Sunday, 11 February 2018

Away

Right now, I'm sitting on a beautiful outdoor couch, looking over a gorgeous beach and have just finished my second glass of wine for the day.  I am feeling refreshed, the knots that have been in my stomach for weeks are slowly untangling and my head feels clearer. 

It has been a really hectic start to the year.  I just want to begin this post by saying I find this topic incredibly difficult to be objective about.  There are so many factors that go into needing a "break" and what that entails for every parent; and not just parent, every person.  Some people desperately need a break but don't have the luxury of being able to have one.  Some people don't have a village, and that thought makes me incredibly sad.  Some people feel they can't leave their children, and I totally get that as well.  Before I had kids (those famous four words...), I was never going to leave them. "I didn't have kids so other people could raise them".  Is a sentence I strongly believed in... and then we had Isaac.  And then I was struck down with severe PND/anxiety.  And then we couldn't get Isaac to sleep.  And then I went back to work.  And then Reid got sick.  The list goes on.

To sum it up; a lot has been going on.  Just over two weeks ago, Reid was really unwell.  I think the biggest reason for this was stress. Migraines, head spins, extreme fatigue.  It really worried me and it took him a while to be OK again.  During that time, I spoke with my Mum and asked if she would mind having Isaac for two nights so we could just "get away".  I am incredibly lucky that my Mum already has Isaac once a week while I work on Fridays, and she usually has him that night as well and I pick him up early on Saturday morning.  That break alone is more than a lot of parents get, I totally understand that and am beyond grateful.  Friday nights, Reid and I usually crash onto the couch and then go to bed by 9pm for a full night of sleep (side note: Isaac is MUCH better than he used to be with sleeping, but some nights are still a struggle, as they are for all parents).  I booked a holiday house for us in the beautiful little town of Orford, only a bit over a 30 minute drive from where we live and proceeded to get very excited at the thought of two whole days of relaxing with Reid.  Then it appeared - the GUILT.  This whole post is inspired by it, really.



How can I bear to be away from Isaac for two nights? Why don't other parents feel this overwhelmed? Why do I always feel like I'm drowning?  Why do I need so much help from my Mum? She's already so busy and does so much, am I asking too much of her? I'm already away from Isaac 4 days a week while I work, why do I feel like I need this time away?

My mind then goes to every single parent I know.  Do they ever feel like this? Do they think I'm a monster for wanting to go away? Are people just constantly judging me?

It's exhausting.

I have to argue with myself and weigh up every possible option and formulate an argument about why we are going away, just in case someone asks.  Just in case they don't understand why we need this.  Just in case they think I'm a bad mother who doesn't want to be around my child.

It's just not true. I love Isaac more than anything.  I do find him exhausting, but aren't all nearly-two-olds?  Our situation is ours, and ours alone.  I am a better Mum when I realise I need a little bit of time to breathe, and I am lucky enough to have a great support system so that can become a reality.  And the more I think about this little break Reid and I have had, the more I realise that it hasn't just been for us, it has been for Isaac too.  Not only does he get to build beautiful relationships with people other than just us, but when we get back home, we will be more patient, more tolerant and rested enough to tackle the tantrums without melting down ourselves. 



Every parent is different.  Every child is different.  I am a Mum who gets depleted really quickly while I try to juggle all the different things we have going on at the minute (more on that in another post).  I am a Mum who needs to fill up my cup so I'm not a horrible person to be around.  I am a Mum who believes in fostering independence in my son and him building relationships with other people.  I am a Mum who works really hard inside and outside of the home.  I am a Mum who needs time to connect with my husband and talk with him about topics that don't involve work or washing or whose turn it is to change Isaac's nappy. 

I love my son, but in order to love him the best way I can, I needed a break.  Reid needed a break.  We were running on empty and that just wasn't good for any of us.

The last day and a half we have lazed around in lovely holiday home.  We've walked on the beach, gone to restaurants and cafes, read books, watched movies, drank wine/cider, relaxed in a lovely spa bath and talked. 

We needed this.  We don't need it every weekend, but we need it occasionally.

I didn't go into parenthood thinking I would ever want to be away from my child.  Now that I am away from him for longer than usual, I miss him like crazy, and know I will appreciate him all the more when I see him tomorrow. 



