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.