By Way of Explanation

Depression and anxiety are terrible things.  You think that you’ve left them behind and then all of a sudden they blindside you and you’re back with them again.

When they hit me I shutdown, I go into firefighting mode, I focus on my children, on feeding them and washing up and all the day to stuff. Everything else, the bills, emails, telephone calls gets pushed to the wayside and piles up.

Then, when I start to feel a little better, I peek out at the wreckage of my life and feel overwhelmed, unsure where to start. Sometimes it tips me back into anxiety. Sometimes I ignore it until I feel stronger. Either way, the longer I leave it, the worse I feel, the more ashamed, the guilt grows and knaws at me. It’s a terrible coping strategy and one I’m trying to change.

Double Trouble

Yesterday was not that great for me. But there was a period, when I had the kids and was living in the moment (even if the moment was cooking whilst they were hypnotised by a DVD) where it was ok.

Then the kids were in bed. And I wasn’t ok. I hid in my room, avoided the ringing phone, wrote another post, all the while justifying my hiding by the fact I had to keep going back to the kids and reminding them that it was quiet time, turn lights off, get in your own bed (they were struggling to settle). I wondered why hubby hadn’t come to check on me.

Eventually I made a foray downstairs and found out why. After weeks of our mental states dancing around each other, taking it in turns to feel ok and feel rubbish, finally the thing I’d worried about had happened. We were both feeling crap at the same time. We had been hiding in opposite parts of the house distracting ourselves with electronica.

I hugged him but I couldn’t think of what to say. Eventually I managed “I don’t think I’m feeling up to being your nurse right now”, or something like that, there was probably a sorry too (I say sorry a lot to him when I’m feeling rubbish). Not my most elequoent moment ever but he seemed to understand. I manged to engage basic autopilot and went around the house clumsily doing some housework to try and stop us sliding out of control. He went out and bought chocolate and then returned to sitting hunched and slightly haunted looking playing computer games on his tablet.

When my autopilot got to the end of a few tasks, I had an idea. I found the other DVD I got from the library, the one for us to watch (attempt at date night) and we went to bed, stuck Salmon Fishing in the Yemen on the laptop and ate chocolate together. By the end we were both smiling and laughing and joking. Well done Past Me With Head Screwed On Right for having the forsight to get that DVD out. We had both been feeling rubbish and had survived. I was really pleased.

But I made the mistake of going and cleaning my teeth. I came back and the mood was broken. Distraction over he was back to feeling rubbish. I felt torn, wanting to help him yet not knowing how, and wanting to seperate myself so I didn’t get sucked back down too, so at least one of us was functioning (of course Bitchface loved this opinion, how selfish was I).

In the end I lay there with my hand on him in the dark, my head swirling with thoughts about all of us, trying not to let him notice I was crying, falling asleep because I coudn’t stay awake any longer despite worrying about him, sat there, still awake, needing sleep and so much more, playing on his tablet.

One step forward, two steps back.

Unsurprisingly today I feel a bit like I’m in limbo, tired and unsure what to do. I have managed a couple of things in small bursts and have started reading an actaul book. I also had the revelation that I could eat some of the leftover dinner that I was saving for his lunch tomorrow. That I can take care of my own nutrition not just the rest of the family’s.

Now to keep remembering to breathe for the rest of the day….

Going round in circles

This blog is getting confused. It used to be about my anxiety. But in many ways I’m not being as anxious at the moment, which is good. But I’m also not quite feeling like a “normal member of society”. So, when you’re not even sure if you have an official diagnosis (my GP did mutter something about Generalised Anxiety Disorder) what are you left with when your obvious symptoms have faded slightly? (e.g. I’ve cleared all my answerphone messages, landline and mobile, and I’ve been answering the phone. This is a long way from me at Red (when I was running and hiding in tears when the phone rang and my husbands was in so I couldn’t just ignore it) but is clearly not quite Green yet (as it took some effort to do). Whilst not complaining that some things are a little easier, I still seem to have a lot of areas where I “could do better” and I certainly don’t feel like I’m coping with life as well as I should.

A lot of the time the blog seems to be about me as a parent. Or me struggling to be a good enough parent. Which is not completely illogical as being a parent is the main thing I do. And then there’s the added “Does my son have Aspergers element, in case I was worried that life was too simple.

