Water: A Short Story for World Mental Health Day

I would like to thank Paula Andrews from the UK for her short story submission ‘Water’. A relatable fictional story, based on true events, reflecting the inner world of a mother suffering from mental health issues.

Around the world it’s World Mental Health Day today (or yesterday for us Aussies!) and where I live in QLD, it’s mental health week. I believe depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions are a a bigger part of many people’s lives than we know or can even fathom. Motherhood in particular can be an emotionally draining rollercoaster at times and many of us can suffer in silence for years, believing that no-one understands or could ever help us out of the dark abyss that threatens to steal every moment that was meant for joy.

But there are people who understand, those who have been there, those who are still there and those who may be there in the future. There’s no easy cure for mental illness but there is help. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or any other mental illnesses, please seek help through your local helpline. If your in Australia, Lifeline is a great resource if you’d like someone to talk to. Their number is 13 11 14.

Don’t suffer alone. From someone who has been there ‘there is a light at the end of the tunnel.’

Paula Andrews was born in Yorkshire (origin: England) and has lived in Scotland for 29 years. She is married to a Glaswegian and has two grown-up children (21 and 19 years) both born in Glasgow. She worked as a midwife for twenty-two years; having owned her own craft business, has taught arts and crafts to blind people and has been writing seriously for around eight years. She published her debut novel for teenagers (and adults) early this year, just before lockdown commenced! It is a time-travel ghost story called Oranges and Lemons, crossing modern day with the 1860s.

Paula tells us “I have had work published in Aquila magazine, Scribble magazine and Scottish Memories magazine and have taken first place and other placings across various genres in writing competitions at the Scottish Association of Writers and within my own writers’ group, Strathkelvin Writers’ Group. I have a website and blog dedicated to my writing, which can be found at www.paulaandrews.co.uk“.

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Photo by Blanche Peulot on Unsplash

WATER

She hangs the small pink mac on its peg; she knows it’s the right one from the picture card on the wall, displaying a solitary polar bear. Ellie runs away from her. Excited. She’s running towards her favourite thing at the crèche: the water tray. She’ll pour and splash for as long as they’ll let her. A water baby. Like her. Solitary. Like her, too. They’ve identified this as being problematic, on several occasions, in reproachful tones, which annoys her.

            “She needs to play with the other children. And share. Can you work on this at home?”

            Suzie sees her daughter skip through the swing doors without looking back and feels a stab of sadness in the bottom of her chest. Little Ellie is happy yet surprisingly tuned in to her mother’s mood. Suzie knows Ellie doesn’t believe her when she says:

            “I’m fine, Ellie.”

            Because Ellie asks. Often.

            “Are you sad, Mummy?”

            “No, I’m not sad, baby.” Usually, those five words are all she can manage. It feels to Suzie, the less she speaks, the less she lies.

            Sam is at school. Two years Ellie’s senior. They say he’s an old man in a wee boy’s body. My fault, Suzie thinks. She sees it as a negative trait. Another solitary child. How could they be anything else when she’s that way? She should’ve taken him to more classes; art, gymnastics, Little Nature Lovers, everything time would allow, maybe. Well, money wasn’t really an issue. But money hadn’t magically cloaked him with an aura of cordiality at toddler group twice a week. She’d felt bemused when she’d watched him choose his play space: always a couple of metres away from the other children. He’d selected his toy and carried it off, looking back at the group; seeming to measure with his footsteps as he walked. Content with his chosen spot, he’d settled and played with that one toy for the entire session.

            Nevertheless, school seems to be changing him. She feels a detached satisfaction when she watches him run up to his friend, Leo, in the playground each morning.  

            On this morning, she drives home, barely observing the traffic, not using her mirrors. Staring ahead, feeling still but heavy; calm but sad. Sadder than she can even think about. There is no sound inside the car. Her senses seem flattened. Squashed between two heavy mattresses.

            At home, she fumbles with the house keys. For a minute she can’t remember which is the right one. It annoys her. She sighs and lets her arms drop by her sides. She sighs again and a wave of melancholy washes up from her tummy to her scalp and she’s glad of it. A feeling, however bad. Something that makes her real; not some automaton stumbling through this interminable cycle of life: feeding children; a spousal ‘have a good day’ on John’s way out the door each morning; school run; tidying up; washing pots; laundry; two pocket-money hours in the village bookshop every day; and sleeping, but never properly. The keys drop from her limp hand and when she bends to pick them up her knees are wobbling and she nearly keels over.

