You might not have missed me … but I missed you!
It’s been a massive week for me. I’ve found it impossible to look at my phone or the internet for a multitude of reasons. I’m really glad that I’m now able to reflect on the last week and I hope that by writing this I’ll be able to process what I’ve been through.
My internet abstinence started with my son’s first birthday last week. What a huge milestone that was. The day started off fabulously – my son, husband and I had a lovely breakfast and we were all in a great mood. We went to our playgroup and my son had his first go at crafting by glueing things to a paper butterfly. It was really beautiful to watch him and his dad interacting and creating together.
I had made my son a special outfit for his birthday. In my mind I had this perfect image of the photo I could take of him wearing it – the kind of photo that you’d see a professional take. I quickly realised that taking a perfect photo of a one year old would be almost impossible. Something seemed to always be going wrong – he wouldn’t look at the camera, the photo would be out of focus, the lighting would be wrong, the background would be distracting… I was sending myself into a emotional twist and it didn’t take long for me to end up in my bedroom in tears. I should have known it would happen – I’m suffering with depression & anxiety and my son’s first birthday was bound to be an emotional day. It took a few hours but I eventually pulled myself out of the emotional abyss (with the help of my very accommodating therapist who was available on email). We worked out that these emotions were probably coming up for a multitude of reasons. One being that I wanted to be able to share this special day with my friends and family in the UK and the only way I though I could do that was to take a perfect photo to try and represent the special moment. The other major reason for my breakdown was the constant pressure I put on myself for perfection. I realised that my perfectionism was really stifling and had caused me to be blind to photos that might have naturally looked brilliant. It seems almost laughable now but the feelings that overcame me during this time where debilitating – it shows the power of our thoughts and the negative impact they can have.
By the evening I had calmed down enough to enjoy my son’s birthday dinner, the presents and watch him have a taste of some cake for the first time. It was a beautiful end to an emotional day. My husband and I decided that we needed a break and booked a last minute hotel for the next day. We decided to go to the Hunter Valley, a few hours from Sydney, so the three of us could have some time out and relax.
On the way we stopped off at a supermarket to pick up some essentials. I got my son out of the car, put him in the pram, looked at my hand and saw it was covered in poo!! What a great start to our little break! For once, I could actually see the funny side of it and I was proud of myself for staying calm and dealing with the situation rather than freaking out and loosing the ability to think straight. I had a change of clothes for him and all the necessities to change his nappy and clean everything up. My husband and I were able to laugh about it – typical how this happens for the first time when we’re on holiday!
We were able to move on from the poo incident and explore the countryside. The feeling of getting away was magical and doing something that we used to do as a couple made me feel a sense of normality after a very abnormal year. The countryside was beautiful. We went to the local national park and being in nature was such a cleansing for the soul – I felt great, things were perfect, me and my boys in a perfect landscape with no worries. My husband was having fun flying his remote controlled quadcopter around the trees, while my son and I were playing with the leaves and exploring the grass. However, the feeling of joy came to a halt when my husband crashed his quadcopter and lost the very expensive GoPro that was attached to it! I had to try and keep my son entertained while my husband spent an hour in the long grass looking for it. No luck – it was lost and the sun was going down! We’d have to hope it didn’t rain overnight and we’d come back in the morning.
We headed back to town and had a nice dinner in the local restaurant, my son had so much fun. He loved the new environment – everything was exciting. The hotel room was like a playground to him, he loved exploring and checking out all the new furniture. It was a real pleasure to watch. I was so happy that we could get away together and knew we should try to make this happen more often – we all needed it that’s for sure.
I was really surprised to find that my anxiety was minimal, I was coping really well. I only felt my anxiety raise slightly when it got towards bed time – I was really worried about how my son would react to the new cot and sleeping environment. I’d already talked to my therapist about this and as she said – it’s only 1 night, he’ll get over it. Still, I was extremely relieved when there was silence as I walked out of the room after putting him down to sleep.
We all got off to sleep quickly but suddenly at about 10pm I was woken by what sounded like my son choking… I quickly got out of bed and went over to his cot. He looked fine as far as I could see in the dark but then the sound happened again. My husband had also woken up now and we turned the light on and saw that my son and his cot were covered in sick. He was retching and we quickly moved him to the bathroom. We were both in a state of sleepy shock – what was happening – why is he sick – we’re in a strange place – we’ve never seen him like this before – this is scary! It was obvious my son wasn’t going to stop being sick so we moved his cot mattress into the bathroom and I laid there with him throughout the night, while he was sick every 20 minutes. It was surreal, scary and emotional. By the morning he hadn’t been sick for a few hours – he actually seemed fine and was back to exploring the room and his cheeky self. We thought it must have past.
