Self-Worth

Mapping a pathway for my new future self is turning out to be hard work. The ‘new’ improved me strategy is changing from the stay-at-home-mummy to the ‘working mother’. Also, my end goal is to change career direction and move into a different area of work. However, the process is slow going. There is a dusty CV to be updated and uploaded; enrolling in online courses that will hopefully be helpful in upskilling what I’ve already got to offer the working world; putting my ‘feelers’ out into the world by querying friends and family if they know of any jobs and so on. Part of that strategy is trying to create and update my LinkedIn profile and create opportunities for keeping in touch with the industry I’d like to work in via social media outlets like Twitter. The process in itself is time-consuming and when I peer closely at our economy, the jobs that are on offer are far and in-between at best. Not to mention, not all jobs are advertised or even exist yet. Whenever, I have put out a completed job application and then followed it up, I am constantly hearing from the gatekeepers that they’re sure the application has been received – mine and the other 300 applicants, all vying for the same position on offer.

As difficult as it is, the only comfort I can draw upon is that I know I’m not the only one going through this difficult process. Finding a job is not an easy feat in the current economic climate. At my last hairdresser appointment, I was being regaled stories of other stay-at-home-mothers who were also trying to find part-time work opportunities. Some of them hoping to land the job that fit around school hours, so that they could still do the other 24/7 unpaid job of being a mother/carer/wife/bottom-snot-wiper/negotiator (you get my drift I’m sure) the other 99 per cent of the time!

Thrown in amongst the mix of job hunting is the feeling of anxiety that I’m trying to quash down. When I speak to my other half of my working life goals and the end goal I’m trying to aim towards, he is seemingly not very interested/supportive of hearing about where I’m headed. When I queried his lack of support, he was quick to point out that of course he supported me and my ideas but he was just trying to be realistic about getting a job. His mantra: just get a job first, then you can plan for your career change/goals/study/and so on. I fully appreciate where he’s coming from. I am not putting the blinkers on, if I say so myself, as I am aware that there are bills to be paid. But to me, someone who has been out of work for four years now, I didn’t feel as if I could just take on any kind of job. I definitely don’t think I’m better than anyone else. It’s just that when you’ve been a fulltime mummy for a period of time, you cannot help but feel ‘out of the loop’. As much as I have tried not to let it affect me, my self-worth has taken a bit of a battering. Thus, if I were to simply go out into the world and just do any old job (read as: check-out chick at my local Coles) I think it would erode at my self-worth big time. Not to mention that I’d be terrible at retail, having to stand in one spot all day; I would love chatting to customers, but then I’d probably be the slowest check out aisle in the store! Okay, so the list is endless and there’s not enough room here to even begin such an analysis.

Sigh. Is anyone feeling this? Am I just being too picky?

Four

If someone had looked me in the eye more than five years ago and said, “You will go through a difficult time after the birth of your first child and feel a sense of loss of self and your identity” – or words to that effect – I would have scoffed at them. I would have raised my eyebrows and questioned such a negative futuristic vision of personal experience. Disbelief and disdain. In my eyes, motherhood is supposed to be a happy and momentous occasion; not riddled with issues such as depression (how green was I?). Now, on the anniversary week of my first-born and only child turning four years of age (the Saturday just gone), I look back at where I’ve been and how far I’ve travelled in this life and I can honestly say that I’m better off for the learning curve that postnatal depression has provided. The personal insight has been invaluable and I realise that I wouldn’t change a thing. And so it is that I mentally pat myself on the back and celebrate this milestone – my son turning four years old. I’ve come a long way.

Milestones can be found everywhere in our lives. From the moment we celebrate reaching our 21st birthday, getting our first car, landing our first job, having our first child and so on. There are so many firsts and they all deserve a mention and, for some, deserve equal celebration. When it comes to depression and anxiety, it really is no different. Each day is a milestone, each week and month that you manage to get yourself out of bed and insist that your mind also “get up and at ’em” is in equal measure something that should be celebrated; to give yourself a ‘pat on the back’ and a good talking to in the bathroom mirror for being able to ‘raise yourself up’ to everyday living.

