It’s a good day today. The kids are happy, the usual household chaos is at manageable status, my hair is even done (i.e. scraped up into a strange messy bun with a thousand bobby pins). I’ll get dinner organised soon, perhaps throw in a sneaky trip to K-Mart (aka Mecca) and might even snag a nap when my toddler has hers.
You know, the kind of day that twenty-something me would have shuddered at as she threw back another fruit tingle and shimmied on a sticky dance floor to some quality noughties RnB tracks on a night out with the girls. Now, at 33, with two young kids and another one on the way, this is the kind of day I crave.
A day of dullness. A day of bunging on another load of washing and playing Lego with my five year-old while the toddler helpfully tries to eat it. A run-of-the-mill, mundane, somewhat soul-numbing day of life as a stay at home mum.
Because, too often lately, I’ve had other kinds of days too. Days where the thought of getting out of bed is difficult, and days where doing so is just too damn hard. Days where I can only see darkness, exude hopelessness, feel worthlessness. Days where my children and husband can only watch—powerless—as the tears fall and fall, where I have to be reminded to breathe, reminded that everything will, in fact, be okay, when I am certain that it won’t.
My psychologist and I call these dark times my ‘vortex of doom’, a label we smile at for its melodrama but which is an unfortunately apt description. My anxiety and depression have long been home to me, peppered with the persistent lingering of those pesky, unwanted house guests: disordered eating and self-image issues.
In short, I often struggle with my mind and how it makes me feel, the things it tells me I am and that I certainly will never be. Before you start thinking I should be immediately committed and that my kids are surely forlorn, unloved waifs being unspeakably damaged by their deranged, Miss Havisham-like mother, I should also tell you this. A lot of days, in fact probably most days, I’m okay.
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There are smiles, cuddles, trips to the playground and the beach. There are endless stories, impromptu living-room dancing sessions, in-depth discussions with the five year-old about important topics like the Mariana Trench and just how big the universe really is. Life offers frequent bursts of sweetness, and for this I am so very grateful. But gratefulness does not and cannot change the sourness that sometimes suffocates my mind. I wish it could.
All I can do is figure out what works, for me at least. Eating well, exercising, trying not to be so self-critical. Getting out of the house, having a shower, talking with friends. These things help me to keep the doom vortex at bay and to be a better mum, because believe me the mummy-guilt is real. What is my mind doing to my kids?
Are they going to describe their childhoods to an expensive therapist on padded leather couches one day, nursing drug addictions, personality disorders or worse? I wonder what works for other parents, how they deal with mental illness and motherhood? It’s a tricky combo, and often not all that fun, to be honest.
But for now I’m going to go take in the washing, make myself a cuppa and build that Lego fire engine with an expectant little soul—it’s a good day today, after all.