Lockdown Log (Day three)

Well, I didn’t see that coming- not! Here’s how we have fared during the first few days of lockdown. Disclaimer: May have lost it more than once.

Day announcement made

Get up at the usual time and dress kids. Grab a cup of tea and proceed to homeschool. Eldest is highly receptive and enthusiastic- weird. Homework never goes as easy! Middle loves doing his worksheets but needs a lot of guidance. Eldest continually tells Middle that his effort at circling words is “absolutely rubbish!”. Middle begins to cry. Too early for wine? Yes, it’s not even 11 am (sigh). Morning work done, tablets permitted whilst I get ready. Any point doing your make up if you can’t go anywhere? What if there is a worldwide shortage of concealer? Decide to just leave it. Coronavirus doesn’t care if I have makeup on I’m sure. By the time I’m ready, the boys have started knocking lamps out of each other and are getting restless. Make lunch then head out for a walk. Every elderly person in the area has decided to do the same. FMAL. I have one flying mad on a scooter, Middle is on the Paw Patrol ride on and Baby is on a toddler trike and moving at the pace of a snail. Have to shout like a madwoman for them to pull in somewhere and keep a distance from others. All of us are coughing so I’m frightened one of them will cough in the presence of others. Seemingly no one knows the correct protocol for social distancing and we are all suddenly afraid of people. Very odd. Come home and have a wee sob. Is this real life even?

Official day one of lockdown

Decide to jump on the bandwagon and start the day with Joe Wick’s PE lesson as opposed to worksheets. Eldest attempts five minutes of said workout and begins to cry as he “can’t do it!”. Middle ignores all Joe’s instructions and has stripped off his jeans and pants and is raving in the corner. Baby is wailing due to my lack of yoghurt getting. It’s 9:10am. Yes, 9:10am! This bodes well. Get myself ready (finally) and prepare to do battle with something called SeeSaw Class for Eldest all whilst Middle’s teacher is sending work through for him to do on an entirely different platform. Resist the urge to scream and cry simultaneously. Having navigated both and, ready to lose the will to live, all are forced outside. Make a cup of tea and enjoy five minutes of peace and tranquility. Forget that the boys cannot spend five minutes on a trampoline without battering each other. Bring them back in. Tea goes cold as I run around getting them what feels like a million different snacks and drinks. In an effort to expel boredom, I try and get all of them to draw a rainbow to put in the window. Eldest adamant that instead of a rainbow, we should draw Mario from Super Mario. Try and explain the whole concept behind the rainbow drawing. No, still insistent on drawing Mario. Middle gives it a good go (see picture above). Possibly the worst rainbow in a window in the whole of Northern Ireland but, God loves a trier.

Day Two

Struggling to even get out of bed as my anxiety levels are through the roof from the second I wake up. Take a call from my mum who is in tears as two confirmed Coronavirus cases in my nan’s care home. I haven’t seen her bar leaving things to her door on Mother’s Day. Feel utterly helpless. I can’t hug her nor make her a cup of coffee. Even have a face to face chat to soothe her worries. She laments the fact she is missing the kids. They are missing her also. I am missing her more. Reality is setting in for everyone. Try and maintain the routine with boys but find it difficult as my head is all over the place. Get them to bed and pour a glass of wine. Read on Facebook that the NI Executive has declared that all off licenses should close with immediate effect. WTAF?! You can take away my freedom but you cannot take my wine. Arlene, have you been in lockdown with my kids? Just plain selfish! Discuss with a friend on WhatsApp about how we could do a weekly booze cruise to Dublin with her sitting in the back to socially distance ourselves. Feel placated and no longer worried about the lack of toilet roll.

Day Three

F#’k homeschooling. I will never ever again say anything negative about a teacher. The novelty has worn off. Meanwhile, I still attempt it as I am so worried about Eldest falling behind when he has a referral to Occupational Therapy in place. We may not survive this. Oh, stand-alone off licenses can now stay open! Maybe we shall survive after all! Middle appears to be taking the lockdown very seriously and has self isolated in his bed for most of the morning. That one loves his comfort! Up you get! Jesus Christ, Baby has started asking “why?” about everything going. Also, anything I try and do for him results in him screeching “I do!” whilst having a complete fit. If there is a God, is he there? If so, can you send a cleaner my way? Just realised my house has fallen to absolute pieces. Thanks!

To be continued. If I survive the next few days…..

My Brain Hath Deserted Me Again

I cannot stand depression. If I could kick it in the face I would (and multiple times). Just when you think you may be turning a corner, even just a little one, it knocks you back down and floors you. It sucks your happiness from you, your motivation and your positivity.