            She gets inside and sees so many obstacles. Slippers, a bouncy ball, John’s trainers, the tools he fixed the waggly door handle with last night; Ellie’s teddy lies forlornly on the stairs. She relates to the teddy: bedraggled, her clothes slightly askew like its ribbon, her hair and nails a bit grubby like its fur. She could lie beside it at an angle on the stairs and she wouldn’t care. She’d lie there all day. She’d stay there when the phone rang. She’d listen to the message on the answerphone:

            “Mrs Peters, Ellie’s here, waiting to be picked up. Can you call the crèche as soon as you get this message?”

            She wouldn’t move. Not during the message. Not after the message. Perhaps the teddy would turn and look at her, accusingly. Perhaps he’d growl and say:

            “Aren’t you going to answer that? That’s my Ellie you’re neglecting.”

            But instead of lying beside the teddy, she opens the kitchen door. In here, it’s clean and tidy. She filled the dishwasher and wiped the surfaces before the school run. She walks to the sink and turns on the cold tap. The sound of water settles her; it makes her feel clean and refreshed. She runs a bowlful and presses her hands to the bottom. She feels scratch lines radiating across the grey plastic. The dripping tap plinks as she examines her fingernails which are not grubby after all; she just feels that they are. It is so difficult to keep anything clean: the children, the house, herself. Everything feels messy, cluttered, disorganised; her thoughts, muddled; her sleep, disjointed and broken. A miniature bubble forms on the back of one hand then dashes to the surface and pops. I’m going to do that, she thinks. Rise up, all of a sudden and…burst. Unless…unless…


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            Her nose prickles and a tear forms in the corner of her right eye and swells rapidly, building into something monstrous like a tsunami. It’s still there, threatening to spill over. The left eye is starting too. Funny how tears form in one eye first. She looks out of the window into the garden but everything is dull and blurry. Like her sense of place. She can’t distil her purpose into anything meaningful. She can’t see the way forward to the bright future of fulfilment. She can’t battle herway out of the black mire she’s trying to wade through.

            John will know what to do. John, ever loving, ever kind, ever thoughtful, ever, ever, ever, so much it suffocates her sometimes.

            Please phone, John. Tell me what to do.

            But John will ask if she’s taking her medicine and she’ll have to lie. Because the medicine makes her sooo tired.

            John is busy; always in meetings. Please phone, John, she urges. She needs to hear his voice but the phone doesn’t ring and Suzie doesn’t move. Her hands are getting chilled; the ache is rising to her wrists. She looks at the ugly blue pipe of a vein with its jagged junctions. She lifts her hands out of the water and lets them drip on the floor. She looks around the kitchen. It’s a good kitchen. The children’s drawings are stuck neatly in a grid pattern on one wall and she hears Ellie’s voice:

            “Mummy, I’ve painted the sea for you. Because you love the sea, don’t you, Mummy?”

            The painting didn’t really look like the sea. It was a dark mass of flaking black, navy and grey with a swish of ultramarine at the edges where the colours hadn’t merged.

            When the phone did ring, it wasn’t John. It was the school, with their usual opening message.

            “It’s Carol Brown from the school office. Don’t worry, Mrs Peters, there’s nothing the matter with Sam. I’m just calling to check if you have Ellie’s birth certificate. We don’t seem to have received it when you brought her for enrolment. Do you think you could bring it in and we’ll copy it?”

            “Yes, yes, okay, I can do that,” Suzie mumbles, dabbing her eyes. Her voice sounds stilted. She clears her throat with a cough then puts the phone down.

            Did she say birth certificate? Or baptismal certificate? Birth, baptism, both connected with water and the flow of liquid.

            “Water. I need water,” she says. This time her voice is clear and Suzie thinks it sounds loud and intrusive in the house. She tries it again. Just one word.

            “Water.” She remembers she hasn’t spoken out loud for some time. Breakfast this morning had been hurried, the children both chattering and clattering. John had been in a hurry too.

            “Early meeting,” he’d said, kissing her on the cheek and striding, carelessly, obliviously, thoughtlessly to the door. “See you tonight, honey. Bye, kids.”

            The sound of her voice seems to spur Suzie into action. She looks at the clock. Nine-thirty. If she leaves right away, she’ll have time to get back.

            She has purpose now and it feels good. Everything here reminds her how crowded her life is. On the stairs, Mum’s gloves, left by mistake. On the spare bed, a tote containing John’s sister’s birthday present. Ellie’s room, stuffed full with bags; Ellie loves bags. She is always playing weird, solitary games which involve going on a trip and her bags contain random objects. Suzie picks one up. Green sparkly backpack, covered in sequins which are always littering the house, turning up in the strangest places: in John’s socks, trapped between the dinner plates, stuck on the outside of a jam jar in the fridge. Inside the bag are a wooden train (pilfered from Sam), a fabric flower, scrunched paper, a toy banana and a single stripy sock stuffed with plastic animals. God knows what flight of imagination this cornucopia of Ellie’s means. Only Ellie knows that.

