Mental Health Update: I’d rather be happy than normal

People keep saying to me “look at all you’ve been through, look at all you’ve survived, you’re stronger than most”. But I don’t feel strong or stronger than the average person. I just feel human. I don’t think I’ve really gone through more things than the average person does in their life, maybe my bad things have all been squished together into a shorter timeframe. I’d like to think so, if that’s what’s happened, the next few years should be fantastically carefree. But I doubt it.

I’ve spent this evening reading back through old blog posts. Reading the thoughts and feelings I had in 2013/14 when I was really struggling with my mental health and anxiety. To this day I’ve no real idea how I didn’t do myself a serious mischief, but I had good friends who kept me in line as best they could. Without my friends I would have been a complete disaster.

Looking back has given me the chance to reflect on how far I’ve come and how incredibly stable I am these days. I’m quite a bit more boring too, but I think a bit of boring suits me right now.

I’ve always enjoyed going out and painting the town red, but after my Dad died in June I had a word with myself and for the sake of my sanity I decided to focus on my family more and not go out as much, after all, they were grieving just as much as I was. It’s a tactic which has paid off, we are all closer, good things are happening and home feels like a great place to be right now.

I’ve been trying to be an uber-mum and a wonder-wife. Importantly, I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself. I’ve had spa weekends with friends, the occasional night out, a wonderful weekend away with my husband. I’ve had a trip to River Cottage, I’ve taken the boy on some magical adventures and I’ve just done things which make my heart glad. I have plans for more things which will make me and my family happy too.

For years my life has been without balance. There’s a lot of talk about work-life balance and I’ve had it wrong all along. Before Ben came along I worked hard and played hard. Once he arrived I began to struggle to be the girl who loved work, enjoyed going out, to be the wife and the mother, the girl who could do it all. It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t do it all and that I was human after all. Fate intervened and the balance shifted, but I still didn’t have it right.

To be the best me I can be I need to up my mum game. I need to be a better, more supportive wife. I need not to work as hard. I need long walks in the fresh air and decent coffee. I need laughter and love. I need my friends and I need to spend more time doing the things that make me happy, rather than the things I’ve felt I needed to do just to get by. I think focussing on being happy rather than my to do list will eventually force the balance to shift.

It’s good to look back sometimes, to see the person I was and to compare and contrast with the Jane who is sitting here today. I am different. I’m stronger, maybe a little jaded and frayed around the edges. But I’m so proud of myself for pulling myself out of the mire and for just putting one foot in front of the other at a time when that felt almost impossible.

It would’ve been so easy to throw in the towel. I’m glad I didn’t because where I am today is so far beyond how I was back then. I’m no stronger than anyone else, I’m no more resilient. I’m just human and we are born to survive.

Mental Health Update: I'd rather be happy than normal - stronger

Being Brave – Anxiety

I have anxiety disorder. I do a number of things to try and keep on top of it and not let it overwhelm me. One of these things is to try at all times to stay within my comfort zone. Whilst this keeps a lid on my fear-of-new-things anxiety, it does limit me considerably. Slowly I try and incorporate “new” experiences and things into my life, on a measured basis and always with lots of friends and support around me.

Today I launched myself far, far outside my comfort zone, and you know what? No one died, no one lost an eye. This girl done good.

Last year I had two spinal operations, they were moderately successful but I’m left with constant pain and I’m limited in what I can physically do. Looking after a lively young boy by myself can be challenging, it’s ok if we stick to the local highways and byways, as I know people can get to me within minutes if I get in trouble.

Today I launched myself off the deep end and we went on an adventure. One hour on the train by ourselves to Delamere Forest, three hours picnicking and frolicking, followed by another hour on the train by ourselves. Pah! That’s nothing, that’s regular parent stuff I hear you cry. But to me, a girl who can’t lift and carry her own child, who can’t chase after him when he goes AWOL, that’s a bloody big deal.

We coped. I didn’t lose my temper once. Eating painkillers meant I could almost keep up with him. He tried to help mummy and be good, as much as a three year old can try to help and be good.

I was heartily glad to get home, exhausted, to the bone exhausted. But we’d had a really lovely day. He’d really enjoyed having fun with mummy. Mummy who rarely joins in with much of the fun and games that other mummies get to do. It was in truth a truly special day.

Apart from really connecting and laughing with my son, the best thing for me is that’s it’s given me confidence to do more things with him, and it’s squashed some of that fear-of-new-things anxiety. Yes, I’ll take a big gulp before I dive right in again, but I know now that I’ll be alright and I can do things, even though the little voice in me tells me it’s too risky, or too hard, or I just can’t cope with it.

I looked fear and anxiety in the eye this morning. This afternoon I punched it on the nose and put it in its place. Today I’m winning.