Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Posts tagged ‘unemployment’

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.

My inferiority is complex

I always got high grades at school. I played several musical instruments. I went to university and obtained 2 degrees. I had good jobs, first as a forensic scientist and then as an analyst for part of the Foreign Office.

And now here I sit. I am unemployed, unfit to work and living on benefits. My husband is also unemployed at the moment and has been for some time. We have 2 small children whom we manage to feed and clothe adequately (partly thanks to my mother, who pays for their coats and shoes). My husband and I aren’t fed or clothed as adequately – we mainly eat pasta, I’m down to my last pair of jeans and the only shoes I have are an old pair of hiking boots. (At least they’re practical for this never-ending winter! :-)).

So what happened? After the birth of my daughter I was unable to return to work due to a combination of PND and what I now know to be generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). I was eventually dismissed from the job I loved on the grounds of ill health. My husband had lost his job some months earlier, when DD was only a few months old, and so we had no income and no way to pay the mortgage. Eventually the inevitable happened – we were declared bankrupt and our home was repossessed, forcing us to move in with my parents 200 miles away.

After a couple of months we discovered that I was unexpectedly pregnant with DS. We had to move out and start claiming benefits. Fortunately by this time DH was working again but he was made redundant when DS was 6 months old.

My mental health still isn’t good enough for me to work (I have recently been diagnosed with cyclothymia as well as GAD). Degenerative disc disorder means that even if I was mentally fit to work I would be unable to do any job more physical than sitting in front of a computer.

And I am ashamed. Although this situation isn’t my fault, isn’t our fault, I am deeply ashamed of what my life has become. I hate not being able to work, being reliant on the state and my mother’s charity. Every time someone asks me what I do I say brightly “Oh, I’m at home with the children at the moment” as though it was a choice we had made (and of course if money was no object I’d be happy to be a SAHM while the children are young).

Most of my friends are university friends and have good jobs. Many of them are starting to have children of their own and returning to work, something I was unable to do. I hate my weakness in not being able to go back to the job I loved. I feel inferior to those who choose to return to work and inferior to those who have to. I feel inferior to those who are wealthy enough to have one parent at home through choice. In short I feel inferior to just about everyone.

I used to be so confident, so good at what I did and I had a bright future ahead of me. These days I do almost anything I can to stop acquaintances realising the truth of what I am – the double stigma of being mentally ill and living on benefits is too much. I can’t remember the last time we had friends over, or the children had someone round to play – we always go to other people’s houses instead.

Rationally I know that I have little to be ashamed of. This situation isn’t our fault, we do all we can and things will improve one day. But I feel the shame nonetheless, and inferiority has become a part of my identity now. It’ll take a lot to shake it loose.

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