            She moves to Sam’s room. His is more orderly: space books stacked on his chest of drawers; a picture he’s doing of a comic-book hero; his pencils; an Edinburgh Castle ornament that Mum bought him. His dressing gown is a big lump like some strange creature on the carpet. Suzie leaves it there.

            In her own room, John’s running kit makes a similar heap: he’d been out before work this morning. His jeans sprawl across the chair. On his bedside table are a collection of small toys waiting to be mended. From her own side of the bed, a mental health magazine lectures, soundlessly. He’d bought it for her. She doesn’t want it; its just being there makes her feel awful.

            People want to intrude in her life all the time.

            “I’m only trying to help, Suzie,” Mum said, impatiently, last week. “Because I love you. I think you should go and see Someone.”

            Suzie isn’t sure who Someone is but she doesn’t want to see them, whatever flavour of psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor they are.

            She thinks of her brother, saying:

            “Come to mine for a couple of days, Suzie. We’ll go out. Have a laugh. You can kip on my settee.”

            The thought of going to Dublin is intolerable even though it’s kind of him to offer. Suzie can’t imagine anything worse for someone who already feels hemmed in. A few years ago, she’d have jumped at the idea. But now, it’s impossible. She’d suffocate.

            She tries to swallow then she forces her voice through the lump in her throat.

            “I need space. Don’t they understand? More space than they can give me. I’m a solitary person and I need to be alone. At least for a while until I can think and concentrate. I need to be away from here, away from all the noise and the mess and the confusion and all those voices and demands and opinions.” Her throat aches.        

            She leaves her phone on the kitchen table. When she starts the car, she isn’t sure where she’ll go. First, she’ll drive. Then she’ll keep driving. She needs to get far away.

            At four o’clock, she reaches a suitable place and she sits on the beach and listens to the sea. She’s free. She feels light. The freezing wind blows through her hair and her thoughts become clear. I’m solitary and free, like a polar bear. She thinks of Ellie’s peg at the crèche.

            Ellie, she thinks. Ellie and Sam. Someone’s children.

            She takes off her shoes and socks and leaves them on the beach. She needs to feel the water, bathe her toes. It’s cold. It’s good. It’s strong. It isn’t enough. She lifts her feet, one, then the other. They suck out of their sandy sockets. She wades forwards. A water baby. Like Ellie. Solitary too. Just like Ellie.



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In Search of Self Destruction: The Myth of Self-Care

I’d like to thank Claire Taylor for contributing this article to Mum Life Stories. I know many of you will be able to relate and hopefully glean some insight into your own journey toward ‘Mum Life Self-Care.’

Claire Taylor is a mother, writer, and Licensed Massage Therapist. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared or is upcoming in Yellow Arrow Journal, The Loch Raven Review, Capsule Stories, American Writer’s Review, and Canary Literary Journal. Her writing about motherhood and depression has appeared on Scary Mommy. She is the creator of Little Thoughts, a monthly newsletter of original stories and poetry for children. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland (United States), and can be found online at clairemtaylor.com

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In Search of Self Destruction

I am the person who performs your self care.

With my hands and fingers, elbows and thumbs. An anatomical toolkit of relief. With my heated massage table and scented eye pillows, and an impeccable ability, honed over many years and countless bodies, to instantly find the spot you didn’t realize was so tender, to release the knot you didn’t even know you had.

For a long time, I relished the challenge of softening tight muscles, correcting harmful postural patterns, and bringing release and relaxation to the people who sought my care. I loved feeling useful and needed. Then I had a baby, and like many new moms, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the neediness of my newborn. I grew weary of constant daily touch. I would shift from an infant plastered to my chest, to my hands plastered to strangers for hours straight, then back to the infant pressed warm and helpless against me late into the night.

The feeling of being all touched out didn’t dissipate as my baby grew into a toddler, and I added to it a collection of physical ailments that no amount of stretching or self care of my own was able to alleviate. A deep, sharp pain settled into the muscles along my spine. I felt it whenever my son stretched his tiny hands out to me. “Carry you,” he’d say, and I’d lift him into my arms with a wince. “Carry me,” I’d correct him. My wrists ached. My thumbs throbbed. A hot, aching spark shot through my arm whenever I turned a doorknob, or twisted the cap onto a sippy cup.


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Massage therapists are encouraged to practice regular self care. It improves the long term viability of our careers, prevents burnout, and allows us to work with the energy and flexibility needed to reduce injury and fatigue. We’re supposed to routinely stretch our forearms, backs and shoulders. We should ice our hands. Schedule breaks between sessions to rest and refuel. I do all of my appointments back-to-back to reduce the time that I’m away from my young child. I skip lunch, stuffing small handfuls of trail mix into my mouth between sessions whenever my vision goes blurry, my blood sugar about to crater. I collapse onto the couch at the end of the day and don’t give a moment’s thought to stretching or icing. When I’m worn down from working the last thing I want to do is anything even loosely resembling more work. Even if it would be to my benefit.

