running round in circles not getting anywhere

People keep asking me how I’m doing. Not in any meaningful way (I haven’t actually started talking to people about the state of the inside of my head or anything radical like that), just being polite. I’m probably supposed to say “fine”, but I’ve never quite been able to bring myself to do that. Or maybe I just don’t realise at the time – I like to be honest in my conversation (hmm, a side affect of reading lots of books about Austic Spectrum Conditions recently, is that this, like many other small things that people I know do, is now ringing “ASC trait” alarm bells in my head).

Anyway, my latest standard offering to those engaging me in such smalltalk has evolved to be “You know, running around in circles, not getting anywhere”. Someone replied to me yesterday “Isn’t that life?”. I need to remember that. Because, Bitchface see’s it as a clear sign of failure, you know, lack of direction, lack of organisation, lack of applying myself.

Today I realised that it’s a month until Christmas Eve. Eek. I’m not that bothered by the preparation for Christmas itself (maybe it’s just not near enough for me to panic yet) but I had a plan back at the beginning of October or maybe it was in September that I would Be More Organised and Start To Get Things In Order and Make a Noticable Difference as a Christmas present to myself. And looking around I see little evidence of Having Got Somewhere, because, well, I haven’t been following my plan. For various reasons.

So today, Monday, I started feeling guilty. Which I have channeled into trying to vanquish the washing up pile (progress made but unsurprisingly no victory decleared), doing some overdue cleaning/clearing-our-small-to-start-with-work-surface from all the random recipies/school letters/bits of string/medicines/other stuff that was covering it. Oh and I made soup with a scary vegetable. (Salsify, ok so it wasn’t that scary more a little intimidating). I have checked emails a bit, so I’m not being totally useless, but definitely could do better on the admin front. I need to do better. Soon. However, today, I will settle for a bonus You Can Tell I Got Off My Bum and Did Something Cleaner Kitchen even though I’m having an Only Feeling Middling Day (I think Bitchface expects Superwoman, she can go hang).

Oh, did I mention, that the boy had a not so great weekend. Tired, unable to concentrate, not sleeping, finding everything tricky, being quite silly. Hmm, sorting out boy, also on my to do list. Ha.

Right, now to get back off my bum and Do Some More Vaguely Useful Stuff rather than Resting on my Miniscule Laurels.

The world turned upside down

Too many posts written in draft in my head and not made it onto the blog.

The one about waking up with a feeling of dread in my stomach and a feeling of going round in circles and yet more proof that the things you are dreading often turn out to be quiet innocuous when you face up to them (I’m getting bored of that one).

The one about things I feel guilty about, which I really shouldn’t have been contemplating on sleep deprivation, that left me feeling really nasty and with some not good images flashing into my head.

The one about how rubbish I’m feeling and how I realise I’m worried about going away – which is quite shocking, as I’ve always been quite good at that kind of thing.

The one about the boy repeatedly disturbing our sleep in the night. And the tantrums. And the advice on the things we should do about it that we have already tried. And the shock on my friends face when I told her I had already tried her helpful suggestion that very morning and it resulted in a boy shouting in my face (and in general, it’s one of my more useful strategies).

I’m not sure where to start really. I’ve been posting lots to my sewing blog. I’m never sure if this is a good sign as it means life isn’t affecting me as badly, or if it’s a bad sign that I’m avoiding things rather than facing up to them.

Anyway, I do remember an insight that I had last week. Bare with me, it’s got a little maths in, but nothing too much I hope.

Do you know what a bell curve is? A curvy symmetrical graph that statisticians are fond of, they pop up everywhere. For instance, measuring a bunch of peoples heights. At either side, the graph is very low down, which shows that there aren’t many really tall people or really short people. In the middle, the graph is at its highest point, showing that most people are average height. Ok, so, that’s not really a “proper” maths definition, but hopefully you get the gist, if you’re interested, it’s technically called “Normal distribution”.