I still feel guilty for doing this, but the more I talk about it, the more I am confident in my decision and realise how necessary it was for us.  I still worry about being judged and people thinking I am a bad Mum, but I have to come to terms with the fact that I know what I need to do to love and cherish Isaac the best way I can.  The term "it takes a village" doesn't exist for no reason.  Parenting has changed SO much in recent years, the support of extended family just doesn't often exist like it used to.  One or two people can't possibly be everything for one child.  Our incredible family therapist, Nicole Kingston, so aptly put it like this in a Facebook post just as I was feeling at the lowest point about our decision to get away:

They learn different things from so many different people.
We can't teach them everything, we can't be perfect, we can't be their village.
They need so much more than us.
But isn't that a lovely thought. A freeing thought. We don't have to be everything.
We can relax.
We can take a breath. We can make mistakes. Knowing that they will get what they need from all those loving people around them. 
The pressure is off.
Yes, we are very important to them, but we are not the only important ones.

I am so grateful that Isaac is loved by so many different people.  Reid and I will always be his number one supporters, but we have our own supporters who we would be lost without.  I have to be confident in my choices and beliefs, and right now, I believe Reid and I needed this time together.  Most of the time we have just talked about Isaac and missed him and discussed where we will take him on a family trip we plan on taking soon, but we have had that chance to actually talk to each other, rather than just sitting, exhausted on the couch in front of the TV. 

We love our son, but our cups were empty.  Returning to him happy and relaxed and looking forward to being with him makes me feel like a good Mum.  As I said before; everyone is different.  Our reality is beautiful and messy and chaotic (and we only have one toddler!), and I know this little escape from that reality will make me all the more grateful to return to it.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Happenings ~14th January 2017

DOING: Sitting in mine and Reid's room, typing this post for a bit of "me-time" while Reid and Isaac have some quality time together.

HEARING: My weekly "chill mix" from iTunes, nothing is really jumping out at me as a worthy of downloading yet...

DRINKING: Lots of water, coffee and a delicious green-chai tea blend I grabbed from the supermarket yesterday.  I've been making ginger/lemon water and keeping it in the fridge for through the week and it's really refreshing and helps get that water intake up.

EATING AND COOKING: I was gifted Jamie Oliver's 5 Ingredients recipe book for Christmas and I'm loving it!  I made a beautiful harissa chicken that's cooked with onion and capsicum and roasted some beautiful Dutch Cream potatoes to go with it last weekend.  Tonight I'm making pesto-stuffed chicken breasts with beans, plus I just finished making a standard garlic/hoisin beef stir fry for Monday and Tuesday night and I frittata for Isaac for tonight.  I'll portion the rest up and put it in the freezer for those nights I haven't got time/can't be bothered making him something from scratch.

WANTING: My anxiety to go away for good.

LOOKING: Today Mum and I went and looked at a local gym we are thinking of joining.  It was great! A small, family-run gym with a really lovely vibe.  Great class choice, good equipment PLUS a crèche and a café - ticking all the boxes for me and definitely helping me feel more inspired for my 2018 "more exercise" intention I wrote about in my last post.

DECIDING: What to do for Isaac's 2nd birthday.  We are definitely keeping things pretty casual this year, just family and maybe some close friends over for an afternoon tea, with a homemade cake, some balloons and music.

ENJOYING: Conversations with Isaac.  He is so chatty, making the most adorable little sentences and is VERY clear at communicating what he wants.  He is still obsessed with trucks and buses, playing outside (especially with water "bawder", as he calls it "more bawder pease Mama!") and music/dancing.  His little personality is developing so quickly, he definitely has a very intense grumpy side, but he is also absolutely hilarious and has become very cuddly of late; running into our arms and saying "awwww" as he snuggles into our necks.  SO cute.

WATCHING: Reid and I just finished season two of Better Call Saul which we really enjoyed and are currently finishing season 3 of Orange is the New Black.  We aren't enjoying that show as much as the first two seasons but it's still good.  I am also incredibly excited for season 3 of Grace and Frankie which is coming out this Friday!

READING: Reid bought me a beautiful book of poetry for Christmas that I just finished today while Isaac napped called The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur.  It was beautifully written, I really enjoyed it.  I am also getting through All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which is an absolutely incredible book. 

BUYING: We just ordered some good quality shoes for Isaac; a little pair of slip on sneaker type ones and a cute pair of sandals.  I feel like it's important for growing feet to have good support so this is something I was happy to spend a bit of money on.  We ordered them from Walnut, which I have heard is a really good brand.

PLANNING: Reid and I are both taking a couple of weeks off in April, and we are trying to decide whether to go away for a few nights; somewhere where Isaac can run around and we can just get away for a bit. 

CRAVING: My answer to this always seems to be coffee or chocolate, or both!  And today is no different haha.