Mothers are similarly encouraged to make time for self care. Our doctors and doulas, the moms who came before us, those alongside us in the trenches, everyone asking: are you making any time for yourself? Are you getting out of the house? Finding time to rest? Sleep when the baby is sleeping. Don’t forget to exercise and eat well. Be sure you’re still socializing. Talk about something other than your children. Carve out opportunities to relax and restore. Treat yourself to something special. Take a step back and reconnect to the person you were before you became someone’s mom.

I understand intimately the aches and pains of my clients who are new mothers. Sore backs, curved and curled from breastfeeding and baby cradling. Neck tension from long hours of staring lovingly down at your tiny creation. Feet, knees, and hips fatigued from bearing the full weight of a body with limited core stability. Good for you, I tell them. You did it! You spent an hour taking care of yourself for a change. Or rather, you dedicated an hour to letting me take care of you.

The trouble with self care is that yours is yet another name to add to the list of people you’re responsible for taking care of. I’m tired of taking care of people, myself included. We tell new parents that it gets easier, and it’s true that with time you regain some capacity to care for yourself again. It’s not the ability to feel better that I long for, so much as the permission to fall apart.

During my freshman year of college, I presented a film I made at a conference on depression. One of the first presentations I attended while there was from a young Black professor who asserted that Black women were denied the privilege of experiencing depression. Because of the vital roles they played in their families and communities, she argued, because of limited resources and inflexible schedules, Black women were not afforded the option of succumbing to their own despair. They were the engines that kept the lives around them chugging along. If they stopped, everything stopped, and so they just kept pushing forward, depression be damned.





As a lifelong depression sufferer, I was baffled that anyone could consider this disease a privilege. It’s a privilege to slip into a hole of unshakeable despair? A privilege to not be able to pull yourself out of bed in the morning? To collapse onto your living room floor and stay there for hours because you have neither the strength nor energy to pick yourself up? Depression is a curse, not a privilege. Or so I thought. Now, so many years later, with the benefit of age and experience, and the daily demands of raising a young child, I’m better able to see the truth in the point she was making.

The experiences of my depressed self pre-motherhood were ones of despair and exhaustion, yes, but also indulgence. I could call out sick from work if I absolutely could not gather the energy to get up in the morning. I could go home at the end of a long day and sit in total silence, left alone to fixate on my irrational, self-abusing thoughts. I could stare mindlessly at the television and fall asleep on the couch. I could cry, loudly and outwardly, give myself over entirely to wallowing in my own despair. I can’t do any of those things anymore.

Now the little person I gave life to forces me out of bed in the morning whether I like it or not. There are waffles to be made and cups of milk to be poured. There are games to be played as the sun comes up, and more questions to answer than is reasonable to be asked in a lifetime, much less in the span of an hour before the coffee has even finished percolating. If I cry, my son immediately bursts into tears and shouts, “I don’t like it when you’re sad!” If I let my eyelids droop, heavy with the emotional weight I’ve been dragging around for days, weeks, my whole life, I’m immediately commanded to wake up and keep playing. One day I allowed myself to surrender to my low mood and moved through every interaction with him like a zombie. At one point, he rested his head in my lap and told me he felt sad that “something’s wrong with Mommy.” I went to bed terrified that I was ruining this sweet, sensitive little boy who was too tuned in to my emotions.

As he grows, I am indeed able to carve out more time for myself. I have gotten back to running regularly. I read daily. I’ve started monthly therapy sessions. Sometimes I even get to sit alone for a glorious hour where no one needs anything from me. But no amount of self care can fully sate my desire for the occasional emotional implosion. It’s not the freedom to care for myself that I lost with motherhood, but the freedom to self-destruct. I didn’t even know it was a privilege until it was gone.


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With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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My Mum Life Story: Part 3 – Depression and Divorce

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This is probably going to be the most open and honest post I’ve ever written (so far) and probably the darkest. It covers a decade of my life that I practically pushed under the rug in order to move past. A lot of the details are foggy but the feelings and emotions and life lessons are all too vivid.

If you haven’t already read Part 1 & Part 2 of My Mum Life Story, feel free to do so now or simply read on.

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I Had No Clue

I remember sitting on the cold plastic chair in the hospital waiting room, resting the clipboard on my ever increasing baby bump, filling in the form about my mental health. I very vividly remember thinking “I’m not going to get postnatal depression, I’m going to be fine”. Now I’m not the most optimistic person in the world so it still shocks me when I remember this.

