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Today is not a good mental health day for me. I have struggled with depression and anxiety, on and off, for most of my adult life, but especially since going through IVF. Everyone has days when they don’t want to get out of bed, right? When you’re dealing with depression and anxiety, those days happen more frequently. Unfortunately, being a mum with depression and anxiety means that I don’t get to stay in bed all day and shut out the rest of the world.
I used to think that finally getting pregnant would “fix” me. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I spent most of my pregnancy trying to not let my anxiety get the better of me. I refused to take medication while I was pregnant. I’m aware that there are medications that are believed to be safe during pregnancy and I would never recommend that anyone try to deal with mental health issues on their own, but I didn’t feel like that was the best option for me. My anxiety convinced me that after all the medical help we needed to get pregnant, I needed to avoid putting more hormones and chemicals into my body while I was using it to grow our little miracles. So I lent on Mr Becca for support and used the skills I’d learned from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to stay on top of it. It worked. Some of the time.
After the twins were born, I struggled with breastfeeding and mum guilt (when you’ve got two crying babies and have to choose which one to comfort first, there’s a lot of mum guilt), and I was worried that I was heading towards postnatal depression. Luckily, I had Mr Becca and my mum. Between them, they got me through the difficult newborn stage and, for a while, I felt OK. Good, even. But that didn’t last. The bad days started happening more often and I recently accepted that I needed help.
I’ve been taking Sertraline for about 4 weeks now. I’m still having bad days, like today, but I do feel a bit more stable than before. Maybe it’s just a case of giving it more time, or maybe I need a different dose or a different medication altogether. Or maybe this is as good as it gets for me. I hope not.
When I woke up this morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I wanted to close my eyes and wait for tomorrow and hope that it would be a better day than today. But I have, not one, but two toddlers, so that wasn’t an option for me. Jack and Alice aren’t old enough to understand that I’m having a bad day. They’re definitely not old enough to look after themselves while I wallow in my bed, feeling sorry for myself.
On days like this, it’s really hard to be the kind of mum I want to be. I don’t want them to see me being sad and I definitely don’t want them to see me being anxious. I worry that my anxiety will somehow “rub off” on them and they’ll grow up like me. Or that they’ll grow up feeling like they missed out on something because of my mental health. I worry about everything. Especially on bad days.
So being a mum with depression and anxiety is a constant balancing act. It means I have to wear a mask all the time and pretend that I’m OK when I’m not, when I’ve always thought it was best to be honest about how I was feeling and not hide for the sake of others. But that’s what mums do, isn’t it? There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for the sake of my children. Which means I got up today. I got up and I played with the twins. I sang songs and danced around the living room to cartoon theme tunes. I built towers with blocks and read the same three books about 50 times a piece. Even though I didn’t feel like it. Because that’s what mums do.
I find writing therapeutic. My thoughts don’t always make sense in my anxious brain, but writing them down helps to process them. Today is not a good mental health day for me. But I got through it. For my kids. Because of my kids. And maybe a little bit because of writing this. What do you do to get through bad days? I’d love for you to get in touch and tell me!