Well, I realised, not for the first time, that I spend a lot of my life feeling like I’m stuck in the middle. For instance I don’t feel mentally well – like “everybody else” in the population at large (ok, so I know that’s a myth, but it doesn’t feel like it in day to day life) and yet when I read mental health blogs I don’t feel I’m properly ill either (I’m not on medication, never been hospitalised things like that – ok, so I know they’re not desirable things and in general I’m pleased, but it can make me feel like a fraud when I try and find support online). In sewing, I feel much larger than most of the bloggers out there and struggle to imagine what the clothes they made would look like if I wore them, but when I find blogs aimed at “curvy sewers” and read of them sizing patterns up to size 28, I feel small in comparison. In day to day life, I feel I’m a way out green hippy person compared to a lot of people I meet (e.g. we don’t have a car) but I feel like I lead a decadent unsustainable lifestyle compared to others that I know.

So, I feel stuck in the middle all the time. But it’s not the middle of a bell curve. I don’t feel like I’m in the majority. I feel like I’m most definitely in a minority, usually a minority of 1, that I’m stuck out in no man’s land. And yet, I know that things like health, body size and sustainable habits almost certainly are the kind of things that if a sample were plotted would fall in a bell curve. So why is my perception the opposite? Why, when I compare myself to the world, does my bell curve seem upside down, with me, in the middle, with the graph at rock bottom, only room for yours truly and to either side it stretches upwards, with two different lots of Them’s in large throngs some distance away from me.

Logically I know this cannot be true, but it feels so true. I don’t think I’m utterly self centred and convinced of my own uniqueness. It feels more like my perception filter has gone awry, that instead of showing me my place in the world around me it is flipping everything upside down so that I’m looking in some sort of amusement arcade mirror. And then Bitchface uses this distorted data to berate me.

So, how to fix my upside down view on the world? Stand on my head, find glasses with the right lenses, borrow the Dr’s sonic scewdriver?…..

Sometimes, better than utterly rubbish, is as good as my strategies get

I kind of had the idea this week to try and go to bed at 10 every day.* Then I decided that was too easily failable a goal so I amended it for a vaguer “as often as I can manage” (less specific, more acheivable, SMART eat your heart out).

Well, I managed one ten o’clock bedtime. Last night I watched Dr Who in bed with Mr Aisfor (technology in bed = bad, but doing stuff with husband = good, plus I wasn’t actually scared witless for once so I’m calling that as ok).

Tonight, I fell asleep putting kids to bed. In my daughters bed. Then I woke enough to decamp to my bed. This is good, I think, I’m obviously tired, I will sleep till morning and feel better, that counts as an extra early bedtime score.

WRONG. I decamp to my bed but then wake enough to lie there remembering bad things. Not Really Bad Things, just Mildly Rubbish Things. Specifically the time, age about 17 (or was it 19), my friend sold me a festival ticket last minute as she was ill. It was ok, I could meet up with her brother and his friends. She described his tent and car. I got my parents to drive me there and the queue of trafic was immense. I got inside the site. I hadn’t been to a festival before. It was huge. There were many tents and many cars matching the description but none together. Probably at this point rich people in London had mobile phones the size of hand luggage, but no-one I knew had heard of them (unless they’d seen them on Tomorrow’s World – remember that program?). I had no idea what to do. I wandered round a bit and felt very very lost. I was lugging a tent. I didn’t know where to pitch it as I didn’t know where was near the people I was trying to meet up with (I was becoming increasingly aware that they weren’t actually really my friends). I didn’t want to leave it unpitched and easily nickable. Eventually, actually not eventaully, after a little wandering around hoping for something miraculous to happen, I gave up, walked back to civilisation, got a train to my home town and hid at my friends house for the weekend so as not to admit my failure to my parents and pretended (probably very unconvincingly) that I’d had a great time.

All in all, not too bad. Yes, a bolder person than me may have pitched the tent anyway and had a great time and met new friends, but then again they might not. A meeker (wiser?) person than me wouldn’t have gone on their own. Possibly I should have found out a Message Wall thingy and written the people I was trying to meet up with a message about when/where to meet, but would they have read it?

Anyway, like I say, nothing too bad. But the feeling, the memory wouldn’t go away and pretty soon it had a bunch of other similarly rubbish memories coming out to play with it. After a while I decided lying there not feeling good was not doing me any good. So I noodled the internet (including catching up on Bake Off – which I missed when away – just bread week, no controversy yet). And now I’m still awake at 11.30. So again – not an amazing tactic, but better than lying there feeling increasingly rubbish.

