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1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental illness, with many of these people not wanting or feeling able to seek help due to the stigma & discrimination that is associated with it. Since it is World Mental Health Day we reached out to our amazing community to see if there was anyone who could help us shed some light on mental illness & put it into perspective for those who aren't aware of the daily struggles some people live with.
Cath Grigg from Jones and Co Beauty in Clontarf, kindly offered to write a blog about her struggles with anxiety & being a parent. This is a very raw & honest account that Cath has written & could be a trigger for some. Please read on at your own risk.
The Parenting & Anxiety Sandwich by Guest Blogger Cath Grigg
Trying to manage anxiety is like having skin like tissue paper, if you let your guard down or make a wrong move then the whole thing tears apart and your most vulnerable is exposed. Having anxiety when caring for children is like a war zone...a constant ticking bomb waiting to go off.
Being a mother was a non-negotiable for me, I have always wanted children and I would have children in my life somehow, like many it was a hole I needed to fill. I also always thought I would be this naturally brilliant mother, patient and nurturing.... Turns out I am none of these things.
Conceiving our children was far from easy but thankfully with the help of modern-day medicine we have two beautiful boys who I am grateful for every day. The reality of having real life children was something so different to what I ever imagined, and I mostly struggle with how much I need to work at it. I just assumed it would be intuitive, that I would love being a mother, I do love my children, but I struggle with motherhood every single day.
Often when someone has had IVF or struggled with conception, an element of guilt arises every time you feel frustrated or need space as a parent. But remind yourself no matter how much you wanted kids or how hard your battle to become a parent was, it does not take away from the fact they can still drive you totally mad and make you question the meaning of life!
This, however does not make you ungrateful for your children, this simply makes you authentic.
I was a rattly mess when I had my first son, too proud to ask for help and too scared to make mistakes. I wanted to have the whole thing sorted, otherwise people might think I wasn’t happy about having a baby? or I did not cherish this little angel more than life itself? After all, I was lucky enough to be blessed with a baby I should be grateful right?!
A newborn is a wonderful and beautiful experience, filled with new experiences and emotions we never knew possible. Although no one really tells you how hard the transition into parenthood can be and despite knowing it’s going to be tough, very rarely do people get into the raw emotional imbalances that are created when producing a baby. Those feelings can make you question who you are as a person, a parent and leave you feeling totally and completely out of your depth and also creates the need to constantly put on a brave face. That brave face, and the effort it takes to wear that mask, thrown in with some mental health issues or post-natal and a new baby can be just terrifying!
My brain, like anyone’s, is a complex unit, my mind even more so, often a mesh of confusion and jumbled thoughts I spend my day trying to decode. When explaining I battle anxiety people often find it hard to imagine, as I am confident and easy going. It’s true I am confident, and I can be very easy going, but I must work hard at it, it’s exhausting, and I tire easily. When you spend every minute of every day keeping yourself from teetering, smack bang into an anxiety attack… it tends to zap your energy.
I long to understand why my brain works in a different way to others, why having my children climb over me for a cuddle can send me into sheer panic rather than adoring love … or too much noise makes me feel as if my head may combust? It’s scary and I fear my reactions and my episodes are affecting my children, I fear my genetics will pass on my anxiety, I fear.... well let’s be honest, everything.
But… none of this makes me a bad mother, not for a second. Whether I “lived up to” the expectations I put on myself pre-children or not is irrelevant. I love my children, I always put them first, I try my best, I check myself constantly, I try and try again.
Like so many, I have spent nights curled up in a ball crying over parental drama. Those tears need to come out, get them out of your body and allow yourself to see that those tears represent a great parent who is trying their best.
Whether you’re new to the parenting world or many years in, be kind to yourself, remember who you were before you had a baby, breathe and ride the waves. Parenting doesn’t always get easier, but we do learn from our mistakes and become more confident, which helps us see our own way through the fog.
I know now when I am not at my best, these days I usually try to change my environment, go to the park with the kids, or take them somewhere that removes their direct attention away from me, I feel I can breathe a little deeper, think a little clearer. Otherwise they tend to feed off my anxious mood and it almost always ends up in tears…for all of us.
I also know that I need to work, whether it be paid work, volunteer or a hobby, find something that keeps your brain active and isn’t all about your children. Like I said we were all someone before we became parents, that person plays a vital role in your child’s life, find that evolved human and nurture them.
Figuring out and accepting who you are as a parent and letting go of the uneducated image of what you thought you should be like is the first step in becoming the best parent you can be. There is absolutely no point in wasting your much-needed energy in trying to be something you are not, just be YOUR own best version. Find the things you enjoy with your kids, and be present, do the things you do well the best you can, just be the best parent you can be.