It’s easy to get carried away in the world of social media. You can choose to show whatever side you wish – or a totally made up persona. Very rarely do people tell one hundred percent of their story. It’s either a brightened up version with more unicorns and rainbows or a dimmed down version where everything is dark and black.
I’m guilty of unicorns and rainbows. The very tag line on this blog, “a Two Mum Fairytale Adventure” lends itself nicely to that smokescreen. Generally, I’m a glass-half-full kind of person – especially on the surface. I find it’s actually easier to be positive.
But today I had to make a confession to myself and now to my readers. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. It’s not all perfect and it’s getting harder to be positive all the time.
I suffered with anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder before having Eden. They were situational – brought to the surface by a sexual assault and by infertility, but also deeply ingrained in being bullied as a child and a myriad of other things that maybe shouldn’t have been left on the back burner for so long. There was medication for a while and counselling. It helped. There was also a change in job because twelve hour shifts looking after the people of London aren’t good for you when you’re struggling to look after the squashed egg that is your own brain.
Pregnancy was an anxious time for me. Things were magnified. Our previous loss didn’t help things. It felt like there was a lot of pressure on me and I often felt like I was just considered a “vessel”. A lot of people were suddenly taking interest that hadn’t seemed to give a crap before. That of course intensified when Eden was born.
Amy and I were navigating the complete clusterfuck that is having a newborn whilst suddenly having what seemed like an endless stream of visitors. People who hadn’t really been there before were showing up out of the woodwork to admire the baby. Needless to say, eleven months on we barely see any of those people. Or if we do, the frequency is decreasing by the day. The novelty has worn off and it’s not worth the effort any more. It’s fine. I’d rather have the people who have been there all along through everything. There’s very few, but I know we can count on them.
Anyway, so it’s been eleven months since Eden was born and I’m finally at the doctor. Over the last few months I’ve given myself time. I’ve told myself it will be ok and that we are just adjusting to having a child. I’ve reassured myself that people don’t think I’m a bad mother. I’ve taken myself and Eden out almost every day just to get some fresh air and break up the monotony of the house and the TV. On the surface it’s going great.
Turns out no amount of reassurance is going to do it and this is most likely chemical. I decided last night that I would come to the doctor this morning and here I am. I’m not going to lie, getting out of bed, showering and leaving the house was damn hard today. The anxiety of saying to someone “I don’t think I’m coping” coupled with the fact that it’s my late mother’s birthday today isn’t a great combination.
There’s so much fear in asking for help. Early on the health visitor reminded me that I’d had mental health diagnoses in the past (because obviously I had forgotten?) and if I needed help I should ask. Fine on the surface, but then you throw in the talk of extra visits, extra care and extra appointments and that support is less appealing. Then they throw in “to make sure Eden is ok” and I realised that this wasn’t about me at all. It was about Eden. Like most things are now. But the impression the health visitor gave, whether she meant to or not, was “if you ask for help we will assume you can’t cope and are an unfit mother”. The impression that she gave was that it was a slippery slope and would end in Eden being taken. Which is obviously my worst nightmare.
Becoming a mother was the most profound change. I very much think I’ve lost myself under being “Eden’s mum”. I’m not really sure where Eden’s mum ends and Laura starts and I think that’s where the issue is. I’ve lost me. Much of the time I hide behind Eden. I hide behind her confidence and her happiness. I enjoy the fact that as her parents, Amy and I are responsible for her personality almost. We’re responsible for helping her develop. We’re regularly told that she’s a credit to us and I love that. But MAN is there pressure?
With that comes a whole bunch of worries. Worries that I know every parent has. “Are we doing it right?”, “Am I a good mum?” And “Should I be doing something different?” Then the kind of thoughts that have led me to the doctor. “Why are people judging me?” They’re not. “Would Eden be better off without me?” No. And “Oh hell. What have I done?” What have you done? You had the baby you always wanted! She’s here!
Quite often I feel like I’m not good enough for her. Most of the time I can talk myself down from that one. Most of the time I essentially say “shut up brain” and get on with my day. But things like arguments with family members or a judgey look at soft play or out and about send me into spirals at the moment. They send me into catastrophic messes. They make me not want to go out. They make me fear horribly that I am doing something really wrong.
Essentially I’m feeling a lot of the feelings that I had when I was last unwell. The crushing feeling in my chest. That feeling of not being sure whether you’re going to laugh or cry. The catching in my throat and the whispers of “you can’t do this” in my head that threaten to come out of my mouth. The feeling that some days you’re just going through the motions. You’re just doing things because it’s what you need to do – there’s no joy in it.
The new one, though, is the feeling of letting Eden down. That’s why I’m here asking for help. Because deep down I know I’m doing a good job. Deep down I know Eden is fine. But I also know that at the moment I am not fine, and it’s medical, and it’s ok to ask for help. Deep down I know that Eden’s parents are just as important as her and I deserve help. Doesn’t make me weak. Doesn’t make me a bad mum. Doesn’t mean I can’t cope. Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is ask for help.
Anyhow, wish me luck! Watch out symptoms! Whatever you are, I’m coming for you. And I won’t be going down without a fight.