Do I go downstairs and find out what Mr Aisfor is doing? Heaven forfend do I go and Talk To Him? Do I check he remembered to make sandwiches for the kids first day back tomorrow? Do I take it out on this intriguing looking recipie (and if I do do I use some of my vast stocks of bread flour I accidentally bought instead of plain, I guess that would be in the “use what you’ve got” spirit of the author)? Do I noodle on the internet some more? Why am I feeling so hot? (Not cold hot, not the other kind0 Do I make myself a milky drink? Or will I just eat loads of crap if I enter the kitchen?

I think I might start with the sandwiches (for the kids, probably), at least if I wake up late and tired tomorrow it’ll be one less thing to do.

Egg Mayonaise it is then.

*I read a lot of sewing blogs (or “use the internet to look at pictures of women in clothes” as my other half calls it). They often have Sew-A-Long type things, hosted by a particular blog and then everyone makes the same pattern, or somesuch, at the same time, and there are buttons to put on your blog and shared tips and messages and bloglinks and prizes. I’m sometimes wonder if it would work for mental health, if it could make things celebratory rather than stigmatized (says little miss scaredy pants anonymous blogger). I’m not sure how to do it. I wondered briefly if we could have a communal “get to bed at a sensible time”-a-long, maybe 10-4-7 a long (as in got to bed by 10 for 7 days), but then I remembered something I read about reward charts for kids and how asking them to do something X number of times for reward is a bad idea as as soon as they don’t manage it that’s all motivation blame, which is when I went less specific, and the #SensibleBedtime-A-Long went out the window at the same time. (OK, I admit, I was also afraid of being a Billy No Mates too and no one joining in).

Saying the unsayable

So, I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, but not got around to it. Mainly because I’m not sure where the post is going I think. But it’s a recurring thought, so I guess it’s time to write it and find out.

I want to write about sex. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going get at all explicit, there will be no need for squemishness. Suffice to say that it’s safe to conclude that as we’ve been happily married for over a decade and I’ve been pregnant 3 times my husband and I have a sex life. The details are up to us.

Now, I’ve never really discussed it with anyone, but I’m pretty sure that we’re not unusual in that the rhythm of our sex life varies over time. Stands to reason I think – just think, for example, of the two extremes of the heady early days in a relationship alone in the household compared with the new baby days where you’re too tired and busy and constantly interrupted to even realise that you’re not physically up to it right now.

So, I’m in a long term relationship and we have a sex life, which has peaks and troughs over time, but is there, ticking along nicely as part of our relationship. (Scene nicely set now without too much information I hope.)

Then why write about this? Well, because a major cause of troughs in my sex life is my mental health. When I’m “not feeling right”, when I’m stressed and anxious and want to curl up into a ball, well, that’s not a state of mind in which I feel like getting intimate with my other half. For me to feel in the right mood, I need to be feeling confident, happy, sexy and that’s kind of hard when I my confidence has been knocked for six, I feel like crying and Bitchface has started a monologue inside by brain listing all my faults.

On the one hand, this is very unsurprising. After all, mental health issues are health issues at the end of the day and having a raging cold or a stomach bug most definitely put me off as well. However periods of stress and anxiety can go on longer than your average cold or stomach bug and therefore have a bigger effect.

And then add in the disturbed sleep patterns I associate with poor mental health that often lead to different bedtimes – after all, when you’re limited to times of day when the children are asleep, not being awake in bed at the same time has a major impact on these things.

Taken at face value, this fact gives me another reason to resent the issues I’m facing, another negative to add to the list that makes me want to stamp my feet at the unfairness of it all. But I’ve come to realise that the effect is deeper than that. Because, for me at least, my sex life isn’t just a nice perk of being married, it’s part of the way that our marriage works. Hmm, maybe that doesn’t make much sense. And I’m struggling to think how to explain better without my usual resort to random metaphors, which somehow seem inapropriate here.

I guess I see our marriage as a team and it works because we work together. And our sex life is part of that bonding process that binds us together. So when it’s affected for noticeable periods, it starts to affects how well we get on too. And when say, we take it in turns over weeks (months?) to “feel rubbish”, the impact this has via our impaired ability to be intimate creates a distance between us that starts to erode the support network we are for each other, just when we need it most.