Every day I am struggling to get out of bed as I know I have to face reality. From the second I open my eyes (if I’ve even managed to sleep) I feel so overwhelmed regarding everything I have to do. I was never like this before. I ran a military operation in my house. The second the kids came in, they were organised for the following day. I had set cleaning chores that I would complete on certain days and would have a freak out if, for some reason, I had to neglect them. In hindsight, this is what probably kept me somewhat sane. Now I just don’t care at all.

The more it continues, the more upset I get. Because I feel like I’m doing everything within my power to counteract it. Yesterday I felt so low that I could have cried all day. I have three kids though and that wasn’t an option. So, I got us all dressed and we took their scooters out and went a long walk. Chaos ensued as usual with them all speeding ahead of me and ignoring any kind of road safety rules. Normally I would return home and just laugh about the stress. I had nothing. I walked home with them (scooters under my arm as per) and I felt nada. Devoid of any emotion at all. So I brought them out the front with a frisbee (one of our favourite things to do). I threw it to them, ran back and forth and still, I felt nothing. Even as I watched them have so much fun, I was aware that I was merely going through the motions to placate them. To make them think that mummy is ok. That mummy is not drowning. That mummy may be at the end of her tether. That mummy is quite simply and honestly, burnt out. Because no matter how low I am feeling, they must come first. There is no pause button. You have to just get on with it. This makes the internal battle with the brain signals rage on. With the guilt mainly. The dreaded ‘mum guilt’ on top of all the other guilt. Even the guilt I felt last week about Eldest and his handwriting. When you are in this frame of mind, it is so difficult to think logically. This is what I hate the most. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell me to think otherwise, it will not compute. Because I am so low anyway.

It’s just a vicious cycle that I am entirely at a loss as to what I can do about it. I don’t want my tablets increased again as to me, this is defeat. After counselling, CBT and everything else I have done. Can someone just flick a switch and send me back to me again, please? Not even asking for a friend this time.

I Got 99 Problems But Turning 34 Ain’t One!

Today I turned thirty-four. Yikes! As a teenager, I would have officially deemed that as ‘ancient’. You know it’s bad when you have to keep scrolling down at the age range section upon signing up for things.

Leading up to my birthday, Eldest asked me what present I would like from him, being careful to remind me that he ‘would not be spending his money, however’ (MY money son, that you stole). After contemplating for a while, I replied ‘I would like you boys to say thank you when I do things for you. I would also like you all to stop stripping off the moment you get into the house and leaving various items of clothing strewn in every room’. He looked at me like I had just asked him for a million pounds, then responded, ‘I can definitely do the thank you thing but I don’t think I can do the other one’. At least he is honest and know’s his limits I suppose.

On the morning of my birthday, the boys bounded in filled with excitement. They then proceeded to open all my presents on me. I don’t know why I expect anything different each year. They then fought over who could cuddle me first. Eldest flung himself over me, Middle started kissing my arm up and down (randomly) and Baby was throwing a right fit as he couldn’t get anywhere near me despite his attempts to climb over the other two. As the chaotic scene around me unfolded, I thought to myself, they may not say thank you, they may strip naked continually, they may drive me bat shit crazy on occasions, they may fight and whinge for most of the day but, they do actually love me. What more could a girl want on her birthday?

Today I have found myself reflecting on last year as a whole. I lost myself for most of it. I’ve drowned in motherhood, I’ve fought severe depression and at times I’ve just felt like I wanted to run away. Runaway and have one day of zero responsibilities and zero military organisation. A day to just sleep and recoup, a day to maybe go get my hair done and be pampered. I guess, a day to find me again! You know the person I was before all this? A person who didn’t get anxious, who was motivated and saw positives in everything. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the boys, I don’t know what the outcome would have been this year. I really found myself in the darkest of places without the will or want to even fight it. They kept me going because, you can’t just stop being a ‘mum’, despite how bad you feel. They need interaction, bathed, fed and homework completed. When at times my brain was deserting me, I was pulled out of it by having to go get one of them milk or whatever else they were demanding. Because, despite how bad I felt in myself, my love for them never diminished. My need to ensure that they were ok and cared for never wavered. They are my greatest achievement at the age of thirty-four after all.

My aim for this birthday year is simple. I want to be more relaxed with regards to everything I feel I have to do. I want to be able to say f*ck the cleaning and tidying and go have a bath instead. I want to be able to ask for more help when it comes to family. I want to go out once a month and eat a meal in absolute peace and quiet. I’m going to demand this. I’m going to put myself first, even if it’s only once a month. Because, if I don’t, the cycle continues. The boys see women as mere robots, there to serve their needs whilst neglecting their own. I’m pretty certain that’s not the example I want to set. I want them to treat women with the utmost respect. To appreciate them for everything they do. I want them to be considerate and loving towards them. I can’t expect them to do all that whilst I sit here self-loathing and running myself ragged can I? It’s time this mama toughened up and started laying down the law with regards to self-care and me time. I had been doing so well before.

