Grab a cup of tea this is a long one.
I feel like I’ve been picked up by a few people, pulled in conflicting directions causing me to break. I’ve been temporarily sellotaped back together only to be dropped again. But this time I’ve broken into smaller pieces, pieces that right now seem a little unfixable.
I feel like a bit of failure. Having spent the past few years openly discussing my mental health journey and promoting others to speak out I feel like a bit of a fraud as I sit here crying hysterically typing this as my baby sleeps soundly on me.
When did I slip back into the abyss?
The past few years have been a whirlwind. I’m going to write it down and really be honest with myself, think of this as a public entry into my journal, my inner most thoughts. It may not flow as smoothly as some of my previous blog posts but stay with me.
University. On reflection I wish I hadn’t been so intent on finishing my degree and had instead spent more time with my mother. She needed me. But equally she needed me to resume normality, she wanted me to finish. She didn’t want me to stop going just because she was dying. I finished it for her. I didn’t finish it for me. I balanced my dissertation, lectures, seminars, long commutes to uni and then squeezed in time to see my mum. To cut and paint her nails, shave her legs and pamper her. We never stopped to think how my mums disease affected us because let’s face it nothing compared to how my mum felt. We definitely didn’t have the rough end of the deal.
But each visit took that little bit more out of me. I would spend my time at uni painting a smile on because if I stopped to think about how I felt I would just cry and get nothing done, I needed to be productive. Only a few people really saw how this was all building up and saw me break down.
I graduated from uni with a grade I didn’t want. I was so close to the first I desperately craved but something had to slip and with all the pressure it had been my university work. I was in touching distance of that first but I just and I mean just, fell short.
A failure. To many it was a massive success in spite of all that was against me I did it. To me it wasn’t what I wanted or felt I deserved. But you don’t get extra points for dealing with a lot on the sidelines. I was envious of those who did get firsts, the arrogant part of me certainly didn’t think their work had been any better they just had better circumstances allowing them the time and head space to push that little bit further. I was angry at my University they changed my course mid way through, the course we finished was not the course I and many others had started. In a time when I needed structure we were the guinea pigs for future years. Another reminder that I should have deferred. Instead I finished to make my mum proud, I wanted her to know I did it, after years of being a failure I wanted her to know that I succeeded at something. Only in all honesty I don’t think I did, I didn’t achieve what I set out to.
Looking back I needed help. I had a lovely lady who I had weekly meetings with at university, her job was to help me juggle everything whilst looking after me. She put me in touch with the university counsellor but all that did was make me cry when I needed to be strong, otherwise I wouldn’t keep afloat. Now I’m not saying crying doesn’t help. It most definitely does. But when I was in the environment of university I needed to focus on work and not everything else, it was the only way I could manage to get my work done and not be sat in the quiet section of the library rocking back and forth crying. I became good at fooling myself. I was managing, because in comparison to other times with a lot less on my plate I was doing amazing, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t struggling, I was.
I graduated so desperate for my mum to be there but of course she couldn’t be. Selfishly for me it was just another reminder of all the things she was going to miss out on. As I walked on that stage and picked up my degree inside my heart was heavy, my mum wasn’t in the crowd. A few years previously we’d traveled to my sisters graduation and my mum was so proud watching her get her degree. I didn’t get that experience. It was something else I was robbed of.
University behind me, what was next? I left uni feeling incredibly unprepared, I had a degree in Journalism but wasn’t actually taught the tools to help me go forward. We weren’t taught how to pitch, how to monetise, how to freelance. I was lost.
So I started a part time job in a coffee shop whilst I figured out my next move. Another chip at my mental well-being. I’d struggled through three years of university only to go back to a similar job I had before my degree.
Then the two biggest things happened, I discovered I was pregnant and shortly after my mum died. One moment she was there the next she was gone. One moment I was a young woman with the whole world at her feet, the next I was a motherless mother.
The day she died I found myself sitting in the family room of the hospice, in shock, crying as relatives of other patients and nurses walked past giving me that knowing half smile, the one that said they knew and they were sorry. For days we knew this was coming, but sitting next to her as she took her last breath destroyed me, no one prepares you for that moment. I remember saying to my sister “someone should call dad”, our parents weren’t together but still he needed to know, I don’t remember what I said down the phone I just remember crying and choking on my words, my grief was suffocating. It still is.
