My life before I became unwell was busy. I couldn’t relax. If I had a moment of free time I would fill it. I had my children, who were 6 and 3 at the time, in every possible activity, drama classes, swimming, athletics, music, you name it we did it. Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we over-schedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us? For an hour prior to taking my daughter to school, she would be beside herself, just totally stressed out that we would be late, and I was teaching my children to live like this! I would be the person up at 630 in the morning so I could go grocery shopping, and every weekend would be brimming with social activities. My husband described me as having “ants” as in “ants in my pants” meaning I never sat still. I never relaxed and I never ever asked for help either, I had to do it all by myself, I felt it was my role as a mum to do everything, to be responsible for everything. I wasn’t eating well, I would binge on chocolate in the afternoon because I was so tired and I was drinking copious cups of tea and coffee. I didn’t exercise, basically I wasn’t looking after myself at all. And then I came a cropper. My body had basically had enough, it floored me with a panic attack in the middle of the night, I ended up in hospital, I had anxiety off the richter scale and I ended up with a major depressive episode. I was forced to stop.
Then I had to learn to live again, but this time I had to reinvent myself and learn to relax and nurture myself.
One of the first things we did when I became unwell was cancel all of the extra activities the kids did. We stopped being busy. It was amazing to see how relaxed and happy the kids were. It really made me question the need for all of those extra activities, the kids just enjoyed playing, we went to the park, we climbed trees, we enjoyed spending time together.
I had to learn to relax! It seems such a strange thing to have to learn, but relaxing was such a foreign concept to me and I associated relaxing with being lazy! So I started off by allocating myself time to exercise, I really enjoy walking and running, I find them relaxing, mindful activities, so I decided to prioritise exercise in my life. With the assistance of my therapist, I was able to identify other activities I do for pleasure, things that I find relaxing such as baking, reading and spending time with friends. The added bonus is that these things make me feel good, so if I feel a bit down I go for a run, or I bake some cookies and that really helps improve my mood.
It’s not been all sunshine and roses, I spent a lot of years practising the mantra “I must keep busy”, so sometimes I find myself falling back into the old pattern of cramming my days full of actives, but I’ve learnt to listen to my body, and it sure pulls me up when I become too busy. I’ve been learning to be mindful, which I will write about in a later blog, it takes practice, and I’m only a beginner, but It helps me to take a break from my busy mind, from my busy life. I’ve learnt that I don’t have to be a super- mum to show the world I’m coping and that I have happy, loved children. They are content just playing in the garden, jumping on the trampoline, spending time with us, reading stories in bed or having a family movie night. It may sound like a cliche, but it does really seem like the simple things in life are often the best.
Miss Lucy x