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The last year 18 months of our lives has been quite challenging as I battled Perinatal Depression and Anxiety following the birth of our second son, and then more recently, my 31 year old husband had a cardiac arrest while at football training, had a two week stay in hospital and had an Automatic Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator put in his chest.
There are a number of lessons I have learnt from struggling through these times that I like to remind myself of when my anxiety starts to flare up. I want to share some of these lessons in the hope that it helps some other people who might be dealing with their own tough times.
1. Don't sweat the small stuff.
I used to spend a lot of energy worrying about the weekly housework schedule, what the house and yard looked like, what people would think of me, being organised so I never forgot anything or missed anything.
Since my experience with Perinatal Depression and Anxiety, and more so since my husband had a cardiac arrest last month, I don't worry so much about the little things that have no impact on my day to day self.
If I go an extra day before I do the washing... so what.
If the house goes an extra week before I mop the floors... who cares.
And if I forget to buy a birthday present for someone... they will understand (and if they don't then maybe I shouldn't be buying them a present!!)
2. Ease up on yourself. You don't have to do it all.
I don't have to do it all. It's not possible for me to be as organised as I used to be before I had kids. So many more things are out of my control and make it a battle for me to be so organised, so I have learnt to ease off.
I have learnt to let it go when hubby hangs out the washing and doesn't do it in exactly the way I usually would. I let it go when he puts my clothes away in the wrong drawer. I let it go when my Mum or sister or Mother-in-law comes over and hangs out my washing or washes my dishes.
The universe will give me a chance to say thank you or make up for it in my own way!
3. Gratitude and Empathy
Gratitude - I used to take it for granted that my family were all healthy and happy and we were financially comfortable and everything was sailing along. Then I experienced Perinatal Depression and Anxiety, and at the time gratitude was the furthest feeling from my mind. But as I have recovered I am able to look back and be grateful for the simplest things. Like being able to walk and pick up my kids.
Last month my husband went off to football training like any other night, about two hours later I got a phone call that he had collapsed and the paramedics were doing CPR on him and were about to take him to the hospital. He had a cardiac arrest while at football training and his heart stopped for 28 minutes. It took 9 defib shocks to get his heart beating again and shortly after that he started breathing again.
I truly do believe what's meant to be will always find a way, because there are so many variations that could have happened to this story, but he clearly wasn't meant to die that day. He was surrounded by his amazing footy mates who jumped straight into action and gave him CPR and got the defib straight onto him. LIFESAVERS. (And there is no exaggeration there.) Those blokes saved his life, they saved him from certain brain damage or certain death.
I now have an amazing level of gratitude for the universe somehow making him go to footy training where he was near a defib machine when he didn't even want to go.
I have massive gratitude for the blokes at the footy club, for emergency response staff, and for the hospital staff. During the worst few weeks of my life, everything happened perfectly to make sure our man is still with us.
Empathy - I never before really put myself in other peoples shoes. I would always try and be a good friend and listen to what people were telling me and would nod and try and talk through it with them. But it's since I've gone through some really tough times with my own Perinatal Depression and Anxiety I am really able to empathise and imagine what other people are dealing with. Everyone has a backstory that you don't know about, so be kind. Because you never know, the person you were just rude to might be on her way to the ICU to sit next to her husband who is in a coma.
4. I am more open and willing to talk about things without embarrassment.
Turns out I am not the only one in the world to feel like this, or to go through these experiences. It certainly feels like it when it's happening, but even with hubbys cardiac arrest, I have a friend whose husband had the exact same thing happen to him.
There are a surprising number of Mums suffering in silence with Perinatal Mood Disorders. And a lot of them suffer because they think they are alone in their battles, or that it makes them a bad Mum just because they aren't loving life every day.
NEWSFLASH - It is OK to NOT love every minute of motherhood. It is OK to hate it. It does not make you a bad mother because you are struggling. Just because you may have fought to fall pregnant or you may have wanted to have kids all your life, doesn't mean you HAVE to love every second.
It is bloody hard to go from being a solo adult to suddenly responsible for whole other people, and if more of us speak up about our experiences then it will help to reduce the stigma that still surrounds these Mental Health Mood Disorders.
5. I have a ROCKSTAR village.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that is so true! As I said earlier, we don't have to do it all. I truly believe that a little time away from my kids makes me a better mother. It gives me a bit of distance, perspective, it lets me miss them and it helps make them resilient. Thankfully they were well equipped to spend two weeks bed hopping between grandparents when hubby was in the hospital so that I could spend time with hubby and be able to talk to the doctors.
I leaned on my village heavily during that time as well as during my Perinatal Depression and Anxiety, and while it did take a bit of adjusting to, our village helped so much!
From my husband, to my parents and in-laws, to my siblings and their partners, to my friends, to the pharmacist who always has a chat when I go in, to the gorgeous lady at Coles who always has a hug for me, to the boys family day care lady, to my new Arbonne friends. Every person helps in different ways, but they are all so important.
6. I can be Mum & Kate at the same time.
It is a balancing act, but it can be done. Not having an outlet for me to be just me was one of my struggles after I had Ethan. I found Arbonne and building my business really helped me find myself outside of being just Mum.
7. You can be lonely while a person is constantly attached to your body.
I remember feeling so silly telling hubby that I was lonely when I was at home with 2 kids and then he would have footy training at night. Because it's not like I was alone. I constantly had either of them on me but I was never actually having a proper conversation or getting a chance to be normal.
8. It's not a burden to ask for help.
Your loved ones have offered to take the kids to the park, SAY YES. They have offered to cook up some meals for you, SAY THANKYOU. They have offered, which means they are happy to help. Say thank you and maybe even write them a nice thankyou note, or text, or just give them an extra hug.
9. Just as you think you're getting better, and you let your guard down, you MAY slip back.
And that is not something to stress about. It's all part of the recovery process. Anxiety isn't like having a cold and when the symptoms go away you feel fine. It can stay in the background waiting to flare up. When my sleep suffers, my anxiety rises. When I feel on the ball, I am going to bed on time, sleeping well, waking early and starting my day before the boys do. When I struggle to sleep I am behind and my anxiety flares up. But that's ok. I just have to spend a little more time making sure I'm looking after myself and the rest will follow.
10. I am strong.
I am stronger than I feel, stronger than I think I am, and I am as strong as I need to be no matter what happens in my life.
I hope by sharing these thoughts this reaches the people who need to hear it. Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself. And be kind to others. You never know what they might be going through.
And if you are going through a tough time, please know that it too will pass. Life goes on, and the universe has your back.