I have struggled with my emotions most of my life, feeling every little thing deeply and constantly criticizing myself when I don’t reach the impossibly high standards I set for myself. Add to this the fact that I’d had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since I was 7 and had been unable to work full-time hours because of it. Did I not realise that Motherhood was more than a full-time job? Had I not read about the effects of severe sleep deprivation? One would think I didn’t realise I was having twins, yes that’s right, not just one life-consuming addition to the family, but 2.

This must have been during the second trimester, that magical 3 month period where “the glow” is at its peak. The morning sickness had finally subsided, my energy levels had increased somewhat and my mood was elevated with joyful expectancy and a naive perception that the rest of the pregnancy would be just as enjoyable.

Whilst I was the type of person to make plans ahead of time in order to get organised and prepared, I was also the type of person who lived in the “now”, thinking on and dealing with the present and all the emotions and feelings that came with that. So because I felt good in that moment, I couldn’t perceive that things could change, and so dramatically, nor that my experiences throughout the coming years would redefine the type of person I was.

Postnatal Depression

As you can imagine, incubating 2 babies was an exhausting task. My energy levels plummeted pretty fast in the 3rd trimester and by the time they were finally born at 37.5 weeks, I was completely over it.

The euphoria of having 2 gorgeous little people, that were part of me, my flesh and blood, with my brown hair and brown eyes, was blissful to say the least. I think my favourite times in life have been those precious few days I’ve spent in hospital getting to know my babies (spoiler alert, I have 5 now) but after coming home, reality hit harder than a freight train.

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I struggled through the days, barely keeping my eyelids open and the nights were beyond horrible. For the first two weeks, while my husband was off work, he would help by changing one boy while I fed the other, but once he went back to work, I was on my own because “he” needed his sleep and apparently I did not. I would rush one baby through his feed while the other one was crying in his cot, but for some reason they both had a habit of falling asleep 5 minutes into a feed and I could not wake them. So I would put the first one down and grab the second one, change him and feed him.

Now, the boys were waking every hour and a half because if one woke up the other would also wake, plus since they were falling asleep 5 minutes into a feed, they would be hungry again not long after. I had had a c-section because twin 1 was breech, so getting up several times of a night was painful and difficult to say the least. After 6 weeks of 5-6 feeds every night, I was beyond tired and was feeling very defeated. The health nurse tried to teach me the twin feed, with one under each arm like little footballs, but every time I put one baby on, the other would slide off. She told me I had to keep them awake by tickling them or talking to them, but it never worked and the dynamics of trying to get two babies onto my lap (without tearing my c-section scar) when no one was around, was definitely a lesson in futility.

I became so overwhelmed and felt so completely useless that when someone suggested I try formula, I abandoned all dreams of exclusively breastfeeding (which I’d assumed would be the only way I could feel like a ‘real’ mum) and switched to bottles.

This made life a little easier, I had two bottles and two hands, life was sweet. They would drink the whole bottle and fall asleep for a few hours at least. Unfortunately since bottles aren’t warm on demand like booby milk, I would have to calmly handle the crying as I ran to the kitchen to heat the bottles, and as I changed two nappies and often outfits if they had leaked through. Calmly handling it, worked for a few weeks but as time dragged on my energy supply went beyond rock bottom and patience was something I could no longer find, no matter how hard I tried.

When they napped during the day, I was finding myself just enjoying the quiet and the alone time instead of catching up on sleep like I should have been, so by the time the boys were 4 months of age, I was completely exhausted and the strength it took to stay awake during the day was like trying to walk up hill on the bottom of the ocean. Unfortunately I wasn’t blessed with good sleepers and every technique I tried for getting them to sleep through the night either didn’t work or required more commitment than I had the strength for (It would be at least 2 years before they would sleep through the night, and by this time I would be pregnant again and in my 3rd trimester).

I was so completely shattered that even thinking about facing another sleepless night made me cry, in fact everything made me cry. There was no energy left in my body, I felt weak, drained, dizzy, lethargic, disconnected and miserable. Little did I know at the time but apparently having children makes Chronic Fatigue worse, and I’d just had twins. My body was protesting, my mind was protesting and my emotions were all over the place. I couldn’t see any hope of things changing (because I was that ‘live in the now’ person) and I wasn’t looking forward to anything at all. The doctor diagnosed me with Postnatal Depression, assuring me that it would get better eventually. Little did he or I know that it was just the beginning of 8 long years of mental torture.