LOVING: How much I'm cherishing Isaac.  I look back at photos when he was first born and honestly feel like I'm forgetting things already.  My mental state at that time probably doesn't help the memories, but I don't want to forget.  The sound of his voice and the way he says words.  The way he is CONSTANTLY running and jumping and climbing.  The way he hates having his hair dried after a bath.  The way he lines his trucks up in a perfect row before he goes to bed.  The way he says "Mama" or "Mummy" and runs into my arms.  Just, everything.

PLAYING: With Lego, with trucks, with water, with dirt and sand.  Pretty much anything and everything.  I take Isaac's lead and especially love the moments he is happy to play by himself, immersed in his own little world.  It is beautiful to watch.

FEELING: A bit sad.  It's been a long couple of weeks.  My anxiety has been pretty bad and I have been feeling really guilty about any negative feelings I have about motherhood and the struggles I've had in the past and present.  I feel like I could never explain postnatal depression to someone who has lost their baby, who can't have a baby, who has miscarried or had a stillbirth.  I feel like they would think I am incredibly selfish and that conditions like PND are ridiculous, when they would do anything to have a precious baby in their arms.  Nobody has said anything to me directly, and I am absolutely aware it is my brain saying that this is what people would think - but I have seen things online and watched people experience some of these horrible, incredibly unfair things and it makes anything I have felt seem so insignificant.  I can't imagine the heartbreak, the immeasurable pain of losing a child in any way.  If anything, these feelings have made me hug Isaac tighter, breathe through his tantrums and try to put my stupid phone down (I really need to limit my phone time more) and just be with him.  I don't know if I will ever come to terms with what I have been through and how insanely stupid it must seem to some people.  I know, I am so beyond lucky.  Even though I have and still do battle with PND and anxiety, every single day, I am thankful.  I am more than grateful for Isaac and would be completely lost without him.  My heart goes out to any parent who has suffered the cruel, devastating loss of any child.  It is unfathomable to me.  My heart breaks for you.  At the end of the day, I need to be aware that PND is an illness and most definitely not a choice, and I can only hope that by talking about it, that becomes common knowledge and more widely understood.




Sunday, 31 December 2017

Reflections and Intentions



It's customary to reflect on the year you have had when December 31st rolls around.  It's also customary for lots of people to make resolutions for the new year.  I'm not a fan of resolutions.  I usually make a couple in my head but never really commit, never really believe that they will happen.  This year I've decided that I will focus on intent; intentionally living, intentionally trying to better myself physically and emotionally.  Not focussing on words that I can so easily turn into negatives (because hello, that's kind of my thing).

Reflections:

2017 was a hard but beautiful year.  I don't think I have ever grown so much, fought so much, loved so much.  At the end of 2016, I could barely walk to the end of my driveway or be in my backyard without having a panic attack.  In the last few days alone we have been to the beach, the park, and a vineyard with friends.  Not to mention the copious amounts of time Isaac and I now spend outside playing.  Partly to do with his age but also hugely to do with how much better my anxiety is. I am still on three medications but have halved two of them - that is such a big deal to me.  For a few weeks there I fell back into the most horrible depression and anxiety and was physically ill, but unfortunately that's all part of the weaning process. I'm really proud of where I am now and plan to fully cut out those two medications by the end of 2018, hopefully sooner.  I have learnt the hard way that this process just can't be rushed.

This year I have felt much more confident as a mother.  I don't question my every move, I don't worry constantly about how things may or may not affect Isaac when he is older (I am convinced I have psychologically scarred him somehow) - I have started to live much more in the moment.  I have enjoyed the cuddles and giggles and marvelled at each learning milestone.  I have struggled with the tantrums and have once again needed help with establishing how important sleep is to a growing child and ways I can be creating this environment for Isaac (and Reid and I!).

I have become a different wife.  I have snapped and pushed Reid away on numerous occasions as my anxiety and panic screams at me from the inside.  I have apologised.  Our marriage has evolved so much.  We respect each other more than ever.  Reid works hard to understand me and to support me in the best way he can.  I work hard to be patient (I often fail) both with myself and with Reid.  I lean on him like never before.  I am so grateful to be sharing my life with him and raising our beautiful little boy together.  He is a fantastic Dad.  Nothing comes before Isaac.  Nothing ever will.

I have worked really hard.  I have exceeded my expectations since I went back to work in July.  I have been overwhelmed at times, but I have consistently performed well since I have been back in the office.  I thought I would flounder around and not remember anything.  My confidence is still not 100% but I can definitely do my job well and I feel that going back has made me a better Mum.  I am more appreciative of the time I have with Isaac.  I am tired (aren't we all), but it's been worth it.




