Good enough?

This weekend I went to see LA LA Land and it was absolutely brilliant. Amongst the jazz hands, the beautiful colours, the incredible songs and the ridiculously good looking cast was a line that made me cry, it hit me in the gut. Don’t worry this is not a spoiler but at one point a character is challenged that they won’t do something because they think they are not good enough.

I’d had a tough week and was looking forward to a sparkly chick flick with friends which it was and my friends are incredible but at that point in the film everything in me wanted to escape which I was not expecting. I realised (maybe not new to some who know me!) that I fear that I’m not good enough and mainly I’m not good enough to be the mum of my 2 incredible girls.

On the way home I had a little chat to myself (do you do this?!). I realised and acknowledged that a lot of my pain, low mood and general difficulty with being a mum is because I can’t quantify what I do. I’m results or goal orientated and have worked a lot in sales/events type environments and I like to know I’m ticking things off, succeeding and moving onto the next thing. I want to be able to quantify ‘good enough’.

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Guess what… kids don’t come with a checklist and if they do it’s been created by someone else who doesn’t know you or your kids. A Pinterest mum who thinks there should be 20 things your child can do (as a result of your brilliant parenting) before they are 2, a letter for an 11 month check dropping through the door and a health visitor asking you what your child can or can’t do, milestone cards which although super cute also come with their own pressure points and I guess although I’m not fully there yet reports from school about your child’s progress or the subtle nuances about how many extra curricular activities your child does/doesn’t do.

We cannot and should not measure our parenting skills by these things, if at all.

Whilst thinking/talking to myself I realised that all of these things come from the external. Just like targets, events, more sales calls, more people through doors, more bums on seats are external ways that the world or a workplace judge us, they also can become internalised barometers of success for ourselves and I think the same can happen with the external expectations we experience about our children.

I’m beginning to think parenting isn’t something I can succeed at. Of course, I hope my little ones grow into people who are kind, caring,  and generally look out for and bring joy to people around them however I am becoming increasingly aware that of course not all of us end up being the people our parents imagined for a myriad of reasons but does this mean they are of less value, Absolutely flipping not. And if they are brilliant is that my success, nope

This seems like the perfect point to introduce my faith. I believe in Jesus and I believe he places massive value on individuals for who they are, no matter what. My value comes not from what I ‘give back’ or whether I am of use and it most certainly does not come from whether I am succeeding or failing in parenting, it comes from the fact that I am made in the image of God, someone who is love in and of itself. Also my children’s value doesn’t come from how they compare to peers, whether they are ticking off milestones like a shopping list or if they listen to what I say (thank goodness). They also are of worth because they are made by God and he knows them better than I ever will. Parenting is such an important job but it is one that doesn’t require goals to be achieved or one where we can predict outcomes.

My job as mum is to love my little ones in a way that works for us as a family and hopefully show them how worthy they are of being loved and how valuable to God and us they are. As a Christian, I believe that despite all the things I have done and continue to do wrong, I am deeply loved by God. I believe he made the ultimate sacrifice to be in relationship with me and as his child I want to honour this by loving him, even though I don’t always do this well.

As I thought about this, I realised that this releases me to be ‘good enough’ to be mum to my beautiful girlies. I am worthy of loving these girls and they are a gift. They know they are loved, even when the day feels like a battle, even when they slam doors as they get bigger or temporarily scream on the floor because I removed a toy for not sharing. The sacrifices I make are worth it to be in relationship with them and love them and I hope that no matter what happens to them or what they do in the future they will always know they are our girls and much loved. So stop worrying about whether you have done enough craft, taught them to ‘achieve’ or are doing the right thing by them. We WILL NOT get it all right but if you are loving your little ones then you are getting the main thing right.

Keep going, you ARE good enough and deeply loved and I hope this releases you to be free to love your little ones (or bigger ones) too.

As always I’d love to hear your comments on this, do you feel like a good mum? Do you feel external pressure?

The dark before the dawn. 

This last couple of weeks has been wobbly to say the least. Some days have felt so hard and then I have a day being ok and then I do too much and feel like crap again the next day!!! One day I will learn what pace is good for me!!!

I have started this post so many times and feel it’s really difficult to write mainly because I like to have everything tied up in a pretty box with a bow on top before I talk about them but this isn’t like that and I really wanted to write something about what it’s like to be in the darkness holding a light but didn’t want people to read it and feel sorry for me or for people I know to worry too much. However I’ve decided that this is what I am currently facing, I want others to know it’s ok to not have it all packaged nicely and over with before we share and also my days are like this sometimes and that’s just that. So if you are a friend or family member, don’t let this post worry you, currently this can be my norm and I’m ok with that.