Depression is such a difficult thing to talk about. When your in the midst of it, it consumes you completely, the thoughts and feelings associated control your entire being, sucking the life out of you and causing you to feel like a stranger in your own skin, but when your well again (like now) it’s hard to remember what was so bad, why you let yourself get to that point and how you could have hated yourself so much. I get small reminders of it sometimes when my youngest are sick and not sleeping or when circumstances get beyond my coping abilities but something changed later in my life that brought me to a much better place. (I will talk about this in Part 4)

This is where it gets real, and deep and dark. It’s hard for me to talk about what my mind went through back then but I think it’s important to share the raw realities of depression, so others can understand they are not alone, that there are people who get it, who have been there and come out the other side, stronger and happier.

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Pressure Rising

Not quite sure where to start with this, there’s so much that contributes to depression, so many thoughts and feelings and circumstances. I was overwhelmed to say the least at having two babies at once and even though I had a lot of help from my mother, I felt alone in it when it came to my relationship with my husband. I felt he was unavailable physically and emotionally and I was left to try and deal with the mental load alone. I always managed to find a smile when the camera came out but underneath it all I was dying inside.

When the boys were just 17 months old, I fell pregnant again. We were surprised but excited, thinking how nice it would be to have a little girl. I was incredibly nervous as I was struggling to deal with the first two let alone another one and I was terrified at our first ultrasound that we’d discover a second set of twins. I was shamefully relieved to see just one little peanut on the ultrasound screen! Out of 5 children this would be my one and only little girl.

Taking care of twins whilst pregnant was difficult to say the least, as the Chronic Fatigue worsened again and I suffered a lot of pain in the last trimester. Thank God I had my Mother there to support me, in fact we were living in the same house with them at the time as we were building a house together. My parents were a great source of support, but the dynamics of two mums in the house caused tension every now and then and added to the stress and anxiety that I was feeling.

The doctor had put me on anti-depressants that I would later discover were actually causing more depression and prolonging my symptoms rather than helping them. Plus my doctor failed to inform me that they would cause mild withdrawals in my newborn which sent me into a whirlwind of Mum Guilt that took months to get over.

The birth of my daughter was an exhausting one. I decided to try a natural birth and was in labour for at least 15 hours and had 3 epidurals which didn’t work. I ended up losing a lot of blood and after the umbilical cord had been around her neck, my daughter was not breathing when she was born. It took them working on her with the oxygen mask for what seemed like hours (in reality it was more like a couple of minutes) before she started crying, and I can tell you there was no greater sound.

After being awake all night in labour with an hour of pushing, 3 failed epidurals, 3 tares, a 2 litre blood loss and a very stressful birth, I had to fight immensely hard to keep my eyes open so I could hold my baby and give her her first feed. I didn’t get to sleep until that night and then I was awake every 20 minutes because of the withdrawals that made her want to suckle constantly.

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A difficult birth became a difficult recovery which would lead to two rounds of corrective surgery in the coming years. My daughter suffered reflux and feeding became a struggle that would force me to put her on formula at 3 months of age. I felt like I’d failed her somehow even though I knew it wasn’t my fault. I believed that breast feeding was best for my baby and wanted to continue it for at least a year this time, so there was a great deal of disappointment in that.

So with 3 children under the age of 3, I pushed through the extreme fatigue that came from none of my children being good sleepers (my boys gave up naps 2 months before my daughter was born) and the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that drained me of all energy and joy.

My Darkest Days

It wasn’t all bad, there were many happy moments. Watching my children play with each other and grow and learn was an amazing privilege that kept me going. It gave me a reason to keep getting up every morning despite how intensely difficult it was. They were my life, my breath, my very purpose. God had blessed me with their care and I’ve never felt any greater love on earth than that of my love for my children, but with that great blessing, came great responsibility and I felt the pressure like a rock under thousands of feet under the surface of the earth. I didn’t want to let anyone down but felt like that’s all I did.

I put my children first in every way possible, I came last in my own mind and felt it was selfish to think about my own needs. It was an enormous effort to get out of bed every day, but I did, because my kids relied on me. I built up this idea in my mind of the perfect mum and it looked nothing like me. I did the best I could every minute of the day but couldn’t reach this impossible standard I had set for myself, so mum guilt, frustration, anxiety and depression became my best friends. We spent every moment of the day together, we became inseparable for 8 long years.

I was tormented day and night with despair and hopelessness, believing it would never get any better, hating God for what I believed was his plan, to put me through hell, give me more than I could cope with, give me a condition that made me exhausted and unable to gain any energy, allow me to marry a man I had nothing in common with and who didn’t seem to love or understand me. The thoughts that tortured my mind every minute of the day, wouldn’t allow me to enjoy anything. I couldn’t feel happy, ever. Sometimes I just wanted to die. I hated myself for not being who I wanted to be, who I believed I should be and wished God would take me away from the world and the life that I really thought I hated.

