I am not as crazy as I look. I am much, much crazier.
We had a little getaway this weekend gone.
Bren was repainting the floorboards in the lounge room so I packed the kids up in the car and drove to the other side of town to stay with friends.
We had so much fun.
But last time we had a sleepover there, anxiety came-a-calling in the wee hours of the morning. Much nervous pacing ensued. So as anyone who has ever suffered a panic attack will know, doing things or going places where anxiety has struck before is a little frightening because thinking about having a panic attack can be enough to bring on a panic attack. Once a precedent has been set, it's hard to forget it. A vicious cycle.
The first night was especially fraught with danger because Bren was not with me but I slept soundly, quite free of nocturnal heart palpitations. Excellent.
The following night, Bren was there and given the success of the previous night, I went off to sleep without a care in the world and woke the following morning feeling the same way.
The third night – the night that we hadn't planned on sleeping over for – proved my undoing. Bren was with me but so was the vodka. Oh, the vodka! If there are two surefire ways to awake my anxiety from its dormant state, it's drinking too much when I am away from home.
Anxious pacing. Hovering over Brendon, debating whether to wake him up or not (not). Climbing up a bunkbed to snuggle next to a sleeping Luca, hoping my frantic heart beat might align with his resting one. But it was a warm night and he shrugged me off. I can't say I blame him. I must have reeked of vodka and fear.
I checked Harlow was breathing for the hundreth time and then climbed back into my own bed, Zig's little body right beside me and I willed my heart, my brain, myself to just stop.
And somehow, it worked. I talked myself down from the ledge.
A mercifully short-lived panic attack. A personal triumph.
But still. I worry.
I worry that I am 'the crazy mum'. That my kids are being raised by 'the crazy mum'. And not 'the she's so fun and kooky crazy mum'. But actual 'mum with a mental illness' crazy.
Mum who hops into bed with me in the middle of the night because she is scared.
Mum who, some days, gets angry really easily, who snaps at me, who tells me to leave her alone, to just go away.
Mum who sometimes cries.
I never wanted to be that kind of mum.
But sometimes, I am.
I suffer from depression and anxiety. The manifestation of these two things is not always as straightforward as sadness and panic. In fact, I experience those two things very infrequently. No, for me, depression and anxiety are subtle in their influence, creeping up as irritation, impatience and a fraying at the edges of my coping mechanisms. If I forget my Zoloft in the morning, you can bet that my nerves have been worn razor thin by the afternoon. When I do remember to take my meds, I am, without question, a better mum. I am firing on all most cylinders.
I need my cylinders in good working order.
I don't want my kids to see the worst of my illness. Actually, I don't want to be ill at all.
I want to be normal.
I want my kids to have a normal mum.
But sometimes, I am not.
All of that, sounds pretty normal to me Angel.
And you know what? Kids are allowed to see their parents cry. Kids are allowed to see that their parents, are not just parents. They are people with feelings too. In fact, kids should see that, because it makes their parents normal. It humanizes the world for a child.
I used to be the most awesomest of Mums. I could swear I was doing it all by the book and then some, always firing at optimum level. Those days were over once the feral one came, and I know now – there is alot of shit I probably do that ain’t so awesome.
Without going in detail, I have recently had a situation with my kids – where I witnessed their independence, maturity and coping ability. I was floored by their awesomeness. So despite whatever I’m doing wrong – I am doing something right. Because these kids of mine with their totally imperfect Mumma, are doing fine. Better than fine. They are awesome.
I have no doubt the mad-Gray mini trio are too.
I had my first anxiety attack in my own bed a few weeks back when we had people staying over. All of a sudden I couldn’t breath, heart racing, panic feeling.. I got up, went outside to try and breath but felt like I was suffocating, it was horrible and SO scary, I now have daily or several times daily heart palpitations which is a hideous feeling.
I’m sorry, I don’t mean to hijack, just wanted you to know I feel for you now that I have now experienced the horrible friend, anxiety and I think you are doing a fantastic job with your gorgeous little family x
I am very short tempted with the kids to the point where I am petrified that is all they will remember about me. Every night I lay in bed and say “tomorrow I won’t yell, tomorrow I promise not to yell” and low & behold, I yell.
It’s a fucken hard gig but please believe, you are a great mum, the best xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sorry, stupid iPad won’t let me fix my spelling mistakes / grammar
What a wonderful piece. I am so glad I am not alone. Thank you so much for sharing.
I have been reading your blog for some time now, but never felt compelled to comment.
Firstly, thank you for your honesty – it’s nice to know that there is someone else out there who is real and human and humANE in the world of motherhood. Too many women hide behind the facade of expected perfection, all the while being riddled to some extent with anxiety, insecurity, doubt, sadness. It takes one strong soul to say “here I am. Great on so many levels, and effing up on others”. And it is this soul who is in fact winning on all levels, for she is real in all her glory and gory. She is teaching her children what it means to be real, to be human. To love so much it takes your breath away.
And, in the end, in spite the yelling, the impatience the frazzled nerves, there are two strong arms waiting to love her children no matter what.
I am sure you already looked into the symptoms of panic attacks, which seem to pair up with what you have been going through. I have had the same issues, but after a few years I learned that “a cure” is something that takes time and needs to be realized. It is normal to feel like this is life you just need to be OK with the environment around you and know that things do happen and you have no control over them.