anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, Uncategorized, writing

Motherhood is exhausting.

I’ve been feeling the strains of being a stay-at-home Mum lately. Any one else? I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been struggling and feeling alone in it all.

I’ve not been able to get out of bed, eat or even sleep properly – it all became a little too much for me!

What have I done to get myself out of this depressive hole you may ask?

  • Made myself comfortable. Whether it was laying in bed or going for a walk – I was following what my intuition was telling me to do for my mind. Riding the wave and literally waiting for it to pass.
  • Forced myself to challenge negative thoughts such as “I’m not a good Mum because I’m laying in bed doing nothing!”. How about turning that around to “I’m a good Mum because I’m putting myself first for my recovery!”.
  • Made sure I was safe. I let people know I was struggling, whether that was my mental health team/family. When I received their support I felt so much more supported and less alone.

So does self love and positive thinking really help in your darkest moments. Yes. Its tough though, really tough. As it’s like standing up to a bully and saying “get out of my head, I love myself and I’m strong”.

I’d love to hear how you manage your depressive episodes and what you think your triggers are?

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anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, writing

Obsession

Even before having my daughter, I’d always enjoyed cleaning. I always felt better once everything was polished, hoovered, swept and washed. Like I was cleaning myself in a way. To me, a clean home meant a clean mind almost.

This need to keep a clean home seemed to magnify as soon as I had my daughter. In the hospital I would busy myself tidying up all my possessions around my bed and even making my bed. Utterly pointless but I felt I needed to do it in order to maintain some form of order in my new world of chaos and uncertainty.

Once home I continued to tidy up and clean. Well, on the days I wasn’t sat over thinking every possible situation in how my daughter would end up hurt or dying. These obsessive thoughts turned into intrusive ones quite rapidly. I would have images in my head of my daughter being injured due to some action that I caused and I would physically wince and get extremely upset by these. I would become fixated on everything that I did during the day and if any of my day to day activities could harm my daughter. Luckily I saught help quite quickly and these obsessive/intrusive thoughts soon lessened. But my need to clean never waned.

I get a bit upset and anxious if I see any dirt or dust, or if I know I haven’t cleaned in a few days. I must drive my husband nuts by asking him to do bits and pieces while I’m out at work in the evenings. Even then it doesn’t really stop me being anxious because I haven’t cleaned it. Not that I don’t trust my husband to clean properly, I think I actually like the process of cleaning and seeing the dust/dirt being swept away. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and knowing my home is clean for my daughter is obviously a bonus.

To try and manage my cleaning habits, I try to rationalise to myself on a daily basis that my house, in the grand scheme of things, IS clean. I also pencil in one day a week when my daughter is at her child minders and im off work to have a good clean of the place. I also allocate time for myself too, I like getting my nails done or going out for a coffee and reading a book. Simple things really!

In short, I’m trying my best to realise that life is more about cleaning. My gravestone won’t read “she kept a really tidy home”, because what does that matter? All tgat matters is that I love my family and do my best for them every day. I don’t think I’ll ever get to grips with my inbuilt necessity to clean, but I’m happy I know I have it under control.

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery

Hybrid

As a first time mum I suffered for a long time with “mum guilt”, even more so as I was suffering from postnatal depression. I already felt like I was failing my daughter and I thought everyone was watching and judging my every move as a mother. A role I had convinced myself I couldn’t handle and wasn’t cut out for, a role I thought I didn’t deserve in all honesty.

This was made worse by knowing I wluld need to return to work at some point. I would find myself calculatung how many weeks/days/hours I had left until my life was gling to yet again go into freefall. During my maternity leave I was constantly asked ”Are you going back to work?” Every time I would reply yes and get the same response “Oh you’ll change your mind when the time comes” “Can’t you just survive on one wage?” The truth was I knew I wouldn’t change my mind. Or more that, I couldn’t. It’s so difficult to survive on a single wage these days. And not being able to contribute to the bills or buy my daughter what she needed would make me experience even more of that “mum guilt”.

