Is it FOMO, JOMO or just missing out?

There has been this saying bandied around for a while “FOMO” which when I googled it turned out be “Fear Of Missing Out”. This got me thinking, do I ever actually experience this feeling anymore? And in all honesty I think the answer is no. I have definitely become a home body – not that I ever was a massive party animal. But as time has gone along I have found myself just wanting to stay at home, declining invitations or spending night outs thinking about when I can go home. Not all the time I hasten to add but being out out fills me with a considerable amount of anxiety – real physical, palpable anxiety. 

Anyone who has experienced the physical side of anxiety will tell you that it’s an extremely unpleasant feeling and not something you would actively go out of your way to reproduce. Much like banging your head against a wall or shutting your hand in a door. It hurts the first time so you wouldn’t then repeatedly do it again if you could help it.

I am pleased to report that there is now “JOMO” “Joy Of Missing Out” which definitely sits more comfortably with me. But the problem is this idea of Missing Out. For every 10 opportunities I am offered, 9 of them won’t be that big a deal to miss but there is always 1 thing that I will want to do, 1 thing I won’t want to miss. So then I am in a quandary about whether to suck it up and experience the pain or to miss out on something great. 

I don’t want to live like this forever so I push myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible. I believe that in doing this I will start to learn that things aren’t as bad as my mind would have me believe. It’s also essential in preventing me from becoming a hermit!!

Take this very moment for instance, I am currently sat alone on a train travelling to London for the weekend. I have plans to spend the weekend with a group of ladies, only two of which I know, one of which is a family member. We are off to see the Strictly live show tomorrow afternoon and as a dedicated strictly fan and for a variety of other reasons, I couldn’t turn it down. 

But as I sit here on this train, living what many would see as a mother’s dream -(a whole weekend of adult time, no arguing kids, no demands, no bedtimes, pure luxury) I am a huge mess of emotions inside. Hopefully on the outside I look perfectly normal and none of my fellow passenger will notice. But my insides are being churned up by anxiety.

I have walked away from everything that keeps me safe. I am going to somewhere far from home without my family, without my husband even without my dog and not for work purposes. All things that give me an identity and act as my safety blanket. At this very moment I am just me – not a mum, not a wife, not an employee, not a dog owner and to me that is utterly terrifying!! It’s only when they are stripped away that I realise how much I depend on those safety nets to keep me going.

Everyone’s instant reaction when you tell them what you are doing is to rave about how lucky I am to be getting away, to be experiencing something so great and to be having a break from my family and routine. I am not an ungrateful person in anyway and I do realise how privileged I am but that doesn’t unfortunately take away how difficult I find this. That family, that routine, that purpose is literally what keeps me going and whilst it is exhausting in itself and I do often want a break, being away from them is a bit like losing my lifeline. So I smile and nod along when people say it, but inside that’s not really how I feel.

My rational head knows that I need to do this, I need to break away from those safety nets for a short amount of time. My rational head knows that this feeling of discomfort is important. Consequently, I have put on my game face, I have forced myself to do this even though I have wanted to back out so many times. I have suppressed my anxious feelings and I will push forward, and I will do everything in my power to enjoy myself because otherwise this has all been for nothing. But the irrational and anxiety riddled part of my head is waiting to pounce on me at the very moment my facade drops.

It’s going to be a tiring old time and I may well go in to hiding when I get home. Don’t underestimate the physical and mental exertion required to live in a constant anxious state. I may not attend the next 9 things I am offered, but hopefully every time I push my limits it will actually increase my capacity and it may only be 8/10 things I turn down. Maybe that won’t be the case , but I won’t know unless I try and try is all I can do. I am coming to terms with that and that in itself is growth.

If you need me after tomorrow, this is where I will be.
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Poor visibility ahead – best put your fog lights on!

An honest update on how January 2019 has panned out. I had such high hopes at the start of the month but it has not quite gone to plan.

My head is in a total mess at the moment. I’ll be honest that I am not in the great place I was hoping for at the start of January when I wrote my previous post (The start of a new year – A time for reflection or just another day?)