Chasing Away the Mum Guilt

I have a confession to make. I have been doing CBT for awhile now. No, I haven’t started smoking some kind of new age cannabis oil to relieve my stress (not after a whole day spent in an Amsterdam coffee shop resulted in me mistakenly determining that I was being abducted by ISIS). Actually, I have been attending weekly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions. Because, lets face it, anti depressants are only masking things. They will never fix the negative thoughts that lead to me actually feeling depressed in the first place.

My session yesterday really got me thinking and I knew right away that it would help some of you also. I was explaining how, when I shout at the kids after a very long day, I feel awful. That I go to bed mulling it over and over and regretting why I hadn’t just taken a deep breath and got on with it. How, the next day I will apologise profusely to whichever boy got the yelling at. She stopped me there and then and asked ‘what do you do when you receive a compliment Grace?’. I was slightly taken aback. ‘Huh?’ I responded. ‘Well’ she said, ‘you’ve just told me you run a mum blog. A blog were you show that motherhood isn’t perfect. That it’s difficult, yet here you are beating yourself up. What do you do when a fellow mum let’s say, gives you a compliment?’. I thought of my besties and how they are always bolstering me. Of all the lovely messages I get from you all thanking me. ‘I feel like I don’t deserve compliments and usually list all the reasons why the compliment is wrong’ I honestly replied. ‘How do you think that makes the person who has given you it feel?’ she enquired earnestly. I dissolved into floods of tears. ‘It probably makes them feel shit’ I said, through sobs. ‘I don’t want to make anyone feel that way’ I added. She nodded.

The session continued with her giving me some homework. She asked me to write down every negative thought I have. It’s 10am as I type this and I have written half an A4 page. She also asked me to write down every compliment I receive. From 7pm yesterday, I have a full A4 page. One friend told me I have inspired her as a mother, one told me I’m great at twerking (which I’m not but, god loves a trier!) and one told me I am so good at giving others confidence. Normally I would have argued that these compliments weren’t warranted nor, deserved. Instead, I replied to everyone ‘thank you for the compliment’. Because their compliment made me feel good and I want them to feel good for having given me it.

It really is as simple as changing how you react in your own mind. Instead of thinking ‘I am a bad mum, I shouted so much today’, we should say ‘it was a long day and, we are human’. God knows we all got yelled at and we turned out ok. Well, my mum might disagree! Let’s all try and be more positive. Because, at the end of the day, if we survive each day with everyone still alive- that’s utterly fantastic! You are all doing great. You can reply ‘thank you for the compliment’:)

What I Learnt This Week……

On Monday I may have possibly had a breakdown of some sort. I just thought I was having a wobbly moment at the time but, I realise now, it was possibly more than that.

I’m not even sure how it got to that point. I had been severely sleep deprived with middle and then awoke to a barf fest from baby. But, normally I’ve got it. Deal with it, get ready. Look outwardly like I haven’t been dealing with utter chaos. That’s more for my own sanity.  Instead, the tears just would not stop. I literally couldn’t stop them! My body threw up a year’s worth of tears it had stored up for so long. What did I think? Well, I was embarrassed mainly. Get over it and get on. But, this time I found I couldn’t. I had to call my mum who was utterly panicked. This is her strong daughter who always has it together. Her strong daughter that is a great mum but has broken. My mum placed me in the shower and all I could think was ‘ my mum has seen me naked for the first time since I give birth to eldest and she randomly showed up in the delivery suite’. This resulted in me crying more.

That was a bad day right? The next day, for the very first time, I actually started having panic attacks. I didn’t even know these existed. I literally felt, at that stage, that my brain was deserting me. But, how could I let that happen? My mum, sister and dad worked together to look after my kids that day. I felt utterly useless. Whilst having a sob and, thinking about how many things I’d neglected the previous day, I decided f@ck the cleaning, f@ck the washing, self care is the way forward. Why was I even contemplating those things? Well, because it doesn’t ever stop! But, I took myself to bed and slept for hours. I woke up in a panic messaging every family member that had the boys. Where they ok? Had they behaved? When can they come back? Because, I missed them. I worried they would know that their routine had been disrupted.

