Presence not presents

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Yesterday I was reminded of my children’s need for me. I am their constant. Although I fill my days when they’re at school with my freelance work and volunteering commitments. Once they are in my company we are together until they close their eyes and fall asleep.

I hadn’t quite realised that even if I’m busying myself cooking, tidying up or on my phone I am still there for them. That’s not to take away their Daddy and all the amazing things he does with them but for the purpose of this post I’m referring to the fact that On a day to day level I am their steady rock present in their lives.

It’s funny because whilst I feel like I often don’t get my Mummy role right and I’m constantly fighting with the inexplicable feelings of guilt that I don’t do enough, I don’t fully appreciate the impact me “being there” has on the children.

This week has been a particularly Busy week, I even managed to squeeze a school trip in to Epping Forest with my eldest. I had arranged a catch up with some friends on Friday night, as well as my usual Wednesday night commitment which meant that I didn’t put the girls to bed twice this week. I didn’t really give it a second thought that I had missed singing my usual lullaby to my elder daughter. She’s my sensitive soul, and still loves for me and her daddy to sing our lullabies to her every night. She eight and I really love that she still loves us to do this. I know there will come a time when she won’t.

I had a work commitment on Saturday which meant I was out from 8.30 and seeing as me and hubby hadn’t been out for dinner together since Our anniversary in May then we had arranged a dinner at our favourite supper club wine tasting event. Booking in advance meant we Couldn’t the rearrange. I left the girls know that we were going out and the babysitter was arriving, my youngest was completely fine about it, getting all her stories and toys ready to show her but it was here, with 5 minutes to go til the babysitter arrived that the my eldest let me know that she wasn’t happy about this arrangement.

At first she was angry at me. “Mummy you didn’t sing me a lullaby last night, you’ve been out all day and now you’re out again”. Cue guilty Mummy thoughts.
I tried to comfort her, she was too cross, I tried again and she hugged me and wouldn’t let go. She was sobbing “I don’t want you to go Mummy” I felt terrible. She was right, I had been out all the time. She doesn’t often let her guard down like this, which is probably why I felt so guilty. “I just want you mummy”.

In the quiet time of the evening this is when me and my eldest actually have quality time together. She becomes my needy child, we can talk together, she tells me her worries, her self imposed barriers of an eight year old trying to be grown up come down. I used to think that it was a ploy for bedtime delaying tactics but now I realise this is the time when all the worries or happy thoughts that have happened throughout the day come to the surface of her mind and she tells me about them. I hadn’t realised the significance of this time for her, I hadn’t given it much thought. When the girls were younger, if I had arranged to go out in the evening it would always be after they had got to bed, but now they’re older I would go out slightly earlier, before they’ve fallen asleep.

It’s so hard when you feel like you’ve done everything yet somehow that isn’t enough. Most of the time after I’ve put the girls to bed I feel like I’ve been sucked dry. Every ounce of my energy has been used. More often than not I still need to do a few more bits and pieces in the kitchen before I can sink into the sofa and watch a programme of a bit of mindless tv to zone out before bed. My brain can’t focus on anything else, however when I do go to bed I find it had to fall asleep. Even though a couple of hours before I could’ve dropped off to sleep before the children’s bed time.

I need my “me time” yet st the same time they need me too. It’s hard to get that balance right. Today has been a nice relaxed day for once, we’ve stayed in, not done much, and just been present, the both of us with the children. It has led to a lovely day and one which I’m going to try and make sure we have more regularly at weekends. It’s done us all a world of good.

 

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Totally chilled

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Totally chilled.

That’s how I feel at this moment, sat on a Cypriot beach in my Joan Collins hat watching the girls build sand castles and my husband look for fishes near the rocks. A beautiful family scene and one which I could never have imagined 4 years ago.

Postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety do that to you. It robs you of memories you are yet to create. It tells you that this memory can never happen as you will always feel this way. It reminds you that you were once able to do this quite easily and now you can’t and you’re a mess.

The anxiety would set in when you were considering the holiday. On a good day you decide to think about booking somewhere to get away. The drab grey British weather demands you think about sunny skies and holiday get sways. Everyone talks about sunshine and you want a bit of it. Let do it you say, and when you’re about to press purchase you have second thoughts. Packing; you cant even leave the house without the kitchen sink and that’s to go to soft play how are you going to even consider getting on a plane? Your mind will wander, the house you have stayed in before now seems to be the most dangerous place you can envisage. With marble floors babies can slip on, glass tables with corners sharp enough to take an eye out, banisters with gaps to roll under and patio step to jump off and break ankle. Terrifying.

