Saturday, December 12, 2015

Anxiety and being a mum.

Anxiety.  My life is full of anxiety, when I'm not on the right dose of my antidepressant medication.
 Instead of thinking that my friends are just busy, my anxiety sometimes whispers to me "everyone hates you and wishes you would never talk to them. In fact, they're all at a massive party together, talking and laughing about how much they hate you and how much fun they're having. You're never going to have enough friends. Everyone has more than you. You should just stay home and never talk to anyone, because they're only talking to you because they pity you.  You loser.  Stay at home. Eat more.  Complain on Facebook. If someone disagrees with you, it means they hate you.  You should yell at that person in the carpark.  Nobody struggles the way you do.  You're doing it all wrong.  Your children hate you.  You're a failure."

Over the past 16 months, my anxiety has increased.  I had terrible post natal depression after the birth of my son, which is good and bad.  Good, because I had lots of strategies in place.  Bad, because anything less than total crippling, disabling depression and anxiety, I viewed as just part and parcel of having kids.  I struggled a lot in the early days of having Alex, and so I just thought that it was normal to struggle having Steph, and to not really enjoy my life.  I was teary a lot, all I wanted to do was sleep, and I resented other people who either didn't have kids, or whose children were older than mine.  I thought that if she was older, then I'd feel better.  Freer.  But I had to resign myself to a grind.  It was so, so, so difficult.  I was scared of her dying. I was scared of Alex dying if I didn't say goodbye to him properly at school drop off. I was scared that I'd accidentally let go of the pram when I was pushing Stephanie. I was scared of being alone with her and scared of being by myself.

I could do it, but I was miserable a lot of the time.  But a lot of people with young kids are miserable, right?  It's ok.  I could do it, as long as I ate chocolate and stayed in the house and slept as much as possible.  I cried some more.  Stephanie wasn't sleeping through the night. In May this year, a friend's baby died and Stephanie had a cold. I became terrified that if I couldn't hear her breathe, then she would stop breathing. I started sleeping with her and I tossed and turned a fair bit. I have a chronic pain problem that my constant eating and lack of sleep was making worse. I took my painkillers, but my pain was getting worse because my stress was constant. I tried to make myself go for walks, but my weight was getting in the way. I couldn't get up from the ground without a three point turn style manoeuvre that was incredibly undignified. I felt so sorry for my husband. He didn't sign up for this sort of life, or wife.  But I was angry at him anyway. I was angry and upset a lot of the time.  Everything seemed too difficult, but a few extra challenges that we as a family have meant that health care professionals thought that it was reasonable for me to feel challenged, overwhelmed and emotional.

A little over a month ago, I went to a different GP at my medical practice, one who was well versed in mental issues and pain.  She told me that I could go up a higher level in my antidepressants, something I hadn't bothered doing because the psychiatrist that I'd seen in January had told me that I was on the highest level.  However, this GP told me that there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that going up a higher level could help.  I cried and cried in her room. I was used to that. I cried at just about every medical appointment I went to. I'd tried another antidepressant in September and it was dreadful. I felt anxious and couldn't sleep.  It was a disaster.  I felt like a zombie.

I saw the GP who told me to put the medicine up on Friday, and the next Monday I was headed for the O'Connell Family Centre with Steph to finally get to the bottom of these sleep issues.  I was skeptical about the increased medication helping, so I hadn't bothered taking an increased dose.  Last time I'd been horrifically depressed, nothing had really helped, and I just thought that coming off one antidepressant and going on another sounded horrific and something that I wasn't really up for.  I didn't have the mental resources.  My mum was coming to Shepparton to help Richard with Alex while I was away, and I mentioned to her the increased dose idea.  "Why don't you try it, Dee?" she said, and I couldn't think of a reason why not.  So I took two that morning.  Then drove to Melbourne. I was terrified. I'd spent a month in a mother and baby unit with Alex, in what had to be one of my most hellish times ever. (Even though I met two fabulous chicks there who I still dearly love today)

 I was terrified that I'd go backwards at this place, be unable to sleep and go completely crazy.  What happened, was that I faced myself.  I met women who were going through the same things that I was.  What did we have in common? A hatred of the sound of our children crying.  A fear that we were doing it wrong.  A desire to be a really good mum and a talent for being too hard on ourselves.  I cried and cried, and reached breaking point on the third day.  My phone smashed when I was trying to find something in the room....this was the last straw.  I was so angry at Stephanie, at how busy and active she is. I set off up the hill to the Telstra shop.  Stephanie was tired and grumpy and whined and I cried.  I fled back down the hill after making a fool of myself yelling at the Telstra guy.  I cried and yelled internally. I hated her.  Did I? No. I didn't.  I didn't hate her. I had a huge realisation that I didn't hate her.  I loved her. I loved her so much that it scared me. I loved her so much that I was scared it would take me over.  I loved her so much that I felt that I would never get myself back.  I cried and cried, but that was when I began to fall in love with her, and accept that I was a better mother than I thought, and that I had to stop grieving my old life.  It was gone, and I was missing my beautiful little girl.  I always knew that I had loved her, but I felt it now, purely and strongly for the first time.  I wasn't afraid.

The next day, I saw the psychiatrist at the centre, and he was so complimentary of me, as a person and as a mother.  He told me that I'd done an amazing thing. I'd gone from addiction and dysfunction and changed into a person who was no longer a victim.  Yes, the additional circumstances of my life could be a challenge, but that I had the resources, I had the wisdom, and I had the answers within me.
I came out of that session feeling like I was seeing my life with new eyes. I had a fantastic opportunity to live my life, and live it abundantly.  I didn't have to feel afraid any more.  And I suddenly realised that for the first time in sixteen months, that I wasn't afraid any more. I wasn't wishing my life away, and I wasn't grieving.  I felt like a dark cloud had lifted off me, I felt like an internal light had been switched on.  I started to feel human and happy and lucky.  I credit in particular the wonderful staff, and two ladies who I met at O'Connell who made me feel like I was a human being, a funny human being, instead of just the mum of a baby who wouldn't sleep.

I was able to see that I wasn't able to use my anti depression strategies very well, because I had been anxious and depressed.  I'd had post natal depression.  And the increase in antidepressant was turning the lights on in me again.  I was able to see that the arguments and bitterness and mistakes I had made while I was depressed wasn't real, but a product of my illness. I started to make amends to people who I had hurt, and felt a freedom and a peace that I haven't felt in a long time.

That doesn't mean that I don't screw up.  That's part of being human.  What's different is that today I try not to focus on it, and to live in the moment.  I am starting my quest towards fitness with the help of my fitbit buddies and mucho fruit and vegetables. One of my goals is to rise from the floor without the three point turn manouvre! The sunlight shines on me again.

I urge anyone who is suffering from any of these feelings to talk to your GP, beyond blue, lifeline or PANDA.  You shouldn't have to feel like this.  You should be living in the sunshine.

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