I’m great at being the mum my kids need and finding that balance that gives them fun and learning.
I’m pretty good and being the mum that sorts things out with schools, appointments, IEP’s, EHCP’s etc.
I’m great at being a friend too, or at least I think I am, and I’m always giving my time to others to help and support them in any crisis.
I’m average at looking after the house, sometimes I just run out of time, other times I just can’t be bothered – if it’s tidy ish with no health hazards and there is food in the cupboards then it’ll do.
But there is one thing I am awful at, in fact, I am totally rubbish at it – taking care of myself, in particular looking after my own mental health.
Around sixteen months ago, I was running on empty. Constantly exhausted, carrying on as usual, ignoring the warning signs that I was actually in a really dark place and struggling.
With everything I had going on in life, not once did I stop and think of how I was dealing with things and that I needed support.
It wasn’t something I found was natural to me, I was so used to being there for others, even in my job as a nurse years ago.
I found it so difficult to ask anyone for help.
People needed me, they relied on me and it became my way of life. There’s nothing wrong with that if you look after yourself, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t know how to.
I’d bottled up my feelings and thoughts for far too long, filing them at the back of my brain to be sorted another day.
Of course, they never did, they just got squashed by the next lot of stuff I wanted to deal with later.
I’ve always had anxiety although I’d never really bothered to do much about it as I’d always found ways to cope (sitting in an aisle seat at the theatre, sitting opposite a door or window so I knew I could leave if I needed to).
But anxiety upped its game a lot, saw me struggling and took the opportunity to cause me panic attacks, constant worry, lack of sleep.
And still, I carried on, putting my smile on and acting as if all was well whilst fighting the burning fire of anxiety inside my chest and the dark thoughts of depression in my head.
I told nobody. I battled with myself instead.
The day it all changed was after seeing a post on social media, written by one of my closest friends, Chris.
He’d written about how he’d battled through dark times once, how anxiety took over him and how he’d decided one day that enough was enough, it was time to face it and deal with it all and get the support and help he needed.
I cried as I read that post, partly as I realized I needed to do something and take care of myself pretty quickly but also partly through fear and knowing I’d have to tell someone I needed help.
Chris’s post gave me the confidence and dare I say it, the kick up the backside I needed to actually do something.
So, I did, I made an appointment to speak to my GP.
She was amazing, talked me through my options and referred me for therapy and prescribed me a medication that helps both my depression and anxiety.
A few days later I told Chris what I’d done and thanked him for his honesty in his post. I think he was surprised.
Not that his post had helped someone, his posts help a lot of people, but that it helped someone closer to him than he realized.
So maybe in a roundabout way, me writing this might help someone else like Chris helped me.
I’ll never allow myself to get to that point again, being so close to broken.
I now make sure I have me-time, whether it’s just reading a book, going for a walk or even having a nap.
I talk about my feelings to a select few friends, Chris being one of them, and I’m now comfortable enough to write about it publicly. Because it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Asking for help is fine.
Having therapy is fine and taking medication that helps is fine!
What isn’t fine is hiding away and letting everything build up. It’s not healthy and it could have cost me a lot more if I’d not dealt with it when I did.
I need to look after me, so I can keep being that mum my kids need and love, being the friend that my friends know and care about.
But mainly I deserve to take care of me, I just didn’t realize that for far too long.