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.

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There’s just no pleasing some people!!

Over the past few years I have noticed that I am becoming progressively less tolerant of noise. I am becoming the annoying old battleaxe always telling people (namely my kids and dog) to be quiet and calm down.

 
Its important at this point to note that at the time of writing this blog I was sat in a kids dance class listening to the baby shark song!! Never have I wanted silence so badly and I cant think what inspired this particular blog!!

 
I think the need for silence, or just quiet, is a direct result of the anxiety and mental health problems that I have been experiencing for the last few years. My reasoning behind this is that my head feels so full all the time. Full of all the things I have to do, full of all the things that are


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Photo courtesy of whisper.sh

worrying me, full of demands and full of anxiety. Consequently, there isn’t space for anything else so I can’t handle the additional noise and the demands. Continue reading There’s just no pleasing some people!!

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.