A Good Day

Last night I cuddled my daughter in her bed as she struggled for breath. I sat her against my body to try to slow her breathing down, getting her to mirror her breath to mine. Techniques I had learnt when her brother had asthma attacks when he was a toddler, now used to battle Addie’s panic attacks.

Generally Addie is a regular 7-year old (8 on Thursday) She is a happy, popular, funny girl. She is clever and outspoken. She calls herself a “kid feminist” and is obsessed with women’s rights and aspires to be a powerful woman. But this year has been tough.

Addie is petrified of loss. She gets terrible anxiety over the thought of losing those she loves, possibly due to what happened to her when she was younger. She became clingy and had irrational thoughts about me getting ran over while I wasn’t with her. She pulled holes in her clothes, picked the leather off her shoes and cried an awful lot.

Losing our Grandad on New Years Eve added to her anxiety. Addie started having panic attacks and often cried till she was hyperventilating. Last night I held her through one of these attacks but I know things have shifted again in her mind. She had been told in the past (not by me I might add) that she shouldn’t cry, she is slowly learning that it is ok if she needs to and that holding things in only make her feel worse. This is the first attack for about a month and her self-control to come through it was evident.

Addie can now talk about how she is feeling, she is strong enough to share her worries and her fears. This morning she woke happy and was back to talking about scientists and celebrities.

Today is a good day and there are becoming more of these than there are the bad ones.

On Thursday Addie will turn 8. She is the most interesting girl in the world and I am so proud to call her my best friend. I have absolutely no doubt that she will be and do exactly what she wants in life. I am excited to share a whole lifetime of Good Days together. Happy Birthday Addie Rose

Don’t Tell Me

There are two things in the world that my brain lets happen uncontrollably…

1. As soon as a newborn baby cries on One Born Every Minute something triggers in me and I cry hysterically even though I don’t feel any real emotion towards what I’m watching.

2. Having to ask a certain person to do something or for something causes my chest to hurt and I struggle to breathe.

The first is some kind of weird maternal thing that is ridiculous but quite funny. The second is anxiety.

I am lucky in the sense that there is now only one real trigger for my anxiety and generally I can keep myself distanced from it so therefore no longer consider myself as “having anxiety”. Some people aren’t so lucky.

Other people’s perceptions of your mental health can have a real impact and add to the struggle. Public opinion is always a huge factor in what my ladies worry about when I’m doing my mental health volunteer work. Friends and family think they are saying the right things but can often make you feel worse. Here is a list of what not to say.

Don’t tell me….

  • To Suck it up/cheer up/relax/calm down

The fact you think I aren’t currently trying to do all these things at once while everything else is whirring around in my brain shows you have no idea how I feel.

  • There are worse things going on in the world

I know! But that doesn’t make the way I am feeling any easier. A lot of my thoughts are irrational, things that you might think are mundane and trivial can feel like the end of the world to me. I know that what I am thinking or the way I’m acting isn’t normal yet that doesn’t mean I can rationalise my thoughts.

  • You can’t feel lonely, you have lots of friends

It is hard to connect to others while you are suffering. It is hard to gather the energy to meet with friends and do fun things. It is hard to talk about the way you are feeling. It is hard to explain that your friends haven’t done anything wrong but that they need to bear with you.

  • To go for a run/a drink/to try a new hobby

Yes for some people these things work but they aren’t the cure for everyone. Exercise can make you feel great but if you can’t muster the energy to lift your head off your pillow your hardly going to run a metre let alone a mile and I’ve gin cried plenty of times when I haven’t been depressed to know that it isn’t a great option.

  • But you managed to go to ????? the other day

Yes and I may go somewhere else tomorrow, but if at that time on that day my mind is telling me I can’t possibly go anywhere with whoever it’s practically impossible to do so.

  • What do you have to be anxious/depressed about?

The official measure of mental well-being has 51 different points and triggers of depression/anxiety. Each of these is a subsection leading to various aspects of each category meaning there can be thousands of triggers,fears and worries for each individual. Some of which could be seen as ridiculous to others. So the answer to the question is absolutely everything and nothing at all.

  • Oh I have that sometimes

Feeling a bit sad or anxious isn’t the same as the crippling reality of depression and anxiety. I get a nervous tummy before going to new places or doing new things, it’s not the same as the weeks/months of pure panic some people have. The fear of letting people down or missing out can take over their lives.

My only advice on what you can say is… “is there anything I can do to help you with this?” And not be offended if the answer is no. Be patient not pushy.

To my friends who are suffering at the moment…don’t be afraid to talk, not all the cures are in conversation but always know you don’t have to go through it alone