I’ve been there and I’ve also seemingly managed to overcome those anxieties and actually book the flight. Last time we came away was 3 yrs ago and although I was able to wrestle all those anxieties away my body still was set to remind me that all was not okay. I remember we had arrived and decided to pop out to the supermarket to buy some bits and pieces. I said to hubby to stay in the car with the girls as I was only going to be quick. I started to fill the trolley and then I started to get the griping pains of the end result of my physical symptoms of anxiety. I looked to the tills, they were busy. I could feel myself getting clammy. There was no alternative, I had to leave, we had to get back to the house and the bathroom there fast and right now.
I abandoned the half full trolley and raced out to the car, telling my hubby we need to
go NOW! I even looked around in case I really did need to crouch down somewhere. He drove, confused, the girls asking questions; where’s the food mummy?
I made it back in time, just. And then the reality hit me. I may have defied the anxiety during the first day of travelling but the anxiety was still there lurking just to let me know I still wasn’t quite okay.

Nowadays I still get moments of anxiety but generally I understand my body better. I don’t worry too much if I have these incidents as I know it’s my body’s way of keeping me in check.

Sitting with a book in my knee looking out to the most gorgeous view I feel very lucky. I survived post natal anxiety and I’ve come to terms better with the anxiety I’m left with. And best of all I’ve enjoyed my family holiday from start to finish.

 

The Love of friends

A valentines poem for friends

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The love of Friends

The friend who will drop everything when they see your missed call and know that even though you said everything was fine they still turn up on your doorstep to dry your tears

The friend who even though you might not have said it knows you’re going through a hard time and will send you a beautiful handmade card

The friends who club together and buy flowers when you are going through a family bereavement

The friend who you know you can call upon to give you that word of wisdom when you are doubting yourself

The friend who brings you a meal when you are too exhausted to cooking preoccupied with feeding your newborn.

The friend who will knows when to tell you to snap out of it when you need to be told and the ones who know when you’ve finally snapped with mummy…

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School holidays are hard work.

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19 days,
That what it took of looking after the girls day in day out without a break.
Until
I
Broke.

My patience was broken, my anxiety was breaking me. I had given in and given up. I just couldn’t take it any more. So I took it out on those that didn’t deserve it and now I feel totally ashamed.
I screamed till I was hoarse and ranted until I couldn’t think of the words to say. I grabbed the nearest thing to me which was the cat scratching post and waved it around like a crazy woman hitting everything I could; walls, doors and then I heard the crack of the bannister. That stopped me in my tracks and I collapsed on the bed howling into the duvet cover.

My youngest crept up the stairs, I didn’t hear her until she put her arms around me and said “are you okay mummy”. ” I’ve not seen an adult cry like that before”. I felt dreadful, exhausted, ashamed and
Guilty about that outburst and have felt awful ever since.

It’s 10 past midnight and yet again I can’t sleep. I’ve been doing that a lot this past week and I know it’s due to my anxiety. I’m so tired yet can’t sleep. However I wake feeling drained and go back to sleep after the girls have woken and plonked themselves in front of the TV with breakfast. My energy and mindset is at a low and I’ve hardly left the house.

I’m feeling confused about my mental health state as I’m technically “relaxed” and not really planning much yet still I feel
on edge. I’ve turned into a “yes mummy” for which the girls are loving; binge watching tv, eating pretty much what they want and not even saying the”H” word (Homework)! The perfect holiday some might think for them and me.

Yet I still feel all the guilts, all the anxiety and all the apprehension. My fingers are red raw and sore from picking and biting the skin, another sure sign I am not coping. At first I put it down to the general festive stress but it’s gotten worse since Christmas has been over. So what is it causing me to feel like this? I’m not entirely sure.
What do I need to do to stop this feeling? The immediate answer would be some headspace away from everyone but then I’d be alone in my thoughts and I definitely don’t need that anymore.
Talking about it would be a good second but I’m not sure what to say. It’s like the feeling you get when you’re coming down with a cold, you can’t put your finger on it, you just know you don’t feel right. But then when you get the full blown snot fest and stuffy head feeling you feel a hell of a lot worse. I feel like I’m trying to avoid that but ignoring it won’t go away.

Since writing this a few days ago I’ve managed to get more sleep and general rest but sleeping at the right time is still difficult. Talking with hubby is helping as well as getting out into the fresh air. Slowly slowly as my father-in-law would say.

 

Not quite having that festive feeling

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Not quite having that festive feeling.

Depression and anxiety at any time of year is hard but at Christmas time it’s even harder.

Although I am feeling well in my mental health at the moment, I still feel at this time of year that I’m teetering, like a tipsy office worker in her highest stilettos after a lunchtime drink.

