After a week’s break, Mental Health Monday is back! This week, the lovely Claire of Confessions of a Single Parent Pessimist has allowed me to share her story of dealing with anxiety and depression and balancing it with family life. Claire writes about life as a single parent to Chunk, her son, and details her thoughts and ramblings about improving life for her family as well as bits ofÂ wisdom she has learnt along the way.
My Anxiety Disorder
My family have always described me as the controlling, bossy worrier of the family, because that’s pretty much how I have behaved. As a child when I was given money to spend at the sweet shop I would worry about not spending all of it as I knew my mum didn’t have much money, so would always ensure I took change back.
I tend to worry about things on a much higher level than the average person, and a good example is when I bought a new carpet and left it in my car overnight. I spent all night worried that it would be creased because it was folded up, so I didn’t sleep and was very irritable. Ridiculous isn’t it?
When I’m not in control my anxiety can be hard to manage, which over the years has impacted on my family and my relationship with men. My son’s sperm donor is the best example as he really did put my anxiety into overdrive. He was an alcoholic who then also turned into a drug addict, and whether he was sober or under the influence he was a persistent liar.
Lying is the worst thing for me. It meant I was always worrying if he was telling the truth about where he was, what he was doing and how he felt about me. He would go missing for days, weeks and during this time I was a wreck who would stay in my bedroom crying, panicking and generally not functioning. This was of course before I had my son, because once Chunk was born this helped my anxiety in some ways, because I had someone to protect and look after above myself, so I would no longer put up with a lying, stealing, and frankly quite emotionally abusive partner.
Having Chunk also meant I wanted to look at my anxiety, because I didn’t want him growing up becoming a worrier like me.
I was then diagnosed withÂ Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and to be honest this made me feel so much relief. I wasn’t just a bossy worrier, my brain just reacts in a very different way to most people’s. I finally realised why my brain only slows down and the worry stops when I am drunk or asleep.
My disorder means I will worry about the tiniest thing in the same way that most people worry about huge traumas in their life. It means I am constantly on edge and my body is always in fight or flight mode, so it is very hard to relax. My mind constantly whirs and worries about anything and everything and trying to gain control is the only way I can calm it down, but you cannot control everything in life which is why this can be so hard.
When Chunk was 6 weeks old sperm donor relapsed on heroin and made our lives hell for more than a year. He would visit off his head, make threatening calls and even stole money I needed for nappies.
Since then he has sobered up but still lies and puts other people (including other people’s children) above my son, so I made the decision to cut him out of my son’s life completely and it was the best choice I made. It was severely impacting on my mental health to the point where on one occasion I lost one of Chunk’s socks and I spent an hour crying, screaming and feeling like I wanted to die because I couldn’t find it. I even had these scary visions of going into the kitchen and grabbing a knife to stab myself with, all over A SOCK.
This was the point where I knew I had to get it sorted as my son needed a strong parent, especially because his ‘father’ was useless.
I went to my doctor and agreed to take medication for anxiety and depression. This was big for me, as ever since I was a teen I had experienced bouts of unipolar depression but always refused medication as I wanted to beat it myself, which I always did. However I was not prepared to take chances now I had a baby to think about, so I took the pills and I put myself forward for cognitive behavioural therapy, which helps tackle anxiety and depression.
I am currently doing the therapy and it is really helping me tackle the way I think about things, so my worrying is getting a lot better, and the medication has calmed my head down so I have actually had the space to live my life and enjoy my parenting.
But after a year of medication I have asked to reduce it as I feel ready to be without them. This is the first week it has been halved and already I feel constantly dizzy, my head has sped up and my heart flutters every now and then like it used to. This is odd, because I was only ever on a low dosage (20mg) so reducing to 10mg shouldn’t have given any side effects.
During my therapy session yesterday I burst into tears because it hit me that I might return back to my fast, worried head and always needing control and it scares the life out of me.
My therapist is amazing, she helped me challenge this thought and reminded me that I am a different person to who I was a year ago and if all else fails I can go back on the medication.
I am not a failure if I have to take medication. Some people literally have lower levels of chemicals in their brain that prevent them from being happy like others, so they need medication.
If I had an underactive thyroid I would be on tablets for life and nobody would say a word, so being on tablets for a mental health problem is just the same- it’s just a shame that society doesn’t see it that way.
I am going to give it one more week with the reduced meds to see if I start to feel better, because I really do want to be able to do this by myself. I really do see life differently now and I need to hold onto all of the things I have learnt this year, rather than assuming the worst.
I guess I chose to write this to convey that it’s OK to sometimes ask for help. It’s OK to take medication when things get really tricky, and it’s OK to get support to learn how to feel better in yourself, because none of us are perfect and we cannot solve all of our problems by ourself all of the time.
So if any of this resonates anything with you, go have a chat with your GP, who is hopefully as nice and understanding as my one was.
If you’d like to share your story with our Mental Health Mondays series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you. You can check out the other contributions to the series here, and make sure to check back every Monday for another addition!