So, not only do periods of mental ill health have a negative impact on my sex life, that in turn chips away on the mechanisms by which my marriage works, thereby starting to distance me from my best friend and number one ally, which of course then has a knock on effect on my mental health.

Maybe I’m overstating this by trying to explain it. But, like I said, this thought has been sloshing around in my brain for a while now and it’s not something I’ve come across elsewhere (also, it’s not something I’d like to try using a search engine to find out about – shudder), so I thought I’d put it out there, not because I have any searing insights into fixing this issue (I don’t) but because I hope that talking about these things – and maybe realising you’re not alone in them – can help.

We Hope To Resume Normal Service At Some Point

Confession time. I have opted out of the Mental Health Blog Cook-a-Long this week. (For those of you searching for the button on the sidebar to find out more about this, there is no button. The whole concept of the Mental Health Blog Cook-a-Long is a figment of my imagination which is generously humoured by One Depressed Mama. The idea is inspired by all the Sew A Longs I read with my other blogging hat on, plus a desire to write about the “nice things” rather than All That Stuff (Gestures to Right) and I think also a realisation that providing food is one of the reoccuring features of my daily life.)

I mention this not because I have been tormented by Bitchface (who seems not to have noticed this one, maybe she’s suffering in this heat, maybe she has too many other things to worry (me) about), but because last week I was busy taking photo’s of a cracking success story of a dinner (which I never got around to posting) and I feel it’s only right to share my rubbish times as well lest I fall foul of the common internet social media trap of failing to tread carefully the line between Celebrating Good Things and Showing Off and Generally Making Others Feel Rubbish.

So, for the record. On Monday we had Oh-Shit-What-Am-I-Going-To-Make-For-Tea-Emergency-Post-School-Trip-To-Supermarket-To-Buy-Frozen-Pizzas complete with Bribery-What-Bribery-Over-Priced-Cakes-In-Supermarket-Cafe-For-After-School-Snack. On Tuesday we had What-I’ve-Still-Not-Got-My-Act-Together-Emergency-Sandwiches-To-Take-To-The-Park-On-The-Way-To-The-Kids-Group. Yesterday we had You-Know-What-Now-That-We’re-Out-Buying-Emergency-Milk-Lets-Get-Takeaway-While-We’re-At-It-Instead-Of-Going-Home-To-Cook. And today we had Why-Oh-Why-Did-I-Gas-With-My-Friend-Earlier-Instead-Of-Putting-Dinner-In-The-Slow-Cooker-Defrosted-In-Microwave-Homemade-Pasta-Sauce with pasta. I’m hoping to make something healthy and nutritious tomorrow with whichever of the much neglected vegetables in the bottom of my fridge are still looking edible. Fingers crossed for 5th time lucky. Then again, we might just take a picnic to the park after school.

It goes without saying that all worries about my diet and exercise have been suspended for the time being.

Soundtrack

The other day I was sat here trying to get some oommph back so I could get off my backside and do some useful stuff. I started thinking about what music I could put on to get me on my way. And then I wrote the bones of a really profound post about music and mental health. But it started to turn into this post – which was a little too long on its own, so I saved the musical insights seperately to work on later.

Well, tonight I decided to polishg up my draft post and guess what, no it’s not a surprise at all, I can’t find it saved anywhere. So, here instead, is a late night, half remembered waffly summary.

Before I continue I should explain one thing. I consider myself musically dyslexic. I like music, I like listening to music, but I cannot for the life of me remember names of bands or albums or tracks. I can hum the intro of the next song on the album/compilation after the one we’re currently listening to, but I have no idea what either track is or who they’re by.

So, there I was, sat on the sofa, wondering what to put on to get me motivated, no racking my brains is a better phrase because this kind of thing is hard for me (this is how some people find algebra, right?). I came up with a few ideas (now forgotten) and I started thinking about my favourite radio station, www.bbc.co.uk/6music. Now I like 6 music, because they’re all music geeks, into playing decent music (in my humble opinion at least), both new and old, so they do all the hard work for me (like knowing the names of stuff and choosing it) and I just get to listen. Plus, it has the added bonus that they play stuff I used to listen to back in the day and seem to think it’s cool. My music tastes have never been cool, and I glow inwardly to think that my distinctly uncool teenage self was actually listening to music too cool for her peers to appreciate.

