My current assessment of my mental health would see me taking on the role of tightrope walker!! Getting more proficient I must say but very conscious that one false move and I’ll be falling on my face in seconds.
Last week saw me wobble massively, the rope was swaying and the arms were waving trying to regain my balance before a fall. It was a struggle and I did definitely expect the fall to happen but I am pleased to report that my mental health core was strong enough to keep me upright.
Now the rope has stopped swaying, I am reflecting back on the week and trying to get an understanding of where I am at and how I managed to recover so quickly from what was the equivalent of being kicked aggressively in the stomach.
To quickly overview the situation, I unexpectedly came across an individual who played a significant role in my spiral in to the anxiety pit and that really knocked me. I found myself back where I was a year ago and I wasn’t prepared for that. All of a sudden, I was faced with emotions and feelings I hadn’t experienced for a while and I plummeted back to a dark place of overwhelming panic.
Compounding all of that was an overwhelming anger, one that I had clearly been suppressing for some time even though I thought it had moved on. I was angry for a very long time after my anxiety started – angry at myself, angry at the person who had triggered the whole thing, angry at the way it had been handled at work and generally angry at life!! Through counselling I battled that anger and although I didn’t mange to destroy it, I definitely maimed it so it was no longer a threat.
Turns out the anger wasn’t that badly injured, and all I needed was to be faced with the original anxiety trigger and it came flooding back.
BUT, and this is critical, I didn’t have weeks and months of extremely painful counselling to fall back in to that pit of anxiety again. That particular person has had more than enough of me, they have taken all they are going to get from me. Regrettably I let that person affect me far more than they had the right to do, and as a result they robbed my children of the mother I should have been to them last year. AND there in lies the reason that I didn’t fall as hard as I expected. One simple answer – my children.
Parenting with anxiety is beyond difficult at times. In my instance, I didn’t want to go out of the house and function. I didn’t want to speak to people yet I simultaneously didn’t want to be alone. I couldn’t cope with noise, pressure and demands on me – all things you have to deal with daily when you are a parent. I was snappy and irritable, it took everything I had to maintain a basic standard of living and that was utterly exhausting. Their physical needs were always always met but sometimes I fell short on meeting their emotional needs.
There is no mum guilt that I have experienced that is worse than the guilt I have felt over that time. See if you know my children, you will know that they are truly amazing, wonderful, loving, caring individuals who deserve the absolute best from life. I did the best I could given the situation, but it was not the best that they deserved. I have vowed to put my everything in to making up for that time, which is in itself immensely difficult when I still have very present anxiety issues.
So, last week I had to make a choice. By the time I was alone and able to process my response to the situation, I had approximately 33 minutes until the school run. So, I allowed myself 33 minutes to cry, freak out and then pull myself back together. Then I left for the school run and put my everything in to being normal (whatever the hell that is!!), I suppressed the panic, the tears and the urge to collapse in a heap on the floor. I functioned as a mother, inside I was still breaking and once they were in bed and asleep I did allow the release of that but I promised myself it would last for one day only. It didn’t, but my recovery was much quicker than I anticipated and I was able to function normally albeit more subdued than usual.
So, what have I learned in my year of parenting with anxiety? Well it’s a rollercoaster and a half that’s for sure. It’s not the kind of rollercoaster you want to go on either. It’s the kind where you spend the whole time with your eyes closed, slowly climbing up only to plummet down at speed fairly certain you are about to crash but then at the last minute it loses speed and you are on the flat again.
Being a parent whilst I have been suffering with anxiety has been both a blessing and a curse. My two wonderful children are what has kept me going all this time, I couldn’t get signed off sick from being their mother so I had to continue to function. I had to get up every day and leave the house, I had to socialise with people and participate in daily life when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball. There were days when I had zero motivation and energy to move but I had to find some from somewhere. Not was just not an option. But in having to continue as normal with the kids, it actually kept me mobile and upright. I could have easily succumbed to the clutches of anxiety, never leaving the house and shutting down all lines of communication and there is a chance my recovery would have been much slower and more painful. But that being said, there is a definite value in being able to curl up in a ball and recuperate. After all, if I had broken my leg, I wouldn’t have kept walking on it to get the kids to school, I would have asked for help. It really is a very fine line that we have to walk between allowing yourself time to heal and keeping mobile so you don’t seize up!
The hardest part of parenting with anxiety for me has been the intense feelings of guilt. I haven’t been the mother I wanted to be, the chances are that mother image I had was unachievable anyway but I feel I have fallen far short. They don’t always get the best version of me, and do they definitely get the brunt of my stresses sometimes. Occasionally it is actually completely justified when they are in fact the cause of my stress, but often they have just been caught up in my anxiety whirlwind. I hope that the version of me I am now is better for them, I hope they don’t look back at me as the mean, shouty, crying mummy that I have been and instead see a better, calmer, more fun-loving mummy. That is the mummy I will aspire to be going forward. That may not always be achievable but I will remind myself of the wise words of my counsellor, just do the best you can in the situation and as I only ever ask my children to do their best, I shouldn’t ask more of myself than that.