What’s Going On With Our Mental Health?
It’s another ramble, guys.
I’ve written before about my experience of mental health. I’ve had mental health ‘issues’ for most of my life- I’m 29 now so around 20 years. That’s a freaking long time spending lot of energy trying to get my brain to work properly. After years and years I finally managed to nail ED recovery, in the last couple of years I’ve done very well progressing with normal, healthy eating and going vegan helped this even more. A few months ago I was the heaviest I’d ever been (around two and a half stone heavier than I was at my sickest), and very happy with it.
Cue a month of hellish stress (for those of you who don’t know, Eira had an accident, then we had loads of earthquakes, then my Nan died) and things are a bit different now, but better than they were a few weeks ago. I’ll write this from my perspective because- well, I’m writing it- and to protect the kids’ and Patrick’s privacy. Mental health posts are my most difficult to post, because there is a huge amount of guilt and shame attached to it for me. The reason I post them is because I know, and have known, so many people who felt the same and I think the more people who can be brutally honest about their experience with mental health, the better. I also think it’s good for people to realise that those with mental health problems, even severe ones, can be functioning exceptionally well; it’s not a case of being stuck in a room crying or being completely well. It’s a spectrum.
Any parent reading this will understand the feeling that our number one job in life- before our paid occupation, hobbies and anything else- is to care for our kids. To look after them, guide them, protect them, give them resources and opportunities to explore and build their own happiness. I took this as seriously as I humanly could- if you’ve read our parenting or homeschooling posts you’ll know that I research and think a lot about the way we interact with our kids, and the life we provide for them.
Despite everything- despite being with them pretty much 24/7 since the day they were born- I couldn’t protect Eira, even when she was just metres from me.
So we are a bit frazzled. I have spent the last month wondering what on earth is wrong with me. I feel constantly guilty that I’m feeling anything other than relieved that Eira is here with us, when she was a hair’s width away from not. I feel guilty that I can’t reply to everyone who messages (although I think I’ve managed 90+%), I feel guilty for getting irritated at having to co-sleep (yes, still) when it’s not our kids’ fault at all that they feel terrified every night.
I feel guilty for having little energy in the day to play with the kids because I haven’t slept, firstly because of dealing with them, and then not being able to sleep, and then waking from nightmares, and then from getting up to let Patrick sleep because his sleep is rubbish at the moment too. Instead of going to sleep I lie awake while my brain throws up every possible situation in which my kids could die. I feel guilty every time my kids panic and ask me if there’s an earthquake, because their brains are messed up and they feel phantom quakes even when there’s nothing. I feel guilty for not wanting to talk to people or talk about answer the questions “How’s Eira?” or “How are you?”, because I don’t want to think about it, but people have been so kind and are so concerned about her. I feel guilty for just wanting to be on my own, when usually I am the most extroverted extrovert you could ever meet.
I’ve randomly been getting huge surges of stress, anger, fear and upset for absolutely no reason, and have been experiencing the most stupid anxiety over nothing. It took me four days- four freaking days– to complete an online clothes order for the girls so they have warm clothes back in England, because of the stress of not knowing if I’d picked the right things. This is someone who has worn one pair of shoes for a year (and sewn them back together several times) and whose kids have about five (mismatching) outfits each. What the hell is going on?
Eating got more difficult pretty much as soon as Eira had the accident. This is partly because the situation made me feel sick with fear- I threw up when we got to the hospital, and have felt nauseous fairly consistently since. It was also partly because being hungry ‘numbs’ emotions and it’s easier to feel that than feel the full gravity of emotion when your child is so ill.
The big difference now is that I am aware of how to manage eating when it gets difficult, and that I’m aware that it is essentially a coping mechanism that has its place which is not in everyday life. When I feel things getting difficult I’m able to use ‘hacks’ that I’ve figured out over the last few years to make sure I don’t get pulled down back into the disorder- maybe I’ll do a separate post on these.
This whole thing is a process, just like Eira’s recovery. Things will get better- they have got better, already, from how they were. Patrick and I are, several times a day, reminding ourselves to have a positive mental attitude and that things will work out. The problem is, we also now know that this isn’t necessarily true. It’s not a universal truth that ‘things will work out’. Our kids aren’t guaranteed to be safe, no matter how much we love them or try to take care of them.
The people on Lombok after the recent earthquakes could trust that things will work out but they have nowhere to go, they’ve lost everything, including loved ones and their businesses and their homes, they are deeply traumatised and they are living somewhere where at any moment another earthquake could rip things apart for them again. So trusting that things will work out well- as great as it sounds- just isn’t reality.
However, we are in an extremely privileged position- we are from the UK and we can return to a decent job market and wonderful friends and family, healthcare and the best-timed house sit in the history of the Universe thanks to a beyond wonderful friend. Although the mental- I don’t know what to call it- process- is a bit rubbish at the moment, every time we feel like being negative we just have to look at Eira and her miraculous recovery, and our other healthy kids, their relationship with each other and the way they act with others to know that we will be, and we are- just fine.
There’s a quote that I saw online a while ago: “Do you remember a time when you wished for exactly what you have now?” Every time I see that I can pinpoint exactly where I was and exactly how I felt- standing next to Eira in hospital, the night of the accident- when I wished for exactly what I have now, and furthermore when I knew and promised myself that I would genuinely, never want for anything else if she pulled through. Those kinds of promises are easy to make in the moment but this one has stuck- the gravity of the situation and the memory is enough to get through those more rubbish moments.
Two sleeps until we get on a plane to Singapore; three sleeps until we are London-bound. Eek. Time for a new adventure <3