, springing to life. I try desperately to wake; I struggle profusely and want to cry due to the little sleep I obtained the night before due to racing thoughts.
I get up, Wednesday is our day off, and I have had this since she was born as it made me feel better about leaving her at nursery the other 4 days. So on a wed, I feel so guilty about sending her to nursery that I NEED to take her somewhere to have fun, spend money on her (guilt and anxiety).
I am extremely fatigued at this point already.
SO we may go to the cinema or soft play, these in themselves exhaust me as physically I feel constantly weak, and I am anxious in social places due to my anxiety about terrorism.
We get home following dinner out; we play with toys and games.
I really want to cry at this point, as I don’t want to play games, I want to lie down in bed in the dark and rest, I feel drained and exhausted from our day but I will keep trying to amuse her as I feel too guilty not to.
I spend my entire time amusing her, when really I should be also spending time cleaning or preparing dinner as we take turns cooking in our home. I know she does not need constant attention, but I get anxious from the feelings of being a bad mum that it is almost as if I have to prove myself to her.
By the time 5pm comes, the house is disgusting, there is no dinner ready for me and my husband, and I am tired, weak and tearful, and snap at my husband the second he walks in. I feel content in the fact that I now share the responsibility of my daughter and I can leave the room.
I will later then go to bed and not sleep due to hating myself for not cleaning the bathroom today, not hovering the landing and providing a good home for my daughter.
This is a viscous cycle that continues until I have the strength to break it again.
Being a mum with problems is difficult, I have good and bad days, above is a bad day.
On a good day I may go all day not noticing my thoughts, and we have a great day like I normal mummy. On a bad day I notice a change in her behaviour, it took my mum telling me for me to notice the pattern.
I would see my mum and tell her I am having a bad day due to my daughter being naughty, well in fact as my mum noticed when I woke up stressed and was overly trying to keep busy and distracting myself and her due to my low moods and anxiety, she could pick up these negative feelings and I triggered this behaviour!
I find good days are easy to manage (hate to point out the obvious), of course they are not instagram perfect, but they are manageable. I feel that is key, I used to re think my day and think about what I could have improved on, (I still do on occasion) but I now try to see good days as achievements, if I only became irritable a few times but was able to be out most of the day, engage with people and actually embrace society and my family then I reflect on how well I have done that day. I now discuss these days with my husband on the way home, it sounds silly but he will congratulate me on having a good day and tells me he loves me.
On my bad days, he will take my daughter out and let me rest for an hour or so, which before when I was at my worst I would not allow him to do, as I would feel too guilty to waste my time resting and push myself despite the exhaustion and anxiety and I became very angry and suicidal. Now, I rest.
If your phone dies, you would re-charge it. Why do we not consider re-charging ourselves?
We are human, we have energy, and we waste and use energy. I had to think biologically what am I doing to myself, I am already exhausting my body by having anxious thoughts, stress levels are rising, blood pressure rises and I experience a wave of panic and release of hormones. Instead of resting (recharging) following this drain on my body, I push myself to carry on, to go to work, to play with my daughter, to be a good wife. I then know how tired I am and that I am only offering half of my intentions and feel guilty about this and the cycle continues.
I am learning to recharge myself! As mums we have to, we are first and foremost humans, and without charged batteries we are only surviving and not living.
Our children need us to live, not survive.
It is not easy to adopt this way of thinking, especially when depression and anxiety is involved as your thoughts will tell you that you are lazy, neglecting your duties etc. And I still experience this, but I try breathing heavily through these thoughts whilst resting.
My daughter once asked me why I was sad, this was following another day off where she had a fab day, but I was emotionally and physically exhausted and was near breaking down and cried in the car on the way home.
I do not want her to ask me why I am sad, she is 4. She will learn to accept mental health as I will educate her in this as she grows as I want her to be open to her feelings and expressing these, but never again do I want my daughter to be concerned about my well-being.
We all have good and bad days, mums with mental health difficulties especially.
Embrace family, friends, and breathing techniques and make time to re charge yourself to enable you to live.