For the past couple of weeks ours has been a sick-house. For one week P had cant-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 dont 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 its 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 theyre sick. And as soon as theyre better, in theory, things go back to normal.
Ive mentioned before that I consider myself to be in recovery from my depression, in that its 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 theres been illness in the house, I dont 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, Im afraid! Thats 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 thats just people I know. Dont 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 cant feel sad or upset about certain things because others have it worse is like saying you cant be happy because others have it better than you.
Depression is chemical. My brain doesnt 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 cant control their bodys insulin production, I cant 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 Ive got.
In writing this Im concerned that its 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 itll help someone reading this too. So I make no apologies.
Heres 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 doesnt care that its snowing out and shes 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 Madams 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 theyre better now. That theyre up to their usual mischief. That theyre well enough to climb the walls.
Another example, and one that I cringe a little bit about sharing, but Im 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. Its categorically the dullest activity ever. But what I try to do, whilst Im 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 theyll be grown and gone. And Ill look back on the days of smeary windows and crayon wall graffiti with nostalgia. And Ill probably wish that Id 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. Ill hold them a few extra minutes after theyve fallen back to sleep. Ill drink in their sleepiness. Ill try to forget and forgive myself for those dark early days and nights where I wanted to be somewhere or someone else and Ill remind myself that they wont remember. Ill be grateful for the fact that I am able to be grateful. Because if Im feeling grateful, then Im feeling better. And now that Ive finished writing this, Im feeling a bit teary, but Im feeling better. And Im grateful for that, too.
That was so inspirational to read. Thank you. I only got diagnosed with 'severe PND' on Friday and I'm currently in that 'the world is going to end' phase. This has just really made me think about things and believe that I can and WILL get better