anxiety, General Parenting, Mental Health

No Pressure or Anything

Honestly, the past few weeks have been difficult. Linden is being a clingy nightmare who loses the plot if I’m more than 2 feet away, Theo won’t sleep, and Caide is just generally being a bit of an asshole.

Just normal baby/toddler stuff. But all at once. In 3 different children. All of whom need me. Like really need me. For everything. Their very survival. Their growth and development. Their psychological well-being.

Everything I do (and don’t do) shapes another part of their little brains. I imagine them as an adult sitting in a room with their therapist. “So tell me about your mother.”

Because how I act towards them now has long-term consequences. I am their biggest influence. Me. The women sitting in the corner telling them to go away because I’m touched out. The woman losing the plot over something insignificant because something unrelated has been niggling at me all day. The woman who just doesn’t want to play right now.

I was mad to think I could take on so much responsibility. I can’t even keep a plant alive…

#day1of30 #30daypostchallenge

anxiety, depression, Mental Health, ppd

To My Son, I Am Sorry

I’m sorry I didn’t love you when I first looked into your eyes
I’m sorry I found it hard to smile, and mostly only cried

I’m sorry you went so hungry on the first day of your life
I’m sorry I didn’t ask for help from anyone around

I’m sorry I took you home because I wanted to be alone
I’m sorry you had to cry so hard on the first night in your home

I’m sorry I didn’t breathe you in and hold you oh so close
I’m sorry I never sang to you or kissed your tiny toes

I’m sorry for turning on the breastpump and watching TV all day
I’m sorry I didn’t just sit on the floor with you and play

I’m sorry I spent so much time Googling how to be perfect
I’m sorry I never was, and I was always in such a panic

I’m sorry I ranted and raved at you as your cried in your crib
I’m sorry I ever accused you of being the worst thing that I did

I’m sorry we didn’t leave the house for months because there are people out there
I’m sorry you don’t have any baby friends because your Mummy is just too scared

I’m sorry anxiety makes me irritable, it’s truly not your fault
I’m sorry I have to remind myself that you’re still just oh so small

I’m sorry I often ignore you, and sit on the sofa idle
I’m sorry I tell you to piss off when you only want a cuddle

I’m sorry it takes so long for me to get up out of bed
I’m sorry that you so often have to sit and amuse yourself

I’m sorry I’m just not strong enough to ever get any better
I’m sorry I am not the Mummy that your sweet little soul deserves

anxiety, General Parenting, Mental Health, Milestones

Is My Anxiety Holding My Child Back?

My son had his 14-month developmental milestones check-up this week.

Full marks for gross motor, fine motor and problem solving skills.

Below average for social skills.

Borderline for communication skills.

Then she asked if I had ever made it to any of the baby & toddler groups in the area.

“No,” I reply, and my heart sinks with shame.

Three months ago I bumped into her at the health centre and she asked how things were going etc and I said I’d been thinking about joining a baby & toddler group or starting a class because neither of us are getting much socialisation. So she gave me a list of the groups in the area.

I went home and read the list. Googled the locations of the groups. Put them on my calendar.

But social anxiety said no.

I never went to any of them.

My son has no cousins and none of my friends have children. He is alone.

“Do you use any childcare at all?”

“No.”

“Do you have any friends nearby?”

“Yes, I have a friend in *neighbouring town*.”

“Does she have children?”

“No.”

“Does he have any cousins?”

“No. The closest he has are my youngest cousins who are 6 and 4 but they live an hour away.”

“Will he be going to nursery?”

“Yes,” I lied. I firmly plan to homeschool. But by this point I felt awful. Like it’s my fault that he isn’t talking yet, and she knows it too*.

She assured me that he is not considered speech delayed yet and is still within the normal limits for communication. And I know he is. I know he’ll talk in time.

But this is just another example of how anxiety can take over.

And I Was Already An Anxious Mess

I caused a bit of miscommunication by not telling the lady at the front desk I was there. Because when I first brought him to the drop-in clinic – held in the same room – I told her I was there but I didn’t need to and I felt like an ass. So I just walked right on past and took a seat outside the room.

My appointment time came and went so I knocked on the door (after much deliberation about whether or not I should).

No answer. She must still be with a previous appointment. I sit back down.

15 more minutes pass.

15 tense minutes where I’m anxious about everyone else in the waiting room and what they’re thinking of me and I know they’re watching us because the only thing that is moving or making a sound is my tiny adorable human.