Sometimes I feel it’s inevitable that I will fall like I have done before. I have previous when it comes to Christmas blips in my mental health. I’ve fled like Cinderella, quite literally from a Christmas ball unable to face even sitting down for a meal. One year I ended up wearing a 18″ pizza when the wind took it from me and proceeded to blow it off the top of the pram as I negotiated hurricane gusts of wind. I’ve also had an emotional breakdown when I couldn’t deliver the Santa request from my 6 year old of the elusive “Elsa powers”. So much so I couldn’t face any part of Christmas Day and tearfully got through it. Just.

I’ve experienced all of these so I know only too well that the Christmas rollercoaster of emotions and expectations as well as the personal pressure we put ourselves under can be so overwhelming that we just want to hide somewhere warm and protected until at least Easter.

Lots of advice is given around this time of year to help get us through. Some of it helpful, some of it lip service. What I do know is that I need to listen to my own needs so much more. It’s just another day I hear all too clearly but it comes with the hidden pressures we put ourselves under.

As a mum with 2 lively daughters who seem to have an endless amount of school holidays and a husband who sadly can’t take all the holiday time off the stress levels go up a notch. I like to give this air of relaxed calm, open house, gifting and charitable good intentions which is all completely genuine and who I am, and what I love. However I still have a fight with my inner voice which says I’m not doing enough, not giving enough, not being enough. Deep down I know that’s not true but overcompensate many times over nonetheless.

Self care is a phrase we often hear, and one which I need to adhere to. Take that time for myself and not to others. Don’t listen to that inner voice giving me a guilt trip. I am enough. It’s something I know I need to practice ensuring that I listen to the needs my mind and body are telling me. Look after myself, eat well and above all take that pressure off of trying to be the perfect mum, wife and friend.

Things I like…

 

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Things I like….

Offer me a cup of tea and I will tell you how strong I like it by comparing it to a colour in your kitchen. ” not as dark as the colour of your kitchen cupboards!”
FYI; Earl Grey tea, no sugar, not very strong, dash of milk.

No matter how full I am after a meal there is always a little space for a sweet something. In the absence of a bar of chocolate, it has been known that I would settle for a spoonful of Nutella!

I love the smell of coffee but won’t drink it and freshly cut grass but rarely mow it. Washing that has been dried outside in the sunshine and the smell of a newborn baby’s dirty nappy; strange I know!

I like reading, nice stories that I can imagine being a part of. Watching similar style films. Always love a bit of period drama. Listening to folk music and generally music that I can relate to the lyrics or I like the melody of it. My preferred radio station flicks between BBC radio 2 or Classic FM: Especially in December when they play Christmassy classical music.

I love Christmas and celebrating all festivals in the U.K. I like the idea of getting people together for a social occasion. Nibbles, wine and Gin always go down well. Give me vodka and you’ll be holding my hair back out of the toilet.

I like being outside in the fresh air yet also I’m a home-bird. I love to travel but I always love to come back home. I love cuddling up with my husband, kids and cats but not all at the same time!

It’s good to remember these things that I like. It helps to know them especially when I may be feeling low, or struggling with my mental health. It is also important to remember that just ‘being’ is enough and that I am enough.

 

Friendship

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Friendship

Out of all the photo challenges so far of this perinatal mental health photo challenge this theme I’ve found the hardest to comment or find a photo for.

I can gush and have done previously in this challenge about my deep love for my friends and the amazing support they have given me. However the elephant in the room here are friends and friendships that have fallen by the wayside over the years. Thankfully there aren’t many but those that have gone I still think about them and hope they’re doing okay in their lives.

Loosing a friendship for whatever reason is really hard to come to terms with. It has to be said it is a grieving process of sorts and is highly emotional. Disbelief, anger, sadness are all there, along with a deep questioning of what went wrong, how did we get to this and ultimately “what did I do?”

I have spent many hours thinking about what has happened to the relationships I have lost trying to understand. After all the internal questioning for your own sanity you need to conclude that it is a two way situation of misunderstanding and unsaid words.

Then comes the crux of the situation; what do you do about it? Do you try and maintain contact despite feeling hurt? Leave contacting each other for a while? Or cut that person from your life. Sometimes if a moment of peace and the white flag raised communication and conversation can return. However honesty has to be at the heart. You need to let that person know how the falling out has affected you. The other person may feel the same or simply have been going through a difficult time too and felt unable to say. Only when that honesty has happened can the mending begin. And sometimes even either that amount of honesty things happen that mean for your own good you need to cut off that person as they are too toxic in your life.

Whatever happens you need to do what is best for you.

Friends come into your life for a reason and so they leave it too.