Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Posts tagged ‘panic’

All change

September is going to be a difficult month for me. There are a couple of very major changes due to occur in my life and I don’t cope with that sort of change very well. In fact I’m feeling overwhelmed and panicky just thinking about it.

First of all DD, my eldest child, will start school. She only turned 4 a few weeks ago and will be among the youngest in her class. I know she’s ready for school; she’s a confident and sociable child and her reading and maths abilities are way ahead of most children her age. It’s a great school, her teacher seems lovely and she enjoyed her visits there last term. She’s a bit unsure and nervous of course but I know she’ll enjoy it once she’s settled in.

I’m dreading it though. I feel, somewhat melodramatically, that school is taking her away from me and our lives will never be the same. Even in the holidays there will always be the spectre of school looming ahead, ready to reclaim her. I love our time together, being able to have days out and pyjama days and do whatever we like. I’m going to miss her dreadfully and we will never have this sort of time together again. I briefly wondered about the possibilities of home educating but I know that DD will benefit more from attending school. Also, if I’m completely honest with myself, my mental health isn’t good enough to be solely responsible for her education.

The second big change in our lives is because DH, after 13 months of unemployment, has finally been offered a job! He’s very pleased of course, and so he should be, he’s worked hard for this. Unfortunately he starts a couple of days before DD starts school so he won’t be able to see her off or collect her on her first day. And after he’s completed his training he’ll be working shifts so life is going to be all over the place for a while until we’re used to the new routine.

So in just a couple of weeks time our lives are going to be turned upside down. In a good way, mostly, but I’m worried about how I’m going to cope. I’m already planning to force myself out to some toddler groups with DS, because it would be all too easy to remain housebound apart from the school run. And maybe I’ll finally get on top of the housework, although I doubt it!

But the idea of looking after everything on my own terrifies me. I feel like such a wimp; lone parents have it far harder than this, parents with more than 2 children have far more to cope with. But this is me and I’m afraid that I will fail. Even simple things like bedtimes will he hard – DS still nurses to sleep but how can I do that when DH is working late shifts and I have to settle both children? I can’t just abandon DD for half an hour or more while I nurse her brother, it wouldn’t be fair. But DS won’t settle any other way, he’s not ready yet.

My mind is whirling. I know that these changes are positive and that in time I will become used to our new life and wonder why on earth I ever worried. But right now I want to just lock the door and keep my little family in our familiar bubble, our familiar life. And I know I can’t.

Can I look after my children?

This week is going to be hard; DH is on a course at the jobcentre from nine to five all week. This is a good thing as it will give him a new qualification to put on his CV, but it means that I will be alone with the children for the entire week, bar breakfast and bedtimes.

I can hear my internal critics scoffing. That’s nothing! That’s what a stay-at-home parent does! You used to do it with DD all the time, many parents have far longer periods of sole responsibility and far more children. What’s the big deal? You’re so pathetic… The fact is, I can’t remember the last time I was alone with both children for more than a couple of hours. I’m used to DH being around, he’s my buffer when things get too much. His presence means I get some alone time each day, even if it’s just a trip to the supermarket. That alone time, even just knowing that it’s an option when I’m struggling, helps me to cope. This week I won’t have that.

Time drags slowly for me these days and minutes can feel like hours. An entire day of having to be focused and alert, calm and reasonable may well seem like years. I can already feel the tension in my body, I can feel the anxiety building. Looking ahead to this week is incredibly daunting; it’s like a sheer cliff blocking my path. I’m drowning in what-ifs. What if I lose my temper? What if I can’t cope with them both? What if I have a panic attack? What if I lose control and break down in front of them? What if I’m only an ok mother when DH is around to pick up the slack?

My other big concern is that without DH around this week I will resort to binging as a coping method. Those who read my blog regularly will know that I have been told I have binge eating disorder. A week without DH around makes it ridiculously easy to binge and extremely hard to resist that whispering voice urging me on. Right now I feel fairly strong – I haven’t binged today, I’ve stocked up on mints as a distraction aid and hopefully I won’t forget them when the urge appears. But tomorrow could be very different.

I’ve been honest with a few people about the panic I’m feeling; DH, my parents, sister, a close friend. It sounds so ridiculous when I say it out loud – I’m afraid of being alone with my children all day. But right now I would rather step into a cage full of ravenous tigers than spend so much time alone with my loving, sweet, clever and funny children. What kind of mother thinks like that?

I think I shall be clutching my smartphone even more than usual tomorrow. Twitter is a source of kindness, friendship, distraction and companionship and I think I’m going to need all the help I can get this week.

An open letter to my friends

There are few questions that make me quake as much as a simple “How are you?”. My automatic response is to say that I’m fine, I’m ok, I’m doing well, whether I am or not. It’s like a Pavlovian response and it’s the same no matter who’s asking. I consider myself to be a fairly articulate woman; I have 2 degrees, worked as a forensic scientist and as an analyst for part of the Foreign Office. My blog posts seem to be quite well-received. And yet there are days when I really struggle to communicate with people on even the most basic level.

A dear friend may send me a lovely chatty message via Facebook and I want to reply – but can’t summon the mental energy. The words won’t come out. Another friend may call for a chat and I find myself racking my brains for something to say. Face-to-face encounters can be awkward as I try to maintain a semblance of normality but can constantly feel the panic rising in the back of my mind.

Social media has been a godsend. Facebook helps me keep in touch with friends who live far away, while Twitter and Mumsnet both have very supportive communities. Weirdly I can spend ages on Twitter or Mumsnet, talking with virtual strangers and dipping in and out of conversations. Facebook is a bit trickier as it houses people who know the real me instead of my more confident online persona. Sometimes I can chat to friends for ages on Facebook but sometimes I freeze up for days at a time.

The other question that strikes fear into my heart is “Do you want to meet up?”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a pretty sociable person and I’m fortunate to have some wonderful friends. But no matter how optimistic I am when arranging a social visit, the closer it gets the more nervous I become. Some days I can force myself to just get on with it and go, and I’ll generally have a good time. But some days I just cannot make myself go. It’s so stupid. I can chat superficially with the other preschool parents while we wait to collect our children, but I struggle to meet a friend for coffee.

I need to get this under control so here’s my plan. There are a few playgroups in the area that I can take DS to, it’ll be good for him to socialise with children his own age. Even though the thought of it makes me about as comfortable as jabbing pins in my eyes, I need to screw up my courage and do it. So that’s next week’s task. This week’s is to take DD to a friend’s house after preschool on Friday. She really wants to go and her friend’s mum is a good friend of mine. Yet already I can feel the unease roaming about in the back of my mind, no matter how much I try to squash it.

If you’re a friend who gets exasperated with the constant stalling and excuses as to why I can’t meet up, I’m sorry. I will try harder. But please understand how hard it is for me at the moment; the medication is controlling my cyclothymia but as yet my anxiety remains untreated and at times it is overwhelming. So don’t take it personally if I drop off the radar for a while or cancel on you. As the saying goes: it’s not you it’s me.

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