I'm not ashamed to say that I've lived with depression. I'm also not ashamed to say that I live with an anxiety disorder that I usually manage to keep under control, although it's always there. My anxiety comes with OCD tendencies. And no, this doesn't mean I have to keep my house sparkling clean or have tins of baked beans all facing the front of the cupboard (although this sounds quite nice!). The way I experience these OCD tendencies Is in the form of what some people would call morbid thoughts. When I'm feeling stressed, under pressure and tired I can begin to experience symptoms. I will have strange thoughts that those close to me are going to die. I then feel that by having these thoughts I have projected them to the universe and therefore have to perform some sort of ritual e.g hand washing in order to prevent this death from happening. Now of course, I understand that these rituals will have no impact whatsoever on a persons life, and neither will my thought processes. That's the thing about a neurotic illness. You're more than aware you're being, well, neurotic! But knowing this does not stop the constant clawing in the back of your head. Taunting you. Continuously.
Most days I can prevent myself from carrying out rituals. However, by doing this I miss out on the sense of relief and comfort that they provide. Instead my anxiety is bottled up and I can live for days with knots in my stomach, unable to eat properly, and walking around like I'm in a world of my own. When I first began taking control (or so I thought) I stopped doing rituals & instead started "doing" alcohol. Obviously this didn't fix things. Instead alcohol made me behave stupidly. Yes, I came across as a fun loving person who was up for a laugh, but the next day my anxiety would be worse than ever and I would need to drink to make it better. I soon became wise to the fact That I'd replaced one undesirable coping method with another. I cut back on drinking and for a while I managed to float along in a sea of calm.
When I had my son however the anxiety started all over again. I was convinced he was going to die. I would stay awake just to check he was breathing, I cried when he vomited for the first time, thinking I'd almost killed him, I cried when I first pushed his pram, thinking I'd cause it to shake too much and give him shaken baby syndrome. Nothing I did was good enough. I was a terrible mother. Something would happen to him and it would all be my fault because I'd sent my morbid thoughts out to the universe. I began washing my hands until they bled and cracked. I told nobody. I lied to the Health Visitor when she gave me the questionnaires to check if I was coping. If I told the truth I thought they would know what a terrible mother I was and would take him off me.
I lived with this for about a year and eventually it subsided. But It's always there. Some days worse than others.
There are probably many other mothers in the world who have gone through this or are going through it right now. You can't tell who they are. They pretend everything is fine. Some of them will not divulge what is going on, not even to their partners, friends or family. Some of them will behave in a way that's hard to understand when looking in from the outside.
But all of them will need kindness. For people to not pass judgment, or make comments that undermine other mothers. Don't question things they do. They may be already judging, undermining and questioning themselves far more than you could ever do. A flippant remark may seem small to you but it can have a huge impact on someone else. They are doing the best job they can. They are battling.
This can be said for any mother, not just those who live with anxiety or other mental health conditions. Every mother at some point will have the feeling they aren't good enough. So just think twice before you comment on how their child should be crawling by now, or how you never gave your children as many baths as they do, or how you occupy your child's mind with educational books rather than the TV. It's not necessary, it's not called for. You don't know what that mother is going through.
Over time I've become more accepting of an invisible illness that could potentially cause people to judge me or think there is something "wrong" with you.
But this is me.
And by writing this I hope I can reassure anyone else who is experiencing this that they are not alone, and more importantly it can and will get better. I have my bad days, but I mostly have good days.
I'm a fighter.
And I'm the best mum I can be.
And that's all that matters.