As the month has gone on, I have felt this fog descending and I have fallen head first in to a huge funk!! Life has become disheartening, frustrating and it feels like I am wading through treacle.  Every day I wake up hoping that I might feel better, the fog will have lifted and each day will feel a bit easier. But so far that hasn’t really been the case. I do try most mornings to be more positive, but invariably by the end of the day I have been ground back down. It almost feels like I have no control, I want to stop this feeling, I want to come out of the funk but I just don’t seem to be able to do it at the moment.  But it’s not making me a very nice person, I am not behaving the way I want, I’m not parenting the way I want and overall our family life is suffering. I need this to stop and I need it to stop now – but I don’t know where to start!!

I have some idea what is fuelling the funk but no idea how to work a way forward. The things that are triggering this feeling do not seem to be easily fixed. I don’t know what I want in all honesty, and anything I do want has constraints and limitations wrapped around it. But deep down there is a bubbling pot of aspiration, longing and desire. There are things I want to do and they do give me energy. But it feels like that is buried under hard layers that it can’t penetrate. Its like there is a bustling buzzing energy laden down by a wet blanket of misery, indecisiveness and lethargy. A need and desire to do something but no clue what to do or where to start!! The constant internal conflict between want to be productive, not knowing what to produce and despair over failure to produce anything.

I am suffering from a lack of drive due to a lack of direction. I need to find myself a life sat nav, put in the destination post code and see which route comes up as the quickest. If only such a thing existed!!

If only there was a sat nav that could help us navigate life, getting us to our destination as quickly and painlessly as possible.



But until such time as that dream technology is designed, I shall have to navigate through the old fashioned way – some kind of map and blind faith.

At this point I will add the disclaimer that I am fully aware there are people in the world with far greater problems than this. But this is my problem and it is within the scope of my life and currently impacting on it more than I would like. So whilst it would pale in significance to others fights, it is relevant to me and my struggle.  

I feel huge amounts of resentment building up inside of me, I am fighting this constant battle between wanting to do more with my life but being stuck in a job that I don’t enjoy that takes up my time that I could be using towards something more stimulating and exciting. But needing to stay in that job to earn money because stimulating and exciting won’t pay me a monthly amount from the get go. So in turn I feel resentful of the children, because when I am not at work I am with them. They also take up my time that I could be using elsewhere and they also don’t earn me anything. But I don’t want to feel resentful, I want to enjoy my time with them and not feel pressure to do other stuff – not just life goals but all the other regular life stuff like cleaning and cooking. Stuff I could be doing if I didn’t have to dedicate my time to the unstimulating, joy draining job whilst they are at school. That leaves my Fridays, which are job and child free but which I mentally cram a million things in to and achieve, at best 5 of them. Leaving me feeling frustrated. So I look at how many of those other things could be done outside of my Friday therefore reducing my to do list. So I try to shoehorn them in to my family life or work life and then feel resentful of the job or the family stopping me from achieving anything on that list.

I am in a toxic cycle, and I haven’t a clue how to get off. Do I leave my job? Well I already did that once and it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be! what if I get another one but that isn’t any good either? I don’t want to be a serial job leaver. What if the problem isn’t the job? What if the problem is me? What if I am incapable of being happy? How do I solve that problem?

Do I stop wanting to do all the other stuff? So I just focus on work and my family? After all when the family is grown up then I can pick things back up? Truth is that would be the easiest option, give up my goals and aspirations for now because I am being pulled too many ways again. But selfishly I don’t think that is enough for me, I feel like I have so much more to give than I am. I don’t know what exactly and I definitely don’t know how but I think to give that up would crush my soul. It could do more damage than good. After all I am still a person, not just a mum and not just an employee, and I can’t let that go!