So on my first day back, I dropped her off at the child minders. I had no doubt that she would care for her very well but it didn’t stop the tears on the drive to work. Why was I crying? A mixture of reasons really, but primarily it was leaving her with who was essentially a stranger so I could go and earn money so I can help support my family. Crazy isn’t it? I had taken all the necessary steps in order to be with my daughter as much as possible and to make the transition from full time mum to…well still full time mum and the added pressure of part time employee! I had dropped down to 4 days a week and arranged a flexible working agreement with my employers. But it didn’t stop the inevitable guilt from creeping in and making me feel like the worst mother on the planet. So many conflicting thoughts were firing around my brain, I needed time to help process them all.

Thankfully, now 4 months down the line the guilt I experienced on that first day back has all but gone. Some days are better than others however. I occasionally still feel a pang of guilt as I thought that by being a stay-at-home/work-at-home hybrid, I’d have the best of both worlds. But instead, I feel like I’m half-assing each one. I barely have time to do anything put with work. The housework has taken a back seat, mornings prior to starting work are dominated by trying to get things organised rather than playing with my daughter before I leave her for the day. And when I’m at work I’m constantly thinking about all the things that need done at home. But while I continue to battle with my PND and recurring episodes of anxiety I have to keep reminding myself that having a spotless house isn’t the be all and end all. I do my best every day for my little girl, and what more can she ask for?

I chose to be a working mum but the way I see it, I’m contributing towards half of the bills with my husband and while I’m at work in the evenings he is looking after our daughter. She is not short on love or attention, and we are bringing her up together as a team. A team I’m proud to be a part of.

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, writing

Motherhood and mental health: a volatile mix 

During my first few weeks of motherhood I clearly remember sitting there on the edge of my bed crying. Crying because I felt my daughter deserved someone better, someone who would love and care for her better than I could. Crying because I felt like a monster for not wanting her around me and knowing that was wrong. I honestly felt as close to evil as Rose West or Myrah Tinsley. It’s funny to think that now as I know I am in now way similar to those women, nor will I be. Yet I felt like I was severely letting my daughter down and I could not for the life of me bring myself to love her.

I am now far away from feeling like this now,  a year down the line. And I know I have a long way yet to go in order to fully recover but I’ve got through it so far. I still get bad days, but the good days outweigh these now.

On my bad days I feel overwhelmed. My brain can’t seem to think straight and I feel like I can’t control anything which makes me anxious. I find myself racing around the house trying to get stuff organised for the day but ending up achieving next to nothing. It is the most infuriating feeling to me as I thrive on being organised but on these days the motivation goes out the window. I am still trying to accept that I may need to be kinder to myself on days like these and remind myself that in the wider context the hoovering not getting done really isn’t the end of the world! 

Sometimes the bad days land on a day where I need to go to work. And the guilt that I am leaving my daughter in someone else’s care creeps back in. Again, I try to rationalise this feeling and remind myself why I am going to work. I’m going in order to pay my bills so my daughter has all she needs, food in her belly and a roof over her head. 

Of course my medication helps to a certain degree, but I feel that by taking a step back and trying to look at the bigger picture and breaking it down into smaller chunks seems to help me personally. Perhaps it’s just how my mind works, and this wouldn’t work for everyone. 

Being a parent with a mental health issue is tough. But the help is out there if you need it. I can’t praise my GP enough for all she has done for me and the staff at outpatient psychiatry for helping me as much as they have to make me realise I’m not a bad mother, I’m just a mother who has post natal depression and asked for help. 

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, Uncategorized

Mothers with illness.

 

 

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.

 

Casey

xx

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, parenting, post natal depression, Uncategorized

Triggers

Below is a list of some of the things or ‘triggers’ that set my anxiety or low mood off. There are many but these are probably the most prevalent:

  • The weather: I have, for as long as I remember, always noticed a change in my mood when the weather is dull and gloomy. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of summer, if the weather is dull, wet, windy and gloomy, so is my mood. I am one of those people who thrive when the sun is shining. The warmth, the sunshine, the long days in the summer and even those cold, crisp sunny days in the winter. Everything always seems better when the sun is shining. I am sure no one really loves it when it’s dark, rainy and windy outside; but for me it’s more than just a dislike. It makes me feel sad. It makes me feel down. It makes me want to hibernate. I do not like being cold and wet. It makes everything that little bit more difficult. Everything is more of a faff. The uncertainty of it all makes me anxious.

