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.

Advertisements
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, 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!

Uncategorized

Confessions of a guilty mum

Numb.

The instant feeling when I saw my daughter for the first time. Was I happy? Excited? Elated? Overcome with a huge wave of unconditional love? No, just numb. “No need to worry” I thought, “it’s a huge life event, these feelings will come in a day or two”. Little did I realise that this numb feeling would stay with me a lot longer than that, acting as a dam to my wave of unconditional love.

I first experienced depression in my teenage years. Pretty sure it was brought on by the bullying I experienced at school. It wasn’t too severe but it it cut deeply in terms of my esteem, confidence and self belief. I thought I had nothing to offer the world. I was put on Fluoxetine and self harmed on and off for a few years. This was further enforced by a toxic 3 year relationship with a man I moved cities for, changed universities for and all I got in return was jibes about my looks and my weight. Paying for me to get hair cuts and highlights, making me think it was because he loved me but really it was because he preferred blondes and my natural brunette colour didn’t meet his approval. After that ended I was at rock bottom. Eventually I rediscovered my confidence and believed in myself. Even started to like myself. 10 years of anti depressants and anxiety medication came to an end. I met my now husband, bought a home and started a new job. When I discovered I was pregnant I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to start this new life as a family.

So why did I feel numb?

I viewed my daughter as someone else’s child. I was merely a glorified baby sitter until her real mum returned. The first few days in hospital were fine, my visitors kept me occupied and more importantly they held my child so I didn’t have to. Any chance I got I would hand her to someone else, disguised as me doing them a favour by having the joy of cradling a new born. Secretly I wanted nothing to do with her. Once home and the visitors started to dry up, thats when it all nose-dived. Her cries set me on edge, my heart would race and I would stare at her in horror. I counted down the hours until my husband would come home so I wasn’t alone with her.

I researched churches that I could leave her outside on their doorstep. “Adoption would be quite straight forward right? Oooh foster care, even better. How difficult is it to get yourself sectioned? If I run my car off the road then people will hear my cry for help, right?”  Everyday I obsessed over these ideas, but ultimately knew I just couldn’t go through with any of them. Even when I felt so alone and desperate, part of me still knew my daughter needed me. The repercussions of what I was thinking would be too great to repair. I needed help and I needed it there and then.

Straight on the phone to my GP I went. I’d only left it 3 weeks post partum, I really thank myself for asking for help so quickly. Who knew what could have happened if I kept spiralling downwards. My GP was, and still is, one of my greatest supports. I was put on medication straight away and sent off to see a psychiatrist a few days later. I still remember the sense of relief I felt when I poured my heart out in that 8×6 room, like all my guilt and anxiety completely filled the room up and slowly seeped away through the walls. I had lost so much weight and never realised, never in my life have I been ordered to eat more. With regular appointments, medication reviews and developing my own coping strategies I think I am almost there.

My daughter will be 1 in a few weeks. I still fight with myself daily over how I wasted the first 12 weeks of her life wishing she wasn’t here. On the other hand, the last 8 months have been great and she is thriving. So that’s how I look at it. I might not have been cut out for motherhood from the get go, but I’m learning every day. And I’m feeling a lot less numb, that feeling if unconditional love is finally here and I’m so thankful for her everyday