I am lucky to have a supporting husband, who would help me and support me to make changes. After all he did once before, but we both thought these changes would make things better and they have in so many ways. The childcare stress has significantly reduced. I like that I don’t have to worry about covering the school holidays. But there are limitations to the support that he can offer. His job is very demanding, we rely on it for financial survival. My salary in comparison is a drop in the ocean, although it would be noticeably missed. His job has zero flexibility in terms of helping out with childcare Monday – Friday 9-5. He is around sometimes but that is sporadic, unexpected and unreliable. Any changes I made would have to factor in the care of two children. Whether it be me or wrap around care. But wrap around care for two kids on a smallish salary seems frivolous. Jobs with more responsibility that will offer more stimulation seem to need to be done over more hours and I could end up back in a non-family friendly environment desperately paddling to keep up with everyone else and being stressed as a result. Jobs that fit round my children that I could walk in to now don’t seem to offer me what I need for me.

I’m not sure what the answer is at the moment, I don’t know how to solve this problem. I don’t know how to make these feelings go away so that on a day to day basis I can feel happier and healthier. I would love to go back to my counsellor to thrash this out, but counselling whilst worth its weight in gold does not come cheap. So for now I am going to have to continue to plod along as I am, taking steps to try and improve things where I can. I feel lucky to have the insight that I do, that I can see what the problem is and I can recognise the symptoms that there is something wrong. I may not have the tools yet to tap in and solve the problem, but from the outside looking in I know there is something going on. Two years ago, when I felt this way I just carried on plodding and pretending it was all ok. I genuinely believed that these feelings were part and parcel of my life and I just needed to get on with it. I now know that not to be the case so I can tangibly see the progress I have made. That in itself is hugely reassuring and if I can make that kind of progress from my darkest times, then I am sure I can climb out of this pit of misery and sort myself out.

I am just going to have to do it slowly and methodically, giving myself the time and compassion required to work this through. There won’t be a quick fix, I don’t have my life sat nav yet. I just need to keep reminding myself that this too will pass. I’m all about the big picture thinking, and I will get to the big picture eventually by whatever means necessary. The path travelled may not be the straightest or the most direct, but it will be worthwhile and filled with life lessons along the way. I’m sure of it.

But in the meantime, I may go and patent the life sat nav, who knows that could be my answer to everything!!

What is this self care you speak of ?!?

I was casually indulging in a spot of kitchen cleaning, specifically the oven of doom!!, and to stop myself from losing the plot entirely I was also indulging in a bit of an Instagram story catch up sesh at the same time. So, there I was elbow deep in the oven pride and listening to the fabulous @Natashabailie talking about self-care.
If you aren’t familiar with Natasha, and I would urge you to change that, then you may not be aware that she is a great voice in the Instagram mental health community and speaks very passionately about the use of self-care in managing mental health difficulties. She can be found on Instagram or at www.mentalmutha.com
During these particular stories, Natasha was talking about the fact that whilst she strongly values self-care not everyone feels the same. She was questioning why this may be the case and this in turn got me thinking about my relationship with self-care and my take on what Natasha was saying.

Self-care hasn’t always come easily to me, in the lead up to my illness my life was completely full with work, kids, family and a never-ending stream if time filling commitments with little value. I viewed taking care of my self as selfish and it wasn’t what good mothers did because good mothers put everything in to raising the family and keeping the home.
(Disclaimer 1: I am not saying this is the case at all, it was simply a warped perception I held for some time. Disclaimer 2: despite what it sounds like, I was not raised in Stepford during the 60’s. I am not sure where this warped perception stems from)

It wasn’t until I broke that I realised I needed to work a bit more on me to be able to look after others. This is the tag line that is so often used and is absolutely right. But I’ll be honest, even now I still struggle with self-care and I don’t think I am alone in that.
So why is this the case? Why do so many people shun what seems like a dream situation – a genuine excuse to make time for yourself and do nice things?

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Self-care doesn’t have to be a mountain, don’t be scared by the idea.

In reality I think that a lot of people either don’t truly understand what self-care means and they have a very tight definition of what counts as self-care. For others it just feels too big, too scary and too time consuming. After all, if your head is full and you are feeling the stretch, the idea of trying to factor something else in to the mix can be overwhelming. Consequently, the things that are easiest to remove are the ones we take out the first. After all it is not that easy to take out work or family commitments so we sacrifice the things that will help us the most.

Even now when I have worked very hard on trying to rebuild myself, and when I have changed so many of the negative things from before, I still struggle with having the time and the headspace to tackle self-care.

