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.