And then there’s the other big part of my life, my team mate, best friend, co parent and husband, who, lets face it has a lot on his plate and unsurprisingly struggles a little sometimes too.

Tonight, it’s rather late, and I’ve decided my life is like the Borromean ringsBorromean rings. No, not full of purity body and flavour. Look at the rings, all tangled together, cannot be pulled apart and seperated. But if you take one ring away suddenly the other two aren’t connected at all and fall apart.

Today we had another difficult time getting to school. Again. I made the mistake of asking my son if he wanted to take his school library book in as I remembered his class get the chance to swap them on a Friday. Turns out he hadn’t read it yet, hadn’t even looked at it. So he didn’t feel able to make that decision. To me the obvious solution was to keep it until next Friday and swap it then. To him it was to flick through the book and look at the pictures to help him make the decision. Which at another time of day might have been reasonable, but not when we needed to leave the house. Especially not as he is not a person who can “just flick through” a book, he likes to read them all in one go, he always struggles to put them down before he’s finished.

So I was shouted and screamed at again and he arrived at school in a state again. Somehow, this time, I remained calm and didn’t get involved in an argument. Hurrah. I wouldn’t even remember the incident now but this evening I went out with some school related people I don’t know so well. Someone who lives near me and often sees me going to and from school with my kids, recounted explaining to a third person that I hadn’t been rude and ignoring her when she said hello and I didn’t reply, I was probably just “shouting at my children”. Ouch.

I don’t want to be the mother who shouts at her children. I’m not always, but I am more than I’d like. I don’t want to be the mother who walks calmly along whilst her child shouts at her either, but it’s the better option of the two.

Relearning the obvious

I am going around in circles having to relearn the same basic things again and again. This is about as tiring as constantly reminding my kids to face the table when eating or any of the other things I have to remind them about 17 times a day.

Longer ago than I care to count, I got all inspired by the idea of a 100 day challenge to deal with a small manageable chunk of the stuff that I need to do each day, in my case piles of paperwork taking over the house and a full inbox of emails, and to keep it up for 100 days and see how much I have achieved. Getting on top of these things should stop me overlooking a bill that needs paying and then not opening the envelope because the pile of envelopes to open is too big and makes me feel anxious, which then causes a real problem when I still haven’t faced up to opening the pile and thereby don’t respond to the red reminder. (I am aware how utterly pathetic this sounds by the way, but I also need to admit it has happened 2 or 3 times in the past year.)

So, the 100 days started well. I cleared some emails and reduced both my number of unread emails and my inbox in general. I started sorting out my filing cabinet so that I had somewhere to sort my piles of paperwork into (a bit of a roundabout way of dealing with the piles of post around the house maybe, but past attempts have just resulted in the piles getting moved about so I needed a new strategy). I shredded some phone bills from 7 years ago! And it helped, I started waking up in the morning and getting out of bed instead of hiding there until the last possible minute. I have been answering the phone, even when I don’t recognise the number. (My attitude to answering the phone is going to be the first thing to go on my traffic light list when I get around to it. The red entry will be running to the bottom of the garden and hiding behind the compost heap in tears because the phone rang when my husband was in so I couldn’t just ignore it and I was convinced it was someone I’d let down ringing up to find out why I hadn’t done something and he would answer it and tell them I was in and pass the phone to me and I would have to talk to them. No, this doesn’t make sense. But it felt so real at the time.)

And then life got in the way again. I was busy getting ready for my daughters birthday. And I did a couple of days volunteering. And I was getting ready for her birthday party. And having a stomach bug. And getting ready for my husbands birthday. And helping on a school trip. And having a cheasty coldy cough thing that required 12 -18 hours sleep a day for a couple of days.

Not that it’s all been bad. I haven’t improved my inbox any further but I have been keeping on top of the new stuff thats coming in. And I’m still answering the phone. Plus I ran around and sorted out an admin job I needed to do for someone else – it took a couple of days (partly as my filing was in such a mess because this particular thing has got mixed up with a big amount of feeling anxious in my mind so I have been using my rubbish avoid-it-and-feel-stressed strategy) but I got there and I kept the other person up to date whilst I was getting on top of it rather than avoiding all contact with them. In fact I felt so pleased that I had done this that I planned a big bout of sewing as a reward. (I’m noticing a tendency for post anxiety event sewing frenzy which I think is both rewarding and a displacement that stops me continuing to deal with things in more manageable chunks once the disaster is over).