I wasn’t satisfied with that being the final time I saw her so I went to visit her in the funeral home, with my sister and my mums partner. It’s hard to admit but I wish I hadn’t. Of course I’m glad I saw her one more time but what I saw still consumes me now. I’m not sure what I expected but I didn’t expect her to look like she did. And now when I think of my mum my first image is always that. Her lying in her tiny coffin, in the clothes her loving partner had chosen for her, which hung off her because of how small she had become, the terrible disease robbing her of the ability to eat and swallow. I remember how cold she felt. How frail she looked. How had this happened? I still don’t know or understand.
Flash forward through my pregnancy which included countless trips to the hospital to check his movements, countless comments from other people “you just wanted to see him again”, “you can’t just pretend he’s not moving because you want another scan” (yes people said that.) Not realising that those comments crushed me. How did no one understand. My mum had died, every time my son moved a little less I was consumed with the thought that I was going to lose him too.
My anxiety had got the best of me. Looking back I once again needed help, I saw so many different midwives that no one spotted the warning signs. A few of them even asked how my mum was, and each time I had to sit there and say “oh she died.”
In the nine months of my pregnancy I had grieved and eaten. Pretending like everything was ok when it wasn’t. Another failure to add to the list. Losing weight is hard work, two months into my pregnancy I was eight stone plus from my heaviest. By the end of my pregnancy I had gained around six stone. Yes you read that correctly.
The shame that still consumes me for regaining all the weight I worked so hard to lose is devastating. It feels like I had my chance at losing weight and I failed, I don’t deserve to be healthy because I abused it. It also makes me hate my pregnancy experience even more. Maybe if one person had noticed how much I was drowning in anxiety, grief and depression maybe I would have spent more time enjoying the experience and not eating my way through the pain I felt. I hit rock bottom on more than one occasion and as I’m being completely honest had it not been for the little life growing inside of me I know 100 per cent I wouldn’t be here now to write this. He is the only reason I found the strength to keep going, to keep fighting.
Then my son was here. The light in the darkness. But parenting isn’t easy. I knew that. Or at least I thought I knew that. Now I find myself almost eight months into his little life and still some days I don’t feel like I’ve got my shit together.
He is amazing, but he’s also incredibly hard work at times. He’s in the midst of a developmental leap and a shitty viral infection that seems like it will never end. I am tired. I am running on empty. I am a good forty miles from the family I have left and I feel isolated.
I live with my son and my partner, now I love Thomas but he does spend a lot of the time thinking he’s got the bad deal. I nag, I moan, I often get so angry I could burst. He’s known me long enough now to know all the warning signs and yet still he takes offence, thinks I’m against him, and doesn’t pick up on the hints.
So here it is in black and white Thomas, I NEED BLOODY HELP. I need your support. Stop thinking that I’m out to get you and realise that I am snowed under. I’m slowly losing the plot.
A few people have offered to take Arlo for a few hours to give me a break, but no one understands the anxiety that consumes me. Letting him go is a big deal. It fills me with dread, makes me panic and the few times he has gone, I have spent the entire time pacing my house waiting for his return. I want to be able to allow Arlo to spend time with family and feel confident that he’ll be brought back when agreed, he’ll be happy, fed, that they’ll be at the other end of a text if my anxiety gets too much, but that often isn’t the case. A few times he has gone with other people all the aforementioned has been ignored, I’ve sat watching the clock go past the time he is meant to be home, cried over unanswered texts and radio silence, which in turn makes me even more anxious to let him go again. Could I do with a morning a week to sleep, catch up on work and housework of course I could but the reality is I don’t trust many people, that is horrible to say but it’s true. Do these people love my son, yes, no doubt. But do they respect me enough to accept and bear in mind my worries, and overcautious demands, no not always.
I have thought about this for a few weeks now and I honestly truly don’t think I have post natal depression, how I am feeling now is a combination of the past few shitty years and the lack of support finally catching up with me. I am struggling with anxiety, low moods and yes possibly mild depression. I am reaching out for help, I know my own mental health well enough to know when enough is enough and I need assistance. l also need time with those I love. A weekend with my little family that isn’t spent trying to squeeze in as many people as possible wanting to see Arlo, or an hour here an there before and after football training (looking at you Thomas.) Just us three. I know people love my son and want to see him, but spare a thought for us, we rarely get any time to do anything as a family as we are constantly hounded with requests by other people. We get it our son is loved but I’m not happy being pulled in every direction trying to make other people happy, when ultimately it is my little unit of three that is suffering.
If you’ve made it to the end of this then I applaud you, once I started writing I just couldn’t stop but seeing as we’ve crossed the 2000 word threshold I think I should call it quits for now.