Yoga for example – My friend keeps telling me of the virtues of yoga for my physical and mental health. I know this is true and I do really want to get in to it, but I don’t feel like I have the time or the headspace to start it yet. It sounds crazy but I think it is a bit like addicts admitting they have a problem before they will seek help. I need to feel ready to commit the time to yoga before I can contemplate starting it. I had the same thing with counselling. I knew I needed it for a long time, before I was really ill but I didn’t have the headspace to commit to it. Counselling is a long and hard journey. One that is worthwhile no doubt but not something you can jump in to lightly. Obviously, yoga is not the same level of intensity as counselling but the principle is the same and that I think also applies to self-care. You have to be able to commit the time to it before you can start the process. You have to believe in the value and you have to recognise the benefits.

But I do think there is a lot of confusion or presumption around what is meant by self-care. It isn’t always about finding time to go to the salon or the spa, although these things count and are very valuable to some. It can be about doing something that makes you feel good, whatever that may be and recognising its value.

For me, and this may well sound lame to some, it is making time to do some life admin or some cleaning admin. I definitely didn’t enjoy cleaning the brown gunk out of my oven but my god did I feel good afterwards. That box of oven pride had been in my house for more than 2 months and sitting beside the oven for at least a month (minus the days when people came round and I didn’t want to highlight the state of my oven) to try and encourage me to do it and simultaneously making me feel guilty for not doing it. So, to have actually had the time to tick that job off my to do list made me feel amazing.
Having a clean house makes me feel like I have my sh** together, it makes me feel like I am top of things and that I’m not completely failing at life. That is important to me but it isn’t necessarily important to others and that’s fine.

Find what is important to you and try to make some time to do it. It doesn’t have to be the glamourous stuff that is so often publicised, it may be stuff that you don’t want to admit to or that isn’t “instagrammable” but that’s ok. You don’t need to justify to anyone else what self-care means to you.
Its really not a case of “go hard or go home” either, it can be small things leading to big things or it can just always be small things.

Self-care is not an insurmountable mountain, it is stepping stones towards making you feel better. Those stepping stones can be as close together or as far apart as you need them at the moment. If you only manage something for you once a month or less frequently than that, its ok. And as ever with the world of social media, don’t be driven by what others are doing or feel bad because others seem to be doing it more or doing it better. People only post what they want you to see. Self-care is just that, something for yourself. Do it to make you feel better and only you. If you want to, please feel free to comment and share what you do or have done. Perhaps it will help others to identify something they could do for themselves to make a positive change.

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You don’t have to go from 0-60 straight away. Take small steps, even tiny ones will make a difference.

I’ll start you off with a few ideas that work for ME:
1) Keeping on top of the cleaning (I used the Organised Mum Method – see Instagram, facebook or this blog if you want to know what I mean www.theorganisedmum.blog)
2) Having lists of all the things I need or want to do. This stops them swimming around in my head and making me feel overwhelmed or forgetful.
3) Painting my nails – I use gel/shellac but do it at home because I can’t afford the time to make an appointment somewhere. For me having nice nails makes me feel a hundred times better.
I would love it if you could share your ideas with me.

5 things I would tell my 21 year old self

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courtesy of notonthehighstreet.com and Google.

You know the saying “you are only as old as you feel?” well if that was true I would be eternally 21. Although not strictly true because after a particularly taxing day with the kids I can end up feeling 81!! However, generally, in my head most of the time I feel I am 21 and its definitely the age I would go back to if I could. It was my favourite age, not necessarily because of the situation I was in then, but because it felt like the perfect age – not too old but old enough to do everything (apart from retire!!)

But now with the benefit of a couple (ahem) more years under my belt, I can look back and think there are a few things I wish I had known then. So, I will share them with you and who knows if you are a bit closer to my ideal age perhaps they will be of use because let’s be honest there isn’t a fat lot I can do unless they eventually invent time travel.

Please note these are in no particular order and no tip is more valuable than another.