When my sister returned with eldest in tow, she told me he had said to her ‘mummy is really sad right now’. My amazing sister told him ‘everyone gets sad sometimes, it’s okay’. And, it is! I had to royally lose it to even think to ask for help. The main thing is, the help was there when I actually asked. Eldest hugged me so much when he came back and told me he loved me. He knew something was up.

The last few days I’ve worked hard to be my normal self. Middle has made me laugh profusely with the zero f@cks he gives with any kind of decorum ‘mummy, can you wipe my bottom, biggest poo ever- yes!’. He also makes noises that I didn’t even make in labour whilst doing so! Eldest, being as sensitive as he is, has done nothing but bestow kisses upon me and cuddle me (yes) and, baby is still trialling my kitchen cabinets apart and getting ready to walk. Even he has given me lots of impromptu kisses. I’ve realised that they all sense this. Obviously it hasn’t stopped the battering hours between 6-8pm. But, I guess kids have empathy in the moment purely. I’ve got this though, let’s get back to normal! Falling apart for me, has made things fall together. Please ask for help if you are drowning, don’t be ashamed. Sometimes people need it spelt out. These days we are relying on grandparents to cover childcare during working days and therefore feel like we can’t ask for a break come the weekend. Who want’s to start a childcare party night were we all converge, drink wine and leave them with the men?

 

Why It’s Time To Talk And End The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health!

Today is ‘time to talk day’ ladies. A day in which we should all be talking about mental health openly and honestly. After all, one in four of us will suffer from some kind of mental health problem and yet, there is still a shame attached to having these sorts of problems. Some of you may know and, others may not but, I have been quite honest about my own struggles with regards to mental health: https://youandmeplusthree.uk/2018/05/03/why-its-ok-not-to-be-ok/ I wrote this about my struggles with postnatal depression not so long ago. At first, I just put it down to the kid’s sending me absolutely batty but, it turns out it was much more than that.

After eldest, I suffered from postnatal depression. I didn’t realise this at the time however and just thought I was being overly emotional what with the lack of sleep and constant crying (him and me). I tried to let it slide for months, ignoring how I felt and making excuses for why I felt that way. I was tired, I was so busy, making bottles and changing nappies was so monotonous and, finally, I was just feeling this way now but it would eventually pass. Alas, it didn’t and I found myself on antidepressants for over six months. I told very few people. I was embarrassed and almost frightened that they would consider me a failure as a new mum.

With middle, I was wobbly afterwards. Not as bad as before but, also not great. His birth had been quite traumatising for me and he suffered badly from reflux and colic. There were days he would cry for four hours straight. My mum came to stay to help me one week as hubby was away in America with work. She left after two nights it was so bad! I found it very hard to bond with him, I’m not going to sugar coat it. I felt awful that I couldn’t make it better for him and viewed myself as a useless mother. The guilt I felt surrounding the lack of bond, made me extremely down and anxious. But, I got through it and came out the other end once he was on solids. Now he is a walking terror but, one that makes me laugh daily with his huge, gregarious personality. I still feel guilty to this day for feeling how I did when he was a baby. There’s the mum guilt again!

This time, with baby, was entirely different. I actually developed full-blown depression whilst pregnant with him. There were many reasons for this looking back. Mainly wondering how I would cope with three and the stress of looking after two other children whilst carrying what felt like a rhino in my tummy. When I gave birth, things got much worse. I didn’t even want to get out of bed most days. Which, is not an option at all when you have kids. Meeting friends filled me with dread and I retreated into myself. Motivation was not to be found and I didn’t even recognise myself any more. The feelings I had felt throughout his pregnancy came back to haunt me. How could I have thought those things? He was perfect and I was so in love! This quickly manifested itself in me becoming obsessed with every little thing that could be wrong. His weight, his eyes, oh my god- cradle cap! Basically, my anxiety was through the roof. I was placed on anti-depressants once again. These then had to be doubled as there was no change. Now I find myself having to wean myself off the ones I am on currently so they can be changed to another type. I’ve also attended counselling sessions and enrolled on a course that promises to boost my self-esteem and confidence. I am fighting against it with every part of me yet it still defeats me most days.

It’s time that we talk about our mental health to others and, especially, those who don’t understand it. How will they ever learn if we hide away from sharing how it affects us? No one wants to wake up each day feeling sad and hopeless. I’m also a firm believer that today’s society is causing more and more people to feel this way. We are expected, as women especially, to be all things to everyone. Wife, mother, cleaner, cook and worker. There are not enough hours in the day and it’s no wonder we are all feeling so overwhelmed. If you feel this way please talk to someone and don’t suffer alone. Even if you don’t suffer from mental health problems, make a point of speaking to someone who does. Ask them if they are ok over a cup of tea. Sometimes all we need is to feel supported and understood.