I have always had hope. Despite the depression and anxiety that binds me, I am quite optimistic in my big picture thinking. Yet, hope unfulfilled can become a burden.
This last fortnight has been the hardest of my parenting life so far. I’m not really sure why. My little girl has been teething in a particularly brutal way, as is her wont, which has caused her not to sleep and to cling like a limpet. This is obviously hard work, but we have had periods like that before, so this has hit particularly hard for another reason.
Exhaustion has always been one of my major triggers for anxiety – which is troublesome as a parent of teenies, because they like to wake in the night. However, I have had bouts of sleeplessness similar to this previously. The only real thing that has changed to make this period of sleep deprivation so bad, is me. Since September my mental health has deteriorated significantly. In fact, for the first time since 2012 I have had serious thoughts of suicide. I find my kids a very helpful buffer for these thoughts, but it alarms me that even though life is so good, I can get to such an awful place. Last time my mental health was this bad there were very clear causes, this time it’s all much more vague.
Due to the marvelous lack of funding available to mental health services, I have no care beyond my GP and had to pay for a psychiatrist (thanks to family help!) This has put me on the path of weaning my youngest off boob and then changing meds.
Simple, right?! Weaning a baby who doesn’t want to wean is no fun. Especially when I don’t really feel ready either. Also though, the hormonal withdrawal from weaning has led my mental health to spiral even more. I didn’t have this when weaning my oldest as I was pregnant at the time. The hormones were already raging so any changes were hard to detect. This time, there is no denying the power of the hormones over my mind and body.
So, as I come close to the finish line, in the midst of some severe sleep deprivation and the mantra of “looking after my health IS prioritising the kids” going round and round as the youngest cries at not getting boob on demand, I find myself contemplating hope again.
This last fortnight has been brutal. Every night I go to bed with hope that she will sleep. If not all the way through, at least for a few hours in a go. Then, at the slightest noise my anxiety flares. There is that desperate longing that hope inspires which, when it is proven to be in vain, leads to that familiar heart pounding, breath shortening panic that is so near the surface at all times these days.
This is the small hope. The big is that all of this will turn around. That I will start to feel more me again, that I won’t live with this monster crushing my chest and reminding me how frightening and dangerous the world is. Telling me my kids are going to die, Mike is going to die, I will be alone and friendless. Lost and hopeless. Telling me that my faith is a lie. God isn’t real, it’s all a fantasy, what an absurd idea that God is all around, that he loves me, that he exists!
The hope I live in, for improvement or, dare I say it, healing, is a blessing but also a burden. Every day I wake up with my mind still in a storm of panic and fear and self loathing is another day I have to once again battle with my own mind to remember, the hope I have is fixed on something bigger. Something that is rarely tangible and often elusive. Something that, despite my doubts, I know is true.
I just wish, so so much, that that bigger hope didn’t leave me feeling so alone in this journey.