20 minute showers and the Adult Time-Out Chair

I’m no expert on depression, anxiety or general parenting. Far from it. But I know what works for me.

Every mum craves it, and rarely gets it. Kids hate it, and dads/partners question it.

Time for YOURSELF.

Today my daughter has watched Colin Buchanan (2 times), Hi 5 (once) and sat on my lap for an hour while I change up my resume, shower and cry on the phone. Now usually I would feel guilty that I haven’t given her any educational toys, taken her outside or done crafts with her. But today, I don’t care. And some days, that’s exactly what you need.

Time for yourself. While we all dream that this could mean a day with no children, walking along the beach drinking wine and gossiping with your best friend and eating a gloriously large and expensive meal for dinner, unfortunately real life sometimes gets in the way. So, we improvise. Over the years I have adjusted exactly what is ‘my time’. Some days it is getting home from work and laying on the bed in uniform and reading through facebook for an hour before starting sausages on bread for dinner. Bugger cooking.

And my kids survive, well fed.

Some days it is sitting on the computer surfing through youtube and TASTE.com recipes while my kids play the xbox. Before they do their homework.

And my kids survive, still educated.

Some days it involves sitting at the park drinking Zarraffas iced tea talking with a friend while my kids get stuck on a swing and throw sticks at the dog, because they are out of my scope of vision.

And they survive, and can play independently.

 

Today, after a rather horrific morning of budget blowing phone calls, I needed time. I needed my favourite time. And although I only had Miss E at home, happily eating her breakfast and colouring at the table, I needed to be alone.

Helloooo, shower.

Oh, how a shower can change everything. It can help tears flow, it can heat aching and tired muscles and it can drown out the squealing of children chasing their father around the house with a fake gun. Showers are my favourite peace time, made even better by the fact that the door handle is too high for two out of three kids to reach. Even hubby has learnt that a swift “No!” as the door handle turns shouldn’t be taken personally. Its not that I don’t want to talk to him about it. I do. But I need a place to think. Its my adult time-out chair. Everyone needs one. A place to think without interruption.

Supernanny says that children shouldn’t be put in bed as punishment. Bed is for rest. Adults should do the same- choose a place to think. The ensuite floor was my favourite. Even sitting on the closed toilet while I budgeted or wrote out the next days schedule made it so much easier to sleep at night. Bed isn’t for thinking. Get it out of the way elsewhere.

I should feel mummy guilt over hiding from my children. I should feel guilty for taking 20 minute showers while the council enforces water restrictions. But I know my sanity is more important than the gerbera bushes in the main street being watered.

So that is my advice. Find your time out chair, and use it. Daily if you must. Your children will survive (and even if you don’t have kids, everyone needs some silence every now and then) and also find time for yourself.

 

Where do you spend your time thinking, and do you have a seperate place to relax and spend time on your own thoughts?

Why is depression so hard to share on Facebook?

Social media. Social MediaLove it or hate it, it is a great way to interact with friends, family and distant friends from highschool over a decade ago. It is also a platform for keyboard warriors to tear you down when you are vulnerable, even if it is for taking your child out in the middle of autumn in just a singlet and mismatched thongs. Who is to argue with a not-so-stylish toddler that throws a na-na when you want to put a coat on them? Us mums must pick our battles carefully.

Twitter seems to be my preferred platform for sharing a blog. Isn’t it strange how we are prepared to share our innermost thoughts and opinions with an unknown world, but are scared to announce our online presence to our closest friends on Facebook?

Opening up to friends and family is HARD. Everyone that has gone through depression knows this. Branded attention seekers, having our feelings dismissed (such as being told ‘you just need to have a big cry, you’ll be over it soon) and in some cases, attracting sympathy (yes, shock horror, those compliments you are receiving on your amazing ability to keep children alive and complete your studies are actually genuine!!) are all reasons we shy away from showing our real selves.