I would get so frustrated with my inability to cope with the chaos of 3 little kids. I would try so hard to stay calm but would inevitably blow up, then hate myself for it and end up crying in the corner of my room, telling myself I was pathetic and useless and didn’t deserve children or even to live really. I was unhappy in so many ways. Unhappy with myself, unhappy with my marriage, unhappy with life at home, unhappy with not pursuing a career first before starting a family, unhappy with my relationship with God and unhappy that I was so unhappy. I was angry, so angry with my life and with myself because I wasn’t finding peace and happiness in all the blessings I had. My world just got darker and darker.

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I tried so many medications, some made me feel suicidal, some made me feel jittery and weak and others made me feel completely numb, I could neither laugh nor cry, I hated this the most, not feeling at all. Eventually someone told me about a doctor in a private practice who was trialing an epilepsy drug with patients with depression so I decided to go and see her. She put me on the medication and it wasn’t long before I was feeling better. The antidepressants were not good for me and I truly don’t believe they are good for anyone. I believe they make depression symptoms worse, not better. This medication was so much better and helped me to be able see the bigger picture.

Whilst I improved, I wasn’t cured (not yet anyway). I could see things in a better light and could see where my problems were, but there were so many areas in my life that needed changing, one of them was my marriage. I tried to work on making my marriage better but felt after a while I was the only one trying to make it work. After a difficult recovery from a tonsillectomy my health declined again and I found I was getting a lot of pain in my joints and muscles. I developed a neuropathy that made my nerves hypersensitive and my scalp felt like it was alive with creepy crawly things. It was the most irritating, frustrating and painful thing I could imagine. Of course this didn’t help my outlook on life and depression began to steal my resolve once again.

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Battlefield of the Mind (Spiritual Growth Series): Winning the Battle in Your Mind

Divorce

In the midst of this I started doing some counselling and came to a decision about my marriage. I wanted out. I found myself hating him. We never talked anymore. I never felt we had any kind of friendship and I didn’t trust him. What he told me was not what he told others and he truly didn’t seem to care about what I was going through. Whether this was true or not, I don’t really know but I know that I felt like I’d made a mistake getting married so young and I was convinced that our relationship was the reason I was so depressed.

I had hated our marriage for a very long time but was taught growing up through the church that God hated divorce and I was under the wrong assumption that if I got divorced, I would go to hell. I tried for so long to make it work and to hang in there for the kids sake, but after hearing about other Christian’s who’d gotten divorced and moved on and reading some Christian literature about God’s grace after divorce, I decided it was what was best for me and (in my mind) him as well. It wasn’t until years later that I would discover the real reason our marriage failed (I will discuss this further in part 4).

So I moved out with the kids, into my parents house (the house we had all built together, before we asked to be bought out) with my husband telling me he would fight for our marriage (he never did) and I began a year of mentally bashing myself for failing to keep my family together. I thought I would be happier with a fresh start. I thought healing would begin immediately but I soon discovered that God was putting me through a gruelling process of refinement that would feel like punishment at the time but produce a shining diamond in the end.

It wasn’t long after we separated that my ex husband found someone else to date and I felt like I was right all along and I had meant nothing to him. I didn’t want him back but my feelings of worthlessness increased to the point that I began comfort eating. My weight increased as did the pain in my joints and muscles, I was always tired, always sad, always finding it difficult to keep up with the kids and wondering what the point to life was. Had God abandoned me? Did he hate me? Was he punishing me for my divorce and my inability to be the good person I wanted to be? Or was it me and my self hatred that was causing me to be in so much pain mentally and physically?

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Declining Health

I was referred to a neurologist and a rheumatologist and diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Whilst it was a relief to finally know what was going on in my body, it was devastating to know that I had a condition there was no known cure for. They put me on very strong painkillers and anti-inflammatories but I found that this only increased my weight and made me feel even sleepier. I was now trapped in this cycle of treating the symptoms only to make the problem worse. I hated it and I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. I never wanted my life to end more than I did at that time in my life. I stopped talking to God completely for a while because I was tired of asking him “why?” and not getting an answer. I was sure he’d stopped listening to me anyway and I felt like I probably deserved it.

Looking back now it was only the grace of God that got me through and kept me from turning to destructive habits and substances like so many people with depression can get caught up in. God was my rock, my foundation that kept me from self-destruction. Only my faith kept me alive and present so that my problems didn’t become my children’s problems.

It was whilst I was in the midst of the total despair and complete self loathing, that God brought along a friend who would introduce me onto the path that would eventually bring me back to him and allow him to transform me from a lowly, ugly caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly, flying free from oppression and darkness, taking me to a happier, lighter place of self discovery and purpose.

That, however is a story for Part 4.

