queen of faff

Former secret writer. This is my rehab.


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Voices

I’ve mentioned before how my inner voice is rarely complimentary. It is harsh and critical and the source of my self doubt. Becoming a parent has given fuel to that voice, as if the very existence of my children has provided all the evidence it ever needed that it was right.

I have been working long and hard at both ignoring that voice, and at changing its dialogue.

So it doesn’t help when my actual voice comes out of one of my children’s mouths, and when that voice that I hear back is harsh or critical too. Like the time my 5 year old said “Jesus” in exasperation. That was me coming from her. Or the many, many times my not quite two year old says “stop it” in a fierce and ferocious way. That’s me too (although to be fair, that’s also a bit of my husband!).

When this happens, I berate myself. For not being calmer, more positive, more in control. It’s hard to remember that it’s ok not to be better than I am. It’s hard to remind myself that them seeing an imperfect parent is healthy, so that they won’t pressure themselves to be more than they can be when they are older too.

So I generously and selfishly took silent credit this morning when my daughter was teaching her younger brother about colours. “What’s this one baby? It’s yellow. Yell..ow”, she said in a gentle sing-song voice. My voice, coming from her. “Lellow”, he replied. “Well done!” she exclaimed, in a coaching, encouraging, loving way. My voice coming from her.

My voice.

 

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It’s Time to Talk….. again

De ja vu. I have definitely been here before. Different baby, different sleep issues, different impact, but same exhausted mama who has taken a while to realise something is wrong.

This is the post I wrote two years ago on Time to Talk day. This morning I posted on facebook what an awful night I’d had, and how mad it makes me when people tell me to sleep when the baby sleeps. He doesn’t sleep. That is the problem. A friend responded to my post this morning to say it’s good to share as it helps other people who may feel the same but don’t feel they can say. If that’s true, you are welcome to hear this. It’s not much of a gift but at the moment it’s all I have. 

I’m not having the same self deprecating thoughts this time, I’m a more confident me as a second time parent. But I am more irritable, and sometimes, inexplicably and disproportionately sad and/or angry at the world. I am disengaged from politics, from the news, from the world at large because my heart breaks when I watch or hear what is happening to people and places.

Until recently I have only really told my husband how bad things were. I would flit between thinking I had depression on bad days, to thinking it was hormones or “just” tiredness on better days. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what it is. What I am sure of, is that sleep deprivation is the most wicked thing that has ever happened to my mental health and so this week, I talked.

I told my parents, my GP, my friends, my parents in law, a health visitor. I have been offered practical support, company, solidarity, medication, counselling, childcare, sleep strategies (not for me!). 

I know this is a phase, I know from experience that I will survive, but more importantly I also know that it’s ok to ask for help. Granted I’m a little late to the party on that one!

Tiredness is such an inadequate word for what I’m experiencing. But I do know I feel better now I’m not trying to work it out on my own. 


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It’s time to talk

Today, Time to Change is encouraging people to take five minutes to talk about mental health. I’m fortunate to work for an organisation that is doing the same. This is the post I wrote for our staff blog at work today. My friend and colleague Paul, who blogs about mental health (amongst other topics!) at Dippyman, encouraged me to post it here too. So here is my virtual 5 minutes chat:

I’m not in the office today so this is my attempt to virtually take 5. Writing it feels like a confession, which in itself tells me how important it is for us all to be talking to each other.

I’m struggling.

I don’t know why admitting that is so hard, but it is. Most of you who know me know that I have a nocturnal toddler – I talk about it a lot. What you may not know, because I don’t like to talk about it, is the impact that sleeping for less than three hours at a time is having on my emotional wellbeing – on my mental health.

I am altogether less resilient. My reserves are depleted so I am less able to combat illness and less able to combat the negative voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough.

Anyone who says that sleep is overrated, truly doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

I reached a point where I was convinced I was failing. I started a new job six months after I returned from maternity leave. I wanted to be good at it, I wanted to be brilliant at it, but on such a steep learning curve, on very little proper sleep, every time I forgot something, or didn’t understand something, I thought I was failing.

At home, I have a bright, beautiful, healthy, happy daughter and my god she’s funny. But instead of focussing on what a good job I was doing as a mum, I cursed myself for not being able to understand why her own sleep patterns were so poor and for not being able to ‘fix it’. I thought I was failing.

I felt like I couldn’t be a good parent and a good employee – and I hated that as a mother I felt a pressure (albeit an imagined one) to choose to do one or the other exceptionally.

I didn’t want to tell my manager that I was struggling. I was scared of the response I might get and how I might be seen afterwards. There was no real foundation for this fear. My negative thinking is exacerbated by my sleep deprivation and I’m a catastrophiser (that’s a real thing!). Luckily for me, my manager knew I wasn’t ok and created a safe space for me to say so. Telling him how I was feeling was hard, but it was the best thing to do. I was met with understanding and reassurance.

I am putting things in place to get me back on track, including seeing a counsellor.

I am starting to believe that I am not failing.

I’m just very, very tired.