Then I woke this morning with a small sinking feeling in my stomach. Only a little one, but I was surprised, what could be causing that?After all I’d dealt with the admin thing. And then I realised that the admin thing was one small corner of my life, I hadn’t really been checking that I was on top of the rest of my life, let alone catching up with all the stuff that never got sorted as I wasn’t up to it. In particular I’d remembered that there was a big pile of unopened post inside my front door that I moved yesterday before my mum came round and noticed it and then done nothing more about it.

So today, I did something right for once. I’d dropped the kids to school and had half an hour at home before an appointment. Not enough time to deal with the post, let alone the two letters in the pile that I didn’t know what they were that were surely something I should have already dealt with. But I didn’t just do the washing up and leave the post “for later when I have time”, I MADE MYSELF OPEN ALL THAT PILE. I told myself that I didn’t have to do anything, just find out what was there, so I knew what I had to deal with later. And guess what, IT WASN’T THAT BAD. And the two scary lurking letters were THANK YOU LETTERS. Two were identical letters from my bank explaining its restructure. And one was a water bill – the first copy of it in plenty of time for me to sort it out.

And so today, I rediscovered that it’s ok to open post. No demons jump out and eat your brain. You just get to find out what is in the post. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise. And if there is something for you to do, then you don’t fall screaming into a fire pit when you find out that there’s a bill to pay or whatever. You just know it needs doing so you have time to do it before it’s too late (I am in the lucky situation that we can afford to pay the bills, which makes it even more stupid/galling/guilt inducing when I don’t.)

The anxious part of my mind was quite surprised at this amazing revelation. The logical part of my mind was quite exasperated. Now I just have to remember to keep doing this often enough that it is not an amazing revelation, it’s just what I do, like the rest of the universe, and then maybe with enough practice I can get my brain back and resume normal service.

That’s going to take a bit more practice. Maybe I’ll make it before my kids can eat something without covering the half the floor in crumbs though.

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Oh and I almost forgot. I felt like writing a blog post because of the smile I got when I realised that Fi had started her latest Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers blog post with a quote from a comment I left her this morning. Not that I’m smiling at her situation, which sounds pretty rubbish right now. But it can mean so much to have someone on your wavelength show you they have some idea of what you’re going through. Its a fine like between empathy and supportive comments and thinking you understand and giving advice, that may not be right or can turn into pressure. So the smile was because I think I got the right side of that line and hopefully helped her accept a decision that was clearly difficult to make.

You Are Here

Today has been good I think. In a low key way.  But low key is what I need right now.

Last week was not good, I felt under huge presure and I was not up to dealing with it.  I couldn’t look at my phone or emails, the thought of having to deal with something, of even knowing what should be on my to do list, seemed too much to bear.  My poor husband looked wrung out from trying to hold it all together. And that left us both with little time or energy to communicate properly with each other.

But now I’m on the exhale after the big hold of breath.  Disaster hasn’t happened.  The cogs are turning again. I’m slowly starting to get on top of things, from housework to listening to some answerphone messages.  Plus I’m sure I have more patience with the kids.

So what changed?  I’m not entirely sure, but I think I started to face up to the problem I have, to acknowledge it.  And I decided that maybe I should go back to the Dr, before there were two ill adults in our household. But first I started to  do some homework, order some books he’d suggested reading, and another one whilst I was at it, and look at some blogs, and start a blog.  Oh and talk to husband properly (boy did that leave me feeling tired emotionally.

And guess what, admitting there was a problem, discussing it and starting to deal with it has helped.  Which made it easier to tackle some of the things I was avoiding because I couldn’t do them.  And they turned out not to be so terrible after all.  Which gave me confidence to do a little more.  All pretty predictable, but it’s getting to there from the frozen up anxious state that’s so hard.

So, this week things are a little better.  And that is where I am right now.