Sunday, 20 November 2016

How are things with you?

Things have been hard.  I'm not one of those people who sugar coat things and make my life out to be perfect when I'm struggling.  So many people struggle and do so in silence - creating their perfect life on social media, only showing the good times.  I hate that.  I have had several people contact me asking for advice and help because they have seen how open I am about issues such as mental health, how hard parenting really is and that it's OK not to be OK.  Why is this so rare?  I know that I am an open person.  I don't shy away from talking about my anxiety, my struggle with postnatal depression, my pure exhaustion and frustration at having a beautiful baby boy who just hates to sleep.  Why is it that these things are still seen as taboo, as something almost made up - I should just toughen up and get over it.  "Is he a good baby?" - what exactly does that question mean?  Is that solely related to sleep?  He's eight months old - he cries a lot, he poos in the bath sometimes, he throws food around and at the minute screams if I'm not in his sight.  He's a BABY. He's learning a lot, he's going through a lot, I want to be here to support him and encourage him and obviously discipline him to keep him safe and create boundaries, but what exactly constitutes a good baby?  I just hate that question and get asked it a lot.  (www.applesundermybed.com wrote a brilliant blog post about this if anyone is interested).  I think he's a great baby.  He has the most beautiful eyes and smile and watching him grow and develop is mind blowing.  But it's really bloody hard too. He's demanding and wakeful (so, so wakeful) and I get really frustrated at times.  I love him more than life itself but it's hard work.  Anyone who says otherwise is lying.  Once again, people are often trying to fabricate a perfect life and lead people to believe that they're a perfect parent.  It's bull shit.  (Sorry for swearing, Mum).   

My body has started to react to anxiety and exhaustion in physical ways.  I started getting really bad hives about eight weeks ago with no reasonable explanation.  Then two weeks ago my face got so swollen I had to go to the Emergency Department and get a shot of adrenaline - again, no reasonable cause.  I was able to get in to see an excellent immunologist who straight away knew it was autoimmune related and not an allergy.  In incredibly basic terms, my cells are attacking each other in a certain way that is producing horrible, itchy, ugly as hell hives all over my body.  Occasionally I swell up like someone with a peanut allergy.  I have an epi-pen now.  Good times.  Hopefully this will resolve itself in twelve months or so, but holy hell - this is a PHYSICAL symptom of how hard my body is fighting right now to function because of my mental health.  So screw anyone who wants to think that mental health isn't a real thing (I am still so baffled and angered at the number of conversations I have where people seriously believe this).  Come to my house at 6am as I'm trying to look after Isaac and not scratch my skin off at the same time.  I feel like my skin is burning and my insides are ice.  I feel like I am losing my mind.  Isaac is crying and he wants to be held and  my skin looks like it has horrendous burns all over it and it hurts to be touched.  Yet again, this means more medication to try to control the symptoms until hopefully it resolves itself.  The body tells you when things aren't right - it tells you in lots of ways, both mental and physical and sometimes the two are connected. 

This leads me to my next point: body image.  Holy crap.  I know a lot of people who have struggled with eating disorders.  Both acknowledged and treated and also ignored.  Skinny is the goal.  In some cases muscly.  I wish in all cases it could just be healthy?  I have put on weight since I left school.  Funnily enough, I started gaining weight when I stopped working at McDonald's - that place kept me fit although I have ALWAYS thought I was fat.  I look back at old photos now and wish I looked the way I used to hate. The point is that I have always hated the way I look.  How awful is that?  I bet heaps of people would say the same.  I gained even more weight when I started taking medication for my anxiety.  I have been through so many medication changes over the last eight months, and with every single one, my psychiatrist says "it will probably make you gain weight".  I sigh. I accept the changes, because to me, being mentally well right now is more important.  I am a healthy person.  I literally eat really healthily 90% of the time.  I have researched nutrition, my diet is varied and full of vegetables, protein and healthy fats and complex carbs.  Do I treat myself?  Darn straight I do.  Do I exercise enough?  No, I don't. I have lots of excuses for this and I know there are those super Mums who set their alarms for 3am to go and workout before anyone else is awake.  I know I need to exercise more but right now, I am so freaking tired it is hard enough just looking after Isaac and chasing him around as he crawls madly from one place to the next.  But hey, I have put on weight and every time I see someone I know, or someone I haven't seen for a while I think "they are so thinking about how much weight I have put on, I really need to lose weight".  Um, why is that my automatic thought process?  And why do we have to judge people who have gained weight? I grew a freaking human being and then had a complete mental breakdown.  I had a desk job that really stressed me out and I have definitely done my fair share of emotional eating not to mention how my mediations effect my metabolism. But how about we don't starve ourselves or hate ourselves if we have a treat.  How about we just focus on being as healthy as possible and really just mind our own freaking business, because we have NO idea what people have been through and why they may be bigger than they once were.  Do not assume that they sit at home eating chocolate and chips and McDonald's all day.  Sometimes that could be the case, but often it's not.  So if you see me and notice I've gained weight - damn straight I've gained weight. I have been through a lot and I need some time to focus on a whole range of things, not just weight.  To anyone reading this who is feeling deprived and sad and angry because they are hungry and wanting to be skinny or look a certain way - treat your body with the respect it deserves.  As a Mum, I would hate to think that the precious boy I spent over nine months growing and nourishing and raising hated the way he looked.  I want to raise him to be healthy and confident (but not cocky) and I need to set this example for him.  So my focus is on health.  Not weight.  I know I don't look the same as I once did, but far out - a lot has happened since I was 18.  I hope anyone struggling who is reading this can maybe take something, just one thing on board and not hate themselves.  Respect your body.  You only get one.  (Cliché I know, but so true).

Long story short, there is a lot going on with me.  People ask the question "how are things with you?" and I know full well that nine times out of ten they don't want the real answer.  They're being polite.  Lots of people think I'm dramatic or a sook or just plain making things up.  You know what - those people can just go away because it's not true.  I am fighting a battle.  I am fighting a battle every damn day to try to recover from a horrible illness.  I am devastated that I don't enjoy things I once did.  That I can't leave my house to go for a simple walk without having a panic attack.  I am devastated that I care about what other people think of my physical state and my mental state.  But I will keep fighting.  I will love my son with every last ounce of my being because he is amazing and he deserves a Mum who is healthy and happy and who doesn't hide things when they get hard. If I ask you how things are with you - I really mean it.  Talk to me.  I will not judge you.  I will do my very best to support anyone who is struggling because I know what it is like to be fobbed off and judged.  I will not do that.  I will never do that.  How are things with you?  I really hope they are good, but if they are not, then let's talk.  Life is hard sometimes and that's OK.  It's OK to talk to about it.  It's OK to feel and grieve and struggle.  You are not alone.  Life is beautiful but it can also be a dark and lonely road.  We all need help sometimes - accept it when it is offererd.  Nobody is perfect - don't believe everything that is on social media or everything that people say.  Be kind.  Always be kind.  And if you ask the question; mean it.  How are things with you?

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