I made the choice 2 years ago when I moved to the city that I wanted to be happier. I had lived in the same town for over 15 years. Highschool drama was still floating around me, and I had as many toxic friends as I did good ones. So when I moved I was shocked when it didn’t happen straight away. I got a job in hospitality, and for the first two months I hated it. I finished every shift wanting to quit. Then one day I asked Kylie to go have coffee with me. From then on it was great- I started fitting in to most of the little ‘cliques’ that form in a large work environment and was invited out to afternoon coffees and nightly drinking sessions. I put out a bubbly, happy and aloof front, and therefore became the personality that I wanted to be. I get along with everyone and am quite happy to put myself out there and make a dick of myself. I don’t get cranky or angry, I’m calm and cool. Not many people have seen me lose my shit or yell. And I have no shame- I am quite ok with being the girl that licks spilt beer off the bar table and dancing with a plastic bag on my head.  I’m happy.

At home though…

Things got hard a few months in, as hubby was starting to tire of me working split shifts and leaving at dinner time. I started to feel the dreaded Mummy Guilt. I was still studying at this time, spending one day at Uni, another studying, and most of the rest of my time working and doing housework. Mr B was struggling at school and we were asked to spend more time with him on homeowrk and reading with him. He wanted me to do classroom help. Mr Z wanted to start swimming lessons, Miss E wanted to do gymnastics with Mummy. Hubby wanted to spend ‘more time together’ but had no idea to what that actually involved doing. (We ended up sitting on the couch watching the block on my nights off, even though I was thinking about all the cleaning I had to do before work the next day.) My inlaws were staying over a lot, and I wanted to go back to visit my parents.

It became too much, and I knew it. I knew it was coming, and I got on top of it before it became too overwhelming and I plunged back into depression. I went to the doctor and got a referral to a psychologist. But the thing that helped most was TELLING SOMEONE. In this case, I went to my boss. I cried in her office saying I couldn’t do split shifts anymore. I couldn’t handle being pulled in so many directions. Like anyone that is a bit of a perfectionist, I hated knowing I would be letting work down. But you know what? I didn’t. They moved me to a job where I was working a few days a week, 9:30 till 5pm. No more struggling! That ONE person I told, happened to change everything. It gave me time to do school help with Mr B, I was home to do reading with them and I could start enjoying cooking in the evening again.

This time I wasn’t so clever. I didn’t get on top of it. I let the guilt and the stress get to me and one day, I just broke.

Everything shut down. I ended up in the hospital begging for help. I wasn’t suicidal. I wasn’t a harm to myself or others. But I just could NOT stop crying! I was crying at work, again feeling like I was letting people down because I couldn’t do my job properly. My brain just didn’t want to work. It had worked so hard for so long that it just went “nope, f**k it, I’m out”. After the hospital visit, the mirtazapine started. I try to avoid anti-depressants, and they are not for everyone, but I could not see my financial and stress mess being over until Mid May. Way too long to do it all on my own.

There is a misconception about anti-depressants. People that are stressed out and suffering anxiety go to doctors and the doctors put them on anti-depressants. But they aren’t depressed so they don’t take them. They struggle through it. Don’t. Anti-depressants are anti-anxiety medications. Take them as a precautionary measure to ensure you don’t become so overwhelmed that you become depressed. Say your mood is a scale of one to ten. It is much easier for drugs to kick in and bring your mood up when you start at three than if you start at a rock-bottom zero.

I took the day off after my hospital visit, and two days later- even though the tears had subsided- I just knew I wasn’t going to be much help to my employers. I went to see one of my managers who told me to take more time off. Please, if you feel like you need a break, TAKE IT. It is more harmful to you if you continue working at a substandard level, because you then add the guilt of that. You know how your friends say “I wish you had have told me, I would have helped!”? Your employers- if they are human- should feel the same.

Let me explain how I felt. I googled, I read and I downloaded. I found so much info and had that good old Oprah “AH!” moments when I read these. Hopefully they will help you know that you are not alone, and your extreme tiredness and lack of care for the house are actual symptoms, and not you just being lazy.

(Taken from the Black Dog website)

SEVERE CONTINUOUS TIREDNESS. This is a very common symptom in depression, so that you feel tired and exhausted all the time.  Even if you sleep, you may wake up feeling as if you have not slept at all. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and rest. School starting term after the Easter break was even more difficult than usual.

INABILITY TO FEEL EMOTION. For many people, this is the most worrying symptom before they realise they are actually suffering from depressive illness.  You may find you cannot feel any of the normal positive emotions in life, so that you do not feel any pleasure or interest in the things you used to like and do. For me, the lack of interest in socialising and the inability to enjoy or be affected by music was a huge giveaway.

