Slow and Steady – I keep saying that recovery needs to be slow and steady. That it’s a journey and takes time. Trouble is, this week I totally ignored my advice and ended up having a huge panic attack last night. Here’s an update on my big news and what lead me to book my diary solid with full on days out for 7 days in a row:
If you watch my stories on Instagram, it will have been hard to miss the change in me lately. I am happier. I cry a lot less. I am less stressed. My mental health is improving. There is a big reason for this.
A while back, I wrote that sometimes it’s the situation that needs to change in order for your mental health to improve. The choices we make, after all, have a huge effect on who we are, who we interact with, what we experience. I made huge efforts to make small changes such as leaving the house, smiling, finding something in the week that I found fun, talking more openly, walking … all these small acts of self care have really helped make each day more bearable. They’ve me train myself to be more positive and helped me focus my energy on things that make me happy. It’s helped. But it hasn’t quite been enough. My depression was too deep and anxieties in a frenzy. Small changes weren’t enough.
The trouble is, sometimes it’s not as simple as just making a little change. Sometimes you need to make big changes in your life in order to be happy. Furthermore, when you are stuck in the middle of a crisis, sometimes you can’t see the changes that need to be made, or don’t feel able to make those changes. It can be really scary making changes that will fundamentally change the path your life is taking. It can be risky and uncertain – 2 things you don’t want when your mental health is suffering. While some people said that we should stop trying for a baby to give ourselves time to heal, we weren’t in a place that we felt we could make that choice. That may sound very strange – but when you in the centre of a storm, making any choices seems impossible. It felt like the only thing we could do was just keep going. So if you are feeling that you may need to make changes, but don’t feel able to make them right now – don’t. Make it your goal to work towards being in a position to make a decision. Don’t second guess what the decision will be. Make it your focus to get well enough to feel like you can make a decision. Accept that you cannot make a decision right now.
After George’s Due Date, I finally felt able to make one big decision: we are no longer trying for a baby. That means no baby any time soon. But it also means no miscarriages. The constant highs and lows of pregnancy then miscarriage have taken a huge toll on our family. For a long time, we felt the only way to heal, was to keep trying. To have a successful pregnancy. I just didn’t want to feel so damn empty. The thought of Christmas Day (George’s Due Date) passing with no baby or no pregnancy seemed unimaginable. And, in truth, it was really hard. But once the day had passed, the storm started to clear and we were suddenly able to make a decision. The best thing for us right now is to put trying for a baby on hold. It may be forever. It may not. It may only be for a couple of months. Again, right now I cannot make that decision. The only decision I feel able to make right now is that for the time being, we won’t try. For the time being, we will focus on what we have and enjoy living each day.
But that wasn’t the only decision I made. The second one is pretty massive: I handed in my notice at work. After being signed off sick, I felt that I was starting to feel ready to work again, but not able to fulfil my role as teacher. So I have decided that for the time being, my career is on hold. This decision was very difficult. After having Boo I thought I would take a career break but really missed teaching. It is a vocation – I am a teacher. It is part of me. But with the year we have had, physically, emotionally, mentally, it is just not a job I can do right now. Over the last few months I have seen news articles about teachers on long term sick, teachers with mental health problems, and the number of teachers leaving the profession. Whilst I wanted so badly to be able to still do my job, the evidence tells me that it is not the job for me right now. I think when I read that suicide rates are alarmingly high amongst primary teachers I realised that in my vulnerable state, the best thing I could do for myself and my family would be to walk away. And so, as of this coming week, I am unemployed. I am no longer a teacher.
These decisions, which we made throughout January, have spurred my recovery. All of the positive habits that I had made suddenly really started to work and turn my mood around. I discovered that I was able to change my mood if I became anxious. I have smiled and meant it. I have laughed and felt it. Life has started to regain its colour. We have started having fun again! Weekends no longer terrify me – I actually want to get out of the house. Family time is back and I am loving it! Of course, it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses – I still have my dark days. But thankfully, I’ve learned many lessons along the way and I just keep repeating to myself ‘recovery isn’t linear’ and ‘one bad day doesn’t mean you aren’t getting better’. And it’s actually much easier to believe those mantras now. Maybe because I’ve been saying them for so long, or maybe because the bounce back is a lot quicker these days.
Then, I got really cocky and booked up my entire week. A whole 7 days booked solid with plans. I really wanted to see the friends I had missed. There were places I wanted to go. Boo and I were going to have so much fun together. And with my sick leave ending, it was my final self care Thursday and Friday. By Wednesday evening I spent 3 hours crying. Things were getting too much for me and Boo! Thursday was more tears and I could feel my rib cage being wrapped in anxious ropes that were tightening fast. Friday brought a migraine. Saturday a full out argument with my husband and a massive panic attack. And well, now it’s Sunday and I am just exhausted.
So next week: slow and steady.
I don’t have the stamina right now to be on it all day every day. I am capable of having a good time, being present, engaging with others, parenting. But I really, really still need a lot of down time to process everything and keep my mental health in check. My anxiety is out of control because I haven’t given myself adequate time and space to address it this week. Go go go with no breaks. I need to recognise that I am on the road to recovery, but I am not at 100%, not even 75%. Time to take some of my own advice and be kind to myself. Next week’s plans are at a bare minimum. Time to enjoy life and not make myself a wreck in the process!