Intentions:

This is going to sound so cliché because losing weight would have to be the number one resolution made around the world.  Once again, I'm not using the word "resolution" to describe my situation or my aim.  I intend to exercise more in 2018.  When I say "exercise more", I really mean, I intend to exercise at all.  I have all the excuses under the sun for why I haven't been making this a priority. I'm not going to get into it, because at the end of the day, I want and need to be healthier.  My diet is pretty good, I intend to cut my portion sizes down and it's always a good thing to add a heap more veggies to everything; but I don't want to feel self-conscious, and I do.  I don't want to be thin (I never have been and I never will be), but I want to FEEL healthy.  I want to have more energy and fit into my old clothes (the ones I haven't angrily donated to charity in a fit of self-loathing rage...) and more than anything I want to keep up with Isaac as he grows and runs and plays and jumps and swims and basically is obsessed with anything even vaguely active.  I still haven't worked out exactly when/where/how I am going to do this, but it is the biggest intent I have for the year.

I intend to be kinder to myself.  I have made some headway with this in 2017 but I know I have a long way to go.  What is it about self-love that is so hard?  Why do I feel like I can't possibly like anything about myself without feeling like an idiot?  I intend to try to answer these questions, either with a psychologist or on my own - the negativity just has to stop somehow.

I intend to cherish Wednesdays.  I will be going back to work four full days a week as of 2nd January, so will only have Wednesdays at home with Isaac.  I intend to fill these days with play and laughing and catch ups with friends and things I really want to do, not things I feel like I should be doing.  I intend to read books and watch nursery rhymes and sing and dance and follow Isaac's lead.  I intend to make memories from these precious years where I am Isaac's world.  Where he doesn't care what I wear or what I look like, where he wants me to hold him and where I am his number one playmate (along with Reid).  I intend to go with the flow wherever possible on these days and not get caught up in any bad moods/tantrums/general toddler behaviour.  I know that I will look back and be desperate for these years back.

I intend to look into a counselling course.  It's no secret how passionate I am about talking in general, and sharing experiences of mental health and reducing stigma.  I feel like I need to put these passions to use in a more practical way.  I would love to be able to help other Mums as a professional, specialising in PND/anxiety/birth trauma - the thought of turning my experiences into something positive is something I think could be incredibly healing for me along with the ultimate goal of reaching out to other Mums and Dads who might be struggling.

I intend to feel grateful.  I know I am beyond lucky in so many ways. I have a beautiful family, I have some of the most incredible close friends, I have goals and dreams while I know so many people are just trying to figure out how to survive another day.  Putting things like that into perspective makes me realise how blessed I am.


 
To anyone reading this, I hope 2018 is everything you hope for.  I hope your intentions come to fruition and your reflections bring you mostly happiness.  May next year be full of beautiful moments and more good times than bad.  May we all realise how fortunate we are and try to focus on being kind to ourselves and to others.  Happy New Year everyone, thank you for following my journey; it's far from over xo.



Friday, 1 December 2017

The Journey




I haven't written for a while.
Things have been... hard.
I don't like to be negative, I feel like my last few posts have a positive vibe, I felt like I was finally starting to have a positive vibe.
I forgot about the journey.  I forgot that things can change really quickly.  I forgot that there is no such things as a straight, upwards line when it comes to recovery. 
I forgot how it felt to have that panic grabbing me, I forgot how fast that lump could come back to my throat, how my stomach could so easily twist into knots and I could dread facing the day.
I can't believe I forgot.


Unfortunately, over the last few weeks - I have been reminded.


I can't really pinpoint when it started.  I was feeling good, I was coping well, I was smiling.  All of a sudden, I started crying a lot.  I started losing my patience must faster than usual.  I felt sick.  I didn't want to get up and spend a day at home trying to keep Isaac happy, but I didn't want to go out either.
I mentioned in a previous post that I have started weaning from one of my medications (google clonazepam if you're interested).  I have been doing this slowly. Going from two tablets a day, to 1 and three quarters over several weeks, then one and a half and so on. I'm currently taking one a day.  It has been so much harder than I thought. I guess that's why it's so addictive and generally only used short term.  But I had no choice. It was the only medication that really  helped my anxiety enough over the last 20 months.  It makes me sad to think that I'm not OK without it.  I hope I will be eventually, but right now; it's hard.


