depression · mood management · parenting · Self improvement

The constant noise of an anxious brain

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I have lived with irrational thoughts my whole life.  A lot of people are able to look back on something they didn’t excel in and think “I know what to do next time.”  For me, weeks of over-analysing and sweating over the minutiae of every word and interaction will ensue: that nano-second of what I thought was a look (it was definitely a look that said they hated my entire being) or that moment of perceived awkwardness where in fact they may have paused to think, or to…you know…breathe.

I have a constant noise in my head that is so loud recently I can barely process anything.  What if I left the iron on? I should probably check again in case last time I wasn’t really looking, I was thinking I was looking.  And actually, maybe I thought about it so much that I actually turned the iron on because it was so prominent in my mind.  I need to see that the switch is off again and then this time it’ll be OK.

It’s crept up on me this time.

The first time I really struggled with anxiety was after my father became ill, 13 years ago.  Over time I learned to manage it quite well.  Since that day though, I have never turned my phone off.  Just in case.  You never know when someone might need to contact you to tell you something awful. It is imperative that I do not miss the opportunity to hear something awful.

Great logic, that.

Edifying.

I thought I had it under control.  It started off with low mood after my husband’s MS diagnosis, which frankly is quite understandable when you realise the person you love is fading away from you and there is absolutely fuck all you can do about it.  Did you know MS actually shrinks your brain?  Atrophy, they call it.  That made the list of “Top 10 joyous fucking facts I have learned about MS.”

It’s normal to be sad about that.  It would probably be messed up if I sailed along going “hey, so he has a shrinking brain, probable wheelchair and earlier death to look forward to – it’s all good.”  If I was unaffected by the deterioration of my spouse and the vicious curtailing of many of our hopes and dreams as a family, that might mean I was a little dead inside.

But the anxiety? I thought I had this one nailed.

I’ve done CBT – I’m a great advocate of it – but the noise in my head is so relentless this time that it seems almost impossible to slow my thinking enough for it to be any use at all.  I’ve started getting dizzy spells and palpitations and I know it’s sheer panic.  That fundamental, entrenched belief that I am not strong enough, good enough, capable enough to help him through this.

He needs a rock.  I am fucking sand.

Someone has again suggested medication.  I know this might help.  I know it might quieten the noise, the constant pounding, deafening noise of questions and fear and hopelessness.  But it won’t make it go away.  It’s like building a moat with a bucket and spade while the tide comes in.

I can’t help but think:  I am like this because of my psychology.  I was raised by two anxious people.  I have learned to be dysfunctional.  I have learned to constantly question myself. One of my parents wrote “Not Good Enough” in permanent marker on my forehead (probably more of a tattoo, actually).  It should follow that the way to tackle it, for me, is through psychology.

I don’t want you to think that this is a judgement of other people’s choice to take medication for anxiety and I fully appreciate that for some people this is the safest (or the only) way to get through.

For me, it is the acknowledgement that taking a pill won’t make that “Not Good Enough” label  go away.  But many, many hours of working with a therapist might fade it…even if you can still make out the scar if you squint a bit.

So instead:  I am doing yoga every day (except today because I pulled a calf muscle and the dizziness was bad and I figured I might pass out or die and my husband is away and there would be nobody here for the baby – which when I write this down is hilarious but is a genuine thought I had). I also went for a walk in the sun yesterday.  It helped a bit.

And I am writing it down.  Writing my ridiculous thoughts down really does help.  I saw earlier what I did with the iron and I’m going to go to bed tonight without checking it because I know for a fact that as I turned it off I disconnected it fully from the socket in case some electrodes jumped across the airspace.  So it’s fine.

I might check the door again.  But you know: baby steps…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

depression · happiness · mood management · parenting · Self improvement

Life with S.A.D.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.barendspsychology.com)Winterdepression

Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Seasonal Depression.  Winter Blues.

Call it what you wish, it is a bag of shite.

