Last week I spotted a request from a journalist with Independent.ie, asking for bloggers to talk about their “happy place”, as part of their Mind Yourself campaign.
As I’ve written about mental illness and my personal experiences with postnatal depression and the impact it’s had on my life, I thought this might be a good idea – there is so much doom and gloom around it that it is important to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the happy bits which make life worth living. I had a bit of a think about specific places which fill me with joy (currently a bubble bath with a glass of wine sounds fairly idyllic) and came to the conclusion that it isn’t really a physical place that I can pick.
My day begins somewhere around 6am normally, when I’m woken up either by the shouts of the toddler who isn’t too happy with the fact that he’s awake but nobody else is, or him tugging on my foot to try pull me out of bed. To say he’s high energy is an understatement, at 19 months he is into everything, has no problem with asserting himself and making his views known, and is a walking sticky noise. We disagree over quite a few things through the course of the morning; the appropriateness of pulling everything off the shelves, just how much Peppa is too much Peppa, whether breakfast belongs on the floor or in his tummy. Coffee gets me through the moments where I feel like Fedexing him to his grandparents.
There are days I feel like running away. Days where I wonder just how much of it is postnatal depression, and how much is me being a terrible mother. It can feel like the walls are closing in, like even Peppa is judging me, Miss Rabbit and her productivity showing up my lack of get up and go. I lose the rag, snap at the toddler who is pushing my buttons and then feel unending guilt for the rest of the day because of the hurt look he shoots me which gets me right in the heart.
And then. It’s bedtime. We struggle. Some nights he’s a willing patient, brushes his teeth, lies down quietly and happily drifts off. Other nights it is a battle of wills, of hoping the neighbours aren’t calling social services or the Gardai, of endless cuddles and attempts to tell stories and orders to settle down, to lie down, to go to sleep. He eventually drifts off, often times having grabbed my arm and wrapped it around him to ensure that I’m telling the truth, that it is everyone’s bedtime.
He’s asleep and his little blonde head is next to mine, a little hand clasped around my arm refusing to let go. His breathing speeds up if I try to wiggle away so I’m here, locked into a cuddle, so I may as well get comfy. In this moment he’s not the troublemaker who spilled his water all over the floor, or knocked every book off the shelf, or refuses to let me go to the bathroom alone. He’s not the grown up boy who tells me “No”, loudly and defiantly, five million times a day. His little face lets out a smile as he starts to dream, letting his day play out in his head and his imagination run riot. He is safe in my arms. We are warm, our bellies are full, we are safe in our beds. There is no shouting, no pressure to be places or do things, just time to relax and listen to him breathing just like when he was little. Sometimes he sleeps on my chest, bringing me back to when he was properly tiny, when that was the only place he would sleep.
The sleep coaches say he needs to fall asleep by himself. Some nights I will him to fall asleep faster so I can have alone time, or eat a dinner which wasn’t possible beforehand, after a long day of screaming and fighting and tears. But for the most part, holding my not-so-tiny baby in my arms and knowing he is safe, happy and peaceful is my happy place. His arm grasping mine is my way of knowing I’m doing something right, his want for me to be his comfort. There’s no spa, bubble bath or beautiful woodland walk like it, these snatched moments of peace and mushy feelings. It makes all the bad stuff go away for even a few minutes, the world goes on without us.
The perfect happy place.
What is your happy place, and do you get to go there often? Is it a physical place or a movable thing like mine? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to see what makes other people relax and get away from the darker parts of the world!