For the past couple of weeks ours has been a sick-house. For one week P had can’t-get-out-of-bed flu, and for the following week both kids had bugs too. This is, of course, no different to thousands of other families across the country in January. The thing is, though, is that their illnesses knock me for six. I don’t just mean that they pass their germs on to me (although I am writing this through streaming eyes with scratchy throat). What I mean is, psychologically, it takes a while for me to recover from the fact that they have been ill. The obvious reason for this would be that of course, any parent worries when their child is ill, even if it’s just a nasty cold. Having sick kids is stressful and exhausting and generally pretty horrible. As mums, our own needs are usually pretty low down on the priority list and when your children are sick, this is more apparent than ever. For me, I can live without an uninterrupted wee and deal with not getting in the shower until 2pm. Their needs are more important, particularly when they’re sick. And as soon as they’re better, in theory, things go back to normal.
I’ve mentioned before that I consider myself to be “in recovery” from my depression, in that it’s a constant work-in-process that I need to remain aware of. One day at a time. There are thought processes and strategies that I use to keep myself on the upward bounce as much as I can. But I find that in stressful times and particularly when there’s been illness in the house, I don’t get the chance to pay attention to my own emotional wellbeing and this can take me down a slippery slope.
So the purpose of this post is to have a word with myself in order to get back on track. Contradictions will follow, I’m afraid! That’s how my mind works.
When I was getting professional help with my depression and anxiety (which I highly recommend. Getting help, that is, not the depression or anxiety. That really sucks) One of the things the counsellor repeated regularly was this: “Rachel. It is what it is.”
Let me explain….
I struggle with overcoming the notion that I have no justification in feeling depressed; I have two beautiful children, an amazing husband and the support of my family and friends. There is a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food on the table and countless other blessings. What right do I have to be depressed?
I have a strong tendency to compare my circumstances with others who I feel have far more reason to feel low. I have friends who have recently suffered through bereavement, infidelity, miscarriage, divorce and serious illness. And that’s just people I know. Don’t start me on the pain and suffering out there in the wider world.
Drawing these comparisons can leave me feeling self absorbed, selfish, ungrateful and ridiculous. None of these feel good, let me tell you. So I remind myself that my own struggles are no less valid because others have suffered more. Telling yourself you can’t feel sad or upset about certain things because others have it worse is like saying you can’t be happy because others have it better than you.
Depression is chemical. My brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin to keep me on an even keel. This is simply not something I can control. (More on the subject of control on future posts). The same way that a diabetic can’t control their body’s insulin production, I can’t control the fact that primarily, the cause of my depression is chemical and physical. It “Is What It Is”. All I can do is be aware of it, “own” it, recognise what triggers it (like sickness in the house and letting myself get tired and run down) and use the tools at my disposal to manage it.
Luckily for me, on the whole, the good days far outweigh the bad and there is one quite simple tactic that I use which really helps me keep things in perspective, and that is practicing gratitude whenever I can. Because I really am grateful for what I’ve got.
In writing this I’m concerned that it’s going to come across as a bit sugary or cheesy. But It Is What It Is, it helps me be a happier person and maybe it’ll help someone reading this too. So I make no apologies.
Here’s an example;
A few minutes ago, I surveyed my living room. There are toy bricks EVERYWHERE. There are play-doh crumbs under the table. There are very small handprints all over the patio doors. A half-built train track lies abandoned in the kitchen waiting to trip someone over. A little pile of clothes shows me where my strip-o-gram of an eighteen month old daughter has stood and removed all of her clothes. Just because she can. She doesn’t care that it’s snowing out and she’s recovering from a nasty cold. My house looks like a bomb has hit it.
I can look at this situation in one of two ways; I can grumble and moan about the mess or I can smile, thinking of Madam’s excitement and pride at the big tower she built by herself, hence the bricks everywhere. I can be grateful for the toys we have that keep the children busy whilst I jot a few ideas down for this article. I can be grateful for the children themselves, that they’re better now. That they’re up to their usual mischief. That they’re well enough to climb the walls.
Another example, and one that I cringe a little bit about sharing, but I’m going to anyway, is the ironing. Boring subject I know. I LOATHE ironing. But at least once a week (ideally, but rarely, more often) I stand and I work through the enormous pile of ironing. I often huff and puff and complain about this. It’s categorically the dullest activity ever. But what I try to do, whilst I’m ironing, is be a tiny bit grateful. Grateful for the little ones who bring the clothes to life. Grateful for the fun times they spend wearing their clothes. Grateful for the job my husband has that requires him to wear a shirt each day. Despite the ironing it necessitates.
Similarly, when washing floors and cleaning mucky little handprints off a surprisingly varied array of surfaces, I try to be grateful for those little hands and feet. I try to remind myself that whilst raising (and especially cleaning up after) little ones is hard, one day they’ll be grown and gone. And I’ll look back on the days of smeary windows and crayon wall graffiti with nostalgia. And I’ll probably wish that I’d spent more time enjoying them and less time worrying about cleaning up after them.
And every so often, when they wake in the night, I might sit and hold them for a few extra minutes, and be grateful for them. I’ll hold them a few extra minutes after they’ve fallen back to sleep. I’ll drink in their sleepiness. I’ll try to forget and forgive myself for those dark early days and nights where I wanted to be somewhere or someone else and I’ll remind myself that they won’t remember. I’ll be grateful for the fact that I am able to be grateful. Because if I’m feeling grateful, then I’m feeling better. And now that I’ve finished writing this, I’m feeling a bit teary, but I’m feeling better. And I’m grateful for that, too.
