I haven’t been able to write much lately. Most days have felt as though there’s a fog hanging over life, with the briefest of snags through which the sun dares to poke a tentative ray. But the snags have been few and the light has been short lived, because I always seem to end up back where I started. Lethargic, uncaring, unwilling. I’m almost four months into my CBT sessions and I can tell you that they’re not getting any easier. Each week is now preceded with feelings doubt, dread and doom because I know what’s coming. And the days immediately after I am exhausted, and not just emotionally. My bones seem to take on the weight of whatever my mind cannot cope with, and I know that one day my body will collapse and bring it all tumbling down after it. Unless I get back up and fight. This is what I know I must do, and this is the hardest thing in the world for me to contemplate right now. I haven’t wanted to write at all, but this is everyone’s business and you need to know.
You need to know what it’s like. To sit in that small room with it’s strange temperature fluctuations (or is that me?) and it’s bare, empty walls. To sit in that not quite comfortable chair and open up your heart to lay it all bare in front of a relative stranger. To leave that rooms to fall into the arms of nobody, to know that once this hour is up there is nobody there to give you a hug. You need to know what it’s like to have to reach so deep inside yourself that what you see there makes you cringe, makes your skin crawl. What you see there makes you want to beat your fists against the wall and wail and scream. What you see there is both a shock and yet just what you expected all along.
Each session is wildly different from the last, so there is no opportunity to prepare or to take a deep breath and take what’s coming. I just don’t know. I don’t know what’s coming, and that uncertainty is seeping into my life. I cannot make decisions. I cannot make simple decisions. I cannot determine anything much without a lot of muddled thinking. My PTSD is complex, apparently, and I am not responding in the ‘classical’ way which has meant that getting to the bottom of things has been a long, slow process. There are so many strands to so many things that it almost mirrors my brain on most days- a huge, messy tangled ball of trauma, worry, fear, anxiety. Deep rooted beliefs. Long standing perceptions. Strong, sturdy and seemingly unbreakable. Some weeks, we pull a thread and it starts to unravel, and then a knot appears and we’re stuck again. Pull, snag- knot! Pull, snag- knot!
This knot kept appearing over and over again until we realised that we needed to look at it and deal with it separately in an extended session.
I’m not sure whether speaking about his birth in such detail was such a great idea. It doesn’t feel as though it has helped at all. The days between that session and the next were horrific, and it is taking me a long time to crawl out of the black hole this time. I can see the top, but I just keep slipping back.
The reason I’m telling you this? The reason I’m sharing? The reason this is your business? Because you need to help. You need to make sure that maternal mental health is top of the agenda. You need to know that having anxiety and PTSD does NOT make me a bad mother. In fact, the majority of my sessions are focused around the fact that I am so desperate to be a good mother. The best mother I can be. This means setting up my own business to work from home so that I can be here for sick days and parent’s evening and scraped knees at school. This means getting up at 5.30 am so that I can get some work behind me before the children are up and needing matching socks and kisses on hurting fingers. This means working late into the night to reach that deadline so that I can make play dough and fluffy paint and keep on top of the laundry the next day. But it also means I reach burn out, insomnia creeps back and my anxiety levels increase as I convince myself my children are not happy enough, not well rounded enough and not enjoying life as I so desperately want them to.
I am NOT a bad mother. Mental illnesses such as anxiety, PTSD, post natal depression, depression- these illnesses do not make people bad mothers. These illnesses are just that. Illnesses. Just as a broken leg does not make me a bad mother, neither does PTSD and anxiety. This is everyone’s business because there is so much stigma. There is so much misunderstanding. There are so many assumptions about people. At the end of the day, I am trying to be the best that I can be for my children, just like you.