Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Scared of the Sun

This post is related to my previous post Fear of the Fog. I realise that the titles may now come across as slightly cheesy, but what can I say – I’m an alliteration junkie (please comment below with other words for ‘junkie’ that start with ‘a’…)

This past weekend I have had the joy of going away on our church’s women’s weekend. We had 70 women all in one place, being challenged by some amazing talks and taking part in some inspiring worship.

I also managed to have some relaxed and elongated time with my best friends, Beauty ICE and Lawyer ICE. Our normal prayer times are odd hours, grabbed from between jobs and school runs, so it was lovely to have some proper conversations, intense sharing, and laid back company with colouring books, knitting, and large bars of Galaxy chocolate.

On the Saturday, Beauty ICE and I went for a walk around the grounds of the conference centre, chatting and reminiscing. During our last women’s weekend away I was in the middle of a full blown nervous breakdown as I swung quickly and wildly from hypomania to depression. Beauty ICE (who from now on I’m just going to refer to as Natalya because it’s easy and there’s now no reason not to) was the person who bore the brunt of supporting me at that point, and I can categorically state that I was not fun to be with. My brain had suddenly swung into a major low before getting over the high – the result was all the negative self talk that comes with depression, but at four times the speed. It was hideous.

So this time, I had huge reason to be thankful for my stable state of mind. We walked, thanked God for the change, and had fun whilst we walked. We laughed and we yelled and we let our hair down with gay abandon, and arrived for dinner rosy cheeked and giggly, ready to eat, drink (juice) and be merry. For the first time in a long time I felt more than ok – I felt good.

But bipolar is never far away. I can never forget that it’s there, and it’s still not been long enough for me to relax and let my guard down. By the time we got to the evening meeting I was in panic mode. What if this was hypomania? Playing on swings, running through puddles and throwing snowballs isn’t exactly normal behaviour for me, and I didn’t even notice. The more I thought about it, the more frightened I became. I was on the verge of phoning every medic I knew just to check whether I should be doubling my medication, getting to A&E, checking myself in somewhere. Somewhere along the line, bipolar stole the fun.

Fortunately, sitting between my ICE ladies is the safest place to be. I can stress, I can cry, I can talk about the same things over and over again, and they never get stressed out about “what it might mean”. By the end of the session I was fine, and headed off to the team quiz in my normal, fiercely competitive way.

But it never goes. I like to think that one day I’ll be able to stop that level of overreaction and get to the stage where I can enjoy the good days and sit through the bad days without panic of relapse. But there is a fine line between self-awareness and paranoia, and whilst the former is sensible and necessary for continued health, the latter steals the joy, reminding me that I will never be normal again.

This post doesn’t have quite the happy ending I’d hoped, but it’s real. I’m coming to terms with the idea that this is what life is like now.

scared by the sun

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Fear of the fog

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It doesn’t take much to worry me when it comes to my mental health.

Today I feel low. I feel unmotivated, unable to concentrate, like I’ll never manage to achieve anything that’s of worth, and altogether too exhausted to go up to bed. Staying awake into the night and writing long diatribes is a key sign that Churchill’s famous black dog might be following close behind me. I find myself too scared to stop writing and go to bed, because then I might think, and that could lead anywhere. Or I might find myself completely unable to think, which is even worse.

The thing is, the fear of it can be just as bad as the actual thing. The memory of having been so ill not all that long ago (eighteen months can feel like forever or yesterday) makes me hyper alert to any possible symptom. The thought of being that unwell again induces a level of anxiety I normally only experience in an episode of depression, so I end up on a roundabout of doubt – am I anxious about becoming depressed, or anxious because I’m depressed?

As is always my key tactic, I try and work my way back to see if there is an actual cause for feeling low. I search the calendar for hormone surges or forgotten traumatic anniversaries. I look back over Facebook and Twitter to see what might have nudged me off kilter – social media can be cruel in its reminders of what I haven’t done or become. If I can find a solid reason why I might feel like mud, then there’s more of a hope that it will pass without effect, that it is just a normal bad day, like normal people have.

There’s nothing like experiencing what normal people experience to remind you that you’re not actually normal. In a bad few days a normal person can curl up, eat chocolate, and watch a movie that provides an excuse for a good cry. For me, any longer than a couple of days and I start getting antsy.

So, I start putting things in place. I stop listening to the news, and exchange sad Joni Mitchell music for something brighter. I make sure I go out, even if it’s just to the supermarket cafe, so that my four walls don’t become overbearing. I get up, I get dressed, I eat – I make myself do all the things that most days I hardly notice myself doing. I talk to friends – if my best friends don’t hear from me for a day, they come knocking.

It’s an effort trying not to get depressed when depression is one of the things you most fear.

But who knows, it might all be better tomorrow.

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Parentals

What’s the difference between in-laws and Outlaws?

Outlaws are WANTED.