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I had no idea what to say….. 

How often do we feel like this? How often do we worry about saying the wrong thing so just don’t say anything? There are some great blogs written about what not to say to new mums and particularly those with PND. These are often hilarious and brilliantly put together so rather than duplicate those I thought I’d write about what is good to say. Through my own experience I have learnt that words are so powerful and when you feel so unsure as many mums do about your ability in a new role, words hold even more power.

Often the phrase if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all is thrown around but we all know nice is a word that means very little. I think this should be if you don’t have anything kind, real and thought through to say don’t say anything, instead LISTEN! Leave room for them to speak and if they can’t speak then sit with them. Be with them in their pain. This sounds quite scary but for me the times when people have done this with me have been some of the most comforting and precious times.

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The Jolt

Good days, that wonderful feeling of good days, when your head feels clear, you can process information, you don’t feel like you might cry if someone brushes past you or is too nice, you feel pro-active and ready for the world. These days are amazing, for some people reading these, days like this will be few and far between, don’t panic you will get better.

I am always grateful for these days but what about that first bad day after a few (or even just one) of these good days? I’m going to call it ‘The Jolt’ day. The day after a few good days, weeks or however long when you wake up and feel like crap. When your head is fuzzy, you feel like you can’t face the day and you are reminded that in fact that depression has not fully gone. You are jolted back to the reality that your mental health is not as good as it could be. The jolt that reminds you that you are still on the journey to recovery.

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Caring for myself

When you get diagnosed with depression, PND, anxiety or many other mental illnesses you might have heard or read the term ‘self-care’.

As a psychology graduate I was very keen on this notion and as the daughter of a dad with depression I was AMAZING (annoying) at giving out advice about how to care for yourself! However since beginning to struggle myself I have discovered just how difficult this is when in the pits or close to the pit of depression.

What does it look like? What can I do to care for myself when I can barely face the day ahead (sounds dramatic but is the truth sometimes)? For me how do I approach a day with a toddler with no energy?

Firstly, self care looks different for each INDIVIDUAL and secondly it is actually a really important part of keeping a healthy lifestyle for anyone regardless of whether you are ill or well or somewhere in between. So there are obvious ones here like:

  • Eat well (I eat chocolate in large amounts and all things bad for me when down!)
  • Try and go for a walk/run/swim
  • Phone a friend or meet up with someone

However there will also be some other things that are personal to you, ways of feeling better even if it’s just a push through the morning or to get through that meeting or that phone call.

This post has stemmed from me finally taking my own advice this morning and putting some self-care in place to help me get through a tough morning! I am really good at telling people that I know when to take care better care of myself and what tactics I have but in reality that isn’t what it looks like. I have the knowledge but I’m not good at applying it! Too often a day can become a battle and by the end of the day, I feel like I’ve lost and depression has won, stealing a day from me.

This morning started out as a battle. Tigger arrived in our room at 5:53 (in the night I refuse to think of this as morning!) so I took her back to bed but then mostly lay awake and let my thoughts begin to take over. When Tigger reappeared at 6:30 (acceptable!) I was already a little anxious and down about the day.

T is definitely feeling the transition to a family of four at the moment as everyone we meet etc asks about the baby and asks her if she can’t wait to have a baby sister etc etc (lovely but tough for a 2 year old). As a result, there is a lot of whinging and quite a few more hissy fits etc.

This is how the morning went really, tantrum, whinge, break, tantrum, whinge etc. We were picking something up at 9:30 so that would get us out but the three hours can seem like a long time when you are struggling. By about 8:30am I was in tears, carrying on but through tears. Not much fun.

Instead of spiralling though I decided that I needed to take control. For me and for today that meant reaching out, I text my mum and shared I was struggling and that I might gate crash their house later on. I also text a friend who was coming round with her 2 yr old and baby and said I didn’t feel up to it today. Then I reached for my bible (I will talk about my faith and depression in another post) for me it’s a place of truth about me and the goodness of God and meets me in both the good times and the dark time too.

After collecting the things we needed I then decided to go to a very nice park bit further away from us, up north the sun is shining and spring feels close. This led to an easy 2 hours spent just watching T on the slide, pushing swings and meeting another nice mum. I felt 100 times better than I did crying in the bathroom at 830 and now we are home and having a bit of beebies time before tea and all that jazz.