One winter about 10 years ago I was back and forth to my GP several times for blood tests. I was constantly unwell, exhausted, irritable, unable to concentrate and increasingly fat.  I felt like an angry bear who needed to urgently hibernate lest I punch any poor human in my path.

My Vitamin D levels were low (I live in the UK…) but nothing else showed up except my symptoms which the GP decided were S.A.D.  I’ve since discovered my father suffers with it badly and my uncle has had to come to some arrangement whereby he spends 3 months abroad to prevent him hurtling into a black hole of despair every winter (either that or he’s pulling a fast one, which – if you knew my uncle – would be unsurprising).

It is a real thing though.  Here’s the NHS link for a bit more info:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/

I find that from October through to March I am dragging myself through the days like a befuddled sloth.  I had a tiny lie-down on my daughter’s bedroom floor as she played  next to me earlier but realised that within seconds her chatter was becoming distant and dream-like and I was already wanting to doze off.  As for trying to focus on work: sheesh.  I find myself re-reading the same block of text about 5 times and my ability to problem-solve has all but eluded me.

I write this post sat next to a light box.  Apparently some studies have shown them to be as effective as anti-depressant medication in the treatment of S.A.D.  I do find it makes some difference, especially if I switch it on immediately after my alarm in the morning.  My husband really enjoys that…If you are going to try one out though, find one that is SAD certified and isn’t going to fry your retina.  Mine is about A3 paper sized by Duronic and at about £60 it does the job well enough.

I always try to get out of the house as much as possible in the winter.  I spent two days largely indoors last week because of boring adult-related tasks like car trouble and life admin and I thought I was going to lose my mind.  I was emotional, fraught, irritable and I felt like a caged beast.  I told my husband we were going out and I bundled he and the toddler into the car and headed to the beach in the drizzle.   Living by the coast, it is basically wet for about 11 months of the year (those are not official statistics but they probably could be).

We walked along the shore in the bracing cold watching sea gulls swooping in to land.  I took big lungfuls of salty air and let it blow the cobwebs away.

My husband has some mobility problems so he offered to stay with the kid while I scrambled around rock pools and bounded around the shore like an excitable puppy.  I took this photo during a break from the drizzle.

Drizzly beach walk.jpeg

It’s still a majestic, spiritual place to me, the beach – no matter the season.  I  went home pink-nosed and far more energised.

I spent as much time as possible outside yesterday and noticed the difference in the baby’s mood.  She was more cheerful, far less tantrumy (that’s not a word but it should be) and she went to bed smiling.

So that’s going to have to be my strategy for the next 5 months:  get out.  Every day, anywhere, just out.  If I find myself wanting to crawl under the desk for a snooze: I will get outside, even if just for a walk around the block.

This too shall pass, my S.A.D. friends.

Does anyone else out there have any pearls of wisdom they can impart about managing their mood in the winter?

happiness · parenting · Self improvement

“Didn’t we used to hang out?”: Making time for your partner when parenting

How often have you had these conversations with close friends who have kids?:

Perhaps you hear someone lamenting how their other half no longer seems to have time for them because their mind is always on the baby and they can’t remember the last time where it was just the two of them…Perhaps someone else has confided that when they go away for their anniversary weekend the thing they’re most excited about is the full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep rather than the perceived dirty weekend away you’ve all been joking about…Perhaps you cant remember when you last resembled anything but a bedraggled, overgrown Yeti with un-brushed hair (hair just…everywhere) and you’re slowly forgetting the image of your partner naked…

And perhaps you haven’t really spoken in ages.  Not really.  Not about anything other than how work was and what the kids have been doing today and the bizarre contents of your toddler’s nappy.

Sound familiar?

I was having a discussion with some friends just this week about finding ways to live more in keeping with your true self.  Somebody posed the question as to whether or not we enable our partners to live more in keeping with what they perceive to be their true self and what we do to facilitate that.  We all shifted our feet uncomfortably and looked at the floor.