In particular I started thinking about a couple of features they have. On Lauren Laverne’s show in the morning, she has a feature called biorhythms, where they play three tracks chosen by a listener, one that moves them physically in some way, one intellectually and one emotionally. The phsyical tracks picked tend to be high energy. I always struggle with the idea of a track meaning something to me intellectually (maybe I just like the wrong songs?) but I always know the emotional track I’d pick. I think of it as Four O’Clock In the Morning, but actually the internet informs me it’s No Rest by New Model Army (If listen to the link, it does take a while to get going as it’s a live version). It takes me straight back to being a teenager, awake in the middle of the night, unable to sleep because I was upset about something (probably teenage boy related, I can’t remember now) – the details are a little hazy but the feeling of raw strong emotion (and teenagers are good at strong emotion) it brings back are palpable.

The other feature it reminded me of was Steve Lamacq’s Good Day Bad Day – where he talks to a listener about what track they’d play on a good day and why, and what track they’d play on a bad day and why and then they get to say if they’re having a good day or a bad day and he plays the appropriate track. Sometimes they choose bad day tracks to lift their mood, and sometimes ones that reflect the emotion of how they’re feeling in a bad mood.

I realised that the tracks I’d been thinking of were all quite high energy. Which is not that surprising as I started out trying to get myself into action. But as I thought further I realised that I couldn’t think of any happy tracks that weren’t bouncy and loud. Obviously bouncy happy loud can be a good thing, it’s certainly good for getting things done and it’s fun to dance to, but calmly happy is a good thing too – in fact I probably need to be spending more time in a calmly happy state than a bouncy happy one. And I’m not sure I’m good at calm at all. Sure I can waste hours reading or noodling on the internet, but whilst that’s physically inactive it’s not really mentally calm. The rest of the time I’m generally doing something. Like today, my mum showed me how far she’d got painting her spare room. We’ve agreed I’ll come and do the top of the walls as for various reasons they’re hard bits for her to reach. So whilst we were discussing this I lept up a ladder and started dusting the cornices. I wasn’t going to do any painting today (wrong clothes, children in tow), so it didn’t need doing now, but I just couldn’t stand still. That’s me, doodling whilst on the telephone, washing up whilst talking to someone, knitting at the toddler group. Generally not sitting still, always doing stuff, but randomly disorganised stuff that often doesn’t get finished. (e.g. the washing up, I’m forever washing up (forget how it feels for hubby, I feel pained after I see the excema on his hands if he does more than minimal washing up, yes, even with gloves) but I never get it finished.)

So, thinking about music made me realise the links between emotion and music. And that maybe my music tastes say something about my emotional and mental health.

I’m not sure where I go next with these musings. Maybe I need to enlist hubby’s help (he knows far more about my music tastes than I do) and create some playlists to help me with “getting things done”, “being quietly happy”, “calming down”, and possibly even “dealing with anxiety”. I’m not sure if that last one is even possible with music, but maybe it’s worth a try.

How about you. Do you have certain things you listen to when you’re in certain moods, or certain things you listen to to help you through/out of certain moods? Maybe what I need is a mix tape/playlist that starts of reflecting the mood I’m in and slowly shifts to a more positive one.

Slump

I have fallen into a pit of apathy. I’m not sure I can be bothered to do anything right now, except possibly sleep. I know there’s lots to do, a huge pile of washing up to start with, and something to scrape together for tea as I’ll be busy looking after extra kids after school and a general tidy up certainly wouldn’t go amis (and that’s before I start thinking about a proper to do list). But I have no enthusiasm what so ever.

After the school drop off today I was persuaded to go to a circuits class in the park. Circuits is not my kind of thing. Any way, I went, there were a load of mums, most of whom I didn’t know, and a few toddlers and babies in push chairs. The circuit class wasn’t as bad as I feared (it had been described to me as “horrendous”, very encouraging), despite my bra strap breaking half way through and the teacher trying to tie it together – a feat which involved me standing with my t shirt hoiked up in the middle of a local park feeling very exposed as my belly was on view to the world. Actually, I got to do alternatives to some of the higher impact stuff after that, so in a way it made things easier.