I was suffering from a very painful back after lying on a tile floor for 9 hours and felt like a zombie with no sleep. But this was our holiday and I tried to keep up a brave face and enjoy the last few hours. I knew my husband would want to go back to the national park to look for his GoPro and my son was happy so I agreed. We spent an hour in the bush but he had no luck – his solution – we need a metal detector! So we set off back to town to search the shops for one. I went into 5 shops to find a GoPro saving metal detector but no one had one – this was a tough realisation when you’re used to living in the city with everything available to you. I searched the internet and found that there was a shop selling them in a town half an hour away. We made the decision, as my son was still happy, that we’d go and buy one. An hour and half later we were back in the bush, metal detector in hand and the search was on… it couldn’t possible fail us. Another hour past and my husband comes out of the bushes, no GoPro… ahhhh I’m thinking, this is crazy!! I decided it was my time to look – I’ve got a mother’s eyes now, I can find it. Into the bush I go, blazing sun, 32degrees, grass up to my knees, snakes a serious possibility! After 10 minutes I gave up… it was lost, we need to go home I thought. My husband wanted one last look… as you do. He gave the metal detector a whack and went off again, by this time my son is getting very ratty, he needed to sleep and we needed to get home. After about 20 minutes my husband appeared again metal detector AND GoPro in hand!!! Woo hoo! It’d only taken 4 hours but we’d found it – a great end to not such a perfect holiday.
Finally it was time to set off on the 2 hour journey home, I was relieved to say the least. Before we left the town I decided we need to stop at a shop to grab a bowl and some water just in case my son needed to be sick again. This was a very good decision because an hour from Sydney, travelling down the motorway at 110km/h, my son wakes from his sleep and starts to retch again. Ahhh… he’s going to be sick, I grab one of the party bowls that I’d bought and tried to catch as much sick as I could. It was horrible! Luckily we were only 1km from a service station so were able to pull over and dispose of the sick and clean up my son. We didn’t stop for long though – I wanted to get back to the safety of home as quickly as possible.
Slowly over the next day my son began to improve and returned to his usual self quickly. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for me and I shouldn’t have been surprised really. The sickness hit me in the night – the horrible feeling of being immobilised by pain and nausea. The next 48 hours were awful but I managed to rest quite a lot and direct my husband on how my son’s daily routine went. It was a difficult position to be in – the first time being really sick as a mum – it’s not like you can take time off. Plus, I know that when I’m sick, depression has a way of sneaking up on me. I tried to stay as positive as possible and not beat myself up about the fact that I’d not cleaned up since our little holiday, not done washing, hadn’t kept up with my daily ritual of drawing a mandala, I hadn’t written a blog post or responded to any of my friends on social media… my perfectionist mind was creeping in. I felt like my world was falling apart because I’d been unable to move for 2 days.
This depression culminated with a falling out with my therapist. I emailed her about my feelings and she said something that could have been read perfectly innocently but I took it the wrong way. I lost it – I got angry with her, angry with me, angry with life, it was all too much to handle after such a massive week. After spending a night and day ruminating on how to approach my therapist with my displeasure in her use of words, I finally wrote an email. I told her not only about my upset with her words but also about any anger and resentment I’d held onto throughout our therapeutic relationship. It was hard, really hard to send the email but I knew I had to – in order to be able to move on and stop holding onto all this anger.
Of course my therapist put on her armour and replied to me in a level headed and empathetic way. This is just what I needed, she could have easily have said something like you need to see another therapist or told me that I was being selfish and childish. I guess this is the beauty of the therapeutic relationship and something that is helping me heal from the pain of postnatal depression. My therapist is always there for me, understanding and caring, no judging just supporting. This kind of relationship is rare and something that I treasure during this time in my life.
So, there you go, that’s why I haven’t been on the internet for a week and to be honest I think it’s fair enough (learning self-compassion here). I became a mother to a 1 year old who had his first bout of gastro in a unfamiliar environment, supported my husband through his search for a material object that could have put a complete downer on our holiday, survived my own sickness for the first time as a mother, got through a difficult patch with my therapist by communicating and have started to see that perfection may not be as perfect as I thought.
I CAN catch up on social media, I CAN write a blog post a week late and I CAN survive when things don’t go to plan.