Cancelling on friends is something I absolutely hate doing but I knew if I stayed in and waited for them and we stayed in and played I’d have felt terrible by the end of the day so it needed to be done. This is one of the first times I have actively sought to care for myself and it has really worked (I know, who knew??!!).

Why not try making a list of things that help you feel better? Not just in the evening when kids are in bed but also things you can do while they are up?

The following questions helped me today:

  • Would seeing people help me feel better today or will it wear me out?
  • Is there someone I can text/phone?
  • What are the things making me worry or feel down?
  • What could I do to lift my spirit?

I hope this post doesn’t sound patronising and I hope it’s helpful. I find it so hard and this is the very beginning of me applying the theory but let’s see how it goes?! After all, I’d love my spring to come as soon as possible.

Why am I not better?

It’s been just over a year since I was properly diagnosed with PND so naturally I’ve reflected a little on the past year recently. In this year, I’ve realised a lot. I’ve realised that my PND started probably 3-4 months after Tigger was born or perhaps even earlier,  I’ve realised that depression is so hard to live with for me and those around me, I’ve realised that as a naturally smiley, positive person i look like I’m coping even when I’m struggling. I’ve also realised there is no quick fix in this situation, probably the hardest realisation.

When I have a cold or a sickness bug, there is an assumption that after a few days of feeling rough each day will be better and eventually I will wake up snot or nausea free and continue as the same person I was before the cold or sickness set in. With PND it’s different, it’s not a steady incline to the top again, it’s an unpredictable, bumpy ride of ups and downs and I won’t necessarily ever be the same person I was before I got ill which is a bizarre thought. 

I think as someone who likes to be doing ok, likes to be moving forward, doing new things and perhaps likes to be in control (haha) I find the unpredictability one of the toughest things to face. I like to make and keep to plans and I love seeing people, helping out where I can and being there for others. Depression makes this much harder. I don’t want to be someone who uses it as an excuse but my capacity right now is nowhere near what it was before tigger came along and I’m slowly having to adjust to this being the case. 

I also would love to know when I will be better. When will I no longer wake up some days feeling like the simplest things are hard work? When will I not have huge anxieties over whether I’m good enough or not? When will I be able to drop down on my medication and stay there? 

These are questions that no one can answer because every case and situation is different. Most of the time I’m ok with not knowing the answers but sometimes it is overwhelming to think how long this may be with me for but I also know that I am doing alright and I hold tight to the hope that one day I will be depression free and in the meantime my aim is be honest with others about where I’m up to and keep on going one day at a time.

 

But I love her so much

As I mentioned in my first blog, I was diagnosed very late with my postnatal depression. This was partly circumstantial, partly because I didn’t know what feelings were normal after having a baby and partly because I loved my baby so much and felt I had a really good bond with her. Strange thing to say?

My ideas about post-natal depression were very different to my experience of it. In my head someone with PND hadn’t bonded with their baby, felt they wanted to harm their baby perhaps and/or could not cope in anyway with the change that had occurred. Although these can be indicators, this is definitely not a complete picture of all post-natal depression, there are lots of other indicators as well.

My experience was different. I bonded with Tigger right away, I loved her so much and my PND manifested itself in anxiety around whether as a mum I was good enough, whether decisions I made on her behalf with regards to food, sleep, things we did etc were going to have a huge impact on her life. Anxiety was a massive factor at the beginning along with a massive lack of confidence in my skills as a mum. Most mums feel ill-equipped in those first few days but this feeling continued for me and my anxieties were so out of proportion.

I also felt very little joy or had little interest in things I had always really enjoyed previously. I began to find it difficult to go to places I didn’t know something I had never struggled with before. I’ve always been a vivacious, fun-loving and outgoing individual with lots to say (too much sometimes) and a love of trying new things so this new me did not sit well. I also felt consistently tired but again this seemed normal for a new mum and everyone says how tired you will be or how tired they are but I now know that the fatigue was part of me being unwell.

Despite, all these things it took me at least 7 months before I began to worry about my mood. Seems silly now as it sounds so obvious but it’s funny when you are in it, there is a new baby to take care of who completely depends on you and you are desperate to look like you have adapted to mothering well, it’s easy to ignore all the warning signs.

You can find some of the warning signs here on the MIND website and also tale to someone on the PANDAS helpline if you are concerned at all about how you are feeling. Don’t feel that it can’t be you, don’t struggle in silence just share with someone that you are a little concerned about yourself and ask for help. Believe me I know this is hard but you will feel better for not being alone in it and remember spring will appear.