1) Take good care of your pre-baby body and value it. It doesn’t matter how much of your baby weight you lose and how few stretch marks you get as a result of pregnancy, your body won’t look the same. That being said, you aren’t currently at your healthiest and whilst in the future you definitely improve that situation, I would do that sooner if I was you because as I have already said it won’t be the same again after kids and you only have 4 more years until you are pregnant!! You could wear denim hot pants at least once if you get your act together!!

2) Get loads better at saying no to people and don’t feel guilty about it. In the long run it will serve you well because eventually you will have no choice but to say no in order to stay sane. It is important that you value your worth more than you currently do because there are some rocky times ahead. You will manage a lot better if you became assertive earlier on and are able to build up a greater resilience now. It will help you to recognise the relationships worth investing in and weed out those who will cause more harm than good. It will be hard and it wont sit comfortably with you but it will be worthwhile in the end.

3) Invest in better storage so that you don’t have to keep giving your clothes to the charity shop and then regretting it. If you worked on improving storage in all of your houses and also got over your issues with clutter you would have a much better wardrobe collection to chose from now. Vacuum bags and the loft are the way forward, invest in them before 2018 because they will change your life.

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courtesy of shutterstock.com

4) The guy you are with now, he is the one for you. He always has been and he always will be. It will be tough at times and you will need to work hard so be prepared for that. Don’t make any changes to your timeline but if possible throw caution to the wind and holiday more because once the grown-up stuff like mortgages, weddings and kids happen it becomes much trickier. You have the potential to have an amazing life together and he is the best person to ride out the rocky times with so don’t lose sight of that. You will both be big picture people so try not to get too hung up on the small here and now stuff.

5) Overall life would be easier if you could make some sort of tangible plan for your career rather than this sort of see how it goes approach you are working on. It may seem difficult at the moment because all the avenues you are pursuing are dead ends. But although you don’t realise it now, this is the easiest time to make changes and try new things. The path you are on will see you ok but it is not the most direct route and you won’t end up where you hope you will. That degree you have just achieved, you can ride on its glory for about another 3 years but then it will wear off so you might want a backup. Again, this is the best time to do it, because its difficult to study and renovate a house or raise these babies you are adamant about having at 25. Finally, don’t forget the reasons you picked a degree in Psychology and Criminology, these are areas that you are deeply interested in and that truly fascinate you. In 12 years’ time you will regret not pursuing them and you will be actively seeking ways to break back in to that field. I mean I guess you will because I definitely haven’t got to that age yet (cough cough).

Its easy to look back now and think I wish I knew then what I know now, but there are many experiences that I have lived that have shaped who I am now and my life. I cant change things and honestly I probably don’t want to change things (not the big stuff anyway – there are probably a few questionable outfit choices I would like to remove from my history) because the impact would be too great on my current. But I will do my future self a favour and tell them now to try and be happier and more present in their life. Things are tough and it can be a real battle to get through some days, but these challenges are shaping you and your future. Use this learning to make the next 12 years the best ones yet so that the “5 things I would tell my 33-year-old self” blog will be even harder to write.

And finally, I have one last final bonus life tip, possibly the most useful piece of information I can share to anyone reading this, particularly anyone nearer to 21 than I am – DO NOT EVER mix wine, vodka and tequila, it does not go well. Most importantly, DO NOT EVER EVER do this the night before your wedding. You will still have the most amazing day, but you will be paler and more jaded than you hoped. Plus everyone buys you drinks on your wedding day and if you are hungover you will not take full advantage of this!!!

Maybe it’s the quality of your wardrobe that’s the problem – flat pack just aint gonna cut it!!

