I debated sharing this really personal story for a long time. I worried about what people would think of me. What would my family think? What would my friends think?What would my former school friends think? What about my work colleagues? I need not have worried, I got nothing but support, but it was still a difficult story to share. This is an important story though.
I suffer from a stress and anxiety disorder and it all came to a head in late 2016. I was working from home one day and I felt horrendous. The stress and anxiety were constant. I felt like I couldn't keep up with life. I couldn't keep up with my own expectations. My tolerance of almost everything was zero. I woke up every day and in my head, I had a picture of how the day was supposed to go. If it veered off course, even in the slightest way, I couldn't handle it. And anyone with children knows that things very rarely go to plan; children don’t do what you want all that often.
A lot of days I cried. I cried because I couldn't deal with all that had to be done. If I decided I needed X, Y and Z done, they had to be done, even if that meant getting no downtime at all. I cleaned the house almost every minute I was in it. I got stressed if the kids messed it. I took it out on them. I freaked out if they looked for a cracker after I had vacuumed the floors. I hid toys that they loved because they were messy. I constantly planned excursions with the kids because when they weren't in the house they couldn't mess it on me. And when they did mess it up, they were afraid of my reaction. So much so that one day I was called into my son's playschool. They were a little concerned that he was constantly looking for reassurance. If he dropped a toy in his classroom, he jumped and immediately apologised. My child was apologising for being just that, a child.
Frustration consumed me. I couldn't deal with the kids acting up at all. I was tough on them and every single day I felt so so guilty for it. But I couldn't stop it. I felt like a sh*t mother. My head was telling me I was ruining their childhood. My stress and anxiety was affecting them in a huge way.
Everyone was walking on eggshells in the house. My husband was afraid to say things to me for fear of my reaction. Fear of my overreaction. My head was telling me that he was no help around the house. My head told me he was happy to let me do everything and then get stressed because I had to do everything. I didn't have to do everything. Far from it. Himself is genuinely amazing around the house and with the kids. He always has been. My head thought that what he was doing wasn't the right way of doing things though. I thought he was having a go at me when he wasn't. I took everything personally.
I got my knickers in a twist about every day things. I was utterly obsessed with getting places on time. If I was running even a tiny bit late I actually broke out in a sweat. I got super flustered. In most cases the reason why I was late was just normal things with the kids; they couldn't find their shoes, they couldn't find the toy they wanted to bring or my four-year-old son needed the loo just as we were about to go out the door. I may have only been going to the supermarket to pick up a few supplies but my head had told me the plan you see. It said I had to leave at a certain time and be back at a certain time even on days when I had no other plans or didn't have to be anywhere else.
I wasn't nice to some people. My relationship with my mother was at an all-time low. She was the same great mother she has always been, but my head let things she did drive me insane. I was a bitc*h to certain people, a passive-aggressive bit*h.
For the most part, I kept how I felt under wraps. Apart from my husband, only one or two friends knew how I was feeling. Only one of those actually witnessed me in full stress and anxiety mode regularly, I hid it from the rest.
The strange thing about it all was that I knew the way I was carrying on wasn't right and that it wasn't normal but I couldn't stop it. Funnily I wasn't in the slightest bit unhappy with life. In fact I felt so happy to have a great husband, two beautiful children, a secure home and a job I enjoyed. For months I promised myself I would sort it out. I promised to get better. I even made an apportionment with a counsellor but she had to cancel the appointment and I never re-scheduled.
Then came that October day last year.
I woke up and shouted at the kids. I made them cry. I got them off to the childminders and came home and cried myself. I couldn't do it anymore. I needed help. I chanced my arm and rang my GP for an appointment. An hour later I was in his office. I bawled crying as I told him everything. He listened. It was such a relief to be there. He told me I was suffering from stress and anxiety.
He prescribed me an SSRI (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). A happy pill. An antidepressant. He recommended Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) too. I left feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, but I was worried too. Worried about taking happy pills. I told myself that I’d tell nobody about it, only a select few.
I never went for CBT. Why? I couldn't afford to. Simple as. If you are a parent reading this you’ll understand that. I knew I probably should have, but the mortgage had to be paid, the childminder had to be paid, food had to be put on the table, the cars had to be taxed and insured etc.
I’m lucky, the SSRI prescribed for me worked. It worked quickly too. I didn't feel happy or high, I just felt normal. Like me of old. My kids had a mammy they wanted to be around. They could eat crackers in peace and play with Play-Doh. I didn't rush anymore. I didn't freak out if I didn't put on a pile of washing every day. I vacuumed once a day, after the kids went to bed, instead of ten times a day. We stayed at home and played. I listened to them and realised a cup of spilled juice can just be wiped up with kitchen paper. None of it was a big deal anymore.
The whole experience has put everything in to perspective. I was sweating the little things before. I don’t now. I am human and the kids drive me insane some days but that’s just life, isn’t it?
My son is a much happier little boy now that he can be himself at home. The playschool have noticed a great change in him. In fact everyone close to him has noticed the same.My relationship with my mother is great again. My sense of humour is back. I am in a good place.
I’m not sure where all the stress and anxiety came from. I don’t think I ever grieved properly after my father died seven years ago; I felt good after my son was born but my stress definitely escalated after his little sister arrived. I put it down to going from one to two children. Perhaps it was Post Natal Depression. I don’t know. All I know is I feel good again, like a normal functioning human.
I didn't write this to advocate the use of SSRIs. It’s just my story of my stress and anxiety. If you’re reading this and feel the way I did, there is light at the end of the tunnel. That’s all I want you to know. For some, it is therapy or CBT, but the first step is to take some kind of positive action.
Thankfully, now I can look back and laugh at some of it now. Now I’m off to vacuum, the kids ate a load of crackers this evening and my floors are destroyed!