Recently I’ve been struggling in a number of ways, and although I am trying very hard to find ways to show myself more care. I have always felt there is beauty in the broken, and that honesty is important, so this is the latest on my journey of mental health and motherhood to share with you all.
Most recently I have decided that I need to give up sugar again.
When I get low, which has been happening more regularly than I would have liked whilst suffering with post-natal depression and a host of circumstantial stresses, I tend to just stop looking after myself. This can mean not showering, not brushing my teeth, getting itchy and sore, eating really badly or not eating at all, and avoiding situations that would probably make me feel better but in the short term are just a lot of effort.
As you can imagine, and I know all too well, this just makes matters worse. Feeling dirty and sweaty and disgusting does not help your mental health. Eating badly and avoiding social situations can make you feel more tired even if you are sleeping more. Not looking after yourself basically causes a host of more long-term issues.
Specifically, these issues have meant that I have gained weight and dental issues – both of which make me shudder in shame.
I have been dealing with my phobia of the dentist for a very long time. I was able to force myself into the chair yesterday for a check-up only because I knew my dentist was super supportive last time and seemed genuinely interested to try and help me get better. It took a huge amount of mental and emotional energy, especially as I had to remind my brother to give me a lift. I could of pretended to forget and ignored it for years, but I pushed myself through. The truth came though that my diet and stress-induced apathy had done me some damage. That damage will require me to go back to the dentist more than I ever wanted to, forcing myself again to deal with the pain and fear I have battled with for the majority of my life.
Simultaneously, I am aware that I am heavier now and more uncomfortable than I was after T was born, and significantly more so than before I became pregnant. Why? Because when I am stressed I comfort eat, and most recently that comfort has been ice cream, chocolate, and all things sweet.
Bear & I have gone without sugar fully in the past. We raised money for cancer research and lost a significant amount of weight (particularly Bear). We found that our cravings were horrible but slowly subsided as if we were coming off a drug. For a long time afterwards I would get headaches and really not want the vast majority of sweet things.
But I fell off the wagon eventually, and bit by bit my addiction to sweetness (specifically salted caramel and ice cream) came back with fire! I am not in a good position to be dealing with this right now, but on the other hand I can’t continue to do myself harm. A sugar high does not last long and is quickly followed by a world of lows.
I’m a mess.
Alongside this we’ve been dealing with family issues spanning from finances, to tension, to mental health, bereavement, and toddler antics. Cub specifically has been using her intelligence against the rest of us. She knows, annoyingly, that if she is not getting attention for the naughty things she does (only the good things) then she should just push further. This has so far resulted in one cut lip, a painful cheek, and shoes being confiscated. Working out how to handle it when you’re also keeping a baby alive, and trying to survive yourself, is hard.
But we are working it out. It will include a lot of positive reinforcement, a lot of encouragement and love, a lot of repetition of boundaries, a lot of practice, and specifically a bit more one-on-one Mama-Cub time.
I think what is hardest is the worry that comes when you think of the other children. It is not my child being hurt (accidentally or otherwise) and I cannot be there to hug them, console them, apologise, and try to make it just a little bit better. The next bit is worrying about what might be sparking off this part in my child. Has she overheard an argument? Is she watching something she shouldn’t be? Am I not a good example of kindness? Is this some first glimpse of homicidal psychosis?! I know that these thoughts are probably the nightmare scenarios many parents (and parents-to-be) worry about but they echo every time I receive a phone call or voicemail from nursery.
My daughter can be an incredible soul. She can be considerate, sweet, and she utterly adores her little sister. She is energetic, artistic, sings and dances, has little quirks that comes out in gorgeous ways. I love her more than I ever thought I could. So how do I do my best to teach her right and wrong when I thought I already gave these lessons?
I keep coming back to something a friend of mine said: that I had to surrender rather than fight. That God would cover the rest. That doesn’t mean I’m not working but I have to accept that life right now will not be perfect, and it looking perfect on the surface doesn’t mean it’s true.
I am also trying to get better at asking for help, putting a priority on the pieces of my life that will help me cope better in the long run, and be more graceful to myself and others.