Parenting with anxiety and depression:
Parenting on the best days can be very challenging whether you suffer from a mental health disorder or not. Dealing with tantrums, back chat, refusal to share, sibling rivalry and even the nasty stares from other parents when kids act out makes it so much more challenging. A shopping trip can some days go so well and others it’s something nightmares are made of, but It’s all forgiven by a simple smile, cuddle or an ‘I love you’.
When you suffer from mental health disorders the challenges doesn’t change. In fact it just becomes harder. I still deal with all the tantrums, back chat, disapproving stares all whilst fighting a raging storm inside my head. Fighting the panic attack I feel is about to wipe me off my feet while having to play referee between the kids. I try to stay calm for the sake of my kids because what I fear most is for my anxiety to rub off on them, but it is not an easy task. Desperately wiping the sweat off my forehead and rubbing my hands dry on my clothes. Trying to slow my breathing whilst smiling away at the world as if nothing is happening deep inside me. Everything is scrutinised. Raising children when suffering a mental health disorder is hard. The anxiety causes me to doubt my abilities as a parent. I know I’m a great mum doing the best I can but anxiety makes me question everything I do and when I get the disapproving eye rolls from other parents, I question myself even more. The fear that my kids hates me, the fear of failing them, fear that I am not teaching them how to be the best possible versions of themselves is so very real and all consuming when my anxiety is at its worst. Over time I’ve learnt to hide it behind an Oscar winning smile.
At times when walking down the street I have found myself worrying that a car would come off the road and hit my children whilst walking on the sidewalk. I knew the likelihood of that happening was slim and my worries were totally irrational, but At first I couldn’t stop myself. At times when we got to our local park I had to do a safety check by checking all the bolts on the swings, if the was the seat secured in, if the slide dry and stable and I can go on. I even considered having my little one go on the swing with his bike helmet! Anxiety makes you overthink everything! I became such an over protective mum that one day my eldest told me not to worry he will be very careful on his scooter. He could tell I was worried and that gave me the wake up call I so desperately needed. I want my kids to have fun and explore their world around them. Yes like any parent I want my kids to have the best possible life and to be safe, but having said that accidents will inevitably happen and it is my reaction that will shape how my kids deal with it.
Many times after challenging days as a parent I’ve hidden behind a locked bathroom door, crying whilst in the bath. I chose the bath because that is the time my kids are in bed and I can go straight to bed without my husband noticing. I’ve become a master at hiding my tears and panic attacks. Some days I would lie and say that I am fine when in actual fact it felt as if I was dying inside. Saying I am fine is much easier than admitting I am struggling. At one point I found myself telling my husband how many days I’ve gone without a panic attack in an effort to try and ease his worries and concerns. He could see through it all. I became irritated at the slightest thing. Usually I am tolerant and easy going, but when my anxiety reared it’s ugly head I became overly critical of myself and irritated with the world for no apparent reason. Hiding all these emotions from my family and still using every ounce of my being to get on with daily life as if nothing was wrong became exhausting and debilitating.
Anxiety is a lonely place and this in my case lead to becoming more and more depressed. I realised that I cannot continue the way I was and still be a great mother to my children. So everyday I make the conscious decision to try and see the positives in everything I do. Most nights I listen to positive thinking hypnosis which I have found so incredibly helpful. I want to get better and I want to be a better version of myself for my own wellbeing but more importantly for my children and my husband who have been so patient and loving. I am doing this because I want to look back at this moment in my life and know that I overcame my anxiety and depression. It is not always easy so see the positives and it becomes especially hard when I’m dealing not only with my own demons but also with the judgement and the ridicule due to mental health stigmas as well as the tantrums and kids pushing their boundaries.
I understand why there are such stigmas around mental health because before my diagnosis I had no clue about this world and may also have passed uneducated judgement. In order for people to understand mental health disorders we need to talk about it, but therein lays the challenges. It’s so easy to say let’s talk about it when the fear is overwhelming and the audience at times may not be as receptive as we hope. So many preconceived ideas and opinions about the struggles with mental health exists. It’s not something that can be generalised as so many of us may have similarities but our daily struggles are so individual and unique to our personalities. I guess what I am trying to say is that although we want to talk about it, it’s not always easy and no one journey is the same. To this day I am writing under a pseudonym, and even my mother doesn’t know about my mental health disorder. Although I have made so much progress and I am learning each day how to manage my condition better I still do not feel ready to tell the world who I am, because deep down I still fear the persecution and ridicule. I fear that divulging my condition would change the way in which people treat my children. So for now my focus is on getting myself better and stronger so I can be the best possible mother, wife, friend and daughter.
This experience has really taught me to focus on the good things about my day no matter how small. I try hard not to sweat the small stuff. The little hugs here and there, kisses from kids and the ‘I love you mummy’ is what makes me want to be better everyday. My kids are my world and together with my husband and close friends they inspire me. The unconditional love I receive is what drives my desire to be better every single day. They have taught me to be more patient with the tantrums and to really think about how I react to certain situations. I hope that anyone who reads my blog would have a better understanding of the challenges people with mental health disorders face daily and for anyone who is suffering please know that this too shall pass. There is always hope even when it seems like the storms will never pass. I have been in the darkest of holes, but I’ve clawed my way out because of the knowledge that I am not alone and the love from my family and friends. Today I look back to where I was seven months ago and although I have a mental health disorder I am much happier, stronger and most days my passion for life is so much greater than it has ever been before. My children are my motivators and my reasons for finding ways to get better in order to become an even greater mother, wife and person.