Picture credit: http://www.bravegirlsclub.com
I think you’re absolutely amazing xxx
You’re biased! X
I really admire your honesty and you hit the nail on the head with what you say. Having been through depression myself, I can really relate to your post. I have to say, I cant imagine being grateful for the ironing! But next week when I’m doing it, I might give it a try 😉 x
Thanks Anna for your message! I think we should start a trend for crumpled clothes an throw the irons away. A crinkly revolution!! Xx
Reblogged this on KNOWLEDGE MUST SHARE.
Another fabulous and thought-provoking blog post. Though I would like to play devil’s advocate! As another depression-survivor, I agree it’s important to remind yourself what’s good in your life. But I also think we need to give ourselves permission to feel down sometimes about the never-ending tidying; the sleep-deprivation; the putting-ourselves-last EVERY time.
I love the idea of being grateful I’ve got these two amazing, wonderful little people who wear the clothes I iron and play with the toys I tidy. But I think it’s also OK to say: “I don’t WANT to iron these bloody clothes. It sucks. I hate it” or: “I’m knackered, I need sleep, and I am NOT grateful that my child has kept me awake for the 4th night running. This is tough.”
Neither of us would change our roles as mummies for a second. But that doesn’t mean we have to love every single aspect of it. So I would like you to also give yourself a break and allow yourself a little pity party every now and then – just don’t stay there for too long, and share your moans rather than keeping them all to yourself! xx
Hey L! I totally relate to what you’re saying. I’m almost back at a place where I can be confident that a bad day doesn’t have to equal or signify the start of a bad month. I think if we all floated from disaster to catastrophe without so much as a flinch we’d need our dosage checking, ha ha! Thank you again for your support and for helping me to embrace the devils advocates without panicking!! Xx
I’m really enjoying your blog – you are such a talented writer and your thoughts really resonate with my own. I struggled with the whole aspect of guilt when my second child was 6 weeks old, ashamed that I could feel this way when I had a friend who had just gone through a second failed attempt at IVF. My husband too was extremely loving and supportive; I don’t know how I would’ve ever survived without him. And yet I have two close friends whose relationships broke down at that same time when their children were very little. I knew I had a huge amount to be thankful for but it just didn’t pull me out of the darkness that had taken a grip of my life. I honestly think that only other people who have suffered Depression can really understand this and that as you so rightly say, it is a chemical imbalance that simply has to be treated. I count myself lucky that the medication I take gives me no side effects and maintains my equilibrium in life!
My children are now 7 and 5 and I have been through many ups and downs over the years but I have accepted that in the same way I have an under active Thyroid and take Thyroxin every day, I also take medication to treat my longstanding Depression and it works!
I am a very private person and rarely talk openly about this apart from to very close family and friends but want to share my thoughts with others who are maybe unsure about continuing on medication. Having a GP that really knows and understands you is so crucial and for that I count myself extremely lucky. So many people suffer in silence, afraid to talk about how they really feel and the amazing thing about your blog is the realisation for me anyway, that there are others like me out there and I’m not some strange weirdo who maybe isn’t the perfect mum, ‘as seen on Facebook!’
Many thanks for sharing your thoughts
Thanks or your comment GG. It’s been scary sharing so many of my private thoughts with the wider world, but knowing that others relate is a great comfort. Thanks for your honesty and for sharing your story here xx
Love it! I agree and I try to be grateful for the smudges and the messes. (But not the ironing. Ha! I don’t iron. My husband irons his own things and the kids just go wrinkled. LOL)
I don’t know if you rember that my Dad used to work in Stamford Hill for the Jewish community there but he got this from one of his customers there and Mum still has it up on the wall now. I keep trying to convince her that I need it but she’s not letting go!! Enjoy……
Excuse This House
Some houses try to hide the fact
That children shelter there,
Ours boasts it quite openly,
The signs are everywhere.
For smears are on the windows,
Little smudges are on the doors
I should apologize, I guess
For toys strew on the floor.
But I sat down with my child
And we played and laughed and read
And if the doorbell doesn’t shine,
His eyes will shine instead.
For when at times I’m forced to choose
The one job or the other,
I’d like to cook and clean and scrub,
But first I’ll be a mother.
Esther that is just perfect! How brilliant! I’m going to share that and get a poster made! Thank you for your message. Lots of love to you and your two gorgeous bubbas xx
Just testing something out!
Rach you just made me cry! This is the first blog I’ve properly followed – thank you for sharing all these thoughts. You are such a talented writer and dare I say it, make me feel a little inadequate in my ability to express myself and rationalise things!! Of course you don’t make me feel inadequate really, I am so grateful you are putting of all this into writing, it is so important for people to read and to understand. Hope we can meet up soon, did you get my text? xxx
What a beautiful message, i’m sitting at work reading this and pretending i’ve got something in my eye. That is so true – i often moan about the mess of my house and am definitely going to appreciate the reason for the mess more now. i often kick myself at the end of the day for telling the kids i’ve got to finish a job (usually tidying up) rather than join in their game. I feel like i wanna go home right now and get messy with them xxx
I just found your blog while researching postnatal depression and would like to say thank you, your blog is honest and real and I could have written it myself. Well done and good luck fighting your battle. I will be sharing your blog with my mummy and baby Facebook group. I aLos wanted to mention that in my research I have discovered that in my case the postnatal depression is hormonal at its root and that oestrogen treatment may be key to fighting it.
I only iron when I have to. Mostly, I don’t bother. This makes me happier! 😀
I know what you mean though – we do tend to invalidate our own worries and troubles. In the premature baby mum community we are expert at this. There always IS someone who has it worse so why are we complaining or feeling low about it? It seems like you intellectually know not to give yourself a hard time, but it’s good that you have strategies to work through and process when these feelings do come along.
Lots of luck, I’m sure that you will be absolutely fine xx