An old joke, but so very true in our lives at the moment. The Cable Guy’s parents are visiting us today, for the first time since we went on holiday with them two months ago. During this holiday, despite the promise of relaxation and lie-ins, we had a week of inappropriate comments and unnecessary judgement with regards to how we parent MiniMe and MicroBob and how well we look after our house and belongings (or don’t, in their eyes) We nearly left more than once that week, and came home incredibly hurt and let down by the way we had been treated. I still can’t think about some of the things they said and did without getting upset, and yet here we are, supposedly enjoying a morning somewhere and picnic lunch.

My aim is not to share a post that slates them and everything they believe in. The Cable Guy and I believe in a God that commands that we honour our parents, however difficult that may be, and we are choosing to see the best in them as far as is humanly possible, because we are as fallen as them, and no doubt in thirty years or so our children will be complaining just as much about us.

Instead, I am going to list all the things I’ve learnt through this hideous time we’ve had, because if nothing else, we may as well make our suffering worth something by letting it teach us something.

1: I don’t need to listen

I can choose what criticism I take on board. One of the most wearing things about the holiday was the constant suggestion that we aren’t doing a good enough job parenting the children because we aren’t doing it the way they did it or wish they had done it. But actually, I don’t have to take it on board. I can just smile and nod, and ignore everything they say. There are several hundred people we would go to before them for parenting advice – people who are more involved in our daily life and who have parented young children more recently (and who didn’t pack them off to boarding school).

2: We are the parents

A the end of the day, the choice is ours. The in-laws might think we should push them more, or smack them for behaving badly, or be more strict with them around the dinner table, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree.

Any comment the in-laws make is based on a segment of time with the children where they are anything but their normal selves, and rarely in their normal environment. Whenever the in-laws visit the kids get overexcited purely through being with them, and vie for attention. So we choose to ignore them being disruptive, because it just gives them attention for behaving badly. We also know them well enough to choose which battles to fight, whether that be because they are over tired, over stimulated or over hungry – or all three. The in-laws don’t like that. They think we should be spanking and shouting. We have decided as the parents that there are times when we can’t push it, and that is ok.

One decision we have made absolutely and completely, without exception, it that we will never hit or smack our children. This is not to say that either of us has been hugely damaged by the smacks we received as children. But we both feel strongly that if we are telling them they shouldn’t hit each other or other people, we should be the ones modelling that to them. This isn’t that we are complying with current views or laws regarding corporal punishment, it is a conscious decision that we don’t want our children to think that hurting someone ever makes things better. Most importantly, we don’t think it’s what Jesus would do or advise, and that’s good enough for us.

3: I can choose how I feel

It may feel to them like they are helping, but it actually just undermines our confidence, and is especially unhelpful when said in front of the children. It doesn’t really matter how they try to say things – phrases like “we don’t want you to feel judged, but…” serve only to make us feel exactly that.

But I can choose to let the judgement be theirs, not mine. They may be judging, but I can decide not to take that on board. As hard as it is sometimes, I have the power to keep hold of my own well being and equilibrium despite what is thrown at me.

As an example, we did manage to go out one afternoon, while the in-laws watched the children. The children apparently behaved brilliantly that day. Part of me wondered whether that meant that we were crap parents after all, and we should just give them to the in-laws to raise and have done with it. Fortunately God chose me a wonderful man to father my children, who said to me: “do you really think they would have known how to behave well if they had never done it before?” He is right, and I am choosing to believe him. They aren’t perfect, and neither are we. But with Gods help we are on the right road.

4: I am not doing that bad a job

MicroBob is too clever for his own good. MiniMe’s reception teacher was amazed that he was doing more than some of her reception children. He does everything faster than he’s supposed to, including how quickly he got used to his glasses, which apparently often sets children back in their development, not pushes them forward. He is stubborn and smart with it. He knows how to push and when, and does it frequently. We find him hard work. We know The Cable Guy was similar, so I’m praying that he grows up like his dad, probably with a mixture of because and in spite of us.

MiniMe is sensitive. She hears and sees everything, and feels everything doubly. When she’s tired that quadruples. She can also be a little madam, but she’s somehow emotionally intelligent enough to never be a little madam at the expense of anyone else. She’s always the first to say sorry, and if her teachers had to choose one word for her, it would be ‘kind’. She, poor kid, has far too much of her mummy in her. She will always be over affected by things – I’m just hoping that I can share with her some of the lessons it’s taken me thirty years to learn, so that the world isn’t as scary and painful a place for her as it can be for me at times.

My children are awesome, and I choose to believe that at least some of that is because we are doing a good job. They have their moments, but what two or four (or thirty four) year old doesn’t? We are managing all the essentials. They are fed, clean(ish!) and loved. They are well behaved at school, and people want to spend time with them. So I’m counting the last five years or so to be well spent.

Everyone has times when they need a bit of encouragement. There are times when you just need cheering on. Likewise, there are some times you need a bit of advice or guidance, but I think most adults know when they need it, and know who to ask.

My final word on the subject is this: good parents don’t make their children feel like bad parents. My hope is that, when it comes to it, we, as parents and grandparents can encourage from the sidelines, shouting support for our team who are running as hard and fast as they can to complete the parenting race set before them.

And maybe give them the odd lie in….

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