SADNESS OR UNHAPPINESS. Many people are very puzzled that they have these feelings, when they can see logically that they have many good things in their life and in their relationships.

TROUBLE THINKING AND REMEMBERING. This is almost an inevitable symptom in everybody with depressive illness.  You may find that you are more absent-minded than usual.people find that they have trouble with their work, as they cannot deal with the information they need to handle at work.  Things may get to the stage where you cannot read magazines or books, as you very quickly lose track of what you have already read.

This one was a huge factor for me. I cannot actually function doing two things at once. If I am concentrating on something, I can NOT process someone talking to me. It throws me off both tasks. I can’t put an order in or read a docket if someone is talking to me. Thankfully, I know- and it is proven- that this disappears once the depression has passed.

REDUCED ABILITY TO COPE. Depression makes everything ten times, or a hundred times, the effort it used to be.  Accordingly, people with depression very quickly find they cannot cope with their previous duties and responsibilities. Depression makes everything too much of an effort, and the exhausted feeling that people have during depression makes this worse. Things can be done, but with almost superhuman effort at times, like trying to function with a broken leg.

INABILITY TO ENJOY THINGS:  depression takes away the enjoyment of the normal activities of life, so that things you used to enjoy or have a great interest in will  no longer appeal to you.  You may find you have given up your previous hobbies or pastimes, and feel that there is absolutely nothing in life you could think of doing which would be enjoyable.

For me, this is running. I MISS running. I am trying to train for a half marathon in July. I was up to 15km, but in the last two weeks I have accumulated an entire 1km in the running shoes.

AVOIDING FRIENDS. Many people with depression find everything such an effort, that they wish to avoid contact even with their friends.  You may find that you do not return telephone calls, emails or SMS messages, or make excuses not to meet your friends. I have a few friends that can attest to the change in my social and phone habits.

ANXIETY AND TENSION. It is almost inevitable that people who are depressed will also be very anxious, nervous or uptight.  This may manifest itself in a whole range of physical aches and pains, as well as a continuously uncomfortable, frightened feeling, as if you were about to do an important exam or have an important interview. Anxiety produces lots of physical symptoms, such as headaches, pains in the face and jaws, chest pains, stomach pains and indigestion, and bowel pains.  Some people with anxiety find they clench their jaws during the day, or grind their teeth at night. My physical symptom is usually a feeling of nervousness- increased heart rate, fuzziness in my ears, prickling and tingling eyes and butterflies in my stomach.

PERSONALITY CHANGE. Many people feel something terrible has happened to their personality, so they are no longer able to be confident, extrovert or friendly.

IRRITABILITY AND ANGER:when feeling terrible, it is almost inevitable that we will snap at other people.  While we may be able to keep up a facade for people who do not know us very well, it is too much of an effort to do this all the time, so depressed people find themselves snapping and being angry at those closest to them, often feeling very guilty afterwards.

MULTIPLE PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS. Many people who have depression wish that doctors and others would understand how physically terrible they feel.  It is like having a very bad flu’, so that everything hurts, everything is exhausting, and it does require a huge effort to get out of bed and do the normal things of life.

Again, with running or indoor netball, I just can’t do it. I miss being able to play an entire game of netball as centre and now struggling to play a full game as GK. I ran one kilometer the other night and felt worse than the night I ran 15. I have no energy, and my body aches when I do exercise.

So. Back to social media. I am still in two minds about posting. I am afraid of nobody reading it and knowing how I really feel. I am afraid of people actually reading it and knowing how I really feel. I am afraid that people think I wrote to much, and I am afraid that someone will think that I am a hypochondriac and exaggerating my depression. I am afraid that there are people out there reading the wrong information about depression and not seeking help, choosing to keep struggling. I have friends that know all of this about me already who will not judge, but I am afraid that my workmates will read this and change their opinion of me.

I don’t know what I want from this blog. I don’t read blogs myself. I don’t keep a diary and don’t necessarily find this therapeutic. I don’t know how many people will read this and take something from it.  I think that is why I am afraid to post it on Facebook- lack of control of what other people will do with this information I have poured out for them. But I am going to do it anyway (despite the pit in the depths of my stomach and the fear of my parents reading it) and hope that at least one person reads it and takes something from it.