But having coped better than I thought, come home, eaten toast and jam (not the best choice but I was after something comforting and despite my best efforts I hadn’t had much breakfast today) and had a shower I feel not just physically tired but mentally drained. Which is strange, because normally going for a run leaves me with a buzz of endorphins and a sense of acheivement.

So is this a case of wrong exercise or is something else going on? File that question for later I think. In the mean time I need a plan to get me going. But my brain is blank. Brain reboot needed. Where’s the manual for that…

Or maybe I just need to wait for the weather to break. We’re due some heavy rain later and it’s very humid today. I’ve never liked humid weather, it saps all my energy, it used to give me headaches as a teenager.

Right, I’m going to get up and do something. Now. Any second now.

No really

I am

Listening versus Handing out Fixes

I’ve been trying to work out the basis of a post about societies attitude to broken things and the link with attitudes to mental health but I can’t seem to get it explained right. The gist is about peoples obsessions with offering solutions to problems. Got a minor (physical) health issue and happen to mention it? Cue lots of unsolicited advice on what Aunt Vera did, what you should eat, what homeopathic pill to take etc etc… Which can be frustrating as, well, lets face it the person you’re talking to is unlikely to be medically qualified and may well have different opinions to you on the effecicacy of homeopathic remedies. Manage to tell sommeone that your brain is not working properly and you’re feeling stressed about? Cue lots of advice on what you could do to fix stuff. Should you be feeling like curling into a ball and hiding from the world as you just aren’t feeling up to doing anything right now, a list of things to do is not always helpful. You probably know most of them anyway, the problem is not knowing what you should be doing, it’s getting your brain and its partner in crime your body to play ball. In fact being told all the things that you should be doing and can’t will probably make you feel worse.

At this point I should point out that I am not a completely selfish self obsessed curmedgeon. I do realise that the person offering the advice is trying to help. I don’t mean to put them down.

It’s just that there are times when what is needed is some no strings attatched listening. And I’ve noticed that this is something people find challenging to do and I think there may be a cultural element to it. We live in a society that can do so much. You can sit on your sofa reading the blog I wrote on my sofa and yet we’ve never met. Skyscrapers are built, planes are flown, heart transplants happen, we can do so much. I think sometimes we forget that we can’t do everything.

This last winter in the UK it rained. A lot. And parts of Somerset spent a long time underwater. Which had dire impact on the people living there. They have my sympathy but considering the amount of rain that fell the flooding is not that surprising if you know that much of Somerset is drained marsh land and lies below sea level. But it has to be someones fault. Because we should be able to fix stuff and if something goes wrong it must be someones fault. Lets gloss over the fact that nature has made the very geography of the land, humans have conquered nature.

But I digress. (Did I mention that I’m struggling to articulate this concept?)

We aren’t used to seeing broken things, things gone wrong. We throw them away, get new ones. Or get someone in to fix them. And when people are ill we are lucky enough to have a whole host of medicines and treatments to help them.

But sometimes, things aren’t fixable. Maybe they’re just really rubbish for a bit. Or maybe they’re going to be really rubbish for ever and we have to adapt to that. And that is what I think people aren’t used to. It makes them feel helpless. Why, when I live in a world that can do so much, are you broken? Surely if I talk for long enough I’ll think of the right pill you can take that will make you all well again. If I don’t have a solution for you, what does that make me?

So, it’s hard to remember not to leap in with a solution when someone has a problem. It’s hard just to listen and empathise with how bad someone feels. To stare at brokenness an not look away. (Of course, I’m not saying that offering solutions is not ever appropriate, just sometimes it might not be, or it might not be the best thing to do straight away.)

Hmm, this all seems to have got a bit heavy and I’m still not sure I’ve put it right, but hey, it’s only a blog post and if you read this far I hope you got the gist.

Insanity is hereditary, you get it from your kids.

That flippant headline is a favourite quip of my big brothers. Some thoughts about my mental well being and my children and being a parent have been bouncing around in my head for a few days, despite my best efforts to ignore them and I’d like to get them straight.