One of the things that has stuck with me the most since I accepted I was ill (different from when I became ill) came from a great friend who simply said “your wardrobe is just too full”.
So, after the initial panic that she had indeed seen the complete and utter state of my dishevelled wardrobe with the back panel hanging off, I realised what she actually meant. She simply meant that I had taken on too much to cope with. I had been metaphorically cramming stuff in to my “wardrobe” and shutting the doors until eventually those poor doors had enough and came flying off and hit me hard.
The most frustrating part of it all was that my “wardrobe” was filled with loads of other people’s things that I was storing for them and consequently I had less room for my stuff.
But after about 3 months of counselling, I was able to manage some of the stuff. Chuck some of it out, refold some other stuff and generally get a better idea of what was actually in there. Suddenly things felt a bit better and less pressured. There was a small amount of space now in which to carefully place a few things that wasn’t going to cause another massive wardrobe explosion.
But as time has been going on, and since the counselling has stopped, I have been trying to manage the wardrobe on my own and the time has come to admit that it is starting to feel a bit bulgy again. Only this time it isn’t because of any major things, its just a series of life’s little niggles that are building and building and I don’t have the right level of resilience to fight them all the time.
So is that it then? Am I now so broken that I can’t even deal with normal life? That’s a very scary and sobering thought that I am trying to process. I mean surely everyone has to deal with the same everyday stresses – working, being a parent, running a home, trying to have a social life, maintain a relationship etc etc etc? so why is it that I am finding it so difficult to deal with all these things when I have already invested heavily in trying to make space in my wardrobe.
But the thing that makes it different now is that I am much better at self-reflection. I am not caught up in a whirlwind and I have time to stop and take stock of the situation. I am more rational than before. All of these things combined have led me to the realisation that actually the issue is the quality of my “wardrobe”. I need to work on making myself more bespoke fitted wardrobe and less Ikea flat pack special with the flimsy plastic door inserts!!
So that is my project for the next few weeks and months. Watch this space because there is a shiny, sparkly and sturdy new wardrobe in the making. In the mean time if you could refrain from putting your stuff in my wardrobe that would be great.

Scream if you wanna go faster!! Parenting with anxiety

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.

Hodor against intrusive thoughts..

There has been some talk of late around intrusive thoughts and their impact on wellbeing and mental health and it was a topic I wanted to pick up on. An early disclaimer, the title of this blog is in reference to a scene from “Game of Thrones”. If you are a fan then you will hopefully know which scene I am referring to, but if you aren’t then head to you tube and search for “Hodor death scene”. It gives a good visual representation of how I was feeling at the time and hopefully some context to the rest of this blog.
For anyone not aware, an intrusive thought is defined as : unwanted thoughts or images that you find distressing and/or disturbing. Intrusive thoughts can also result in compulsions, which are the things you do to help you cope with the unwanted thoughts. You may believe that they mean something bad about you as a person. ( https://moodsmith.com/intrusive-thoughts/)
The conversations I have seen around intrusive thoughts have focussed mainly on thoughts about bad things happening (your family dying) or doing something bad yourself (crashing your car in to someone). I have had and still have these kinds of thoughts but if I’m honest they don’t really bother me. I recognise them for what they are and don’t give them much more consideration. However, following on from these conversations it got me thinking about whether some of the thoughts and behaviours I had, particularly when I was at the peak of stress and anxiety, were actually intrusive thoughts in disguise.
You see, when I was at the peak of my difficulties I felt like I was going to explode. I was being pushed and pulled in all directions, I didn’t know if I was coming or going and there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done. Mornings were fraught, with constant rushing around and the inevitable shouting when children weren’t moving quickly enough or doing what they had been asked!! Something I should confess to now is that I am very time orientated. I was fixated on getting out of the house at a particular time and would get very stressed if that wasn’t happening. I knew how long it took to drive to different places and what time I wanted to arrive in the office. I wasn’t prepared to be flexible on this regardless of the fact that I had flexi time at work and therefore no set time to arrive. The thing is my life was balancing act, and everything had a set space and time it must fit in to in order for everything to flow.
I am sure in reality this is no different to the majority of people’s lives, so what makes me think I am different I’m sure you are asking and more importantly what the hell has this got to do with intrusive thoughts?!?!?!
I’ll explain… so I’ve set the scene – a mad house of a morning with lots of rushing, shouting and stress (sounds delightful doesn’t it). Now you may think that the things that I was cramming in to this very definite inflexible allocation of time would be essential things only – teeth brushing, dressing, breakfast, lunch making etc etc etc. A “normal” person might have identified the priority tasks and just focussed on achieving them before we left the house. But the mistake you could be making is assuming that I was a normal person at that time (or now for that matter!).
Oh no!!! So aside from trying to get a 3 year old and a 6 year old to conform to my military timings when really they had their own “essential task list” of a morning (usually comprising of finding an obscure toy, having a 6th bowl of cereal or writing a list of family members to name but a few), I also insisted that all beds had to be made, dishes had to be neatly stacked ready for washing, all breakfast items had to be put away, all rooms had to be tidy, cushions had to be fluffed and in place and the bathroom had to be clean. That on top of getting 3 people dressed, 4 people breakfasted, 3 lunches made and 2 bags to be ready for school/nursery all before 7.50am when we had to leave.
In my head this all made perfect sense because there was always a chance that the window cleaner might pop by unannounced – even though he always text the day before to say he was coming and invariably I forgot to unlock the back gate so he could never do most of the windows anyway!! Or (and this is a genuine thought pattern of mine) what if the queen was coming past and looked in my windows. I mean surely she has better things to do with her time than drive up and down residential streets of villages in rural Warwickshire looking in windows and casting judgment? But nevertheless this thought pattern was what drove me to run around every morning like a crazed woman tidying, cleaning and organising whilst barking instructions to small children about getting their shoes on and waiting by the front door!!