 

  • Sleep: I love and need my sleep. If I do not get enough sleep I can be pretty foul to be around (just ask my husband). I must say, since having our son I have obviously gotten used to having a little less sleep than I would like, but I am glad (and lucky) to say that he has, on the whole, always been a very good sleeper. Of course he has his moments when he is ill or teething, but these are few and far between. I know I can function on very little sleep (because I did when he was a new born), but now I am used to my sleep again, I literally do not know how I would function if he wasn’t good at sleeping now. Particularly now he is an exhausting toddler and I am back at work. I always notice a change in my mood and anxiety levels when I am tired and haven’t gotten enough sleep. I snap and I am irritable. I get angry at the silliest things. Everything frustrates me and I struggle to cope with the simplest things, as they take all my energy. These are the days when CBeebies, or whatever our sons favourite film (obsession) is at the time, come in very handy. At the moment it is Shrek, or “Ogre” as he calls it. Quite frankly, some days the TV is a lifesaver. I used to beat myself up about days when we watched a lot of TV, but I don’t anymore. Through my counselling I have learnt and accepted that it is ok to have lazy days every so often if that is what I need to get me through the day. To cope with everyday life. I have now accepted this and know that it does not make me a bad mother. It makes me one who recognises that to do the best for our son and our family, I need to look after myself too.

 

  • Baby / Toddler mealtimes: Ever since we started weaning our boy at six months old, mealtimes have always been the worst part of my day. I basically dread them. They send my anxiety through the roof. We chose to wean our son using the baby wed weaning method (letting your child feed themselves from the very beginning of weaning). We chose this because this is what the Health Visitors recommend these days and on researching it, we could see the benefits of it (getting baby to learn to chew before swallowing etc.) and we liked the idea of just giving him a bit of what we were eating – less preparation for us to do (call me lazy if you like). But my god…THE MESS!!! Not long into it I started to regret the choice we had made but we didn’t really have a choice as even when we tried to spoon feed him, he wouldn’t let us. So we persevered. Sometimes it was easier than others. Sometimes we thought we had cracked it. Other times we felt like we were back at square one. I would love to say it has gotten better as he has gotten older, but that would be a lie. It is still like this now he is a toddler. The reason my anxiety always rockets through the roof at mealtimes is because I want our son to sit up nicely and eat all of his meal without making any mess. In other words, my expectations are completely unrealistic and I want him to be the perfect child so I don’t get judged as being a bad mother. Even though I know this is a totally unrealistic expectation for a not even two year old, it still doesn’t stop my anxiety from happening. My anxiety is not something I can control. It just happens. Many a time I have had to walk out of the kitchen and let my husband take over mealtimes because I just get so overwhelmed by it all. Since taking my anti-depressants, my anxiety around mealtimes has lowered and I am much more relaxed than I used to be, but I think it will always be there. To a certain extent anyway. And some days will always be better than others. I have already decided that if we have another baby, spoon feeding will be my preferred method of weaning and I will set my unrealistic expectations much lower.

 

  • Our son crying: I know they say that your baby’s cry is meant to get you. It is their only way of communicating and getting your attention after all. But from day one, every time I heard our son crying, it triggered something in me that told me I had failed. It told me I was a bad mother. It told me I wasn’t meeting his needs quick enough. It told me that people were going to judge me. It told me that people were going to think that I couldn’t look after our baby. It told me that people were going to get annoyed at me for having a baby that cried. Not once did I tell myself that it was ok for our baby to cry because that’s what babies do. Not once did I tell myself that people around me weren’t judging me and were just getting along with their lives. Even though I knew this, I punished myself every time he cried. What made it worse is that our son has always been a very content little boy and didn’t really cry that often as a baby. This just made me feel so, so guilty for feeling the way I did. Although I still find it hard when he cries, I am now able to cope with full blown toddler meltdowns when we are out without having a meltdown myself. I just tell myself that I don’t need to care what others might be thinking (because they probably haven’t even noticed) and tell myself that it is ok because this is just what toddlers do.

 

  • Change of plans: I like routine. Routine, makes me feel secure, as I like to know what is happening when and where and with whom etc. If I am going somewhere I have to plan to make sure I know things like where to park, what the cost of the parking is and where the entrance to the building is. This is to avoid looking lost and people thinking I am unorganised. So when plans change, particularly at the last minute, even if this change is just someone being late, it throws me all out. The unexpected unsettles me and makes me feel uncomfortable and anxious. Why can’t people just be on time? Why can’t I cope with change very well?