Please stop trying to play with the fire extinguisher son. I know you like red things but it’s important that you don’t break that. Yes, there’s another one on that wall. Please, just sit with Mummy.

He pulls a notice off the pinboard behind my head. I scramble about in a low-key anxiety attack trying to find all the pins that dropped.

I sit back down. I wonder if I should ask at the front desk or if that would sound pushy. She’s probably just held up somewhere. I don’t want to be that Mum.

A physiotherapist passes and asks if I’m waiting for a physiotherapy appointment. I notice that one of the notices behind my head asks to please keep these seats free for physiotherapy patients.

I panic and knock again.

No answer.

I sit back down. I consider just legging it.

Another health visitor passes and asks if I am waiting on the assessment.

“Did you tell the front desk you’re here?”

“No.” I felt like an ass.

She went and told them for me because anxiety makes it impossible to adult properly, and my health visitor arrives.

I honestly feel like I do something awkward every single time I see her. I also never answer the phone when she calls because I get umpteen sales calls a day so have stopped answering numbers I don’t know.

I wonder how close she is to calling social services on me for being weird and distant and awkward. I probably come across as vague and evasive.

I’d be suspicious of me too.

The meeting begins and the focus is mostly on Caide and whether or not he can stack blocks on top of each other and put Cheerios in a little urine sample bottle.

But Then It’s Question Time

Most questions were generic questions that were easy to answer. One took me totally by surprise.

“Are you on any medication?”

I hesitate. Why on Earth is she asking that? I better be honest. I don’t want to get caught hiding anything. That won’t look good.

“Fluoxetine.”

“You’re still taking fluoxetine.”

Still? I have never told her I’m taking it. Maybe a slip of the tongue.

“Is it still 40mg?”

Do they share my medical records with the health visitor? Are they allowed to do that? That sounds like the Named Person Scheme that the Supreme Court ruled against. How does she know this?!

“Yes.”

Then the above questions about Caide’s socialisation.

In my already anxious state, the questions were exaggerated to mean something they probably were never intended to.

That I am a terrible mother for isolating my son from his peers.

I’m avoiding these groups for my own benefit but it is proving detrimental to my son.  I don’t want him to be the socially awkward hopeless case his parents are. I want him to thrive.

But my anxiety is already failing him.

I Know This Isn’t True

But logic < anxiety. It takes over the thinking part of the brain and inserts irrational thoughts that don’t feel irrational at the time. It ties up your thoughts into neat little negative-thinking loops that are almost impossible to break.

But I know it isn’t true.

But what if it is?

———-

*I would like to mention that she did not ask all these questions in a row like that. It was not an interrogation. She is a lovely lady and I am not bashing her at all. I’m telling the version of the story that happened in my head, the way anxiety saw it.

 

anxiety, Life Events, Mental Health

12 Ways I’m Fighting the January Blues

Sitting on the sofa munching on chocolate and watching TV is the absolute dream when I’m feeling rushed off my feet, but when it’s because I have nothing else to do, then, well…it sucks.

January is a lot like that for me.

After the go! go! go! of December, January just feels empty, lonely, dreary and cold. I don’t know what to do with myself. December is a runaway train of activity, then January is when the steam runs out and everything just stops.

We fill Christmas with love and warmth and giving and food and happiness. We visit our friends and family and laugh and cheer and have a good time. On New Year we clasp arms and sing Auld Lang Syne and look hopefully towards the future.

Then what?

We return to our homes, jobs, daily routines. Everything feels dull and monotonous. The year looms ahead like a black cloud, an endless downpour of ‘same shit, different day’, day in day out. I’ll yearn for change, but the festive come-down makes it feel impossible.

Every year my mental health hits rock bottom because of this. I focus too much on trying to find the thing that is going to revolutionise my life that I forget to simply live.

So here’s 12 things I am doing this January to help me fight the January Blues.

1. Learn From Last Year

What major life lesson did I learn last year? Well, it was my first full year of being a parent so I learned a whole bunch of things! This was the biggie though:

Mental illness is so cunning, manipulative and good at hiding that no one notices you’ve gone completely off the rails, even you.

This led me to identify my early warning signs that the cliff-edge is near and I am now working on ways to prevent myself from tumbling over the edge.

 

2. Do One Thing I’ve Been Meaning to Get Around To

I have a to-do-list the length of my dissertation so I’m going to tackle at least one thing on there to make myself feel productive. That always helps lift my mood, and sometimes even alleviate some anxiety.

