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Just Be, Mama

Mother of one, diagnosed with postnatal anxiety and panic attacks, preparing to do it all again

My Konmari plan

I have been trying to pay attention to this that create anxiety or frustration around me that I can change. I think with most things I will need to change my attitude and thinking to some degree (more on this later, maybe I’ll even link if I remember), but usually there are some practical changes I can make in order to reduce the effect.

Reflecting back to the height of my panic, in order to avoid attacks I would pack up Baby A and everything I needed in the morning and leave the house for the day. Getting away from the house stopped the attacks, and I know some of my logic behind this was that if I was outside the house and ‘something bad’ happened or I wasn’t coping, at least someone (anyone!) would be there just in case. As an aside, I read alot about people becoming afraid of going out for fear of ‘something bad’ happening, which I guess in panic logic kind of makes sense too.

This was totally strange behaviour for me – I love nothing more than to relax in my own space and not have to go out if I don’t want to. Interestingly, once in the ward, I didn’t feel the need to constantly get out at all. Clearly, some of this was because there were other people there, nurses and other mothers and babies just like me, but I also noticed this sense of relief in suddenly having all my posessions in order. Things suddenly felt much less overwhelming when everything was pared down to just what I  needed (or really love), even though I felt more busy, getting chores done seemed much easier and satisfying. I realised that some of the reason I didn’t want to be home was that I had become overwhelmed by mess, and felt embarrassed and anxious when visitors turned up. Also it is surprising how even well-meaning family come out with insensitive comments about the state of the house 😦

This is really only a small trigger for the panic I was feeling, but it is a very practical change I can make well ahead of time to try and make life easier. I didn’t really get the opportunity before Baby A arrived to properly put things in order because I was working long hours tying up work affairs. In typical fashion I also didn’t think I needed to, because ‘it will all be fine’ and ‘there will be plenty of time once Baby A arrives to get things done!’. I think I also underestimated how much the state of the house would play on my mind, seeing as I have never spent so much time at home before!

So, this time I have a good 7 months to do something about it. The first part of making the house somewhere I want to be is to declutter. I’m focusing on this first because I know I like to do it. 😊 The  next bit will be making cleaning a habit, which I’ll talk about later (and link to it too?).

I have been drawn to the Konmari method for a little while, partly because I love anything Japanese, and there is just an inherent Japanese-ness in her writing and attitude, partly because she makes decluttering into a giant one off project (which I know I am more likely to complete), but also because of the joy element in deciding what to keep in your home. I like this because really the purpose of my decluttering is to improve my mood, and if I’m going to be at home so much, I want to be surrounded by only happiness inducing things, not guilt ridden things. Oh, and is just going to be super practical to have a clutter free house.

There are some elements of her method I’m going to back away from a little bit. One is the ‘aim for perfection’ goal. I know this is a recipe for panic. Also I have a husband that collects certain things that don’t necessarily ‘spark joy’ in me, but he lives here too, and it’s mainly contained to one small room anyway. Also, omg, two babies will live here, and they come along with so much stuff. So I am going to be a bit flexible with baby stuff, but I will think about a plan to purge items that are no longer needed (later!). I like giving, so this shouldn’t be too hard, I just need to make time for it. I know that if I just focus on what I can control it will go about towards helping me feel less overwhelmed.

So, I have happily started on the ‘clothes’ category, and I will talk about the progress in a coming post, and maybe even post a picture. 😱

I will be talking a bit about Marie Kondo decluttering method as I go along, but if you want to know more about it, her book is a lovely read 😊:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Starting Here

Ok, so what am I doing with this blog?

I’ve started a few different blogs over the years – I like writing,  and documenting things. I also am drawn to the prospect of reaching out to like minded people who stumble across my blog, or even helping or inspiring someone.

In the past I have chosen topics that I like, know alot about, or am good at, approached them with a perfectionistic overly optimistic attitude, then abandoned them after a few posts. I thought at the time that this happened because I was too busy successfully going about doing the thing I was supposed to be writing about, that I wasn’t bothered to maintain a blog about it.

In retrospect I think I stopped because writing about how good you are at/how well you know something in an over edited blog post is pretty boring. Especially when you’ve already convinced yourself of what you are writing, and noone else is reading anyway, right?

I think these blogs were honest in the sense that they reflected exactly how I approach most things in my life –

‘it’s got to be perfect’ and,

‘I’ll always be confident as long as I have high standards and maintain optimism and motivation’ but,

‘if it’s boring and doesn’t seem to serve a purpose, I won’t do it’.

But, I know that this kind of attitude is how I got myself into a mess a couple of months after my son was born. They also didn’t provide any room for upfront self-reflection, or accountability, which would have given them purpose. And I have now learnt that I desperately need accurate self-reflection and self-accountability in order to maintain a healthy mind, and it also happens to be something I am NOT good at, DON’T know much about, and DON’T really like to do.

So here I am, a new mother of a lovely 6 month old son and 10 weeks pregnant with my second. A few months ago I was admitted as an inpatient in a psychiatric unit for four weeks after being diagnosed with postnatal anxiety manifesting as panic attacks whenever I was on my own with baby.

In typical fashion, I am at a place where I have regained my confidence and haven’t been anxious for a couple of months, so naturally I had convinced myself that adding another newborn into the mix will be no problem. Because,  of course,  I’m doing this so well now.

The reality check occurred when I happily broke the news to my therapist, and explained how and why it was all going to be wonderful and problem free this time. He straight out asked me if I thought that  maybe I was being overly optimistic (again) . Of course I was. How could I forget in a few months how detrimental that attitude was to my health!

After feeling dejected and sorry for myself for a few days, I started think about what kind of damage control I could begin in order to prepare myself for an exciting, wonderful, but very challenging period of my life. My therapist talked about how this time around can be problem free, I already have a support network set up, but it is so important that I am self aware and notice when signs that I am ‘relapsing’ show up. It’s quite obvious to me now that I am not great at this, so I am starting this blog in order to prompt honest self-reflection, be accountable to myself in doing it regularly, and document my conscious efforts to reduce anxiety triggers in my life.

First and foremost I’m doing this to be accountable to myself, in the hope that I won’t abandon it this time. If I reach anyone else, it’s a bonus. 😊

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