Isaac is nearly two.  His toddlerhood is in full swing.  Obviously, that's hard.  Tantrums, demanding, clingy, "NO!", stubborn, constantly changing - I feel like I am wishing time away.  I want to enjoy this stage (as much as I can) and treasure everything while he is this little. Every day I try to remind myself of this but still find that I am counting down the seconds until bed time.  I know that's normal for most parents, and I'm under no illusions that parenting is meant to be some magical stress-free experience, but I want to be present and be able to realise that this won't last forever; and one day, I will be wishing to go back to these days, right now, with all the chaos and the snuggles and the giggles. It's hard, but it's beautiful.


I feel like Isaac soaks up however I'm feeling and mirrors it back to me a lot of the time.  Kids are incredibly observant, emotional and sensitive to their surroundings.  There is a bit of a long-running joke that Isaac gets grumpy around crowds.  Is that because of me?  Can he feel that I'm uncomfortable?  I don't know for sure, but I would hate to think I am somehow stunting his social development.  There is absolutely no evidence to back-up what I've just said, it's just where my anxious mind goes.  I also feel like it's so blatantly obvious when I'm struggling.  We were at a family function last week, having a lovely time - Isaac of course was grumpy and whingey but he's a kid.  It doesn't bother anybody but me.  I just want him to be happy and play and some of the time he did, but mostly he just seemed overwhelmed.  I could barely keep it together while we were there and I have no idea why.  We left early because of Isaac's bed time (something else I hate doing and feel guilty about but I just can't cope with changing his routine), and when we got to the car I started sobbing - complete panic attack meltdown.  My Mum had walked to the car with us and I asked her to apologise to everyone for me - turns out nobody even noticed I was anxious.  My brain plays these horrible tricks on me and I feel like everyone can tell that my heart is pounding out of my chest, I'm hot and bothered and it seems so clear that I'm about to lose it.  Apparently not.  Go away, anxious brain.


It's my road, I have to travel it the best way I can and remember it is a journey.  It's a long journey.  Things will look up again and I will try and focus on that thought while I get through the current rough patch.  I'm not great at being kind to myself and automatically feel like a failure.  I feel like I should be better now.  Why have I gone backwards??  There isn't usually a straight forward answer; often it's lots of little things that gradually pile up and I find myself caught up in a bit of an anxiety battle.  Here's to taking it one battle at a time and looking at the bigger picture rather than just the here and now. It will be OK.  Repeat.  It will be OK.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Happenings ~29th October 2017



DOING: Sitting on the couch in the rumpus room with Reid, typing this post while he plays his Xbox and Isaac naps.

HEARING: "Best of Us Go Down" by Aquilo.  I've been really enjoying this band and they regularly pop up in my weekly recommended playlists on iTunes.

DRINKING: I just finished drinking an iced coffee.  I have such a weakness for them and try to limit them to only once a week, because: sugar.  It was so good though.  Otherwise I have been having my usual drinks - lots of coffee, lots of water with lemon and the odd green tea.

EATING AND COOKING: I have been getting right back into my roasted vegetable obsession.  Roasting up big trays of sweet potato and broccoli every week.  Isaac is loving frittatas, so I have been making those with chopped sweet potato, broccoli, carrot and corn. He seems to be coming out of his brief fussy stage and is back to eating pretty much everything again which is a huge relief for me. I have been very predictable with our dinners of late, favouring cooking in bulk to get us through a few nights because I am tired/busy.  Stir-fry, curry, Bolognese, inventive casserole type dishes with whatever we have on hand - sometimes this works out well and other times not...

WANTING: A lemon tree.  I think I might ask for one for Christmas... I am obsessed with lemons and nothing tastes as good as home-grown.

LOOKING: At play equipment that might be good for Isaac for his Christmas present. Far out - it is EXPENSIVE.  I have also been looking online at learning towers for him so he can help me in the kitchen.  He loves pottering around while I do things; he's obsessed with helping unpack the dishwasher and I know he would love helping me do food prep.

DECIDING: What to get people for Christmas presents (it's not even November yet and the last three points have talked about Christmas haha... oops).

ENJOYING: The fact that my anxiety has been improving so consistently.  I am very slowly weaning from some medication (this will be a long journey) and so far I am coping well.  I kind of don't realise until I do something that once would have been practically impossible, then afterwards it's like a light bulb goes on and I feel proud and content.

WATCHING: Reid and I are still getting through House of Cards, it is SO good.  I have just started season three of Jane the Virgin which is always a good show to tune out to.