Today I started by cleaning the windows since it hadn’t been done since 2015 and the frames were literally black. I think I’ll continue with something more fun, like reading the books I bought months (years) ago and still haven’t read.

What’s on your to-do-list?

 

3. Stop Doing One Thing I Don’t Enjoy

I’m endlessly thrifty and used to clean the outsides of my windows myself because I hate the thought of paying someone to do something I could do myself. It led me to the discovery that there is at least one thing I hate doing more than paying someone to do something I could do myself and that is cleaning the outsides of windows! So I hired a window cleaner and never looked back.

There will always be things we don’t like doing that we just have to do (ya know, like go to work, or fold the 12th load of laundry this week) but if there’s something we can get off our plates, then why not?

 

4. Write Down One Good Thing About Every Day

So far so good on this one. Some days are more impressive than others, sometimes it’s “published my first blog post!” (today, right now), sometimes it’s just “finally finished reading “The Whole Brain Child””.

This activity helps me focus on the positives in life, the little differences that make every day unique, instead of dwelling on the everyday monotony that eventually wears me down into a stub of a human being.

I intend to keep this one up all year then sit down on Hogmany and read about the awesome year I just had.

 

5. Festive Family Feuds

If fights with family/friends have got you down it’s time to decide – do we forgive and forget, or say “fuck it” and cut the toxic people out of our lives?

Was it the stress of the day combined with a few too many alcoholic beverages, or is this a more common occurrence, a constant resurgence of tensions that have become almost inevitable every time you visit? Would 2018 be less stressful if you distance yourself from them, or cut them out entirely?

It’s a big decision to make, but we have to take care of ourselves too.

 

6. Sugar Rush/Crash/Rush/Crash/Rush/Crash

Yeah let’s not do that this year. This time, eat the remaining chocolate slowly (she types after consuming an entire chocolate orange…) and avoid the constant sugar rush-crash cycle that completely exhausts my body.

Likewise, if your New Year’s Resolution is to eat healthily, don’t do it cold turkey (no Christmas pun intended). Your body needs to adjust. Don’t eat your bodyweight in chocolate and drink an ocean of wine on Dec 31st then nothing but kale and celery on Jan 1st. You’ll feel like shit.

 

7. Lost Sleep Over Christmas

Too many parties and not enough sleep makes us weary and lethargic. Not much we can do about it now right enough, but take it easy and don’t expect too much of yourself. And maybe keep it in mind this December.

(Aye right, pass me the prosecco and let’s party ‘til dawn!)

 

8. Go Outside, Even (Especially) When I Don’t Feel Like It

Cabin fever is my worst enemy. Stuffy, stale air. The same 4 walls everywhere I go. No one around but a grumpy, teething toddler. No thank you. I am done. Go outside Steph.

 

9. Take Up A New Hobby

I started learning Italian and Japanese last year via Duolingo and I absolutely love it. I hated languages with a burning passion when I was at school but learning is way more fun when you’re not being forced (and you have a game to help!).

This year I’m blogging! Hello!

 

10. Redecorate

Okay, I’m not going that far, but it’s the urge I got after taking down the Christmas decorations. The house felt bare and empty and devoid of colour. We all know the feeling right?

So why not try changing things up a bit? Put up a new picture, buy a plant, reorganise your ornaments (or furniture even), get a new rug, go the whole hog and tear off the wallpaper! It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just get something nice to look at!

 

11. Give Myself Something to Look Forward To

My January is pretty desolate, with nothing to celebrate, no birthdays, no holidays, nothing. I’m thinking of starting a new tradition, inventing a holiday. Something daft like Snuggle Up And Read Day, Pillow Fort Day, The Floor Is Lava Day. Or something serious like Act of Random Kindness Day, Write A Letter Day, Child-Free Day (hahaha I wish).

I saw someone post about how January is their favourite month of the year as it’s their wedding anniversary, so a January wedding might not have been a terrible idea after all!

 

12. Give Myself Something to Look Forward To 2

Also want to arrange something for later this year. Girl’s Night, book gig tickets, plan that road trip we’ve never got around to, actually go canoeing, maybe even a holiday away if the bank balance permits. We’ll see.

 

So there’s my January. It’s looking a lot more worth living that every other January of my life. How are you going to turn your soggy January into a cocktail of good days?