Looking back now I am veering between laughing at the ridiculousness of it and cringing from embarrassment. But if we go back to the aforementioned definition of intrusive thoughts – Intrusive thoughts can also result in compulsions, which are the things you do to help you cope with the unwanted thoughts – and as sad and pathetic as it may sound, I genuinely had intrusive thoughts about people (not just the queen) looking in my windows, seeing a mess and making a judgment about me as a person and as a mother.

See I had this obsession with looking like I had it all together, looking like the perfect working mum with the husband with the stressful job and the house that resembled something from an interiors magazine. I wanted people to be in awe of me and to be asking “how does she do it?”. I wanted to portray an image that was the complete antithesis of how I felt, because in all honesty I was drowning.

I don’t know why I did everything or how the hell I managed to do it for so long. I crammed so much in to such a small amount of time and the reality was I wasn’t doing anything to the best of my ability. I was doing whatever it took to scrape by without alerting anyone to what was really going on. And do you know what, in a perverse way I look back and I am kind of proud of what I managed to do and how I managed to hold it all together – and if the thing at work hadn’t happened I would probably be still doing it now and probably still getting away with it.
Sometimes I feel angry, really fudgin’ angry, that one person took all of that away from me. But then if you look at it from an independent, rational outsider’s perspective actually that person probably did me a favour (although I’m not ready to let go of the anger completely) because I was an accident waiting to happen. It wasn’t an if, it was definitely a when situation.
Believe me though, I have battled with this. I can’t go back to doing all that again, my body (or mind more accurately) physically won’t allow me to do it. I tried to gain back some of the extra-curricular non-work stuff that I did whilst I was off work, but I couldn’t do it. There was some kind of invisible barrier that I ran in to every time I tried. I’m sure it must be a protective thing that my mind has put up so that I can’t end up as I was, but it does make me cross sometime. Who does my mind think it is trying to protect me all the time?
As I have said before, I have changed as a person and I have struggled so much with that change. I hate that I don’t have the control over my mind anymore. I am a control freak – I’ll admit it – its possibly a contributory factor in how I have ended up like this so sometimes I cannot cope with how things are, and how I have changed.
But on a good day I can see how these changes have been a positive thing. I have managed to gain some control in areas that I didn’t previously. The majority of the time I don’t worry about the queen becoming a peeping tom and looking at my unmade beds on a work morning. My morning routine has relaxed a bit, not completely but then I would challenge anyone to hold their sh*t together when they have asked 12 times for a child to come and brush their teeth and instead they are bandaging a dolls arm because that doll NEEDS it to be done now!! I still have some way to go and I still need to work on achieving acceptance of my situation, but it is most important that I recognise the positives. It is the only way to come to terms with it all.
Intrusive thoughts can come in any shape and form, they can be deeply unpleasant or truly weird but if they are impacting on your life and your behaviours then it really is something you need to seek help for. Don’t be scared or ashamed, I’m sure that mental health professionals all over the world have heard it all before and some. Some things are worth losing control over even the queen!!