There is so much more to my story than I can cover in just 4 parts but I will share bits and pieces throughout other articles in time. Some things have to stay private for a while, as for many reasons, now is not the time to share it, but one day it will all become part of my Life Story.

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I believe everyone has a story to tell and whether you believe it or not, your story could be an inspiration to many. Many who are on the verge of giving up completely or giving in to all the things that will lead them onto a path of self destruction. I know now there is hope, that nothing is ever pointless or useless. There is a purpose and a plan and a reason for every season under heaven.

Feel free to ask questions or leave comments in the comment section below. I love to hear from my readers.

 


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Looking After Number Mum

Ok, so I know the title doesn’t make a lot of sense but I’m pretty sure all my readers out there are clever enough to work out what my fractured saying is alluding to. To be honest I don’t really subscribe to the idea that we (as humans) let-alone self-sacrificing Mothers are ever number 1, in-front of or above any other person, but after many years (16 in fact) of putting myself last when it comes to basic human needs, I do subscribe to the idea that every now and then we need take some time to make our needs a priority.

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up and carried away with making sure every person in our family has been taken care of, that we have no time left for ourselves, so we start to wear out and break down (see ‘Mum Life Burnout: 5 ways it can effect you and your family‘). Our spirits start to wither and wilt like a flower in the noon day sun and then our family gets a watered-down version of the Super-mum they know and love.


Self Care

I read a blog post the other day by Nicole (sorry couldn’t find a last name), Writer of the blog ‘The Mum Reviews‘ entitled ‘7 self-care ideas make you a happier mum‘, which I found interesting. Her suggestions on how to take care of yourself as a Mum are as follows:

1. Buy yourself little treats that help you slow down and appreciate life.

2. Carve out kid-free time whatever way you can.

3. Style your hair, do your nails, wear perfume, makeup and nice clothes whenever you want (or not).

4. Have reassuring rituals and routines, but break them sometimes.

5. Use your skills for something other than parenting.

6. Exercise. Seriously, this is non-negotiable.

7. Don’t sweat the petty things.

I agree wholeheartedly with all these suggestions. Even if you can’t find time for all of them, picking one or two a day can help you feel less like your the wheels on and old-fashioned horse cart and more like your the jet engines on a rocket ship, when it comes to running your household. Was that an odd analogy? Well…too bad, I like it so I’m leaving it in. I do have a few suggestions of my own however which I’d like to add to the list (Making it 10):

8. Have one space in the house that is “yours”.

Whether it’s a boudoir (or bedroom) decorated in all your favourite colours and patterns or simply an armchair in the lounge room adorned with your grandma’s crochet blanket, you need a little space that is just for you. Somewhere you can relax in an environment that helps you to recharge. Whether it’s beautiful materials, a vase of flowers, a little window that looks out into the garden or a family heirloom oozing nostalgia that uplifts your soul, find a few things that really make “your place” an enticing place to spend your kid-free time.

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Personalised Home sweet home farmhouse Decor Sign (Buy it now) 

9. Spend time with friends.

I’m a big believer in community. Whether your a socialite with a thousand Facebook followers or a withdrawn introverted hermit with 2 cats (and the kids), you’ll most likely find that you feel more ‘alive’ after a bit of social interaction. Sure you have one or two or three (etc etc) children with a million questions and irrelevant “facts” to chatter in your ear all day but spending massive amounts of time conversing with the younger (much younger) generation can be exhausting. If your not lucky enough to have a spouse to offload to at the end of the day (or even if you do), spending just 10 minutes or longer in adult conversation with someone who ‘gets it’ can be a lifesaver to an exhausted, strung-out Mum listening to the 10th hour of “we’re in the wiggle house”.

10. Time to think.

So you may say “but I’m always thinking, all day, every day, about everything!” but what are you thinking about? What to cook for dinner? How to make healthier meals for the kids lunch boxes? How to organize your linen cupboard so that you can find the pillowcases that match your doona cover? My guess is that most of the thoughts that go through your head in a day are about everyone else and the house, am I right? Whilst these things are very important, you need some time to think about what makes you happy or could potentially make you happy. Whether you are a spiritual person or not, prayer can also be a great way to unwind and let go of burdens and things that weigh you down. Taking care of your mental and spiritual health is another vital part of self-care.

So those are my suggestions to add to the list of ways YOU as a mum can look after the one who looks after everyone else. If your not a Mum, then these can be great suggestions you can offer a Mum that you know who is feeling worn-out and overwhelmed. I can honestly attest to the fact that not looking after yourself as a Mother can lead to burn-outs, break-downs and poor physical and mental health, with problems like anger, exhaustion, depression and anxiety. You MUST find a way to take care of YOU, so YOU can properly take care of your family.

Thanks

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How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time eCOVER WHITE

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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