These days, as my son screams around the house on his little four-wheeler “car”, I manage to remember at times not to yell at him or have a negative outlook on some of the things he does. After all, yes he is only four, but I celebrate this because there was once a time where everything seemed too hard and I wasn’t coping; trying to operate as a functional human being with a brain that was riddled with the heavy weight of depression. I can fully appreciate that my son’s brain is still developing and he has a lot of things about life to learn. Having said that we are at the stage of his development where he has learnt the art of fibbing. He’s also learnt to suddenly push all of my buttons – all at once! Such is the life of a toddler…and I’ve become accustomed to his now daily worship of the word “No”. He uses it so often that it is painstaking to hear anyone else use the word, including myself! (But that’s another blog post…).

There are still days where I find myself mentally struggling with the prospect of facing the day ahead. Most often than not, those days that I struggle are due to not getting enough sleep. Sometimes it’s simply because I haven’t honoured myself in pursuing some ‘me-time’ or downtime away from my child. Even if it’s just reading a chapter of a book (reading is one of my favourite things to do, but is considered a luxury these days) or taking some time out to catch up with a good friend for a coffee. But those off days are far and in between now. I celebrate that fact too.

In the early days of my parenting journey, my perspective was skewed by negative thoughts fuelled by broken sleep and a hormonal tidal wave that I had absolutely no control over. Sadness enveloped me tirelessly each and every day. I look back at how I used to be and think to myself how blessed I was to have the support of my family – in particular, my husband and my dear, dear mother. I still have their support now. However, I am on the mend and able to identify the ‘signs’ – not enough sleep, not eating properly and so on. I may not always do the right thing by myself, but I know to look out and after myself. I am coping much better and better equipped to ‘manage’ my depression and anxiety symptoms, as they flit in and out of my every day life.

Is there something you can celebrate? It doesn’t have to be earth shattering or worthy of a fireworks display necessarily. It can be absolutely anything under the sun. From little things, big things grow.

Satellite

Purple was my mother-in-law’s favourite colour. Whenever I see the colour purple, I think of her and immediately my memories draw upon our time with her when she was alive and still relatively well. My mind can cast itself back to the time when she was hospitalised on a few occasions, but was still mobile, her legs still functioning with ease, and I can see our son sitting on the bed with her colouring in. She had at one time picked up the purple pencil and asked him, “And did you know that purple is Nanny’s favourite colour?”. Her grandson had simply nodded in the way toddlers absentmindedly do when they are busy with a task. My husband and I had looked at one another and smiled at their close proximity. As a grandmother, she revelled in being able to simply sit and watch him. At times, when she was able to sit close enough to him, such as on the hospital bed colouring in pictures, she would lovingly stroke his little head and say, “You beautiful little boy. Do you know Nanna loves you very, very much?”. Thinking back to those days makes my heart ache. Her love for our son, her only grandson, was clearly evident.

It was her wish that whenever our son queried his Nanna’s whereabouts, that we point out the moon and stars and say, “Wave to Nanna. She’s up there with the moon and stars.” And our son has somewhat accepted this as fact, in only the way a toddler can without judgement and too much questioning. But there’s no doubting that his little brain is trying to process that Nanna has gone away and that we don’t visit her in the nursing home anymore; that there are no phone calls to her, where he can tell her about his day.

I was hurriedly applying the final touches of my makeup the other morning, trying to quickly get myself ready to take my son to kindergarten, when he suddenly appeared in the open bathroom doorway and stated, “Mama, we need to get a satellite”. I wasn’t really paying him much attention at first because I was rushing and focussing on what I was doing. But I still gently asked the question, looking over my shoulder at him briefly, “And why is that love?” What a cutie, I thought to myself. Where did he get such a big word from?

He had been quietly watching the morning cartoons and I had no doubt that one of them was “Ready, Jet, Go!”. The main character being Jet, a young boy from a planet called Fortron 7 (ever heard of it?). It follows his adventures with several of his Earth friends, who also happen to be his neighbours. I vaguely recall thinking that a storyline with satellites orbiting the Earth must have been the latest episode. I had quickly glanced at my watch to see how much time we had left before we absolutely had to run out the door. My son answered me with, “We need a satellite so that we can talk to our friends in space”.

“Well love,” I was pretending to give such a purchase some serious consideration, “A satellite is pretty big and costs a lot of money. We also don’t have the room for one”.

Watching his little face, I could see that he wasn’t turned off by such practicalities. “Um…okay. But we still need to get one”. His tone was adamant now.

