Tag: overcoming depression

Parenting, anxiety, and smudged nail polish

Parenting, anxiety, and smudged nail polish

It happened. There’s no going back. There are certain moments and events that change your life. Irretrievably.

No matter what happens from now on, I have been forever changed.

Exactly five weeks ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. We’re parents. To be honest, it’s still a surreal experience for me. I still catch myself staring at my son in a state of disbelief. In a good way. A great way.

They say that nothing can prepare you for parenthood. And yet, we still attend antenatal classes, download the apps, follow the blogs, etc. Does it prepare you? I think that selecting the correct classes etc for you can help to prepare you to a certain extent.

The thing that best prepared me for being a mommy? My journey through depression.

And no, I’m not talking about postnatal depression here: on the contrary, I have found the first five weeks of motherhood to be incredibly fulfilling.

So just how on earth did the most trying and devastatingly dark periods of my life prepare me for the most overwhelmingly poignant experience?

Ironically, my journey through depression (“through” implying that you can in fact reach the surface and gasp the fresh air) has taught me many invaluable lessons. Not only have I gained insight into my own psyche, for want of a better word, but I have also come to understand what kind of life I want to lead, and the best mindset and approach to realise this.

The goal-oriented, perfectionist, compulsive nature of my anxiety just doesn’t wash with the daily reality of being a mom. I sat down last week to write a blog post. I got as far as switching on my laptop. That’s it; no further. There is nothing perfect about parenthood. Nothing. I decorated the nursery exactly as I had imagined: a perfect replica of my vision. Two days ago I found myself moving furniture into the centre of the room so that I could wash off projectile pee from a large section of wall and nearby furniture. As for being compulsive, it’s simply not an option. Especially when you have a newborn who has a finely tuned sixth sense that wakens him as soon you step into the shower, pour a cup of tea, or apply a fresh coat of nail polish.

My resultant level of anxiety? Nada. Why?

Before becoming a parent I decided that I would try to be as mindful as possible. I decided that I would not set goals. That I would not entertain ideas about being a supermom. That I would adapt my days to my child’s routine to the best of my ability. That I would not read a single pregnancy or parenting magazine. That I would take each day as it came. That I would trust Mother Nature to give me sufficient maternal instinct to ‘wing it’ for the most part.

So far, I’m managing. Of course, it’s only been five weeks. I might be singing a very different tune next week. Or at three o’clock tomorrow morning. Regardless, my point is that depression and anxiety have provided me with countless opportunities for growth. Sure, I did not grasp all those opportunities. But I did take advantage of some.

It is this ongoing process of reflection and growth that I hope will stand me in good stead in this new stage of my life – smudged nail polish, tepid cups of tea, and all.

000 blog signature

Avoiding reverse gear (and preferably not stripping the gearbox)

Avoiding reverse gear (and preferably not stripping the gearbox)

You know that feeling when you’re running enthusiastically, all is going well, and then out of nowhere you land flat on your face? I do. (Apart from the running effortlessly part. That never happens.) Sometimes I feel like my life is like that.

So those of you who read my previous post about pink jellytots and other hire cars will know that for two weeks I have to drive a mobile air raid siren that had the reverse gear where I’d expect the sixth gear to be. So basically every time I am about to slide into sixth out of habit, I have to prevent myself from stripping the gearbox. My life is like that too.

Sometimes everything seems to be going so well. It’s like the universe is smiling down on me. Everything falls into place. Everything is as I want it to be. I seem to be approaching the next level of fulfillment but as I try to get to that next gear, I find myself in reverse with the danger of causing extensive damage (to my mental wellbeing that is).

You’d think that after many years of going through life’s ups and downs I would be used to it. Not so much. I still feel frustrated, angry, and depressed when I hit a ‘down’. Especially if it’s a long fall from the ‘up’. On the other hand, I still enjoy the intoxicating exhilaration of life’s good times. It’s just a matter of prolonging the ups and minimising the downs.

Perhaps the key is to be conscious of where you are, and avoid anything that might precipitate a down. Much like I have to remind myself on a daily basis (for two annoying weeks) that when I’m in fifth I need to stay there, and consciously avoid any movement towards reverse. You need to find what moves you backwards in your life, and consciously avoid it in order to move forward.

Overcoming Depression: Confessions of a Sloth

overcoming depressioDespite a sense of overwhelming optimism at the start of 2015, so far this year has not gone as planned. I’m not surprised that life doesn’t always go as planned. I’m not surprised that life has its ups and downs. What does surprise me, however, is realising that I’m not terribly bothered by this. Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m making progress in overcoming depression. That would be quite ironic, given how this year has gone.

So far, I have not managed to do what I know I should be doing on a regular basis. So far, I have not done the following:

  • follow a health eating plan
  • exercise regularly
  • practise mindfulness
  • pursue hobbies
  • engage in creative activities

overcoming depressionThat list is a pretty basic outline of what you need to do if you are intent on overcoming depression. But life is just not that straightforward. I have a long-held belief that one of the most debilitating effects of depression is that it fosters an inclination to do exactly what you should not be doing. It takes every ounce of willpower, and then some, to vaguely muster up the energy and determination to make a salad, go to gym, etc. It feels like every cell in your being is screaming for you to climb back under the covers – with a slab of chocolate.

So how do you climb out of bed and find your way to gym?

Overcoming depression is not a war: a war has an end.

Dealing with a chronic physical illness is an ongoing battle. Fortunately, the fight does get easier and a little less intense every time you launch an attack. And just how do you launch a successful attack?

  • Make the decision. I believe that you need to firmly and consciously make a decision to fight this illness. You need to focus your energy on doing whatever it is you need to go to rediscover your true self.
  • Get support. You need someone in your life who understands what you’re going through and can give you the type and degree of motivation you need to get going.
  • Be flexible. Sometimes a routine can help to get you going, but too much rigidity can induce anxiety that will see you under the covers again.
  • Don’t wait for Monday. As soon as you make that decision, start immediately. Don’t procrastinate even more.

If I make it sound easy, I don’t mean to. I was tired just walking up the stairs at gym to get to the treadmill. After fifteen minutes I had a headache and a blister from my running shoes. I made the decision to pull up my socks – literally – and keep going. There have been some lapses… A fondness for baking is not a great hobby if you’re trying to follow healthy diet, and yet I found myself in the kitchen baking some of my favourite goodies. But the point it, I’ve made a start and I’m trying. More importantly, I’m not beating myself up about the fact that I haven’t been doing what I ought to.

overcoming depressionIt’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally learnt to simply accept that life happens. Overcoming depression means accepting that this illness has its highs and lows, and knowing that all that you can do is your best. And that’s what I’m going to do: try my best to look after my physical, emotional and mental well-being.