I still am the girl that dances stupidly around the bar at work. I am still the mum that walks around town with facepaint on and dyes her hair bright, bright red. I am still outgoing and happy.

Just not at the moment.

 

 

Starting from scratch.

I have diagnosed myself. There seems to be no medical name for what I am going through- my children are too old to be post-natal depression, and plain old depression just doesn’t cut it. Anxiety- well, I struggle with that everyday, so that doesn’t seem right either. So I think I have PTSAD.

Not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even though my three births were somewhat traumatic, I don’t think that’s quite appropriate.

No, PTSAD is Post Toddler Stress and Anxiety Disorder.

I am certain there are other mums out there that go “YES! That’s me!”. Those with toddlers and school age children that are just finding no joy in anything at the moment, and treasure those rare days where dad or grandma have taken the kids out of the house (hopefully a day where the house is clean, there is an ample stash of chocolate- or in my case, bacon- and the new episode of Revenge is available on Vodly). Mums that feel so guilty that you are in bed at 10am reading NW while their toddler sits on the couch with a bag of Doritos watching ABC2 for two hours. This is a perfectly ok method of parenting when done occasionally, but when you have a stash of trashy magazines 6 inches high and your child is pooing orange, it might be time to realise there may be something more to your extreme tiredness.

Unfortunately, I missed the telltale signs that my anxiety was starting to become too much. After struggling through post-natal depression after Mr B, and having it again while pregnant with Miss E, I should know the signs of the oncoming cry-fest, shouldn’t i? Silly me decided to push through it. Dumb move.

I think the car registration bill did it. I blame the Dept. of Transport.

For the past few months, an accumulation of.. well, to put it blunty, shit… has been piling up. Psychologists told me that your mind is like a bathtub. Some people have a bucket, others have a bathtub- the size and amount of stress you can handle varies between people. You can keep stuff pouring in, but at some stage that bastard is going to overflow and your mind will just shut off the tap. This is my trigger point for a breakdown. My mind does shut off. I lose concentration, get violent moodswings and lose all emotion, energy and motivation. Most people refer to this as a mental breakdown, but doctors call it a major depressive episode. Both sound horrible.

I think it started in January, where our amazing aupair left to go back to England after filling in for an aupair we had moved on due to various reasons. Now I want to get something straight- we are NOT a rich or well of family. But aupairing is a much better arrangement than alternating between daycare for Miss E and babysitters for the 2 Mr’s after school. We get help around the house, and consistent care of our children. I don’t have to take a day off work if the child is sick and I have someone to drink bad wine and watch crap tv with in the evenings. If you have a spare room in your house, I would recommend an international aupair. Much cheaper than daycare.

So the aupair left, and I cut down to two days a week at work. I had to do all the housework myself (yes, shock horror, I got spoilt having an aupair- kudos to your mums reading this thinking “So what? I do that all myself everyday!” and a huge kiss on the feet of single mums- holy shit I don’t know how you do it!) and with such a huge house I started to get overwhelmed. Thankfully my husband is very helpful and well tamed, and puts up with my shrieking over the doritos on the floor. Otherwise I would be a single mum too.

Then the bills started. Back to school. Ohhhh how I dread this moment. Anyone with kids in private school gets a little lump in the throat and feeling of absolute dread when that envelope with the school insignia arrives. Then the gymnastics fees. Oh joy! Another annual membership fee on top of the quarterly fees. More money handed out. Then the electricity bill (thank the lord for payment extensions!). Credit card annual fees, rent increases and new computer equipment then followed. I was on top of it. We didn’t have much cash left at the end of the week, but everything got paid.

That was until hubbys work said “No more overtime.” Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Goodbye, $350 a week. The breaths started getting shorter and anxiety started building up every time I did the weekly budget. So I picked up extra shifts at work. Then the fights started with the hubby as he didn’t like me working nights. So I stopped working nights. Then we had another bill. So I worked a Sunday, and a Wednesday night. Another guilt trip (from myself, mostly) for not being home to cook dinner and have ‘family time’.

Ever get that feeling that no matter WHAT you do, it is always wrong? Yeah you do.

Hubby changed jobs in April. He is much happier, working from 7:30 till 4 now as opposed to 6 till 6. It was supposed to be more money. A week in, they cut overtime too.

Then the rego bill arrived. Not only did the bathtub overflow, but I flooded the house.