READING: I have actually started to make time for reading again over the last few weeks which feels great. At the minute I have started Crazy, Busy, Guilty by Lauren Sams which is entertaining and funny so far.  At the same time, depending what I'm in the mood for, I am re-reading A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi, because her writing is just so beautiful. I also just finished Em Rusciano's autobiography.  I think she is hilarious!

BUYING: Summer clothes for Isaac. Lots of cute shorts and t-shirts are starting to make an appearance as we head into warmer weather (finally!).

PLANNING: Reid and I have been deep in "future planning" mode of late.  We are in the midst of deciding when we will sell our house, along with looking at house plans we love, deciding where we would like to live long-term and trying to get into a good savings routine.  For now, it looks like we will stay where we are for a few more years, but it's good to have a focus and a long term goal in place because neither of us are 100% happy with where we are now; although at the same time we are incredibly grateful to have our own beautiful home and are proud of our achievements so far.

CRAVING: Chocolate. All the chocolate.  And coffee - that will never change.

LOVING: How incredibly grateful I've been feeling.  That "overwhelming love" that mothers always talk about is finally starting to make proper sense to me.  I look at Isaac and just get these waves of incredible joy and pride and disbelief that he is mine.  His constant chatter, his mischievous personality and ridiculous level of cuteness make me melt these days.  There are still a lot of hard moments, I find myself trying so hard to be patient with him as he learns new skills and still wakes through the night and starts the day SO early (a couple of 4:30am starts this week...) but mostly I just savour all the cuddles that are just for Mummy, cherish how his voice sounds right now "Mama, Mummy!" "Nanaaa (banana)" "Gactor (tractor)" "Boop! (book)" along with so many other words he is putting into cute little sentences and is just generally blowing my mind.  So many feelings.  Motherhood is nothing like I expected, it is more than I could have ever imagined - in both positive and negative ways.

I'm also really loving and appreciating Sundays.  The one day a week that Reid is guaranteed not to work.  We always get up early (thanks Isaac), Reid and I have a coffee while Isaac has a snack, usually a yoghurt or a muesli bar "mah bar!" (I buy Kez's Free and Naked brand which he loves).  We watch some nursery rhymes together depending on our energy levels and then I normally make banana pancakes, or Reid makes eggs on toast.  We play outside and drink more coffee, then Reid and I spend some time together (even if it's technically doing our own thing) which Isaac snoozes.  We have the whole day together as a family and it's just so lovely.  We have time to eat all our meals together, time to play and read and cuddle.  It's the best.

PLAYING: Outside!  It is so nice to be able to go outside and not freeze and have to come in after a quick play which almost always ended in a toddler meltdown.  Isaac and I now spend big chunks of the day outside.  We bought him a $13 sandpit (those classic clam shaped ones) and we build sandcastles, and hide our hands under the sand, Isaac giggling like mad when I uncover his fingers one by one.  We fill up the other side of the sandpit with water if it's warm enough and that is the best fun ever; splashing and playing with paintbrushes and bowls and old steamer saucepans that make it "rain" on Isaac's head.  He is obsessed with our broom and will quite happily push that around for 20 minutes or so, pretending to clean and usually making any mess worse as kids do. 

FEELING: Content. Sure, there are tough moments where I still feel really crap and tired and like the most useless person in the world - but I know that's largely my anxiety talking.  These days I am enjoying most things.  I am enjoying work, being productive and earning money again.  I am enjoying my days at home, including Isaac in chores and spending hours just playing and seeing him get so much joy from that.  I don't beat myself up for sitting down while he naps anymore, as long as any big things I need to do are out of the way.  I write lists and I prep meals and I do a million loads of washing - and it all makes me really happy.  I feel less frazzled and more in control.  I still feel restricted in certain ways because my mental health still runs the show some of the time, but as silly as it might sound, I finally feel more free. 



Monday, 23 October 2017

My Mum


I've spent most of my time on this blog of late, talking about parenting.  I feel like it's just inevitable that when you become a parent, it mostly consumes you.  You can lose your sense of self for a while, and although I definitely think some of that has come back to me - I still spend most of my time thinking about what kind of Mum I'm trying to be; what kind of Mum I want to be.


I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about my own Mum.  It was her 62nd birthday yesterday.  Reid and I had our family over to our place for the afternoon with a few of Mum's favourite foods (cheesecake, good cheese and biscuits {she really loves cheese}, coconut cake and coffee/herbal tea).  Birthdays are a time to be truly grateful for someone and show them love and appreciation.  I try to do this as often as I can with my Mum, because she really is amazing and I would be lost without her; but on her birthday, I sat watching her flit from person to person, conversation to conversation, ducking away to play with her youngest grandchildren the minute they asked for her and it made me realise that I'm just so beyond proud that she is my Mum.   


