This blog post has taken me a few weeks to write. In many ways its taken me quite a few years to write.
As someone who has always struggled with anxiety and self-doubt, I feel like being a Mum might not have been the easiest of paths for me to take. After all being a Mum is all about the constant questioning and self-doubt: am I doing it right? Do they know I love them? Am I still fun to be around? Am I making the right choices for me, for them, for the whole family? It’s a minefield.
Add in to that the decision to write a blog and put myself out there and there’s even more! Will people even read it? Will people get annoyed and just wish I stopped posting constant pictures of my children? Does it even matter if no one reads it!? See, it just goes on and on….
I’ve heard lots of ways that people have described their anxiety. For some it is all-consuming, for others it is just a little niggle. For me it is something that is constantly there just dressed up differently depending on which day it is, affecting me on a range from not at all to incessant tears and worry that everything is going to collapse around me.
Generally I think people have the perception that I’ve got my shit together (sorry for the swearing Mum!) I married a wonderful man that I’ve been with since I was 17; I have two beautiful daughters who make me smile and laugh on a daily basis; I have a supportive family and friends network who have always got my back; I have a career in a job that I absolutely love. What’s to worry about I hear you say!?
Well, apparently everything.
My anxiety peaked on my year abroad during my degree. Sure it was one of the best experiences of my life living in France and Russia. I got to do and see things that lots of other people won’t ever get to do. But given the stress of living in said foreign countries, and without my solid support network close by, life got a bit tough. Thankfully I had a break in between countries where I could re-centre myself and I had some wonderful CBT sessions which helped me reprogram how I thought about things. I remember being told that I had a habit of ‘catastrophising’ – which as it sounds is the irrational thought that absolutely everything would end in total apocalyptic disaster. I also remember my lovely GP telling me that actually I was just more evolved than most people as anxiety is a sign of highly-evolved beings, but that perhaps unfortunately mine had gone past that and that as a cavewoman I would have been too scared to go and find food, or shelter, or warmth, so would have probably frozen and starved…..there’s that catastrophising I was talking about!
Either way, with a little help from the medics and of course my family and friends, I went off to Russia and really enjoyed the experience. Anxiety solved right?
Not quite unfortunately.
This is where I come back to my original point. I will never not be an anxious person and yet for such a long time, this is something that I haven’t ever wanted to share with anyone outside my closest friends. Arguably why should I? Well the reason is because I am raising two beautiful girls, and because I don’t want them to ever think that they shouldn’t talk about it. Thankfully there is more and more awareness of mental health issues and I couldn’t be happier about that. It makes me realise that its ok to feel grotty some days, in fact it makes me realise its pretty normal to worry, and especially as a Mum.
Before having Thea I thought that anxiety might break me. In fact I was so anxious that I would get ill, that I completely ignored the signs that I wasn’t very well because I didn’t want to be seen to be making a fuss at the doctors. (Yes I really was that worried that I would be wasting someone’s time – turns out I wasn’t!) And yet at the moment I met her, I found this ridiculous inner strength from somewhere that told me that I had to stop worrying so much it stopped me from doing things, because there is now someone else who is more important than any worry could ever possibly be. I felt it again when Alex was born, and perhaps even more so knowing that I had slipped a little in my worry path along the way with Thea!
So am I cured? Hell no! Anxiety is a part of who I am (fortunately or unfortunately I am yet to decide – remember I am highly-evolved after all!) Do I have days where I wish I could stay in bed for fear that the world could end? Sometimes. But now I have that bigger purpose….I have my girls. And more than that, they have made me realise that all this time that purpose was already there. After all this is the year of doing things for me isn’t it? I want them to see me being happy, pursuing things that give me joy, be that my photography course or just having Daddy home from work early so we can have dinner together.
I recently listened to a wonderful podcast by Gretchen Rubin who wrote ‘The Happiness Project’. I had never listened to a podcast before but my husband suggested it might be something else new that I could do. She talked about being a ‘Gold Star Junkie’ and to be honest it really hit home. I think this is where a lot of my anxiety comes in. I love getting that praise, knowing that I am doing well, knowing that I am a good person who adds positively to others in my life. Man I love winning and getting a prize more than anyone I know. And yet perhaps all of this achievement, all of this pleasing people, is why I am anxious. Anxious that one day those gold stars might just run out.
So now I am making a conscious effort not to seek those gold stars from others, but to seek them from myself, to realise that I am doing a good job as a Mum or a wife or a daughter, sister, friend (the list goes on). After all if I wasn’t doing the best that I could, I wouldn’t be this worried right?
Whilst I hope the girls won’t ever have to deal with anxiety like I have, I also live in the comfort that they will be equipped to do so because they know that they are loved, just as I do. After all, it is my support network that have got me through some dark old days with a smile on my face. And to them I will be forever thankful. They are the people that raise me up and make me want to be better.
My biggest piece of advice from all of this: Talk. Talk to someone, to anyone, even your cat! But I can almost guarantee that if you talk to someone (well a human that is) that they will have been in a similar place. We are all winging it. No one has all their shit together really. Some are just better at blagging it!
Anyway, enough from me for now! I’m going in search of gold stars!!!!!