DH starts his new job in 10 days time, leaving me solely responsible for the children for the first time in a year and a half. This is a massive change in our lives and while it’s a positive change it’s also a terrifying one. I am scared, I am nervous and I am cowering. But I am also searching.
I am searching for the woman I used to be.
I am searching for the woman who spent her nights moshing in underground metal clubs.
I am searching for the woman who survived the death of her fiancé at just 19 years old.
I am searching for the woman who worked for the government for 6 years, often working 10 hour days with a 75 minute commute each way.
I am searching for the woman who had the confidence to travel abroad to lecture at an international conference.
I am searching for the woman who survived the loss of her most trusted friend while suicidal with post-natal depression.
I am searching for the woman who managed to take care of her 2 year old daughter while heavily pregnant and suffering from ante-natal depression, with her husband working nights and studying at university during the day.
I am searching for the woman I used to be, the woman who has somehow become lost in a fog of depression, cyclothymia and anxiety. I used to be capable of so much; now even the thought of going out to see friends sends me into a panic.
Somehow I need to remember who I used to be. I need to find my strength, my confidence, my resolve and most of all, my self.
When I was 19 my fiancé died very suddenly. We hadn’t been together long but had discussed marriage and children and all the things that you begin to talk about when a relationship turns serious. We had lots of plans for our future together – and then suddenly that future wasn’t there any more. He was gone and his loss nearly destroyed me.
Of course, I eventually met DH and we married and have children. And while part of me still grieves for my fiancé I realise that I am fortunate to have the life I do, and in a way that stems from his death. However losing him has had a profound effect on my mental health and this manifests as constant anxiety. I worry about something happening to those I love. This is most pronounced with DH and the children of course. Having lost a partner once I know that I could not cope if anything happened to DH; the unimaginable pain of losing a child terrifies me even more.
When DH and I first got together we were students. One night he’d been out and hadn’t let me know he’d got home safely – I was convinced that he was lying dead somewhere. After several panic attacks about this I eventually phoned his (extremely lovely and understanding) housemate who went and checked on him for me and confirmed that he was fine. This was just the first incident of many over the years though, and just the tip of the anxiety iceberg.
When DD and I cross the road I get visions of a car running into her; I see her being thrown into the air by the impact. When she’s playing in the park I see her falling off equipment. When we’re at the beach I see her running into the sea and drowning. When I go in to check on her at night I am always terrified that she’s died in her sleep. I wake at least once an hour to check on DS, who is only 13 months and squarely within the SIDS window; I check on DH too, just in case.
The other night I read about a little boy close to DS’ age who had died in his sleep. His mother had posted a photo on her blog of her cradling his lifeless body in her arms – I sobbed for almost an hour. I barely slept that night for fear of what might happen to the children and I still cannot get the image of that poor woman and her son out of my head.
I’m pretty sure that this level of worry isn’t normal. But at some point it must have been – I mean, it’s natural to worry about those you love isn’t it? But at what point does it stop being a natural concern and start being something that affects your life? I never prevent my children from doing things, I refuse to let my anxiety affect them. But I spend a lot of my time fretting, worrying, panicking and always anticipating the absolute worst. That can’t be normal. And I guess it’s something else that needs to be mentioned to the psychiatrist when I have my assessment on Thursday.