Here are a just a few reasons why:


~ When I was little, I used to make her necklaces out of weird and wonderful craft supplies - she would always wear them proudly to the supermarket while I sat in the front of the trolley, thinking I had made the most amazing jewellery in the world.
~ She always played games with me.  Nothing was ever dismissed as silly, she never said she didn't have time.  I honestly don't know how she physically did everything.  Our house was always immaculate, meals always nutritious and organised, but she still played and laughed and imagined with me.
~ Mum had to go back to work when my Dad was no longer able to work full-time due to health issues, and she has been so successful at every job she's done.  She was a stay at home Mum for over 20 years, other than the odd cleaning/basic admin job and now she is a successful teacher, adored by her students and colleagues alike.  She is a bit of a workaholic and definitely a perfectionist, but somehow, she seems to have time for everything (as much as we nag her to please slow down).
~ Her family comes first.  No question.  Not a single thing could ever get in the way of her spending time with us as much as she can.
~ She is incredibly thoughtful and unfailingly generous.  On more than one occasion she has sneakily taken my ironing basket from the spare room, returning everything ironed much more immaculately than I would do it.  I have often come home to a clean load of washing on the line, a few treats in the fridge and a lot less weeds in my garden.  When Reid and I were struggling a bit financially before I came back to work, she would pop in with washing powder and toilet rolls that were "on special" - among other things!
~ She is the most natural mother I've ever met.  All kids LOVE her. She rolls around on the floor and laughs and plays, but also knows exactly what to do if anyone is unwell or hurt. I have called her in a panic on more than one occasion concerning myself, Reid or of course Isaac.
~ Mum is a really good cook.  This point might seem irrelevant, but trying to cook like Mum is next to impossible.  She never wastes food, somehow turning sad leftovers into a brand new, delicious dish of some sort.  She throws in handfuls of whatever is on hand, always has an INCREDIBLY well stocked fridge and pantry (it's seriously like going to the supermarket) and going home always involves some kind of treat.  Her vegetable soup is the best, her banana cake is next level and don't get me started on her roast lamb!
~ She is incredibly kind and supportive.  She has put up with a lot of crap from all of her kids (why on earth would you have 4?? Haha).  It takes a lot for her to snap and get angry (watch out if that happens!) and for the most part she is level headed and ready with advice, a hug or a good "snap out of it" conversation.
~ Mum is the most positive person I know.  Sometimes, annoyingly so!  No matter the situation, she can find a silver lining - something I really struggle with.  She offers a constantly happy perspective and is pretty much a walking ray of sunshine, even on her worst days. 
~ She loves and feels, so very fiercely.  It's a bit of an ongoing joke in our family that Mum cries at the drop of a hat, usually eliciting a few giggles from us all, even a bit of competition about whose birthday card made her cry and whose didn't.  Don't even get me started on the reactions to a sad movie!  While it is a bit funny, it's actually a really beautiful part of her personality.  She is so empathetic, so sympathetic, so invested in the people she loves and even people she hasn't met - her displays of emotion are actually incredibly lovely.
~ Her willingness to help me as I've struggled so much with anxiety and depression over the last year and a half especially, brings tears to my eyes.  She visited nearly every day in the Mother Baby Unit, (she was basically one of the only people I wanted to see).  She drove me to every psychologist appointment and then looked after Isaac while I was there.  She has Isaac for me once a week so that I can get some rest and regain a bit of sanity (as guilty as I feel for needing that time), I know she absolutely loves it.  She has spent as much time as possible with me while I have hated to be at home alone.  She has gone above and beyond not only as my Mum, but as Isaac's Nan.  We are both so incredibly lucky.


I could literally go on and on. The one thing I wish she would be better at, is self-care; but I think that's a battle none of us will ever win.  She will always do too much, for too many people.  I am also a very needy daughter as you can see, and while I try to do as much as I can for her, I know it pales in comparison when I think about the love and support she has consistently shown me throughout my life.   She is an incredible role model when it comes to things I want to emulate in my own parenting journey, and while no parent is the same, I hope that Isaac will love me as much as I love my Mum.


Mum, you are a force to be reckoned with, the best Mum I could ever hope for, not to mention one of my very best friends.  Thank you for everything - I could never say that enough.


