Superwoman & Mental Health

It’s been a little while since I wrote a blog post here but there has been a reason for that.

Recently I had a bit of a breakdown. It was only temporary, as is everything, and nothing major happened but I was forced to stop and assess my life. I had become so overwhelmed by every aspect of my life that I just couldn’t think, I was exhausted, lacked motivation and just wanted to disappear. I’m not a stranger to anxiety and depression, but I thought I overcame it some time ago. I believe I’m at a point in my life whereby I know the person that I am, so when I didn’t feel right, I knew something was brewing.

annidI’m no good at interpreting how I feel most of the time, my emotional well-being is often a mystery to me. I’ve taken anti-depressants and accessed counselling, but I have also managed my mental health without these interventions and got myself to a pretty good place. I either feel absolutely fantastic and high on life, or just a general numbness. There is rarely a low and there is rarely anything in between. I seem to go from one extreme to another but I have learned to love the numbness because I know it will pass and I can still get things done.

However, this was different. This was a low. This was the kind of low that makes you sleepless at night and unable to wake up in the morning because another day feels too much. I’ve never been suicidal, the idea of harming myself has never appealed to me but this lowness had me feel like I wanted to disappear. Not die or hurt or anything like that, just to be picked up and dropped off on any isolated island somewhere, away from people and social media. The days felt extra long. My children seemed extra demanding. I was increasingly frustrated and overly fed up. I felt reluctant to check emails or respond to messages, tasks piling up to the point where I would feel like I was drowning.

I had already anticipated that April would be a difficult month. With a combination of the tenth anniversary of my mum’s death, half term and the childminder being on holiday until the end of the month, I knew I would have minimal or no breaks at all to get my head together. I have limited support with my children so the time I am guaranteed (when my oldest is at school and the little one is at the childminder’s) I tend to plan ahead productively, be it meetings, food shopping, article writing, whatever needs to be done.

20130826_160900_Sophia
Sandwell Valley Park, 2014 (Old pic but still cute!)

In the second week of half term, my oldest child caught chicken pox. We were stuck at home while the long days of good weather came and went. This meant she had an extra week off school. The following week, my youngest caught chicken pox. This meant more sleepless nights, a constantly crying child who couldn’t walk because she was in pain. Both my girls weren’t affected too badly, bless them, but being their mummy means it was down to me to make them better. My children come first, always. So while I focused on them, I began to tune out of everything else and reassess everything in my life.

I had taken on way too much. Trying to do the job of superwoman, raising children and helping to build empires while neglecting my own creativity. It was eating at me. The stresses of begging for childcare so that I could attend meetings and take on extra responsibilities, expectations and stress didn’t seem worth it anymore. This love of helping everybody around me and not investing back into myself had begun to take effect.

I didn’t give myself time for me. Even in the evenings, I had stopped treating myself to candlelit bubble baths (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it), stopped working on my own writing, never watched TV and I couldn’t even tell you the last time I read a book. Terrible. I wasn’t allowing myself to switch off. Even when I visited my mum’s grave, I didn’t shed a tear. Didn’t stay long. I wasn’t allowing myself to feel. I had been wanting to re-edit my novel for some time, but any spare time I had I was spending writing articles or editing others. I wasn’t allowing myself time to create. I wasn’t allowing myself to be me.

darkSo I stopped. One evening, after a day of having no energy to even try to pretend everything was okay, I put my children to bed and cried. I cried and cried, sitting in my bed alone, crying, for no known reason other than it needed to come out. I hadn’t felt anything in a while and to feel then was to feel pain, but I don’t know where it came from. I cried until I fell asleep and then I woke up the next day and I cried some more. I cried in the day, struggling to keep it together, because I know how sensitive children are and I didn’t want them to pick up on my mood. When they called their dad to say goodnight that night, he asked the little one if she had a good day and she said no. He asked why and she said “Because Mommy is sad.”

I took myself off social media and decided that I needed to make some changes. Something had to give. Something had to go because I knew that I could not continue like that. It wasn’t positive, it wasn’t productive and it wasn’t me. I wasn’t alone in knowing this because I received some very wise words and a lot of love from friends and acquaintances while on this mini hiatus.

All the love that I put out into the world, all the positivity and good energy, found its way back to me and stopped me from sinking deeper. I hadn’t been this low for a very long time and its arrival caused me to pay attention to the causes. I couldn’t remain in a negative and emotional state because that is simply not me. I was firmly told to start focusing on myself from now on and so that is now my current agenda.

While I have enjoyed my experience at NUBI Magazine, stepping away from my role as Head of Creative Writing has given me much relief. It feels like the right thing to do, for me, and in doing so I’ve created time and energy for me to focus on my own writing. And that feels amazing.

soulIt’s a couple of weeks on now and I am feeling good today. I’ve still had waves of anxiety and I’m still not quite 100%, but I am working on it. I am a work in progress. I’m having to unlearn some of the habits I picked up in my desire to please the whole world.

People have said they’re inspired by me and so I feel compelled to be authentic in the way that I share aspects of my life. I’m not superwoman. I’m not a robot. I have battles, struggles and obstacles too.

I just don’t want the anxiety and depression to come back for good. This brief visit has served a purpose; it has prompted me to take action and to prioritise myself. I feel like I have addressed the main stressors. I just need to give myself time to unwind, time to switch off, time to enjoy life, time to create, and time to just be me. Time to just breathe and think, you know? More of that is definitely on my agenda.

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