“But why do we need to get one love?” I had finished what I was doing and turned around to give him my full attention, “Who are you going to talk to?”

At this point, he had only slightly rolled his eyes, as if exasperated that he had had to explain the plain obvious to me.

“So that we can talk to Nanna of course!”.

His response totally threw me and I could suddenly feel the pinprick of tears in my eyes. With my vision beginning to blur, I managed to satisfy his request for a satellite by saying, “Well…let’s talk to Daddy about it when he comes home from work then”. He seemed happy with this and skipped off back to his cartoon watching. I, on the other hand, had to compose myself and quickly gather our things together, including my son’s school bag before madly rushing us out the front door. After dropping him off to his kindy for the day, I felt slightly heavy with the sudden well of emotions from my son’s innocent request.

The Daily Grind vs Influenza

Woe is me. As I sit here and write this, my head hurts. The last few weeks have been a struggle: both mentally, physically and emotionally. Why? Because I don’t make a very good sick person.

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This year the flu hit our household pretty badly. Talking to those around me from my doctor to friends and the other mothers at my son’s playgroup, I’ve come to understand that we’re not the only sufferers. Many others have been hit by the flu bug this year and have struggled to get through it and then back to ‘normal’ health. Nonetheless, I have honestly, truly, really struggled. We all have.

My hubby, who is usually a tower of strength, was knocked for six and also found it difficult to get through the daily grind. The only silver lining here was that our 3.5 year old was struck down by a virus for only a few days and then thankfully made a quick recovery. Amongst the three of us, he is the healthiest one. The flip side of this meant that the poor little guy always wanted to go out and/or play, but mummy and daddy were feeling so poorly that we couldn’t take him out anywhere!

To add insult to injury, I didn’t just suffer the usual suspects: sore throat, tiredness, coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose, fever, and so on. With all the coughing that took place, I also managed to pull several muscles in my ribs on the right side of my body. As I sat in a chair opposite my GP regaling my sorry state, I felt silly also explaining that the simple act of coughing so much had caused me to pull muscles! My pain scale was about a 7 out of 10 when standing or sitting still but quickly escalated to 12 out of 10 when moving! Driving to and from anywhere was a one-handed affair with much grimacing. I didn’t realise how many muscles worked together from both sides of the body to perform the everyday simple tasks that keep a household running!

Dotted throughout our fluey indoor hiatus, the Perth weather was going through its transition from winter to spring. So despite the rainy weather of winter, there were some beautiful sunny days which we couldn’t take full advantage of due to our ill health. It made me feel worse. The waiting. Wanting our bodies to be rid of infection. This brief intermission from our normal daily lives was making me feel, to be honest, quite depressed.

To keep on top of my anxiety and depression, I decided to seek counselling from a clinical psychologist in order to assist with my recovery and management of my mental health. However, due to the flu, I had to reschedule my appointment. Ever since I was first diagnosed with postnatal depression, it would have assisted me greatly to seek professional help right away. But my stubbornness, or my pride, or my feelings of shame and embarrassment took over instead and I put off the inevitable. That is, until about a year and a half ago. Then I took a sabbatical of sorts because I felt ‘well’ and thought I didn’t need to see the psych anymore. However, after about a six month break, I am ‘touching base’ once more. It feels good to be able to know when I need to get a bit of a top-up in my mental health. It feels empowering that I can do something for myself.

When I finally made it to my rescheduled appointment, my psych stated that it wasn’t just going through the flu itself, but the recovery process that also takes a toll. She stated that most people after the flu were discovering that their bodies were extremely tired. I felt so validated when I heard her comment. Admittedly, I was mindful throughout my session of not wanting to complain too much. This is why keeping up with everyday life these last few weeks has sometimes felt overwhelming for me. Life, after all, hasn’t paused or stopped and waited for us to get well. It has continued to go on. So instead of whinging or complaining, I’ve been doing my best to keep pushing on to get through each day.

I hate being sick. It slows me right down and I resent that. My frustration levels were getting quite high when I couldn’t do simple tasks and/or I could feel the lethargy and tiredness taking over. Funny thing is before getting sick I was so over doing the daily grind day in and day out. I so desperately wanted a break from it. But when I was really sick and feeling down, I just wanted to return to the daily grind with my usual gusto and energy. I just wanted to get things done!

The verdict: Give me the daily grind any day…