This is quite hard for me. Firstly, like most people, I like to split my subjects into seperate boxes and rootle through them seperately. This is a natural human tendency, we simplify thing to make sense of them. Thinking about more than one thing at once is hard. Thinking about the links, relationships, interractions, causes and effects between two or more things is really hard, it adds several orders of complication. Now I have loopy knotted strings, like a spaghetti fight in the London Underground Map, joining up and going around and through my seperate subject boxes. Taking a step back from myself and trying to think about these things in a way approaching impartial, well lets just say it’s a worthy if impossible aim.

But those things are true to some extent about any bunch of subjects. My mental health, my children and being a parent are not any old subjects, they’re biggies.

Thinking about my mental health is difficult for me, full stop. Who am I kidding, thinking “me” and “mental health” at the same time is really is hard, let alone writing them in the same sentance. Lets just call this a work in progress.

Then there is what my husband termed “Mother Guilt”. I’m sure it’s not exclusive to mothers, but in my experience they seem to be it’s natural breeding ground. It has many manisfestations, some more subtle than others, and many sources, internal,peers, professionals, media, but it boils down to a feeling that you’re not doing it good enough,that you should do better, that you’re letting the children down.

I’m not saying I condone it, I’m all for “Good Enough” parenting, but it is endemic in the atmosphere and for now I’m just acknowledging that it’s there and it makes thinking about this topic harder.

So, with all those problems in mind, what do I think about my mental state and my children? Firstly, I’m very lucky, I did not have Post Natal Depression with either of my two. I found having a baby relatively easy, if with all the expected drawbacks of lack of sleep etc. It came with basic instructions, if it cried you changed what you were doing until stopped. And I’m lucky enough to live in a society where I was allowed, expected and encouraged to focus on doing just that, keeping the baby happy.

Two very small children is harder than one, but doable, although my job plus two children under 3 quickly failed the cost benefit analysis, but enough of that for now.

I guess what I’m skirting around / building up to is how much does my relationship with my children effect my mental health and visa versa.

A few weeks ago This is How it Feels by the Inspiral Carpets came on the radio. I guess I was familiar with the song, a blast from the past, but had never really thought about the lyrics. The tune is even quite upbeat. But as I heard the opening lines “Husband don’t know what he’s done. Kids don’t know what’s wrong with mum. She can’t say, they can’t see,” I burst into tears. I don’t know what they’re intended to mean, but they summed up me on a bad day.

I don’t want to contemplate what my kids percieve about my mental health though. Oh the worrying implications and Mother Guilt there. Nope, not ready for that. Hmm, this post is turning into a list of things I’m not even going to think about, let alone write about, at the moment.

I think that I am ready to admit that sometimes it feels like my kids drive me crazy. I don’t know how much their behavoir triggers mine (she types bravely resisting the Guilt at the implication her children may in some way be partly responsible for her problems) and how much my mental state impairs my ability to cope with their behavoir. I suspect it’s a bit of both.

I was wittering on before about babies being relatively easy. It’s not that infant school kids are any easier or harder necerssarrily (different granted), but expectations change. Others expectations change for a start. It is generally expected that babies are tiring and hard work and people ask how you are, offer sympathy and unsolicited advice and if you’re lucky bring you a meal or some chocolate. By the time they’re at school it’s generally expected that you should be able to cope with them. After all you’ve had several years experience. Sure you get asked about how they’re coping with school etc and are expected to moan about a few things, but it’s no longer expected to be an exhausting potentially ovetwhelming task. And now, if they have undesirable behavoir such as sleep issues, there’s a bit less sympathy and acceptence that that is the bad hand fate has given you and a bit more of a feeling that it’s your own fault for not dealing with it properly, for letting it happen. The honeymoon period is over, the novelty has worn off, the sympathy has run out.

Your own expectations change too. I think most people realise when their baby is due that things will be different, that it will take over their life. But slowly you aquire a small personn with growing independence and you start to want some payback for all your hardwork. Once someone can get themselves dressed you expect them too. Unfortunately small children have a different agenda and being reasonable isn’t on it. It’s so much more frustrating doing things for someone who could do it themselves but chooses not to than for someone who can’t.

And then their expectations develope and change and get expressed better and louder.