 

  • Meetings: I have never felt comfortable in a meeting environment. I only ever really contribute when I really have to. And even then I try to say the minimal I can get away with. I used to think it was just because I lacked confidence. I know this is part of it but I have also learnt that my anxiety plays a huge part. I have spent entire meetings before thinking of what to say word for word and when to say it, only for me to never pluck up the courage to say it. My anxiety stops me. It never wants me to say the wrong thing. It doesn’t want me to look incompetent. It doesn’t want me to be judged. It tells me that people aren’t going to be interested in what I have to say. It tells me that my views aren’t valid or important. It asks me “What if you want to say has already been covered but you missed it or just didn’t understand?” It asks me “Are you qualified and experienced enough for your view?” It asks me a lot of questions which stops me from speaking up. This is something I am so very conscious of in my work environment that it makes me feel sick sometimes. I now understand the reasons as to why I struggle in meeting environments, but it is not something that I would say has improved yet. My colleagues may think differently of course.

So that is just a flavour of what triggers my low mood and anxiety. I am sure I have already touched on others in previous blog posts and will do in future blog posts too.

X

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, writing

Trigger-unhappy 

To be honest a lot of things set me off on one. Noisy eaters, people who crack their knuckles and people who don’t use their car indicators!

Then we get to the big stuff. The things that make my heart race and my brain turn fuzzy. Firstly, supermarkets. About 90% of my panic attacks have taken place in a supermarket. I think it’s a mixture of things, it’s the huge space, the sheer amount of people and the noise. Oh my god the noise, it just all collects together like white noise and it’s just too overwhelming. I remember once in Aldi I feel an attack coming on and all I could do was stare at the spring onions in front of me and do my deep breathing to calm myself down. But now I have my daughter I feel somewhat calmer in a supermarket. In a sense I know I need to have myself pulled together so that I don’t have an attack or get anxious. I always go armed with a list and I get the items as I head up the centre aisle. Flitting from one end to the other would just prolong the agony quite frankly. My husband has been great and often does the food shop, or we do it as a family. So now I tolerate them a lot better than I did before. In fact, having a child has given me no choice but to tolerate them. So in a way I should be thanking her.

I also tend to avoid concerts or nightclubs, guaranteed to be be full of people, drunk people. Bumping into me, getting too close to me, the music is too loud, the chatter is too loud…to be honest there isn’t much I enjoy about these situations. So I tend to avoid them. If I do go out (for a friend’s birthday for example) I like to be out with people that I trust. People that know how I feel about these situations and understand how I might start to act strangely and suddenly glaze over. Then I feel safe, safe to be me and know I can remove myself from the situation and go home without being judged.

 
Mess. I’ve been known to look off into space mid conversation because I’m just so focused on a squint picture hanging on a wall or the carpet is clearly needing hoovered. I feel compelled to keep my house spotless, great fun with a baby right??? But I also feel cleaning is therapeutic for me, once I’ve scrubbed the bathroom I feel instantly better. Having my daughter now means my cleaning has had to take a back seat and I like to think I’m a lot less obsessive about it than I am now. My psychiatrist agreed that this is not necessarily a bad thing, but I still have a limit as to how much mess I am willing to stand before I need to sort it! But I definitely do notice my mood slips when the house hasn’t been cleaned in a few days. I’m lucky that my husband is also tidy so he’s a great help with keeping on top of it.

So in all, yes I have things in my life that will trigger my anxiety levels but I’m happy that I’ve got a reasonable hold on them all. I doubt these triggers will ever change, lessen maybe but not disappear completely. But all I can do is glory on and take each day as it comes.

I do fear relapse. I know it can happen at any time. Now I’m back at work and feeling overwhelmed I’m definitely cautious about tasks I take on and I’ve been doing more self care activities. Like going out for a meal or bingo with my best friend (she’s a mum too so she knows the need to feel “normal”) getting my hair cut, cleaning my house or maybe even just watching tv with my husband. But fearing relapse it itself makes me anxious, so it just becomes a vicious circle really. I just keep an eye on my mood and take it day by day. Fearing the future only brings misery and is rather stay happy while the going is good!