How much time do I truly invest in speaking to my husband about his goals, his dreams and ambitions anymore?  Do I really know what his passion is in life?

Right now I know he’s in a job he can tolerate; it pays OK, its not entirely boring and his boss is OK which is a good thing because he’s experiencing some poor health and she helps alleviate that stress by allowing him time off when needed.  I’m ashamed to say though,  I don’t think I know what his dream job would be.  He’s certainly never told me and I’m not sure I’ve persevered enough in finding out.

When did I last look at him and see the man behind the Dad and think about how I can nurture and be there for him as his partner?

I can’t remember.  That’s a bit shit of me really.  That needs some work.

It’s all too common a theme  – partners dropping down the pecking order once kids arrive.  It’s also a common contributing factor in the onset of postnatal depression – feeling as though you’re losing a grip on who you were before, who you are underneath and feeling as though your partner doesn’t see you anymore.  I was surprised to read that 1 in 10 fathers experience postnatal depression (Source – https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/postnatal-depression-dads).   That’s a whole load of depressed dads who need someone to notice what’s going on and invest in being there for them.

So my challenge to myself and to you today is this:  What can you do today to show your partner you still see them as a person, and not as a parent? How can you nudge them closer to happiness?

I’ve booked my mum to come and babysit and tonight we’re off on a date night.  It’s very last minute but very overdue and necessary.  I thoroughly intend to find out what my husband’s true passion would be if time and money were no obstacle – and then I want to work out how I can support him to get there.  It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of replicating the relationship you grew up witnessing.  I hope we can keep that at bay by talking to each other and not forgetting who we were before – and who we still are underneath.

What tips do you have for keeping your relationship with your partner in focus after having children?

 

 

depression · happiness · mood management · parenting · Self improvement

Three Positive Things

This is a tried and tested technique in boosting gratitude and happiness.

It was introduced to me about 10 years ago by a hypnotherapist I was working with.  I used to text my friend who struggles with anxiety every day to make her do this because I’d found it so helpful.  

She hated me a little bit.  Imagine feeling at your lowest ebb and your friend sends you a “heeeey, what Three Positive Things happened today?” message.  You’d want to punch that friend in the face.  Somehow, she still agrees to hang out with me (I did it every day for months though??).

Anyway, hypnotherapist lady set me the challenge that each day I had to write down three positive things about the day, no matter how apparently trivial or how bad the day had felt overall.  For example, I went to see her one day after a dreadful day in work where I was feeling really rather despondent.  She asked me if I could recall pausing at any point that day and drinking a cup of tea.  I could.  It was a brief reprieve from a shitty day…like a hug in a mug.  So that was one Positive Thing.

Get it? If your day was dreadful, it’s basically about finding the tiniest exception.  It’s not ground breaking, but it does help.

Stage 2 is listing three things you are looking forward to for tomorrow.  You might have a day ahead that you’re dreading because you have a meeting pending with your least favourite client…So perhaps you’re looking forward to leaving the office tomorrow when the meeting will be done and it will no longer be on your mind.

So here are today’s Three Positive Things:

  1. The baby and I paddled in the sea today and it made her giggle.
  2. My husband and I had a nice cwtch (we’re married, we have a small person, we don’t really do touching anymore because it’s a bit gross and it made me pregnant).
  3. I went for a walk along the sea front ON MY OWN this evening.  It was bliss to be on my own; the thing I miss the most being a parent.  I spent an hour strolling in the very warm summer air, taking in the smells of flowers I walked past and standing to watch the beautiful, merging shades of blue and purple as I looked across at the glassy surface of the sea.  Not a toddler poo in sight.

Three Things for Tomorrow:

  1. I am going to the beach with the girls from baby group and it will be good to socialise.
  2. I am going to buy a sun lounger so I can use the back garden during ma’am’s nap time.
  3. I am looking forward to seeing my baby’s excited face when her Daddy comes home from work (even though his status of Favourite Parent is well annoying).

Go on.  Do it.  You know you want to.