It is part of our lives, but we just need to speak up and manage it in the best way we can.
Anxiety is a mental illness and it is different for everybody that suffers. Itís an unseen illness, so those who suffer can quite often suffer in silence, which really shouldnít be the case.
Be loud and proud that you can speak about your illness and let others know that it is there. Talk about it and let others know how difficult life can be at times, as it may well help you as a sufferer to cope a little better from day-to-day.
Ok, letís rewind a few years. I was pregnant with my first born, following on from a miscarriage. The pregnancy went pretty well and considering I have always been a stressful person (often known as stressy Jessie), I was really quite relaxed. Just days before I gave birth, I mentioned this to the doctor, but he laughed and said "donít expect it to last Ė itís your hormones". I didnít want to believe him but...
Yes, I gave birth and those hormones completely changed so that I became a control freak. I had a baby who fought sleep and fed constantly, which I couldnít control. My health nurse told me over and over that, I was suffering from postnatal depression. Off I went to the doctor, who disagreed with the HN and told me I was tired. I completely agreed Ė I was in dire need of quality sleep.
Skipping through to my second pregnancy, this wasn't as plain sailing. I was constantly stressing over everything and anything, but I really wanted to feel relaxed like before. Months after the birth, again I was getting really uptight, with sleepless days and nights, constant feeding Ė the same pattern as before. Again, I was told by a few people (not medically trained) that I was suffering from postnatal depression.
Well, one day I finally gave in and rang Beyond Blue and asked for help. I was referred to a mental health doctor, prescribed medication and I went for counselling.
So what is my day like?
I can not wake before my children do (hardly surprising when they wake at 5.30 more often than not), which makes me feel bad because I then struggle to get going. I donít want to get up, I need sleep. Iím up, and they start whining and fighting. I canít cope with it, so I already start shouting. I canít stop the shouting Ė as much as I try, it just comes out of my mouth.
I muddle my way through the day, but it feels like I have a black cloud looming inside my head. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I stress about the boys fighting, how are they at school, what will they be like when they come home, and how can I deal with them when they come home.
Over the past 6 years, my partner has struggled to find full-time work Ė casual only, which just doesnít last long enough. 3 months here and there. We canít buy or rent a house, so daily I am racking my brains on how I can try to solve these issues but I canít. Itís like juggling way too many balls, then I just drop them as I know itís pointless trying. Itís suggested that I go to work, but I want to be home with and for my children Ė nobody else can care for them the way I do. I donít want to leave them with anybody else. I donít want them super clingy when I do come home as itís bad enough now, but Iím sure thatís my fault because I havenít left them yet.
Some days I get fidgety if I havenít got anything planned. Sitting down is just a no-no. I can do it, but I will mentally beat myself up about it, like "I should have been doing this, that and the other." I havenít achieved anything that day. Iím tired so I take a nap again. I feel terrible for doing nothing, and I feel bad that there are jobs left undone, or that I will have to rush to get some of them done. I sleep, but then get twitchy feet or hands to tell me itís time to wake as it's nearly school pickup time. I just canít switch off fully.
Ok school pickup... easy right? What do others think of me? Do I talk too much? Do I annoy others? Have I dressed appropriately? Did I brush my hair today? Ooohh Iím hungry, Iíll have an apple. I wonder how big I look today? Iím hungry. Iím always hungry.
Driving home, with question after question. Stay calm, just answer what you can, and donít forget your answers in case they ask again some other time. Ah, shit, did they ask that yesterday? What did I say then?
Home and cooking time. Mum, mum, mum, mum, kids bouncing on sofas. Mum, can you play cricket with me? Not right now Iím trying to cook. Guilty feelings kick in that I havenít played cricket, but I really do have to feed us all. We really aren't meal-prep people as I like fresh cooked. I think they all do. Ok, what am I cooking that us adults enjoy, but the kids will eat easily as well? Rather than having to feed them or spend over an hour yelling ďjust eat your dinner!"
Dinner is over, so I wash some dishes, load the dishwasher and shower the kids. They have always showered with us so that I donít have to bother with multiple showers. I get in, scrub us, wash us down and out we get. No standing around enjoying it, no wasting water, no fussing about, just get the job done.
Yes, I should be reading to my children on a nightly basis. I do the school library and reading books, but otherwise, after a shower, itís time to quiet down in front of the TV. By the time Peter Rabbit is on, I have to be sitting with the kids, because they say so. I donít always want to, but they want to snuggle and it's mum time so I oblige.
Bedtime. They will only let ME put them to bed and I have to lay with each of them for a few minutes. Again, who is in charge here? Yes, I opt for the simple life, but itís not always simple. At the time, itís better than having disputes and dealing with meltdowns. I find myself opting for ďthe easy life" a lot, but it does occasionally bite me on the bum.
Aaahhhh they are asleep! Did I feed them enough? Are they warm enough? Did they drink enough? When was the last time they pooped? Do I need to encourage that tomorrow? Will I have a moody child tomorrow? What are we doing tomorrow? What are we eating tomorrow? What will go wrong? Yes, itís time to turn off and enjoy a little child-free time, but my brain doesnít let me as it wants to start controlling for the next day, or week.
Some days I want to hand over the parenting reins so I feel like I have handed over control, but it doesnít work like that. My brain doesnít ever stop. What can I prevent from happening? How can I make everybody happy? How can I fix all of our problems? Can I fix them? How can I feel more positive every day? Am I exercising enough? The list is never-ending.
It's the end of the day. I sometimes have to rack my brains to think what I have done for the day. Did I do anything? Achieve anything? Some days I wonder how we have all survived.
Looking back, I have suffered anxiety for years, but I didnít realise it. I now know that I have it and although I canít control it, I am aware of it and can try to manage it. I certainly feel better for having told people that I have I suffer anxiety. Some days, I tell myself to ďget over it" and I am guilty of thinking the same for other people, but when we sit back and realise how our brains work, we realise that itís not something you can just 'get over'. It is part of our lives, but we just need to speak up and manage it in the best way we can. We need to channel our energy elsewhere if and when possible.
Please do not suffer in silence. If by writing this I have helped just one person, then it has been worth writing and sharing with you all, even if it hasn't been easy.
Reach out, talk to someone, or write stuff down. Donít settle for the depression diagnosis if thatís not what you are feeling as there is a fine line between depression and anxiety and the best judge of your brain is YOU alongside a good mental health doctor (not just a GP). Choose a doctor that specialises, or ask reception if any doctors do specialise. You can even ring a helpline and ask if they can refer you to a local doctor on their list.
It's not easy Ė even when we want to sleep, our brains are in overdrive with the silliest of things going through it. Just as we sleep, itís time to start again with that fog and weights on our shoulders with all of the tasks that we want to get done. Then we just add to it as the day goes on, will it ever stop... who knows?
This isnít just a mum thing, this is a real illness, trying to control everything around you and feeling overwhelmed when you canít.