Looking back I think I have always had a tough time mentally dealing with the little things. I don’t like to think there is any particular ‘reason’ for this, but more of a collection of experiences as well as some genetic kinks. That being said things came to the forefront after having children. I never yearned to have children. I also had a warped idea on what marriage was growing up having watched many family marriages fall apart, so it was of a great surprise to me when I had a strong desire to ask my husband (and soon to be father of my child) to marry me at the age of 35.
I loved my life and all the freedom that came with living in the coolest suburbs, with a social life to equal that of Lindsay Lohan. I am someone who thrives on change and spontaneity was a thrill that I relished in. I had a wonderful group of friends and a great job. In short, life was good.
Getting pregnant was a planned move. I was getting to the age where I thought it’s now or never: and I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, day time TV here I come. Watching my perfect child sleeping all day, me being immaculately dressed pushing my ‘oh so trendy’ pram down to have a coffee with other mums to have a laugh at the poor suckers having to go to ‘work’ each day. I loved cooking so having a gourmet meal on the table for my husband when he got home wasn’t going to be a worry because I had all the time in the world to prepare it right?
My pregnancy wasn’t wonderful. I spent much of it staring into a toilet. I never felt the strong sense of connection with my baby that women so glowingly speak of. The first movement was cool but in time I was annoyed by it. I wanted to sleep and that was when she was most active. I think this is where the first moments of guilt and self-doubt came in. Why was I the ONLY woman in the world who didn’t find it joyful that my baby was moving in my belly. Even as I write this, I feel like anyone reading this, will be shocked that a woman wouldn’t feel over joyed by the wonder that is creating life.
I got through my pregnancy without killing anyone and nine very, very, long months later and an equally long labour I gave birth to Sienna, a healthy baby girl. It was nice to get home but three days after Sienna arrived we moved into our first family home. This is when the real questions started. “ Is she getting enough milk?”, “ Is my milk ok? “, “Why won’t she sleep?”, “Why aren’t I feeling like I was put on this earth to do this like every other mother seems to feel? “, “Why am I still fat?”
I remained working from home because again I thought it wasn’t good enough to be ‘just’ a mum. This wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be, but there was no way I was going to quit or tell anyone I was finding it so difficult. I insisted on getting to the gym ASAP and maintaining a clean house . This obsession with keeping up with the perfect mums of the world got stronger and stronger as the years went on. For a long time I thought Sienna would be an only child. I just didn’t think I had it in me to have another one. I adored her, I really did, but in no way did I feel like I was good at this mother thing. My day would often begin with debilitating terror of being left alone. I didn’t tell anyone this was how I was feeling so I would just cry until I was too tired to feel frightened anymore. It didn’t feel natural to me. I would hear mums constantly saying how it was the most rewarding job in the world. “Are you bloody serious?” I thought to myself. I struggled my way through the first couple of years till I eventually got to a point where I thought I could have another child.
So off we went again. We were thrilled to learn this time around we were pregnant with a boy. Bringing Mason home was the best week of my life. He was a delight and slept like a champion. Once the euphoria of having another simply stunning child wore off and the reality of having to look after two children set in and my feelings of inadequacy started up again. I became increasingly short fused, I swore often at the children, I would cry and feel like my whole world was crashing down on me. I was internally screaming only nobody could hear. I was consumed with being a ‘supermum’ and had to have everything perfect.
Of course not every day was doom and gloom. I was also well aware that I had a great life. This in fact made me feel worse as I felt like I had no valid reason for feeling the way I was. I had nothing to ‘blame.’ My anxiety had over time become worse. It was now getting to the point that feeling in control was a thing of the past. When anxiety hits it’s such an overwhelming feeling, a rising heat that petrifies you to think about what will happen when you reach boiling point. Everything and everyone is a trigger, your hands tremble and for me my head shakes.
Often I’d find it hard to breathe with the kind of tightening in my chest that would feel like at any moment I could collapse. One day I was taking the kids to the park when I felt so out of control that I had to call my husband. I had reached my ‘breaking point’ and felt I had no choice but to admit that I wasn’t coping and that I needed help. This moment was the moment that I started my road to mental freedom.
My usual doctor wasn’t on this day so I had to see a different one. She asked me to do a questionnaire, but didn’t bother to inform me of my results. I was then placed on a ‘mental health plan’ which offers you a rebate on seeing a therapist. I looked for a place that focused on the art of ‘mindfulness’ because that was something I felt I could really benefit from.
I encourage going to some kind of therapy to everyone. It is, however, quite confronting and emotionally draining although each session makes you feel lighter, clearer and more in control. We focused a lot on my body image issues and my relationship with my Mum, we did some Schema testing which revealed that I had what is called ‘unrelenting standards’ .This has been one of my main things to focus on which is still, even with medication and therapy, a daily battle but I think I am doing a pretty good job of letting it go.
I continued with the weekly therapy for quite a while and in the end felt pretty good, I felt more in control so took some time away from therapy. I still felt like I was in a battle with my head, not as often and it had eased but it was still there. I would still wake most mornings in a slight panic about the day which again in time became all consuming. I had always wanted to steer clear of taking any kind of medication because in my mind it was only masking the real issue, but what I was doing wasn’t working so I made the decision to speak to my doctor about looking at meds. I was nervous and excited at the same time at the prospect of feeling better, even though I think I really believed that it wasn’t going to make a difference. We started on a low dose and gradually worked up. The hardest part was having to wait a couple of months to get it right. Patience isn’t one of my strong points and I wanted to feel something immediately. Before too long piece by piece things started to change, I could handle my temper much easier ‘kids eat your bloody dinner’ soon became ‘kids (take a deep breath and count to ten) eat your dinner please’, my messages to my husband requiring an urgent ETA had stopped. I woke in the mornings feeling hopeful and for the first time in honestly what I can remember I felt happy and content. I simply cannot put into words the enormity of what this means to me. Looking forward is no longer terrifying, the feeling of being 100% content with where my life is and what my future holds is something I had never felt before. Of course I still have shitty days and snap from time to time - I am human. I still some days want to sell my children on the black market (!) and my body image stuff will always play havoc with me, but it’s now a small percentage of who I am. I am now entirely happy being ‘just a mum’ Xx
What I would love people to take away from this story and really (aside from being therapeutic for myself) the reason why I decided to tell my story in no particular order are:
- You’re not alone
- Ask for help
- Take it easy on yourself
- Judge less
- Surround yourself with people who ‘get it’ or at the very least try to
- Perfection is a bullshit perception
- Be mindful
- Respect people who handle things differently
- Have ‘me’ time
- If you or someone you know suffers with any kind of mental illness, take the time to get the facts
- You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge (plagiarising the great Dr Phil) Exercise is your friend
- Learn the art of listening
- Info & Support
- After Birth
- Postnatal Anxiety & Depression Recovery Stories
- Postnatal Anxiety Recovery Stories
- Rachael VIC Story
"When anxiety hits it's such an overwhelming feeling, a rising heart that petrifies you to think about what will happen when you reach your boiling point. Everything and everyone is a trigger, your hands tremble and for me my head shakes."