I realise I’ve gone all third personey and vague. Back to my house. One of my main problems is listening. Our family is bad at it. People walk off as you’re talking to them. They don’t answer. They mumble and when asked to repeat themselves they shout angrily. They interrupt you mid sentance, regardless of if you’re talking to them or someone else. They answer for someone else. And it all drives me to distraction.

I have figured out some of the reason why. I am trying to project manage and team manage and yet I’m not allowed to communicate effectively. Maybe that sounds a bit grand. But enter our house after breakfast on a school day. I have to get 3 people out of the house on time. First I have to remember what tasks this involves. Most of it is rather basic, each of us need to clean our teeth and put our shoes and coats on etc. Then there’s the extras like remembering child A needs to take a packed lunch and child B needs to take their library book. Ok, so far so good. But I have to tell them what they need to do. In theory they should know most of it but in practise they are very far from reliable. So, I have 3 seperate task lists in my head, I have to jiggle the orders round (so 2 people aren’t trying to go to the toilet at the same time, but I’m there to supervise teeth brushing etc), and give them their orders one at a time (as they can’t reliably remember more than that), keep track of whose supposed to be doing what, check they haven’t got distracted, remind them if they have and do what I’m suppose to be doing at the same time. Is it starting to sound more complicated yet? I can’t do this sequentially, it has to be in parallel as a), we simply wouldn’t have time and b), they don’t sit still and do nothing whilst you’re dealing with a different one. So, as I’m trying to do this everytime I need to tell them what to do next or check they’re doing it I have to repeat myself several times, get interrupted and struggle to get answers. It really hampers me. I lose my place in my complicated to do list. I lose my ability to think straight. And unlike a stressful job I don’t get to go home after a shift, this is home. After a while it builds up and underminds my ability to cope (or maybe my unability to cope lets it build up?).

And then there’s the noise. If you know Dr Seuess’s One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish you may remember “I do not like this one so well, all he does is yell yell yell. I do not like this one about. When he comes in I put him out.

Yell Yell Yell by Dr Seuess

Well, that’s my son. Wherever he is and whatever he is doing I can hear him. Shouting, stamping, banging, yeodelling, asking questions, screaming, tapping, etc.  He’s less, “I think therefore I am” more “I am heard therefore I am”. And it takes up all the space in my head for thinking and I struggle to hold my 3 task lists in my head, let alone to try the difficult job of communicating.

So, that is me on a bad day. But also, my kids keep me sane, they really do. Because as well as all the soppy reasons about how much they mean to me and how I enjoy their company, when I am stressed and anxious and avoiding things that all melts away when I’m with them. Because they live in the moment I can too. And I can cope with the moment. My dread is the future and what might be and dealing with adults and phone calls and emails and they don’t expect me to do that. I can help with lego and do up buttons and read stories just fine, I’m quite good at that sort of thing.

One thing I have realised recently is that in the past, i.e. before kids, I had a tendency to impulsively get away from it all from time to time. Whether it be hoping on a train to stay with a friend for the weekend after a quick phone call (in my pre husband days), or going for a walk at 9.30pm, I could “run away” when I felt like it (within reason and job/money constraints etc). I’m not aware that I was running away from issues as such, but looking back I think I used it as a safety valve to stop things getting to much. And of course with two small ones it is very hard to find some time for myself, let alone spontaneous crazy running away time for myself. There are too many constraints of school pick ups and bed times and not leaving them alone and all the other things.

I’m not sure this post has a conclusion. I don’t think I’m even trying to look for answers. I’m more trying to understand and accept how things are. I think that is enough for now.

Ugh

One step forward, one step back.

This week I finally listened to and deleted all the answerphone messages (which had been full for a month) and gone swimming, which gave me loads of energy.

And earlier tonight I decided to sort out a box of paperwork.

But now I’m comfort eating icecream, avoiding opening 2 emails (one for the 2nd day), starting to freeze up (not feeling eloquent enough to describe it better than that right now) and starting to feel bad & beat myself up about the lack of anything useful done in the hour since the kids were in bed.

I probably need a rocket / some oomph / a big bouncy dance around blast of music or summat but I don’t actually want one because I just feel like hiding away and wallowing.  Not quite at communication shut down yet but heading in that direction.

 

 

Post posting doodle to illustrate my mood

Post posting doodle to illustrate my mood