  

Monday, 2 October 2017

Professional Help - A Snapshot of my Experience with Psychologists

I was talking to a close friend earlier in the week (credit for this post idea goes to you, Mim!) and she asked me about my experience with mental health professionals - strategies I found helpful, how the whole idea of therapy works - quite a lot of questions really, and I found I couldn't quite articulate answers properly at the time, so she suggested that I do a post about it.  This has made me really think about things that have and haven't worked for me - and maybe pass on little tips that could help others (although I am by no means a professional!) - these are merely my opinions.  This post is focussing purely on the psychologists I have dealt with.  {Sorry in advance about the weird formatting of this post (and some previous posts haha), I always seem to stuff it up and don't have to patience to try to fix it!).










I have been seeing mental health professionals on and off for the last eight years.  I have seen four different psychologists, all with very different ways of viewing and trying to help manage my intense anxiety.  Some if it really didn't work, and often that was my fault for not trying hard enough.
One psychologist insulted me by saying if I simply meditated and exercised then I wouldn't need medication (I had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and severe generalised anxiety disorder/agoraphobia the same week and had just added clonazepam to my mix of medications).  One was really tough-love in her approach, one was no tough and all love and one was all tough and no love - but finally, I found one that seemed to fit.  I understood enough about what did and didn't work for me that I was assertive enough to state that up-front, and we worked together on some strategies that didn't make me cringe at the thought, that challenged me (of course) and also really made me think deeply about how mean my brain could be and how to try and control that more effectively.  The point of that little spiel is to point out that it's really important to find someone you connect with, someone who respects you, someone who is willing to respond to any concerns you may have had in the past and someone who tailors a recovery plan specifically for you.



Trying to re-train your brain, is really hard work.  Seeing a psychologist (in my experience) isn't just going into a room, sitting on a comfy couch and spilling all your problems, then they offer a brilliant suggestion to take away all the worry and pain - you have to actually commit to working it out.  It's always unpleasant and uncomfortable and exhausting, but if it helps with the anxiety/depression, I have obviously found it to be completely worth it.


I'm not a fan of breathing exercises.  I know "deep breathing" is supposed to do wonders for anxiety but it truly doesn't work for me.  That might sound ridiculous, but it's true!  If anything, it makes me more panicky.  I have tried lots of different techniques, in lots of different circumstances, and it has never helped me.  As soon as this is suggested to me, I roll my eyes and practically beg for a different option.  I can't be doing it right, surely - but I just find the whole thing stressful and pointless and it has always been the first suggestion given to me.  The most recent psychologist I saw, laughed along with me when I explained how difficult I find this particular practice, and suggested we move right on to something else.  Finally!


The one thing that really did strike a cord with me, and did help me to see my insanely negative thought patterns, was to write down every time I had a negative thought - the most common being "I am a terrible mother".  I would then draw two columns, one with the heading evidence for and the other with the heading evidence against.  Physically writing down horrible things your brain is saying to you, is upsetting.  Physically writing down that there isn't really any concrete evidence to support those horrible things, is comforting.  In the end, I was able to flick back to the pages where I had already written down the thoughts (I have a lot of circling, repetitive thoughts) and I could see right in front of me, that it just wasn't true.  Not to mention the fact that writing things down is therapeutic for me, even if this was in a more scientific way than usual.  I haven't done this for a while, and talking about it now has reminded me how very beneficial I found it on my road to gradually healing and feeling like a capable mum/person again.


Exposure Therapy is something I really, really struggled with - but ultimately, it did help.  It's pretty self explanatory really, exposing yourself to situations that make you uncomfortable/anxious and continuing to do so, until that feeling fades.  I still get anxious about going out in public with Isaac, but since implementing gradual exposure therapy (a 10 minute walk here, a 5 minute supermarket shop there, meeting friends at a park etc.) I am now much more confident to at least leave the house.  Going anywhere with a toddler is stressful, but the anxiety isn't so much about leaving the security of my own four walls, with the intense fear of having a public panic attack - but wondering what mischief Isaac can cause wherever it is we are going.


Sometimes, it is simply so helpful to talk to someone who isn't emotionally involved in your life.  I have had some really positive revelations thanks to suggestions from a psychologist who didn't know my family, had never met my friends and didn't know me on a personal level.  They are able to focus on the problems you are having without any other opinions getting in the way.  It is refreshing and can ultimately be very freeing.




There are so many other strategies and therapies that have been suggested that I've tried and usually failed; which goes to show that there isn't a blanket solution for everyone and there are lots of options available.  Have I found psychologists useful? Absolutely.  Have I found some of the strategies and sessions a bit pointless/expensive? Definitely.  Would I recommend seeing a professional to anyone who might be struggling and feels like they need some help? Yes. A thousand times, yes.